Archive for the 'Guest Post' Category

What Would YOU Like to Know about Assistance Dogs?

After I published this post for Blogging Against Disableism Day, I received a note from Sarah Levis inviting me to guest post on her blog, Girl with the Cane. I wasn’t sure what I should write about, other than “service dogs,” so we decided to put the question to you, dear reader.

What would you like to know from me about raising, training, or partnering with service dogs?

I’ll take any question, no matter how detailed or general, public or private. Why owner train instead of use a program? Differences between clicker training and previous methods I’ve used? If I have human helpers, why do I need a dog? What is my preference for how others behave around my dogs? Why bouviers and not Labradors? Why did I switch from adopting adults to raising a puppy? What’s the most embarrassing/exciting/shocking thing my service dog ever did? What do members of the public do that annoys me the most? How did I know I wanted a service dog? And all those questions I can’t even guess at. . . .

Barnum's head and shoulder's, very shaggy, his snout totally white with snow, his head cocked to the side in a very adorable, questioning way

So, you have a question?

Nothing is off-limits! If you have ever wanted to ask something but thought you shouldn’t because it was too personal or offensive or silly or “ignorant” or you “should” already know the answer, etc., be silent no more. This is your opportunity!

I’ll accept questions for the next two weeks. Please post them as comments to this post here (or, if you’d like your question to be anonymous, at today’s Girl with a Cane post on this topic). After Sarah and I collect all the questions from both blogs, I’ll attempt* to answer them all, and Sarah will post those answers at Girl with a Cane. (I’ll put a link up so you’ll find out when that post is up.)

I’m very curious to know what you’re curious about!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD/SDiT

*I say “attempt” because I might receive a question that I can’t answer. For example, if I’m asked what it was like for me to have a guide dog or train at a service dog school, I won’t be able to answer those questions directly because I haven’t had those experiences. But I might ask one of my friends who has such experiences if they would be willing to answer. If I can’t give a complete answer to a question, to quote Albus Dumbledore, “I shall not, of course, lie.”

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Guest Post: Dealing with Second Dog Syndrome

I’m delighted to be able to offer this guest post today by psychologist and long-time guide dog partner, Kathie Schneider. You’ll learn more about Kathie and her new blog in her bio at the bottom of this post.

Reading Kathie’s article made me aware that one can go through “Second Dog Syndrome” with any successor dog — not necessarily only the second. I experienced virtually every emotional twist and turn she describes below when I got Barnum, even though he was my third dog, not my second.

I hope you will find this post as supportive and informative as I have. If so, give Kathie some love in the comments. And I hope Kathie will return with future guest posts about assistance dog grief, loss, or transition.

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, SD/SDiT

Three Steps to Dealing with Second Dog Syndrome

By Katherine Schneider, Ph.D and guide dog user for 39 years

If you’ve had more than one service/assistance dog and someone brings up the subject of second dog syndrome (SDS), I’ll bet you know exactly what they’re talking about. Maybe you didn’t have it a lot or maybe it didn’t hit you until your third dog; but comparing, and finding you don’t love or like second dog as much as first dog, is as natural as dogs greeting by smelling each others’ back ends, but not nearly as much fun.

The first step in dealing with second dog syndrome is accepting it as real and forgivable. Of course you compare; young children learn to pick out what’s different in a picture and we praise them for noticing differences. New Dog may look different, act different, work different, and even smell different. You had history with Old Dog. All you have with New Dog is hopes and dreams. As Old Dog gets further in the past, memories of the bad things they did fade first; in other words, they become a saint. New Dog is young and foolish and the bad things they do are right here and now.

Most of all, you have changed. You’re older and perhaps less flexible, both physically and mentally. If Old Dog worked well for you, it was a life changer for you, kind of like first love. Now you’ve come to expect that level of dignity and independence in a functioning service/assistance dog. New Dog has big shoes to fill. If Old Dog didn’t work out well, you’ve got a million ideas of what you and New Dog need to do differently this time.

So when you think those thoughts of “Old Dog would never have done that,” “I don’t love/like New Dog,” and “I wish I still had Old Dog,” chalk it up to second dog syndrome and say to yourself, to New Dog, or to a friend who might understand, “I’m having a SDS moment, forgive me.”

