Archive for the 'Humor/Sick Humor' Category

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.

Feeding Two (or Twenty?) Birds with One Hand

Some twenty years ago, my friend Linda introduced me to the expression, “Feeding two birds with one hand.” I really like this expression. Not only is it kinder than “killing two birds with one stone,” but it’s more evocative. I can actually picture holding my hand out, full of bird seed, and having two birds land on it, whereas not only do I have no desire to imagine killing two birds with a stone, I really don’t know how you’d go about it if you wanted to.

So today’s post is about what I’ve been doing when I’m not here posting, and how this is an opportunity to bring diverse aspects of my life together and feed multiple birds — after all, I have two hands, so I should be able to feed at least four birds!

Many of my faithful readers know that over the last three months I have been working on a fundraiser for my Nonviolent Communication (NVC) teacher, Marlena. Marlena’s Teaching Fund takes the form of an online auction, which starts right this very instant coffee!

Bird 1 – Connection & Contribution

What’s great about this auction? It gives me an opportunity to give back and contribute in a meaningful way to someone who has made a huge difference in my life.

I’ve also gotten to “meet” a lot of wonderful people — friends of Marlena’s or friends of my NVC friends — who donated items to the auction. It feels good to be part of something where people are coming together in a spirit of generosity and love. Nothing to be sad about there!

Picture of a mourning dove on snowy, pebbly ground with lots of sunflower seed hulls around it.

It may be called a "mourning dove," but I was happy to get this picture of it looking at me.

Bird 2 – Increasing Access to Fragrance-Free & Nontoxic Products

Some of my most commented-upon posts here at After Gadget have been those in which I’ve discussed my MCS and/or how fragranced products affect me. Many of you, my beloved readers, have gone in search of nontoxic, fragrance-free products — for your own health, for the access and safety of those with chemical sensitivities around you, and in solidarity with me. This has been so surprising and touching for me!

I also know that many of you have limited budgets, maybe not much access to trying out different products, or live outside the US, which sometimes means different brands than I know about. I am pleased to announce that there are several small, family owned businesses (many of them owned and run by people with MCS) that make nontoxic, fragrance-free products who have donated products or gift certificates to Marlena’s auction! Some of them will ship outside the US! You can test out MCS-safer products while also helping out an MCSer! Check out these listings! (For those who want an inexpensive way to test out several fragrance-free products, I suggest the Magick Botanicals trial/travel kit.)

Hairy woodpecker pecking at suet in a suet feeder on  small tree.

Hunting and pecking for the safe products in the scented aisles of a store? That can get downright hairy!

Bird 3 – Simplifying & Digging Out

I have too much stuff. My house is full of stuff! Stuff collects dust and mold and dander, all of which I’m allergic to. It gets in the way and leaves less room to maneuver my chair. But some of this stuff is perfectly good stuff. Stuff I can’t use, but that someone else could enjoy — brand-new books I was given but can’t read because I can’t read print books. Snarky posters I got as freebies when the company I ordered from messed up my order. Unused nontoxic/natural lip balm with peppermint oil in it. Inkjet office supplies I bought, forgetting that I now have a laser printer. It will feel great if I can give this stuff a new home.

Male red-bellied woodpecker digs suet out of a feeder with his long open beak.

This red-bellied woodpecker is chipping away at the fat, digging out. Inspiring!

Bird 4 – Bird Feeder as Blog Fodder?

I’m never short on ideas for blogs. In fact, my “Posts” folder has almost as many drafts as published posts, and that doesn’t even include all the posts I have in my head that I want to write! Still, now that I’m doing something with a deadline (the auction is only up for ten days), something I’ve invested so much time and energy in, something that’s so important to me, it pushes me to crank out a post to share with the world.

This gives me opportunities, such as to use several of my recent winter bird photos without writing the perfect Birding Thursday post.

I can carry myself with pride . . .

Tote bag in black and yellow that says Pride in big yellow letters on a black background.

This snazzy tote bag is made from recycled bird seed bags!

in taking an old idea like a signal boost and creatively transforming it into something new and different.

Colorful tote bag made from bird seed bags, includes a bright red cardinal sitting on a branch, and a sunflower at the base of the bag.

This tote bag is also upcycled from bird seed bags.

To think outside the box as a blogger . . .

Top of treasure box has head and shoulders of a brown hawk with red wings. There are feathers on teh side of the box.

This is quite some outside of a box!

can give me several different perspectives on something, depending on how I look at it.

A fabric-covered box. The top shows a blue jay in a green leafy tree with a blue feather attached to it, and the side shows a gorgeous white ibis about to take off over stormy waters.

Or how it looks at me....

It’s true that the tone of this post has been tongue-in-cheek and my objective transparent. Nonetheless, I am still appreciative of the seed Linda planted all those years ago of this kinder, gentler way to speak and act, which is part of the work of NVC, for me.

Especially because Linda remains one of my nearest and dearest friends. She’s the one who told me about Marlena’s NVC classes. Taking them together has deepened and strengthened our friendship. Maybe one of you will get to meet her, too?

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and a bored and demanding Barnum, SD/SDiT/hindrance dog

Pie Zen (2nd Annual Thanksgiving Doggie Self-Control Pics)

Last year I blogged about my black-bottom pie, which I make every year for Thanksgiving. When I set it down to take a picture of it, Barnum came over. Thus, I started the tradition of Pie Zen.

This year, we had four pies for Thanksgiving, and it was my intention to take a picture of Barnum surrounded by all four pies. However, neither Barnum nor I were feeling well, so I stayed in bed while the others ate pie.

Fortunately, Betsy was available to help with a picture of pie zen:

Betsy sits at table with four whole pies in front of her. She is leaning back in her chair, eyes shut, a serene expression on her face, and her palms facing upward with thumb and middle finger touching, as if she is meditating.

