International Day Of Mourning And Memory

Dave Hingsburger of Rolling Around In My Head, would like to start an annual event and has asked his readers to spread the word.

Here is a little quote from his announcement –

“I propose the ‘International Day for Mourning And Memory of the Lives of People With Disabilities’. The day would be one of remembrance of those whose lives were not celebrated or remembered, the lives of those who were slaughtered by care providers or brutalized to death by bullies. It would also be a day to remember the entire disability community – the elders who came before and who made the world different and better. It would be a day where a moment was taken to pause and reflect and remember.”

So, without further a due, I would like the readers of ruled by paws to help me help Dave in his quest to make January 23rd, 2012, the first annual ‘INTERNATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING AND MEMORY OF THE LIVES OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES!

Just Listen

This week Dave, over at Rolling Around In My Head, wrote an insightful post. While reading his words, I thought about the times, where I felt pushed aside while trying to share an experience.

I haven’t really had much to write about here over the past couple of weeks, so I thought I’d take some time to express my feelings and discuss my own experiences.

There are times when all we should do is listen.

There are times when words of encouragement, or sympathy, are not welcome.

There are times when relaying your own experiences is not appropriate.

We have all been guilty of overlooking these simple rules, at sometime or another.

It’s just part of human nature to want to comfort.

To want to help others see that they are not alone.

To share our own experiences.

But, we need to learn how to just listen.

I’ll give you an example…

Before Christmas, Huib and I had a disagreement. I was upset about a broken promise. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to explain my frustrations. When he left for work, I wouldn’t give him a hug or say goodbye. Later that morning, he e-mailed me to apologize and validated my feelings.

In the afternoon, I was talking to a friend via MSN. I told him about the disagreement and how I was shocked to have received an apology. Huib has never been one to say sorry, so when I received the e-mail, I forgave him immediately. My friend asked for details surrounding the argument, I told him everything. I wanted someone to listen. I wanted someone to be happy for me. I wanted to share the fact that I had finally heard (well via print) the word ‘sorry’ from Huib.

I had chosen the wrong person.

Instead of just listening, my friend proceeded to tell me about how I shouldn’t have gotten upset with Huib. He told me that I was being unreasonable to expect that any of the promises could have come true. He didn’t understand why Huib had to say ‘sorry’.

Maybe it’s because my friend is a guy. Or maybe it’s just the way he views relationships. But, his response is not what I needed.

Here’s a more serious example…

When Phoenix began refusing to eat, I again chose to talk to my friend from the above example. I told him how I was trying to do anything possible to get Phoenix eating. I told him that I worried this was a sign of things to come.

My friend wasn’t supportive. My friend wasn’t helpful.

He told me that his guide dog trainers had said, a dog won’t starve itself. He told me they had instructed him to only give the dog one choice, and if the dog chose not to eat, then to wait until the next mealtime to try again.

He neglected to take into consideration, the fact that Phoenix was almost 15 years old. He neglected the fact that I was sharing my fears with him. He just thought about the fact that Phoenix was a dog, and that he wasn’t eating.

Never once did he think about me. Not once did he think about Phoenix.

When Phoenix passed away, and I told my friend…

He simply told me that Phoenix was old, and had lived a long life..

This was not helpful. This was not supportive.

I needed a friend.

I needed a shoulder to cry on.

I didn’t need someone to point out the obvious.

I didn’t need someone to push aside my experiences.

When someone comes to you and shares their story, stop and think. Does this person need advice? Does this person need to hear my thoughts? How can I best meet their needs?

Often, the answer to these questions, is to just listen.

Christmas Is Love

Here’s another Christmas poem a friend sent me via e-mail that I had to share. I could totally see Rogue as one of these puppies.

It’s the day before Christmas

And all through the house

The puppies are squeaking

An old rubber mouse.

The wreath which had merrily

Hung on the door

Is scattered in pieces

All over the floor.

The stockings that hung

In a neat little row

Now boast a hole

In each one of the toes.

The tree was subjected

To bright eyed whims,

And now, although still splendid,

It’s missing some limbs.

I catch them and hold them.

“Be good”, I insist.

They lick me, then run off

To see what they’ve missed!

And now as I watch them

The thought comes to me,

That theirs is the spirit

That Christmas should be.

Should children and puppies

Yet show us the way,

And teach us the joy

That should come with this day?