If you acknowledge those second dog syndrome thoughts instead of trying to fight them, they lose some of their power. You’re not wasting your time and energy feeling guilty. Instead you can begin step two: When you find yourself comparing, try to add an “and” occasionally. Old Dog was better at this and New Dog is good at this. On a really bad day it may be, “And New Dog looks cute when he/she is asleep.” When others point out, “Old dog would never have done that” about your New Dog, all you can say is, “Yes and I really miss Old Dog too.” Unless of course you have time to educate the thoughtless passer-by about second dog syndrome. Included in that education could be the fact that New Dog is not a replacement, but a successor. Old Dog will never be replaced.

The third step is give it time and work. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are relationships. Gradually you may notice more things about New Dog that you like and they will grow up and settle into their job. If you take care of them like a valued employee, they’ll work to earn your trust and love. In my experience, they’re quicker to love than I am anyway, so as I find myself with each successor dog in the middle of my heart I learn that I have a big heart. Then when people ask, “Which was your favorite, really?” I can truthfully say: “It’s just like your kids; they are each my favorite in different ways.”

* * *

Katherine Schneider, Ph.D. is a retired clinical psychologist, blind from birth and living with fibromyalgia. She’s written a memoir, To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities, and a children’s book, Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold. She’s had Seeing Eye dogs for 39 years. Her latest writing venture is a blog, Kathie Comments, about subjects ranging from aging with disabilities to assistance/service dogs to disability activism.

Guest Post: Mom’s Theoretical Surgery

My mom sent me this essay, and I thought it was really fun. I asked her if I could post it here, and she said yes. Now you can see where I get my writing style and sense of humor. Also, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to read about healthcare (and health) going well for a change! Enjoy.

– Sharon and Barnum, celebrating Interdependence Day (that’s not a typo)

Was Surgery the Only Option?

by Doris Wachsler

June 28, 2012
3 P.M., at home

5 A.M. We’re both awake. We look at each other and snuggle a bit; then I get up. “Why didn’t the alarm go off?” Manny fiddles with the buttons on the clock and says, “I set it for 5 but didn’t pull out the switch.” It really doesn’t matter because I’ve been ready to leave for the hospital since bedtime, about 10:30 last night. Not out of happy anticipation, but “let’s get this over with—what will be, will be.”

We leave for L Clinic Hospital. Hurry up and wait. Apparently the residents of most surrounding towns have been told to report to Admissions at 5:45. I’m there early, but hardly any chairs in the waiting room are empty. People (“customers,” in hospital parlance) are called one by one and told to proceed to “Ambulatory Surgery.” Do they expect us to walk around in the operating rooms during our operations, or is this L’s term for outpatient surgery?

Okay, next step. You know the drill. All clothes off, put on a Johnny that is size 42, extra tall — one size fits all. Lie down and wait for all of the actors in this performance to play their roles. Regulating Nurse (Meredith) arrives first and ushers in my nurse Sandra (“I’ll be with you the whole time”).

“By the way,” says everyone who comes in, “what is your name and how do you spell it? You got that right, do you know your birth date?”

What I tell them corresponds with the info on my wrist band. Concentrating hard on this data, they are relieved that they haven’t bedded an imposter.

A floor nurse begins taking my BP and temp while Sandra rifles through the encyclopedic folder that contains my papers: “You may experience a stroke, seizure, pneumonia or fatal illness during your procedure/stay. L Clinic will not be responsible for anything that happens to you while you are here. Read and acknowledge with your signature.” I signed my permission slip on June 20th, again today at 5:45 and at 6:00. Manny has brought along my Life Care wishes. They are scanned and placed in the tome.

A cute young thing in a floral chef’s hat arrives to introduce herself as the surgery nurse. She darts in and out of my space as quickly as a butterfly. Meanwhile, a jolly, peppy woman in a gauzy hair net appears with equipment. She says she is Marie, and she begins puncturing the veins on the top of my hand, and hooking me up to the bag on the IV pole. “I’m so sorry to be hurting you, dear. I’m one of the doctors on the team, the anesthesiologist, and I am putting xyzilliuminophedoodle, a sedative, into your IV. Yes, it’s really Valium. After the surgeon has come in to talk with you, we will give you meds to put you out. You won’t see, hear, feel, or in any way be in contact with the world.” She wants to reassure me but her manner counteracts the Valium seeping into my body.

