Message To A Younger Me

Yesterday on Twitter I saw a tweet asking what you’d say in a message to your younger self, and thought this would make an awesome blog post.

Dear 13 Year Old Brooke,
Despite what everyone says, the world is not a perfect place. Even if you follow the “rules”, you will still have to struggle for independence and prosperity. The world is not made for people who are “different”, but instead, caters to those who fit into the mould of “perfection” and “normal”.

You will find out through trial and error, who is worth making an effort to keep in your circle of friends. You will be surprised at the outcome. You will feel guilty for cutting ties with some, but you will quickly learn that it is necessary in order to live a stress-free life.

You will find it difficult to watch your friends date in high school and university, and wonder if you will ever find someone to love you as more than just a friend. It will happen though. You will meet him in your second year at the University of Guelph, and your friends and family will wish they could clone him. He will treat you like a queen, and stand by your side through the good times and bad. He will never make you feel inferior to him, and even though others outside of your relationship will try to come between you, he will stay true to you. Together, you will build a life full of love, compassion and adventure.

Life will not be easy. You will get frustrated by the limitations you encounter, and you will become discouraged by all of the closing doors around you, but you are strong. You will move beyond the disappointments and find a way to make a difference through your love of dogs, and your desire to help others.

No matter how often you are told by family members and friends that you need to change, you won’t. You know who you are, and know you are meant to become more than just another statistic. Your passion and determination for life is what will keep you going. You will never accept the status quo, and you will never stop marching to your own beat.

As Dr Seuss once wrote: “Today you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive, who is youer than you”.

No matter what life throws at you, just keep on swimming.

The 32 Year Old Brooke

The Learning Never Ends

At 5:00am on Thursday, I awoke to the sound of Rogue heaving, or at least I thought. I quickly helped her off the bed and squatted down beside her, rubbing her sides and calmly talking to her as she continued to make this awful sound. It lasted about 30-45 minutes, with short intervals of Rogue wagging her tail and licking my face, so I was at a loss as to what to do. I checked her throat to see if I could find anything lodged. I felt her neck and belly to see if I noticed any difference. I gave her treats and water, hoping it would help calm her stomach (I thought she was trying to throw up). I tried to stay calm, knowing that she didn’t seem panicked herself, so wanted to continue keeping her that way.

when the episode seemed to have finished, I helped Rogue back onto the bed and we laid together, waiting for Huib to return home from work. I told him what had happened and he checked her over and couldn’t find anything wrong, so we decided to have a nap and then reassess after that. Rogue had a few more episodes and Huib reaffirmed my observation that this was not your typical “I need to throw up” behaviour. Instead of sounding and looking like Rogue was trying to expel something, it looked and sounded as though she was trying to clear her sinuses. It was like she was experiencing post nasal drip and was trying to get it to stop.

At some point, I went onto Twitter and posted a tweet about my observations and was informed that what Rogue was experiencing sounded like Reverse Sneezing. I had never heard of this and was delighted to learn that it was not serious and that it was actually quite common (I had never seen one of my dogs do this before).

Reverse Sneezing is quite scary to observe. It looks and sounds like the dog is gasping for air. it is quite common in flatter faced breeds such as pugs, but can also happen to other breeds. According to this article, “the most common cause of reverse sneezing is an irritation of the soft pallet and throat that results in a spasm. During the spasm the dog’s neck will extend and the chest will expand as the dog tries harder to inhale. The problem is that the trachea has narrowed and it’s hard to get the normal amount of air into the lungs.” Reverse Sneezing can be caused by a number of factors, but in almost all cases it is not serious and will resolve on its own.

Since Thursday, Rogue has had less episodes, and as of today has gone over sixty hours without Reverse Sneezing.

Huib got a short recording of her the other morning to send to Dr B and we were told that it should resolve itself, but to keep her posted. We are thinking that maybe Rogue was reacting to something outside since the grass has begun to go green and the trees and plants are beginning to bloom. I’m really hoping this is a one time thing, but I guess we’ll know more as time goes on.

It’s amazing to see how much more we have to learn from our dogs. After having Phoenix and dealing with all of his health issues, I thought I was set, but then Cessna taught us about coconut allergies, and now Rogue has introduced us to Reverse Sneezing.

**Just a quick note: Blogger has decided to begin implementing their new platform so I have begun to set up our blog over at WordPress. I will try to continue having posts up here as well as over at http://ruledbypaws.wordpress.com, but if Blogger does not improve their accessibility then I will be forced to completely stop posting here. I hope you will all join us over at WordPress, if you need any help with doing this please leave me a comment and I will try to help you out.**

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?