Posts Tagged 'disability culture'

We’re Ba-ack . . . and We’ve Moved!

Hi everyone.

Barnum and I are still around. I’m still having issues with my hands and wrists, but it’s not as severe as it was, thanks to ice, rest, and a change of medication.  In case you’re curious, I have tenosynivitis, which is basically tendonitis of the wrists, and some tendonitis in my hands, too. I’m doing things like icing three or four times a day, researching wrist braces that I can tolerate (most are made with neoprene, which is super toxic and not an option for me due to my MCS), and trying to mouse and type less. It seems to have been caused by a combination of the Lyme drug I was using, Rifampin, damaging my tendons, along with my constant computer use and my various other inflammatory diseases. My OT said it was “the perfect storm.” Terrific.

I’ve tried various software and hardware solutions:

  • I’ve got a more ergonomic keyboard now and am still trying to find a “pointing device” (mouse, touchpad, etc.) that doesn’t injure me more.
  • I got speech-recognition software (Dragon Naturally Speaking), which works pretty well for things like emails when my voice is also working well, which is about half the time. The other half of the time, when the dysphonia kicks in, Dragon is completely useless. And using it for editing and blogging is mostly an exercise in frustration.

So Far, Barnum hasn’t been much help with this new disability. The main things I’ve had to change our how a transfer out of bed and how I type, and Barnum can’t help with either of those. In fact, Barnum has been living up to his full Bouvier des Flandres potential as a service/hindrance dog: he broke my computer.

I have an all-in-one computer, which is basically like a screen with no tower. The CD/DVD disc tray slides out of the side. The computer lives on my overbed table, and I live in bed. And Barnum spends a lot of his time on my bed because otherwise we wouldn’t get to interact much!

One day, I’d taken out a disc and was about to put in another one, and Barnum glimpsed Something Very Exciting out the window and whipped his big, hard, heavy Bouvier head around, smacking my disc drive as he went. The disc drive cracked and a piece fell off. Barnum, of course, didn’t even notice that he’d hit anything.

I got the drive replaced, but even though that was a hardware issue, not a software issue, ever since then my computer has been extra glitchy. Let this be a lesson to you. (I don’t know what the lesson is, except maybe, “Never ever wever bever leave your disc drive open, especially if you have a big, enthusiastic, klutzy dog in the vicinity.” Yeah, I’m gonna go with that as the lesson.)

Anynoodle, it especially sucked because I COULD NOT USE MY HANDS and I didn’t yet have my speech software, so I was extremely bored because now I couldn’t watch DVDs, which — aside from listening to books on tape — was about the only form of entertainment or activity available to me. And what is the thing that has been the most buggy ever since I got the drive replaced? The media player. Le sigh.

I’ll post in the future (at my new blog) about the training we’ve been doing. The tedious training has been extinguishing barking out the window which is a behavior that I created and reinforced for a long time before I realized I was the cause. Facepalm, indeed.

The more fun behaviors, on those rare days I’m up to doing them, are working on calm behavior for hind toenail trimming, which involves clicking him for tail position (which I’m using as an indicator of his level of arousal) and teaching Barnum to carry a bag and deposit it in a box near the kitchen. Once this behavior is solid, I can have him deliver dishes and things I’m done with to my PCAs, even when they’re not here. It will be quite a while before that’s a finished behavior. I hope to blog about these training issues in the coming weeks . . . but not here!

Which leads me to my Very Exciting News:

My brand new website is up! Yeehaw!

Do you want a tour?!

You do? (I’m just pretending you said yes.)

GREAT! Follow me. . . .

This is the foyer. Some people call it the “home page,” but I think foyer sounds better (especially if you pronounce it the French way — foy-`yay!) — or the vestibulary, if you prefer.

As you can probably tell, the walls (and ceilings and floors) have just been cleaned and painted (all nontoxic virtual paint, of course), so I hope you don’t mind taking off your shoes. And your dogs’ shoes. Thanks.

OK, we’ll start our tour with the south wing of the house. First stop is the writing parlor. all furniture hasn’t been moved in yet. We’ll get there. But adjoining the writing parlor is. . . .

The literary salon! Where discussions about being a writer with a disability or writing about disability take place. And you’ll notice just off to the side, this room leads to an even larger room which is . . .

Yes, I know it’s empty now. There are just some packing crates and suchlike. BUT, this is the nursery of my mind. This room — Crip Erotica: The Book! — is the one I am the most excited about! I have been dreaming of building this room for years, and I already have a lot of the plans drawn up. I am really looking forward to using this website is to nurture, support, and grow what will be born in this room.* But it takes a village, to uh, you know, create a crip smut collection. I don’t know which village that would be, but I’m hoping to start finding the villagers soon. (More on that later.)