Betsy practices pie zen.

Today, Barnum and I were both feeling better, so we were able to show Barnum’s skill, having gone from a Level One Pie Zen Master to a Level Four Pie Zen Master in just a year!

Barnum is lying on a hardwood floor. Next to his left elbow is an apple pie. Next to his left front paw is a pumpkin pie. Next to his right front paw is a pecan pie. And next to his right elbow is a custard pie. He is looking at the pumpkin pie.

Ooh, I like pumpkin!

Barnum still surrounded by four pies, but looking up and leaning away from the pumpkin pie.

What's that? I should leave the pumpkin pie alone?


Barnum lying very relaxed, legs spread out, with the pumpkin pie between his front legs, and surrounded by the other three pies.

This is a piece of cake. I mean, pie.

Waspish Wednesday: Receive Free Sn*ggle Sample (Then Vomit)

Wow! Sometimes I really have to wonder how I get on various mailing lists or get certain targeted ad campaigns. (Although, as we shall discover, I did eventually get a hint about this one.)

I mean, I understand why 80 percent of the FaceBook ads and AOL ads I see are for dog food or dog training or donating to the ASPCA. A little less clear is why I get ads for “Hunky Men!” or “Male Singles in Your Area Want to Meet You!” But, since I generally check “single,” in the categories asking me if I’m married, divorced, widowed, or single, I can sort of see that, too. (Most of those forms don’t follow that up with, “Oh, and by the way, are you a lesbian? Cuz we were just assuming you were heterosexual.”)

Be-that-as-it-shouldn’t-be, I was quite amazed at what slithered into my email inbox today. The subject line/headline is, “Receive a Free Sample of Snuggle(R) Fabric Softener!”

Yes, really.

Let’s start of with this question: Is there anyone on the planet who actually likes Sn*ggle? Even before I was chemically injured and developed multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), I — and all my friends — loathed the Sn*ggle bear. Any time an ad came on with that noxious pipsqueak of a teddy, we wanted to throw something heavy at the TV. My favorite picture of the Sn*ggle bear was drawn by my friend Peggy Munson, for her page, Welcome to Camp NoStink. If you can view images, I definitely encourage you to check it out, because it’s hilarious.

If you can’t, here’s my best effort at doing the drawing justice. [Image description: A cartoon that looks as if it was drawn on a computer. An impressively realistic-looking brown grizzly bear snarls, with mouth open, holding the “Sn*ggle bear” by one ear. The Sn*ggle bear has the happy, vacant expression of a stuffed toy. It is holding a box that says, “Fabric Softener” under one arm. The other arm has been severed, with a bloody stump at the shoulder socket. The disembodied arm is flying through the air. Blood squirts out of the socket, the amputated appendage, and the Sn*ggle bear’s ear that is hooked on the grizzly’s teeth.]

Of course, this is nothing compared to the fact that Sn*ggle fabric softener is one of the worst toxic offenders and creators of misery for people with MCS. The problem with scented fabric softener is not only that it reeks of toxic chemicals that make me sick. It also, because of the adhesive properties created for these fragrance chemicals, adheres forever (really — you can never wash it out) to everything it touches or fumigates. Also, because it’s used in dryers, which are vented to the outside, it is forcibly blown at anyone who is nearby. Interestingly enough, some of the chemicals used in dryer sheets are dangerous when heated!

If you really want to hear a person with MCS rant about what makes our lives hell, mention fabric softener.

The email says, “Does your laundry need a little boost of freshness? Sn*ggle Fabric Softener comes in a variety of fragrances to put that extra ‘Ahhhhh’ in your clothes. . . . Just answer a few questions & we’ll send you a Free Sample!”

“Ahhhh” is right. But, I don’t think the tone comes across just so. It’s more like, “Aieeeee! Augh! Ack, ack, koff! Koff! Koff! [Vomiting sound].” And then a quiet moan of misery for the next day or several as the migraine settles in.

But for “Gift fulfillment” you must answer questions from Lifescript Advantage Women’s Health. This turns out to be your contact information, age, member registration, survey questions, and “completion of question asked in conjunction with this promotional offer.”

I googled Lifescript Advantage and found a page with a rotation of six advertisements articles on various topics. The first shows a picture of the same woman in two poses (and two outfits!). In the first pic, she is smiling happily (and wearing a yellow V-neck sweater). In the second, she is hanging her head with a big frowny face (and wearing a blue V-neck sweater). The caption is, “Up or Down? 10 Warning Signs of Bipolar Disorder.” I kid you not. We all know that if your mood changes (to match your sweaters), you must have a major mental illness, right?

The next one shows a headless guy in a snazzy suit holding a red rose out to you. (For me? Really? Aw, you shouldn’t have.) The caption is, “Is Mr. Right All Wrong? 7 Tips for Telling if He’s a Dream or a Dud.” And this relates to women’s health, how?

Then there’s the picture of a sausage held above a plate of bacon, which says, “Bacon vs. Sausage? Which is really healthier? Plus 8 other diet-friendly food swaps.” I’m going to guess, “Neither, but they’re both delicious!” (Now I’m hungry!)

There are two that actually seem to relate to women’s health, and they are, of course about (big hint: lots of PINK! BRIGHT PINK! REALLY REALLY PRETTY PINK BOWS!). Yes, breast cancer. Breast cancer, which is at epidemic proportions because of what? Carcinogens in our environment. Carcinogens such as benzyl acetate, chloroform, and limonene, among many other toxic chemicals found in fabric softener. (Yes, chloroform. You’ve heard of it? The stuff that’s used to knock people unconscious?)