Could they bring the message

That’s written above,

And tell us that, most of all,

Christmas is love.

If You See A Fat Man

I got this from a friend via e-mail, so thought I’d share it here, to bring a little Christmas spirit.

If you see a fat man

who’s jolly and cute

Wearing a beard

and a red flannel suit

And if he is chuckling

and laughing away

While flying around

In a miniature sleigh

With eight tiny reindeer

To pull him along

Then let’s face it

Your eggnog’s too strong!

Monday Is For Music – Adolescence

Last weekend I got a chance to visit with some friends and family. My teenage cousin, inspired me to select “Adolescence” by Incubus for this week’s Monday selection.

Here’s the music video.

As we all know, adolescence can be rough. Boys and girls are struggling to figure out who they are. Trying to “fit in”. And at the same time, attempting to complete school and make decisions on their future.

The song “Adolescence”, was just recently released as the first single of Incubus’ seventh album, “if Not Now, When”. According to the website, Song Facts, Brandon Boyd is singing about how adolescents often feel overwhelmed and “out of bounds”.

I thought this song selection was also fitting, given the discussion I was noticing over Twitter regarding this article in the Wall Street journal. I’m sure you’ve all read and heard tons about it, but here, here, and here are some interesting views regarding the WSJ article.

Similar to many teenagers, my cousin has had a roller coaster ride of a young adult life. They’ve struggled with wanting to “fit in”. They’ve tried to meet the needs of their family. They’ve attempted to find themselves. To discover an identity which both satisfied the needs of their family and friends, but one that they could also feel good wearing each and every day themselves. This struggle has brought both heartache and enlightenment to my cousin’s life, but not every adolescent finds their way as easily.

That’s why I think Incubus’ new song is so fitting. Everyone needs to know that they are not alone on their journey through life.

Mother’s Day

Tomorrow should be a day of celebration. A day to look back on the memories I shared with my mother.

Instead though, I want Monday to come as quickly as possible.

All week I’ve had to watch advertisements on TV and read messages via Twitter telling me what I should get my mother for Mother’s Day.

I’m sure this information has been helpful for some, but I find the constant bombardment to be emotionally draining.

I’m not expecting people to stop celebrating Mother’s Day. I’m not asking friends to stop talking about their mothers and how special they are. I don’t want Mother’s Day to become another politically incorrect topic, like Christmas, Easter or the use of husband and wife.

I just wish there were TV ads and Twitter feeds which suggested ways to honour the mothers who have passed away.

Or recommended ways to honour the men who have stepped up and taken on the roles of both “mother” and “father”.

My mother was a strong woman. She was a fighter. She tried to do what was best for her children. She didn’t always make the best choices.

But, she raised two strong women who will do their best to fulfill her dreams.

Did You correct Him?

“When you like someone, you like them in spite of their faults. When you love someone, you love them with their faults.” – Hermann Hesse

Today, a friend and I were talking on MSN about how long we have had our dog guides and about our feelings leading up to the “big” day. We talked about some of the emotions we experienced and then began discussing the moment we put down our white canes. For me, it’s almost been fourteen years since I picked one up, but for him the white cane still comes out from time to time. I thought this was interesting and told him about Phoenix’s reaction to people who use a white cane.

It was at this point, he asked the question which inspired today’s post.
Friend – “Did you correct him?”
Me – “the first few times, but it did nothing so I just asked friends to fold up their canes and take my arm.”
Friend – “Well, my school teaches us…”

Are there others out there like me, who choose to just manage a “quirk”? or is it strange that I choose to accept these imperfections rather than punish my dogs?

As I mentioned in an earlier post
and then again in this post,
my dogs are not good for everyone, but they are perfect for me.

Ever since I received Phoenix in July of 1998, he has had an obsession with grabbing or bumping the white canes of people who walk past. The first few times I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but after I understood, I tried correcting him for it. He was not deterred by my corrections though, so after a couple months or maybe a year of trying to get him to stop, I just started managing the behaviour. I know this probably isn’t what other programs would want me to do, but this is how I’ve chosen to react and it seems to work for us. In most cases people usually just laugh when I explain why their cane just fell out of their hands or did a funky jolt. It can be a little embarrassing at times, but usually if I know someone is coming towards us with a cane, I’ll just stop and ask Phoenix to sit or try and stay between him and the person walking by. Phoenix isn’t trying to hurt anyone, he just seems to get a kick out of people’s reactions I guess!