“Why are you here?” she asks me. “Oh, like my son — he has six herniated vertebrae but plays football. I wanted Dr. MG to talk him out of the playing, but they just talked about the Patriots and that was it. But you’ll love Dr. MG. He’s great. He’s the best.” This woman with the unprofessional chatty manner is the anesthesiologist — the one who will keep me breathing while I’m being butchered?

Then my nurse Sandra says, “Are you cold, it’s chilly in here. Let me get you a nice warm blanket.” She takes one from the microwave and tucks it in around me. I am warm and comforted.

Between interruptions, we have the “name the medication, dosage and last time you took it” quiz. Several meds have been added to my drug list lately and the doses vary, too. I’ve needed them one day or two, not at all, or always. I am feeling slightly hungry, increasingly druggy, and confused by the bustling of personnel in and around the surgery cubbies around me. Operating rooms begin functioning at 7:30. I see physicians arriving for the other “customers” nearby and wonder when my doctor will appear. It’s now 7:20 and I’m nervous that there won’t be time to talk with him if he arrives late. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll say to him when he comes.

The rolling transport, the caravan of stretchers with IV poles attached and staff in scrubs attending them, is moving past the open curtains in front of my cubby and proceeding towards the ORs. Everybody is leaving and I’m still waiting for the Director of Complex Spinal Surgery, my surgeon, to see me before surgery. The anesthesiologist comes by, the nursing staffs come by, and they all ask, “Have you seen Dr. MG? No? Oh, he’ll be here.”

And suddenly, he is. He smiles, looking completely unhurried. I’ve been waiting to get his opinion on something for over a week. He’s been on vacation. Now I have to ask him or it will be too late. I tell him that in the five weeks since he last saw me I have improved. A lot, I think. Especially in the last week, I’ve had a spurt of energy and don’t tire as easily as I did before. I’ve given up the scooter in the grocery stores and can walk the stairs without hoisting my right leg by clutching the banister.

“I called David, your nurse practitioner, last week while you were away, to ask whether I should go forward with the surgery. I batted the pros and cons back and forth with him, whether I had reached a plateau in my recovery. Was the likelihood that I would improve further after surgery, more so than if just had physical therapy?” (When I had seen David at my pre-ops the next day, he didn’t give me any assurances one way or the other — even said I might be worse after surgery.) Nevertheless, I persuaded myself that I might be back to my former functioning self if I proceeded as planned.

Dr. MG had listened to me quietly. Now he said, “Well, let’s see what you can do.” He checked the strength in both legs, testing a few movements. He looked at me and commented, “I think you’re right. I don’t think you need surgery at this point.” I ask him a few more questions about the disc and nerve. It is possible the disc has been absorbed, he says, and it’s no longer pressing on the nerve. I look at him questioningly. What is the right thing to do, I’m thinking. Dr. MG looks back at me and says, “You’ve progressed so far. If you have surgery, you will begin again and need to recover from the operation.” I’m still not sure; I continue looking into his face. “If you were my family I would advise you not to have surgery. Have you had physical therapy?” I tell him I’ve been eager to do that, whereupon he says he’ll immediately get the form to refer me for therapy.

This has all happened the way I wanted, but in such a hurry. Will I regret my decision or have second thoughts later? Dr. MG is back and hands me the PT paperwork, and as though he is reading my thoughts, he says, “I’ve given you an appointment to see me in six weeks, but if there’s any problem don’t hesitate to call me sooner. If you need it, you can always have surgery later on, but I think this is the right thing for the present time.” I thank him warmly and say goodbye.

I have to agree with Dr. Marie, the anesthesiologist — Dr. MG really is great, the best.

I stride confidently down the hallways and out of L Hospital. Is it the Valium? The afterglow of being cared for capably and kindly? My relief in not going under the knife? The happy look on Manny’s face? Absolutely, all of the above. What a great day! It’s only 8:30 A.M. and I’ve already been admitted to and discharged from L Hospital. The whole day lies ahead.

A couple hours later I make appointments with Back on Track. I can hardly wait for my therapy. I have no doubt at all that these sessions will help me to continue getting stronger.

Guest Post: Connie Rae on The Importance of Healing Language

I belong to a few chronic illness social forums, including one for people with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). I invited members to write a guest post on the question I posed in my PFAM announcement: “Do you call yourself a ‘patient,’ and why or why not?”

I was delighted and intrigued by Connie Rae’s answer to the question, and she has graciously agreed to be my first guest blogger! Here is her post. Enjoy!