However, the most disturbing, jarring, and all-out bizarre advert is the one of former President George W. Bush, wearing his little flag lapel pin, standing against a blue background, grinning as if he is still the President! Agh! Agh! Agh!!! No, no, no, noooooooo!!!!!

Okay. I’m alright now. Just needed to take a few deep breaths into a paper bag with my head between my knees. And check my calendar.

So, why am I being assaulted presented with a photo of the worst thing to happen to the planet since, well, I dunno, the discovery of pesticide? “Bush’s New Campaign,” it says. “Ex-President Launches Initiative to Improve Women’s Health.” Really.

Really? Really? Bush. Improve? Women’s? Health?!

In terms of his domestic policy, a Mother Jones article on Bush “waging war on women” reports:

Who has Bush placed in important posts involving women’s health, education, and employment? Well, darling, according to Bush appointees, when you get PMS, pray. If your husband beats the crap out of you, just agree that wives should be submissive to their husbands, and besides, as everybody in the Bush administration knows, women beat up men just as often as men beat up women. Oh, and if you get breast cancer, it’s your fault because you had an abortion—a conclusion that particularly startled people who study the disease.

Elsewhere, Bush imposed the “global gag rule,” which meant that any group receiving U.S. funding for family planning was banned from mentioning abortion, even when medically necessary. And how is women’s health in Afghanistan and Iraq, after Bush started the wars there? Not so good, I’d think, if any news was allowed to leak from the front lines. And all the environmental destruction he caused that is continuing to unfold? Good for women’s health, huh?

Well, there’s just too much to list, obviously. Right at the beginning of his presidency, NOW put out their “Bush Whacker” campaign round-up of W’s record on women’s rights. This is the harm he caused before he even became president.

So, yeah. This seems about right. When you know who the chemical corporations are snuggled up with, it makes sense that they run a “Women’s Health Issues” website with pictures of bacon, George W. Bush, and “9 Reasons Men Cheat.”

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

P.S. The weirdest thing of all was when I uncovered the address of who sent me this particularly nauseating slab of spam. It came from Free_SnuggleSample [at] homosexualse [dot] net. So, someone does realize I’m a lesbian. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

QuickPress: Funny Dog & Resources for Learning about MCS

A quick training anecdote from yesterday:

I was working on “plate zen” with Barnum, which means I’m trying to teach him that all plates, bowls, and mugs are out-of-bounds for dogs. I am trying to teach this as a default behavior, which means I don’t want to have to say, “Leave it,” 80 times per meal. I want him to just know to leave all plates alone.

I used different plates, sometimes with a piece of food on them, sometimes empty. Sometimes I’d put them up to his nose, and sometimes I’d hold them in my lap. Barnum needs to have all the fine points explained to him. He apparently realizes that he’s a dog, and that therefore he doesn’t generalize well. (Gadget hadn’t read the book on dogs not generalizing well, so I used to think it was a load of hooey.)

Anyway, I switched back from a blue plate (yes, it was the blue plate special — thanks for asking) and put a clear glass plate in my lap. I waited to see if Barnum would back up.

Barnum waited to see if I would give him some clue as to what to do. I didn’t, so Barnum offered, “Chin,” and rested his chin on the plate in my lap. Then, like the gifted and serious-minded dog trainer I am, I fell out laughing.

It was so adorable: “Here, would you like me to put my big slobbery beard on this plate? Look, I’m really resting my whole head on the plate. Will you click me now?”

Barnum backed up in confusion when I started to guffaw. Having learned my lesson, we tried again. Barnum rested his head on the plate again. I burst into laughter again. Poor dog. We did eventually actually get to some real training, and he earned some clicks and treats.

I am very behind on emails and comments. I’ve been super sick for the past two weeks. I sent out a mass email telling people to please be patient, but there is a problem with my email, and I’m not getting all of them! So, I know at least one person didn’t get that.

Anyway, I am not apologizing, but I am explaining.

Readers have requested I write on certain topics. In many cases, I have written partial blogs in reply, but I haven’t finished them. In other cases, I feel so overwhelmed, I don’t know how to begin.

For instance, many of you have asked what you would need to be able to do to visit me. I am deeply appreciative of the interest you’ve shown in learning about MCS and less-toxic products! I wish I were more able to answer your questions in a timely manner.

Until I can write more, here are some links of resources put together by friends of mine:

  • Another great resource is the video/DVD, Secondhand Scent: Accommodating People with MCS. I’m biased because I participated in the making of this video, but I honestly think it is one of the best tools available to explain to people how and why to become more MCS-accessible. To order the video, please call the Boston Self-Help Center’s message line, 617-277-0080 (voice/TTY), and someone will call you back with details and arrangements.
  • Finally, another video/DVD about living with CFIDS and MCS is Funny, You Don’t Look Sick. This doesn’t provide information about how to become MCS-safer, per se, but before I got Lyme disease and got sicker, it was a pretty good description of my life (except in terms of severity). Co-produced by singer/songwriter Susan Abod, the movie is “an autobiography of an illness.” It gives you an eloquent glimpse into the life of someone with MCS and CFIDS. If you scroll down, you can watch a trailer for the movie on this page.

Indeed, Susan is finishing a very important second documentary, which she has been working on for over ten years, right now! (The trailer for this movie, Homesick, is below the one for Funny.) I’m very excited about this. I hope to interview her about that project soon.

Enjoy! I am very grateful for the requests for information, even if I’m not always able to keep up with them. Keep it coming!

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, head-on-a-platter SDiT

Video: Barnum Comments on the Difficulty of Being a SDiT

I taught Barnum this trick last week. The primary reason was that I thought the tool pictured below might help him learn to do a straight-up-and-down paw thwack (stomp) versus any raking or scratching movement.

Round raised bright red button says "Easy" in white letters on the top. The base is metal and says, "Staples" on one side.

Ah, dog training. Such a serious pursuit. . . .