I think Cessna’s most notable “flaw” is her never ending desire to chase small animals. No matter how much I corrected her or tried to discourage the behaviour, she still continues to jump around like a kangaroo in harness when a squirrel, bird or chipmunk scurries by. I remember the first few walks with her in training. We’d be walking along at jet speed and then all of a sudden my left arm would quickly shoot further to the left or right with an almost bouncing motion. I’d stop, tell her that was enough (while pulling back hard on the leash) and ask the trainer what the heck had just happened. He’d tell me that a squirrel had just run by and explain that she was excited because in Quebec (but, she was raised in Ontario) they don’t really have many – yeah, right! Well, after six years of working, Cessna’s still just as excited by those elusive little critters. Instead of yanking her back and getting upset by her reactions though, I’ve learned to just go with the flow. When I feel her getting excited, I’ll stop, ask for a sit and continue walking when she’s calmer. If we’re walking through a park though, I know she’ll be on high alert so I often just resort to putting on her newtrix and avoid the possibility of having my shoulder dislocated – she may be small, but she’s pure muscle!

These little eccentricities are part of what makes me love my dogs.

How many people can say their guide dog dislikes white canes?

Or that they have a guide kangaroo?

What are some of the “unprofessional” behaviours your service dog exhibits, that you’ve decided to celebrate instead of punish?

Everyone’s got An Opinion

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

The above quote, was taken from a Twitter feed I follow, that sends out random quotes about life. I know I’ve been blogging a lot about things I’ve read, that were inspiring, but I’m hoping everyone enjoys the break from hearing solely about the fur babies.

When I read the above quote a few days ago, I began thinking about my aunts and how they seem to find it necessary to criticize other family member’s life choices, but seem to overlook the fact that their decisions haven’t been much better.

I know constantly being told what to do or what you’re doing wrong, is just part of being the “younger” generation of a family, but my sister and I seem to be even more of a target now that we’re older and Mom’s not around to defend us. I try and keep my distance. Try not to have to be in a situation where I’ll be alone with an “interrogator”, but sometimes it’s just not possible. Maybe it’s partly because I can’t see well enough to know when others are leaving the room. Or maybe it’s because I’m just too nice, but it always seems to happen at a family gathering and it’s gotten to the point where I dread having to attend.

My family thinks Huib is the greatest guy ever. They have no complaints when it comes to him and my decision to get married, but they still find ways of sticking their two cents into our relationship. They find it necessary to give me advice on having a successful marriage – which they haven’t succeeded in doing themselves, so I’m not sure how their advice is going to help me. They like criticizing the way I interact with Huib and ask why he doesn’t want to go outside with the “boys” rather than just sitting with me – because that’s what all guys do right? And then when I’m thoroughly annoyed, one of the aunts begin asking if we want kids and when I explain that things just haven’t worked out the way we’d like, they proceed to ask if we’ve actually been trying….well, isn’t that self-explanatory? AND is it really your business? I guess it just seems strange to them that their own children could be popping out babies without any real effort, but Huib and I are having trouble.

Then, after all that is over, we come to the weight questions… So you’ve gained some weight since the last time I saw you… – you don’t think I’ve noticed? Have you looked at your own belt size? Oh, the things I would love to say if I weren’t a caring and patient person lol! When I just sit there with a look of shock on my face, someone will proceed to begin advising me on how to lose the extra weight, which would be fine if they, themselves weren’t also fighting a weight issue. It seems as though our family’s genes just aren’t conducive to being thin.

It’s funny to observe them though when the tables have turned. When people begin criticizing them or asking them questions and giving “advice”. They just sit there and go red, not out of embarrassment, but anger because they see the questions as a personal attack. This is when one usually ends up crying or leaving because someone hurt their feelings or offended them.

Do you have any people in your life that you wish could take a moment, and just look in the mirror?

True Equality

“Until the disabled community gets behind the concept of access for all we will never have true equality. Access for most doesn’t count.”

The above statement, was written by our friends over at The Dog House about a week ago – hope she doesn’t mind me posting it here.