– Sharon

A light-skinned woman with gray hair wearing a straw hat and summer-weight lilac dress sits on a tree stump holding a baby goat pressed to herself. The goat is mostly white with a brown and black head. It is the size of a large cat. The sun is shining, and Connie is smiling widely.

Connie with one of her (goat) kids.

The Importance of Healing Language

These are important questions, and I believe, since hurting my back in the 1980s, key to recovery.

Doctors couldn’t help my two separate back injuries that led to me lying flat on my back in pain, using mostly herbals — as even then, medications had wild side effects (the doctors thought “normal”) — for almost a year. The first chiropractor had hurt me further and I wasn’t going to let another touch me!

I am glad I caved to a friend who visited.

I didn’t know what other chiropractors called their “patients,” but this one called us all “friends” . . . and other things if we didn’t follow his advice.

Many alternative practitioners call those they treat, “clients.” They give you a wellness plan and most clients don’t wait very long in the “reception” room (instead of “waiting room”). You also usually go in with pain and come out with a smile.

Medical people use a different language. If you go to chiropractors, acupuncturists, and other wellness professionals, most are careful to choose their words to heal and uplift. They follow through with it too, treating their clients more like friends, sometimes going to great lengths to figure out a problem, all the while trying to keep wellness visits to existing clients to a few minutes. If you are maintaining you don’t need as much care. If you are dis-eased you need TLC.

This is important healing language. I sure wouldn’t want the medical profession’s language to change to a healing language unless their methods came along with the language.

A chiropractor near us advertises this way:

Several years ago I made a decision to call those people who consulted us for care, “Clients.” In times past, those who went to a chiropractor would turn up and expect the chiropractor to work on them — they were “patients.”

A good chiropractor or wellness practitioner expects the client to participate in their recovery efforts. The chiropractor works on the clients with manipulation and relaxation, while the client works on the life-style changes the chiropractor suggests, sometimes supplements, diet, exercise, and many times, whatever spiritual discipline you do as this is key to wellness.

Through my chiropractor, I learned that food was medicine, how to apply my faith, how to make wellness fun, to focus on quality of life, and a whole lot of other things that helped when I was poisoned* and in the following years of re-injury. Some examples:

  • I am a Christian and went to a Christian chiropractor. He prayed with my husband and I. It is more of a holistic  approach than a symptom relief approach. I found it to be powerful once I found the right one. All are not equal. Many people don’t like the idea of manipulating bones and body parts, but I respond well to that.
  • You don’t put sugar in a gas tank and expect it to run. Quality of life is making sure you give yourself the right fuel and ingredients for a healthy life.
  • Whether you have a spiritual discipline or not there is Natural Law, and chiropractors encourage their clients to learn and know how that works. If you learn to work with your body the wellness practitioner has an easier job of healing the injury or dysfunction.

Unfortunately, for the past five years our personal economy has kept us from going to offices of wellness practitioners.

I never would call myself an “MCS patient.” I usually tell people I was poisoned and that as a result I have MCS. I’m not patient! (Though it is part of my faith and a discipline I strive to live, the chemicals steal that from me many times.) Instead, I say, “Hi, my name is Connie. I was poisoned with a termite pesticide in my home. I have MCS as a result.” It’s important to put the responsibility firmly on the toxic chemicals.

– Connie Rae

* Three weeks before my son’s wedding, we called an exterminator. I was poisoned with Dursban and organophosphate pesticide injected into the leaky foundation of our home; we found out later there were no sill plates to cap the concrete foundation. The professional exterminator should have known this. We were out of state for the wedding, and still the smell was in the house. The exterminator and Dow said it was unusual but suggested remediation techniques. All in all, I kept going back into the house, and the first poisoning was magnified and I developed MCS. No one believed me. They thought I was empty nesting in a strange way. My mother-in-law was the first to tell my husband to get me to a doctor. She saved my life.

Connie blogs and displays her gorgeous nature photography and life with MCS at Wild Canaray. She also blogs about her goat farm and how the goats have led to increased strength and wellness at The Daily Goat at Marley’s Run.

P.S. From Sharon – My own Patients for a Moment (PFAM) carnival post will go up soon, as well. The carnival, itself, is scheduled to go up Wednesday.

P.P.S. Did you enjoy this guest post? Would you like to see others? Questions or comments for Connie? Please leave her/us a comment! Thank you!


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