It turned out I was right. He learned the correct movement very quickly, and he found the sound that the object made self-reinforcing. He loves it! (Need I say that it made refining this skill, easy?)

(Shout out to Eileen, who gave me the idea with this video.)

I got the idea of adding a new cue to the original cue for foot targeting (which was “Bop it!”) to make this trick work.

Transcript of the video is below.

Note: If you are reading this post in an email, you must go to the actual blog post to view the video (click this link).


Barnum is lying on the floor, looking up at Sharon/the camera.

SHARON: Good boy. Barnum, can you help me out in the kitchen? Release!

Barnum stands up.

SHARON: Barnum, shut the cupboard!

Barnum moves into the kitchen and shuts one of the cupboard doors under the sink with his nose.

SHARON: Good dog! Shut the other cupboard!

Barnum shuts the other under-sink cupboard door with his nose.

SHARON: Good boy! Barnum, close the drawer!

Barnum nudges a drawer closed that was at nose height for him.

SHARON: Good dog! Barnum, was all that difficult?

Barnum runs over to a red Staples “Easy Button” and thwacks it with his paw. The button says, “That was easy.”

Sharon clicks, and Barnum comes over to get his treat.

End of transcript

So, can you guess what the new cue is? Post it in the comments!

Thanks for stopping by!

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, “easy”-going SDiT

The Tale of the Magic Bunny

Yesterday I was visited by the brown bunny of happiness. This is like the bluebird of happiness, except that it slips into your garden and eats all the tops off the carrots, lots of the leafy greens, and an entire huge acorn squash. And it talks — but I didn’t know that at first.

I am familiar with the eating power of bunnies, as well as their ability to fit their bodies through tiny spaces because I had rabbits as pets when I was a kid. I started with a white rabbit when I was in kindergarten, and over the years had six others of various colors and sizes. However, this bunny was special!

We’ve been seeing this bunny all summer, suspiciously near the garden (which is fenced, but so what, says the rabbit), but not until yesterday did it stay in visual range long enough for me to get some pictures of it eating one of our blackberry bushes:

A small brown cotton-tail rabbit, ears up, stands on an expanse of gravel - rounded pebbles of gray, white, and other natural colors - nibbles on a long green vine.

Bunny nibbling on blackberry vine

Imagine my surprise when, after allowing me to take its picture, the bunny spoke to me (telepathically, otherwise you would, of course, see pictures of it talking).

“Oh camera-happy human, you have managed to catch me in the act!” The bunny announced. “You have totally lucked out! For managing to take a non-blurry picture of me, despite how I hop and twitch, and despite your hand tremors, I will grant you three wishes!”

As you can imagine, I was totally shocked! I had expected two wishes at the most.

“Oh adorable-yet-destructive bun-bun,” I replied. “I have been trying for over a year to get my lemon-of-a-powerchair fixed, to no avail. Then I asked for a refund. Then I had to get involved with the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Affairs, and the related District Attorney’s office. It’s been a total fucking nightmare, because I just want to be able to get out and about, walk my dog, and be done with this useless behemoth. When I tried to negotiated with the vendor from whom I purchased the chair, all I got in response was yelling and accusations.

For my first wish, could you please get them to come to some sort of reasonable compromise with me?”

“Hm,” the bunny said, “let me think about that.” The bunny nibbled some grass, pondering.

A similar picture to one above, of the bunny on a background of gravel, except it is stretched forward, one ear up, one ear slightly tilted back, front foot in the air.

Bunny pauses to think.

“Alright,” the bunny said. “That does totally suck. The next time you talk to someone about coming to terms, he will offer you a partial refund for returning the chair.”

Thus, it came to pass that today, when I spoke to someone who had stepped in “to put out fires” for the organization from whom I bought my wheelchair, he offered me a two-thirds refund over a six-month period (because they are strapped for cash) in exchange for returning the chair. I was thrilled. I can’t wait to get that monstrosity — emblem of so much pain and stress — out of my house. I am going to use that money to try to buy a used chair that will better meet my needs.

“Great, bunny, thank you. Please excuse me if I’m skeptical. A talking bunny is one thing, but this wheelchair situation, well — I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“I hear you,” the bunny said. “I get that all the time. Let’s move on to your second wish, okay? I’m feeling twitchy out in the open like this. I am a prey animal, after all.”

“Good point,” I said. “For my second wish, will you show me that my work with Barnum has been paying off, and that we have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being a public access team?”

“Silly human!” Said the rabbit. “Don’t you remember Saturday, when you took Barnum to your town’s Old Home Day, and he was able to loose-leash walk some of the time, in the face of great distractions, and even — after hours — lie down quietly? And then when you took him with you into the Town Hall, how he did a working walk and then did a down-stay in the extremely tight space of the stall (with you and your powerchair and your oxygen) despite having no experience inside other buildings before?”

“Yes, that’s true,” I said, “but he also did a lot of pulling on leash and jumping around, and when I left him with Betsy so I could go dance, he barked.”

“Well, you asked for wishes, not miracles. Give him time.”

“True,” I said, feeling a little let down.

“What about the next day?” The bunny asked, with a touch of irritation. “When you took him to the local food coop, and he did a default sit upon exiting the van, and then gave you great and continuous eye contact, along with sits, downs, reverse, and a very nice working walk? And you felt so pleased with him that you took him inside the store, where he did remarkably well at staying in position, giving you eye contact, following cued behaviors, and in general astonishing you with how happy, ‘in the game,’ and attuned he was?”

“My god, you’re right!” I said, smacking myself in the forehead, practically sending my glasses flying. “He did super until the end, when there were suddenly lots of people, including one person talking to him and petting him, ignoring that I was telling him, ‘Leave it!’ and pulling him away from her, and then he also was obsessed with trying to sniff another woman’s butt.”