Over the years, disability advocates have fought to have the rights of “their” group recognized. Their members bring forth inequalities and the “leaders” begin lobbying the various levels of government for change. Small changes happen each year because of their efforts, but it always seems to be one group working to change policies and practices for their specific “issue” rather than trying to lobby for shifts in policies and practices which will benefit all disabled Canadians. It seems as though the various disability groups are afraid that if they were to ask for changes that will help everyone, then maybe “their” particular fight wouldn’t seem as important.

I did a quick Google search and found these two references that sort of illustrate my above thoughts.

This link, will take you to the Canadian Human rights Commission, where there is a publication that describes different changes that have occurred in the areas of ATM accessibility, equal rights in the tax courts and accommodations for disabled government workers. With further digging, I learned that that in all cases, the changes were brought about because one disability group complained about an inadequacy and not because the “disability community” as a whole saw it as a problem.

This link, will take you to a blog (I think) where the writer discusses changes that have come about over the past 50 years and shows how disability groups campaign against one another in an effort to bring forth “their” plights as being more important and often refuse to celebrate the successes of others.

I’m not sure if you’ll see these links as true illustrations of what I am describing, but they will at least give you a glimpse in the right direction.

Canadians with disabilities are far better off now than they were even thirty years ago, but I think we could have come much further if it were not for the ongoing attempts to outshine one another. In my opinion, no disability group is better or worse off than the other. We all face barriers in our everyday lives, so maybe instead of trying to work against one another, we should try and work together because until then I don’t see there ever being “true equality.”

Theme Songs

While on Twitter yesterday I saw this question, “What would your dog’s theme song be?”, and it got me thinking. I’ve never really thought about what songs would suit the personality and/or character of each of my dogs, so I thought it would be a pretty cool task to undertake.

After a few hours of filtering through the various songs on my computer and discussing each choice with Huib, we came up with the following:

Cessna ~ The Hamsterdance Song by Hampton The Hamster
Canyon ~ Can I Go Nowhere with You by Joel Plaskett
Phoenix ~ What the Hell by Avril Levigne and
Aspen ~ Girls Just Wanna Have fun by Cindy Lauper

If you know anything about our dogs, I’m sure you’ll agree that each of the above songs really fits. But, for those who have not had the pleasure of meeting our wonderful canines, I’ll take a moment to explain why we’ve chosen each song.

Cessna is a very happy, go lucky girl. She is always ready for anything and if she even thinks you’re considering a trip outside, she’s up and ready to go. She loves to swim. She loves to play. And most of all she loves to experience fun and exciting things – for example, our trip to Marineland. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Cessna has forced us to learn new things in order to always remain one step ahead and has challenged every expectation of “what a service dog should be”. I think Hampton the Hamster’s song truly illustrates her lust for life and constant desire to just let it all loose and party!

We chose Joel Plaskett’s song “Can I Go Nowhere With You” for Canyon because it doesn’t matter what he’s doing or whether you’ve been moving throughout the house all day without any real goal, he’ll stop and happily follow along. Canyon is a truly loyal companion and this song demonstrates his love of just being with his family, no matter what’s happening around him.

Phoenix has always been an Avril Levigne fan, when a song of hers would come on the radio you’d see his tail wagging along, so it’s quite funny that her newest song just happens to be a suiting theme for Phoenix. As I’ve said many times before, Phoenix was a wonderful guide and companion throughout my final year of high school and then during my years at the University of Guelph. He was good in classes, never got distracted easily, and for the most part, listened to everything I asked. When he began getting close to retirement I noticed he no longer wanted to do a lot of these things and would test me on even the simplest of tasks. Since his retirement, almost six years ago, he has continued to live his life on his own terms and if we don’t like it he doesn’t seem phased. He’ll just wag his tail and walk on by. It’s as though he’s saying “I was good for a very long time, so it’s time to just let my hair down and enjoy life”. Well, I think I agree with him, he did work hard and definitely deserves to say “what the hell” and enjoy his final years without worry.

Finally, we chose Cindy Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” as Aspen’s theme song because that’s pretty much how it is. Aspen was our first pet dog and has really never had a true job to do, except for keep Phoenix company and help out with the puppies when we have one. She knows only her basic commands of: sit, down, come, stay, leave it and heel. She’s shown absolutely no desire to learn anything further than to give five and we’re okay with that. Aspen always has a smile on her face and thinks everyone should love her.

So, there you have it, each of the ruled by paws gang, now has a theme song.

Do your fur babies have one?