“Yeah, that sounds a tad embarrassing. You will have to work a lot on stranger zen and ‘interesting smells in new places’ zen.”

“Exactly,” I concurred.

“On the other paw,” the bunny continued. “After you left the store, when you were going back to the van, he gave you eye contact and followed cues while ignoring a barking dog behind him! Did you forget that? And what about how he pooped on cue before you left home in the first place?”

“You’re right! Wasn’t that amazing?” I almost squealed in delight at the recollection.

“Well, it’s not my thing, really,” said the rabbit. “But whatever floats your boat. Anyway, I think I have pretty clearly shown you that you are Barnum are totally kicking service-dog-in-training ass, so can we move on to wish number three?”

“But you didn’t do anything,” I griped. “You just reminded me of things I already knew.”

“Do I have to remind you about the lesson from the Wizard of Oz? That Dorothy just had to be reminded that there’s no place like home?”

“Wow, you’re a very literate bunny,” I said, impressed.

“I am part of a great tradition of children’s literature,” it replied. “The Velveteen Rabbit, for instance. I do my homework.”

The bunny scratched behind its ear. “Man, all this talking is making me hungry. It doesn’t usually take this long. It’s usually, ‘Gimme a pile of money, a big house, and someone to mate with,’ and I’m outta there.” The rabbit sighed. “I need more blackberry vine. I have an extremely high metabolism. I have to keep my energy up.”

Similar to two pictures above, except that the rabbit's tail is visible, and it's reaching for the blackberry vine while sort of looking behind itself.

"Nothing in life is free," sighs the rabbit. "Not even blackberry vines, apparently."

Was it my imagination, or had the rabbit just rolled its eyes?

“Well, um, okay,” I said, feeling pressed for time now. “The Five Minute Fiction contest is tomorrow again. It’s being guest-hosted and guest-judged by a speculative fiction writer, and he’s already said that it will be a science fiction/fantasy prompt. It just seems like everything is SF/fantasy these days, and that’s really not my genre. I’m quite nervous about it. Can you help me out?”

“I would think that having just written an entire blog wherein you are speaking to a magic rabbit who telepathically grants you wishes indicates that you have some clue about the fantastical.”

“Oh, yeah,” I felt my face turn red. “This is different though,” I explained. “I have been imagining talking animals since I was four. What if the prompt involves some totally weird worlds and names that I don’t grok at all? It’s very hard for me, with my cognitive impairment, to grasp and connect with seriously hardcore SF and fantasy.”

“Alright!” The bunny stomped his hind feet, cutting me off. “Tomorrow, even though it will be a prompt that will completely throw you and confuse you, you will just go with the first idea that pops into your head, relating to one of your favorite writing-related themes–”

“You mean like food, humor, sex, or animals?”

“Do you want this wish or not?”

“Sorry,” I bit my lip.

“Anyway, you will just do your best, and even though you will be impressed by the other entries and feel completely outclassed, you will still manage to get a piece in on time, and you will be a finalist, again, okay?”

“Really? A finalist? Two weeks in a row? Will I win again?”

“That would be a fourth wish. Besides, that’s up to the voting public. You’re done!” Announced the rabbit, and hopped away. I thought I heard him mutter something about “writers” and “divas,” but I was probably just imagining it. After all, we writers have excellent imaginations.

“Wait!” I called after the bunny, its white tail bobbing toward the underbrush. “Where do I tell people to go and vote?”

Just tell them to click on this sentence!” He yelled before disappearing into the greenery.

I wasn’t really sure about that third wish. And the second one was kinda a “gimme,” too. . . .

“I’ve changed my mind!” I shouted after him. “Can I change one of my wishes to a new computer that doesn’t constantly crash, freeze, and run as slow as molasses? And that won’t outgas horrible fumes and make me sick? Or how about for more people to follow my new writing blog?”

From somewhere in the underbrush, I thought I heard the sound of two hind feet pounding the ground, very  hard.

I’ll have to look up Eastern cottontail rabbits in my Audubon guide and see if they ever grant a second round of wishes. . . .

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

P.S. Woops! I forgot. I’m doing a little trivia game. After reading my entry, guess who my biggest SF influence is? I’ll post a hint after each guess in the comments.

Silly Saturday (Edited)

My replacement battery came today. Things got moved around between now and a week ago, and we can’t figure out how the battery wiring harnesses attach to the battery. So, I am stuck waiting around while I get advice from more knowledgable people. (Yes, I did read the manual. The diagrams suggest one thing, the written instructions another.)

[NOTE: This post has been edited. I originally had a pun up here, using a photo, and I got some feedback that it could be triggering or in poor taste or just generally making light of an issue that is quite serious. So, I have taken down the joke. You can read the discussion about it in the comments. I asked Betsy about it, as well, and she said something like, “I wouldn’t necessarily say offensive, but maybe poor taste because it’s a serious issue. But it’s also so very you (your sense of humor).” So, I thought that summed things up pretty well.

I regret any pain my joke might have caused any of my readers. I will try to be more mindful in the future.



– Sharon (giddy from hunger and lack of sleep), the muse of Gadget (I don’t get it), and Barnum, SDiT (I went to the pond today! Wooha!)

Birding Thursday: Barred Owl (Audio Edition!)

I remember after I first moved to the country, in 1998, being awoken at dawn by an unearthly sound.

“My god!” I thought. “What the hell is that? And will it ever shut up so I can go back to sleep?”

The answers turned out to be

  1. A pair of barred owls, calling back and forth to each other, and
  2. No, they will keep you awake for hours.

Eventually I discerned, amongst the sometimes chimpanzee-like shrieking, a hooting suggestive of an owl, and I looked up their call in my bird books and discovered it was a pair (or more) of barred owls. Over time, I became used to them. Even though they still sometimes woke me up, I was able to go back to sleep, despite the screeching and calling and hooting.

People think the country is so peaceful. Yes, sometimes it is. And sometimes you are trying to help make a documentary in your driveway and a pileated woodpecker keeps hammering during what is supposed to be your deeply meaningful parting line. But that’s a story for another time. Rather, it’s two posts for the future: one on pileated woodpeckers, and one about participating in a video to educate the public about health care access for people with disabilities.

Back to barred owls!

So, I was familiar with their calls. In fact, about three years ago, we even had a barred owl living near our house. We saw her during the day, because barred owls are sometimes active during the day, as well as night. She’d be in a tree nearby, or sitting on the bird-feeder pole, just hanging out, presumably waiting for some rodents to come looking for the seed spilled on the ground. (Barred owls don’t eat other birds, according to my bird books. Yet, the song birds stayed away while she was around.) We called her “Hedwig.” We were very fond of her.

We didn’t see her after that year, but at night I often hear barred owls calling to each other when I take Barnum out to toilet. The calls seem to be coming from my neighbors’ yard across the street. Indeed, my neighbor recently sent me this photo, saying, “We’ve been seeing this pair all summer.”

(Yes, they are as big as they look. As you’ll read in the Audubon description of them, they are almost two feet tall, with a wing span close to four feet!)

Night-time picture of two barred owls sitting right next to each other on a large, horizontal tree limb. Around them are leaves. They are highlighted in the center in light, and all around them is increasing darkness. One is looking down. The other is looking slightly down and to the side. They are clearly "a couple."

Aren't they adorable?

For the description, I’ll turn to my Audubon guide: “Length, 21 inches. Wingspan, three-feet-eight inches. Dark brownish gray with black spots above; heavily striped underparts; dark bars on upper chest; facial disk gray, ringed in black. Eyes brown; no ear tufts.”

The description my Audubon guide gives of their calls is pathetically inadequate. Here are some calls (and also some images) of adult barred owls from a youtube video. (I’m not providing a transcript or closed captioning because it’s really not possible to get across the sound.)

Okay, so I’m used to that.

Then, several weeks ago, I started to hear a strange, repetitive, loud, annoying animal call at night, all night. I could mimic it when I heard it, but by the next morning, I’d forgotten how it sounded, and couldn’t reproduce it. Finally, I posted to my town’s list-serv, describing it as sounding sort of like a slide-whistle, or someone sucking in an incredibly deep, long breath until they were about to gasp. I said it was repeated all night.

Someone on the list suggested that it was the call of one or more baby barred owls. Someone else in town called me to play me a recording of a barred owl pup juvenile, and yes, ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! They win the prize! That’s what it was.

Apparently, the baby owls call very persistently whenever the parents fly off to hunt, to let them know, “Hey! I’m over here! And I’m hungry! . . . Hey! I’m over here! I’m hungry! . . . Hey! . . .”

You get the idea.

One night, recently, it occurred to me to take my camera outside when I took Barnum out to pee to try to get a recording of the call. It is below. There’s no video — you just see black. I was only trying to capture the sound.

I believe I made the young owl nervous, rumbling toward it on the ramp, so it only called four times in these 37 seconds, which is not as frequent as usual. Also, I know it doesn’t sound that loud  and annoying on this recording, but this is a pretty old, crappy camera, not an audio recording device. In real life, they are much more piercing! (Crank up the volume to listen to it.)

Now, if you ever hear these calls, you will know who you are enjoying . . . as you lie awake past dawn. (Because,  yes, they continue hooting and caterwauling past sunrise!)

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (I never even noticed the owl calls), and Barnum (who doesn’t pay the owls much mind in real life, but when I played the youtube video one night, started barking in alarm!)

A Typical Atypical Day in the Life (Part II)…

. . . of a woman with Lyme, CFIDS, and MCS partner-training her bouvier des Flandres service dog.

With a Side of Waspish Wednesday

This is the second post about the good day I had a few weeks ago.

I’ll repeat the setup: “It was atypical because I went out, which I don’t usually do. But the things that occurred, and the way I went out, were mostly typical. A lot of Barnum’s behavior was atypical for the away-from-home Barnum, which is great news!”

The day’s events also fit neatly into Lyme disease awareness and MCS awareness efforts, which I was blogging about all month. Must. Try. To. Squeeeeeeze. In. MCS and Lyme. AWAREness. BEFORE. MAY. ENDS! AUGH!!

Not that I’m feeling any pressure about the dozen MCS and/or Lyme-related posts in my drafts folder or anything. Fortunately, I will still have Lyme and MCS after May is over, which will allow me to continue to blog about these disabilities and raise awareness on them. Ahem. That’s a bit of chronic illness humor.

One frustratingly typical aspect about this “two-part” blog series is that I wrote that first post at the end of May, with the intention of writing Part 2 within a day or two, and it has taken me until now, the beginning of July, to write the second post. That is typical of the unpredictable nature of my functioning. There is always too much for me to do; I never know from day-to-day what my mental or physical functioning will be; and I am constantly trying to reprioritize what I’m blogging about, or training instead of blogging, or resting instead of anything else, or trying to do “professional” writing, etc.

However, perhaps the time lag is a blessing in disguise, because I have had several more days since then that have shared some features of that day — aspects of the day that were atypical then, and which, while not actually typical yet, are now becoming less atypical — which is all to the good! For example, at the time, I had almost never taken Barnum out for public access training, whereas since then we have had a few outings (one of which I wrote about recently). Each time, Barnum has improved a little bit, and what was amazingly, fabulously atypical about that day has become more and more expected (though still not something I take for granted).

Anynoodle, let’s ride the Way Back Machine to the end of May, shall we?

My PCA loaded my chair into the van, and I loaded Barnum (which is very easy — you open the side door and he leaps in as if he’s on springs), and off we went to the local coop. I didn’t plan to go inside, and since it’s still rural and clean air, I didn’t bring my mask or personal air filter (which I would have done if I was going inside). It is quite atypical for me to go in the van without mask or personal air filter, but being forgetful is typical of me, due to my brain injury from Lyme, CFIDS, and the carbon monoxide poisoning that was an instigating factor for my MCS. (Note: Another casualty of getting caught in the rain recently was my personal air purifier. Getting water inside it killed it.) My exposures and reactions were minimal, and I bounced back well, with is my new typical. A few years ago, that would definitely have been atypical.

However, I did have my air filter running  in the van, and I had my oxygen for the ride, if I needed it, which I didn’t — also atypical. That was a bonus.

While it used to be that if I went somewhere in the van, we’d bring along my pchair, and I’d get out and go into the store or wherever, this has not been the case for the last few years. Partly, this changed when I got so sick due to Lyme disease that I never went anywhere unless it was absolutely necessary for me to go to the doctor or hospital. Then, all the powerchair issues arose, and on the rare occasions I went somewhere other than a medical appointment, I neither had the physical energy, nor the equipment, to get out and do anything. So, I’d just sit in the car. For example, once Betsy took me to the dump, and I had a terrific time watching her scrounge through potentially useful items others had thrown out. Here in rural America, going to the dump IS considered a social event.

This time was quite atypical in that I did get out of my seat, and we did not take out my chair. My plan was to work on having Barnum jump in and out of the van, sitting on cue. As I mentioned recently, I always train my service dogs to wait in the vehicle before they’re released, and to sit immediately upon exiting (a default sit). This was quite easy to teach Jersey and Gadget, but it has not been so easy with Mr. Barnum.

My goal was to have Barnum pay any attention to me at all, respond to clicks and take treats, and work on being under control during and after exiting the van. While we worked outside, my PCA would go into the store and pick up a few items for me.

So, I just sat on the floor of the van in the open doorway — atypical for me to be able to do that — and had Barnum jump in and out. He likes the jumping in and out. The problem is getting him to focus on me or following cues when he’s out. However, what was atypical of that day (but not anymore!) was that Barnum was very interested in — and willing to take — food rewards. We got several in-and-outs accomplished.

Then, I let him just stand there, on leash, and observe The World (such as it is on Rattlesnake Gutter Road, not exactly a teeming hub), and tried, periodically, to get him to look my way and take clicks/treats for noticing me and not pulling me. He performed these behaviors much better than in the past, which was atypical at the time.

Then, a woman saw us from across the lot. Everything that ensued is severely, obnoxiously (and sometimes humorously) typical.

“Is that a giant poodle?” she asked, walking toward us.

Internally, I got a little chuckle out of that one. After over a decade of partnering with bouvier des Flandres service dogs, I thought I had heard them all, but no, “giant poodle” was a new one. (What would a giant poodle be? A cross between a giant schnauzer and a standard poodle? Or just a really humongous poodle, like one that had been bitten by a radioactive spider and obtained super powers and went stomping through the streets of Tokyo, with its big poofy tail ferociously wagging and busting out office building windows, while it bounced and chased its tennis ball, crushing vehicles in its path?)

“It’s a bouvier des Flandres,” I said, and she gave me the puzzled look people always give me.

“Can I pet him?” She asked.

Here’s where I went wrong. I said yes, because Barnum and I get out infrequently enough that I was still thinking it was good for him to meet and have positive interactions with people.

However, he was pulling on leash, so I explained that while he was friendly, I was training him not to pull on leash, and he was pulling to get to her, so could she please stop?

What does she do? She comes forward faster.

“Here,” she says. “Now he doesn’t have to pull to get to me.” So, Barnum gets reinforced for the bad behavior I was trying not to reinforce, as this woman rushes over in response to his pulling and starts patting him.

I would like there to be a truck, called the “Unclear on the Concept” Truck. I’d like a celebrity, such as Margaret Cho or Kathy Griffin, to ride in it. And then, when someone who was severely Unclear on the Concept pulled a move like this, the truck would screech up, and out would pop the celebrity, with balloons and flowers to hand to the person, while the UCOTC crew blew noise-makers and tossed confetti on the person’s  head. And Kathy/Margaret would say, “Congratulations! You are Unclear on the Concept!” and they’d hand over the balloons and put a big purple sash on the person that said, “I Don’t Know How to Listen.” And they’d receive an invitation to repeat kindergarten, where concepts such as listening and following instructions were a really big deal, if I remember correctly.

We’d need a massive fleet of these trucks to follow around every assistance dog team and SDiT team on the planet, which I guess would be a big waste of resources, so it’s probably not worth it. On the other hand, it would provide lots of jobs, thereby helping the economy.

Anynoodle, back to my UCOTC “friend.” So, I’m trying to get a handle on the situation while she peppers me with questions, “What kind of dog is that again? A boovee-er? I’ve never heard of that,” etc., when The Big Wall of Fragrance rolls toward me.

Because everyone in my life is scrupulously fragrance-free, and I don’t go out, I sometimes forget that the rest of the planet reeks. So, this fragrancy woman is patting my dog, whom I don’t want to have to bathe when we get home. So I say, “I need you to stop petting him. I have multiple chemical sensitivity, and if he gets fragrance on his fur, I will have to wash him when I get home.”

And she says. . . .

Anyone wanna guess? Hint: If you have MCS, you already know the answer! . . .

“I’m not wearing anything!”

Oh, of course! I am sure I just imagined the smell of fragrances bombarding me the minute you got within six feet!

And then the Unclear on the Concept Truck rolls up and hands her another bouquet of flowers (in my mind).

So, I start dragging Barnum away from her, and to her credit, the woman actually takes a step or two back, which most people don’t, but she doesn’t LEAVE. Why? Because she’s now a two-time crowned Queen of Unclear on the Concept. Instead, she wants to hang around and show me how much she Really Really GETS What I Am Going Through.

She starts telling me how she doesn’t use fragrance, because she lives in [next-door town to mine] and do I live there? And I tell her no, I live in [my town] where there are a lot of MCSers, and she says yes, there are so many people around here with MCS. . . .

I’m just trying to get her to go away and get her off the hook, so I give her some of my standard lines, about how it could really be anything, and I’m sure she’s not aware of it, or it could be if she was around someone else wearing fragrance and it got on her, blah blah blah.

And yes, yes, she says, it’s everywhere, but no, not her, it couldn’t be her, because she knows this woman in town, well, she’s never actually spoken to her, but she sees her going for walks, and she wears a big hat and glasses and a long-sleeved shirt, have I seen her? No? Anyway, she goes on these walks, and this and that, I really don’t know her? No? Well, anyway . . . blah blah blah about this poor other woman.

I’m trying to get her to go away. I tell her I’m trying to train my dog. And during the course of all this it comes out that yes, she does use scented shampoo, and deodorant, and laundry detergent, etc., but that’s not the same as wearing fragrances, of course, blah blah blah. I’m thinking, “How come I can usually get people to leave me alone a little faster than this?”

Then it hits me: I don’t look disabled today. This hasn’t happened in years. I don’t know when the last time was that I was in any sort of public place without at least being in a wheelchair and/or wearing a mask and/or using oxygen and/or with a service dog by my side. And sometimes nonverbal and signing. Normally, people stare at me as if I’m some sort of freak because of all this, and can’t get away fast enough (though they will still stare — a LOT).

But, the wheelchair was still in the van. I’d forgotten to bring my mask, and although I had oxygen in the car, I hadn’t thought I’d need it, so I didn’t think to reach for it. My voice was working, and of course, she had no way of knowing that the dog I was trying to train before she descended on me is my SDiT, because he’s not yet ready to wear his gear in public. While I don’t enjoy the way people treat me when I “look disabled,” it’s also true that for most people, while there is a certain fascination and draw to talking to me, either to talk about the dog or to do some emotional head patting (“Oh, isn’t it wonderful that you’re OUT! You’re so BRAVE!”), there is also usually an equal or greater amount of fear and desire to get the hell away from me.

But not today, today was Atypical Day in terms of my disabilities suddenly having become invisible, so all Ms. UCOTC knew was that I was trying to train my dog, who was completely ignoring me because he wanted to sniff the interesting-smelling woman who is standing still just close enough to be a major distraction to Barnum and a biohazard to me. So of course, she was doing her civic duty by hanging out and telling me just how deeply she understood what it’s like to have MCS, because of this woman in her town. She went on and on about this woman taking walks, and do I take walks? No, I said.

I kept hoping that if I used very short, small, unencouraging words, that she would go away. But, she didn’t, because she is obviously a black-belt in UCOTC.

I really wanted to say, “No, I don’t take walks because I can’t WALK! I am disabled and trying to train my assistance dog, and you are wasting precious, limited energy, and I don’t give a crap about this other woman who you are voyeuring and telling her business to strangers you don’t know, so leave me the fuck alone and go away!”

But, I didn’t say that because 1. I was trying to concentrate on Barnum, and 2. because of my cognitive impairment and exhaustion, it’s hard enough for me to have conversations with people I know and want to talk to, let alone ones I don’t know and wish would go away, and 3. I couldn’t think of a way to say, “Leave me the hell alone! Go away!” without being incredibly rude.

Somehow, however, I did manage to eventually get across that I was trying to train my dog, and that it took a lot of concentration, and that I really needed to get back to that, and so would she please go away? And she did, walking backwards, yakking at me the whole time.

THAT was, sadly, typical: 1. Everyone wants to talk to me about my dog, and they don’t listen to instructions/requests not to make an already difficult job more difficult, and 2. Nobody ever believes that they could possibly be wearing something that is making me sick and that when I say, “Don’t pet my dog,” I mean, “Don’t pet my dog!”

The irony is that we left the wheelchair in the van to save time and energy (using the lift is a pain in the ass), so that I could devote all my energy to training Barnum. But if I had been sitting in it, probably this woman would have skeedaddled a lot faster.

But, as she was walking away, she was asking me more questions about Barnum, telling me how handsome he is, etc., and she said, “He’s so calm. Are they all so calm like that?” And that really gave me a laugh, because of course, I’d been dealing with Mr. Hyper-Flake for so long, and this trip was part of determining if he could calm down and focus enough that I wouldn’t have to wash him out. So, that was a very nice part of the day, to realize that from an outsider’s perspective, Barnum appeared very mellow and in control.

I think I said something to the effect that, no, this was new since he’d recently been neutered.

Now that I am starting to train Barnum to wear his SDiT harness and pack, with its badges on it, I’m thinking about getting some custom-made ones. I got the idea from someone who made a placard for her dog’s mobility harness handle. It says, among other things

Questions Stress Person

~Please Stop~

Brain Injury

I think I am going to see if I can make or buy something like that. It was hard enough dealing with all the questions when it was just MCS and CFIDS I was dealing with, but now with further brain impairment from Lyme, plus with having a dog who will be much harder to get up to scratch in public access work, I can’t deal with all the people. I just can’t deal with them.

Unless . . . Kathy Griffin? Margaret Cho? Are you out there?

– Sharon, the muse of Gadget (I never understood what the big deal is about other people, it’s not like they’re DOGS), and Barnum, SDiT and inquisitor magnet

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