Moving to the next room is the disability erotica I’ve already published. This is cozy, don’t you think? There’s art on the walls. Has a more lived-in feel. I’ve been hanging out in this room for over ten years! It’s helped give me the confidence to build the “nursery” mentioned above.

Now, if we’ll take a stroll across hall we can enter the north wing of the house, where you can see the Activisting center. My longtime readers will find posts you remember about disability rights, access, environmental health issues, service dog awareness, and other assorted (no, not sordid — that’s the south wing) posts.

And I’ll still be blogging about lots of the stuff you’re used to. For example, I’m writing a couple of posts now for the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival. I’m going to try to get those of you who are WordPress subscribers to After Gadget transferred over as subscribers to SharonWachsler.com. I hope the rest of you will subscribe to the new website/blog, too. (Pretty please?)

See you all at the new pad (I hope)!

Peace.

-Sharon, the muse of Gadget, and Barnum, Disc Drive Destroyer

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Sick Humor Retro: The Hindrance Dog

Grief takes many forms. There is sorrow, longing, anger, and numbness. Yet, there is also reminiscing. Reflecting on the good, bad, and funny times.

With Gadget, most of my favorite memories are the times that are hilarious now, but were far from funny at the time.

When Gadget was most challenging, I often thought, “Yes, someday, I’ll look back on this and laugh. But for now, I’ll just whimper. Or cry.”

I admit, though, even in the midst of pain or exhaustion, frustration or exasperation, my inner voice whispered, “Heidi is going to love to hear this one!” Or, “I bet I can use this for a humor column.” Or, “Boy, did I make a fool of myself today!”

It was really impossible to stay angry at my boy when he ran as if he might take off and fly from joy, his wildly flopping ears adding to that impression. He loved me with the same abandon as he ran: he once rolled onto his back in my lap, threw back his head to lick my face, and broke my nose with the top of his hard skull. He might paw me in deference and enthusiasm and leave deep, bloody scratches on my legs.

Gadget kisses Sharon

Some kisses were safer than others

Of course, this was when he was young and untutored, before he became the magnificent helper who I came to rely on so much. Before I took much of his help for granted.

Sick Humor Rides — and Crashes — Again

Since I have referred to Gadget as my muse at the end of each After Gadget post, I feel it’s time to give him his due as the muse he used to be when I wrote a monthly column called “Sick Humor.” Gadget starred in a few of my stories about the funny side of life with chronic illness.

Gadget is gone. I haven’t written a column in years. But my new puppy will be here in three weeks — wildness and unpredictability arriving with him. I think it’s a good time to remember that from distractable, unmannerly buffoons grow calm professionals.

In other words, Gadget, my perfect dog was not necessarily the “best” dog. In fact, in 1991, I called him . . .

“The Hindrance Dog”

This morning I got up at 6:30, which is generally as much adventure as I can handle in one day. I had to get the dogs to the vet. Jersey, my aging service dog, needed a growth on her lip removed. Gadget, the 70-pound puppy I recently adopted, was scheduled for neutering.

Jersey provides me greater mobility and independence. Three years ago, when I adopted and trained her, she was the perfect assistance dog. A mellow, acquiescent “floor potato” who was easy to train, she retrieves what I drop, steadies me when I walk, brings me my slippers, and is a quiet companion when I’m too sick to stir. However, as one friend put it, “Jersey acts like it’s her job but not her career.” Like most people, Jersey works but she’d rather be sleeping. Or eating. Especially eating.

When Jersey developed arthritis I knew it was time to find a trainee to succeed her. I wanted my new dog to master complicated skills that were beyond the phlegmatic Jersey. I sought a younger, more energetic pupil — the canine equivalent of a workaholic. A dog who would bound off to find help in a crisis, pull my wheelchair with gusto, and carry groceries like they were Faberge eggs. Enter Gadget — a urine-spritzing, slobber-spraying, fur-covered ball of muscle — who was about to kiss (or rather, lick) his manhood goodbye.

The dogs needed a brief walk because we didn’t have much time to get to the vet. I climbed aboard my mobility scooter and clipped Gadget’s lead to my handle bar. As usual, Gadget ran joyously ahead, Jersey and I following sedately behind. I planned to head back before we got too near my neighbors’ house, to prevent rousing their dogs and disturbing them with sunrise racket.

As we reached my neighbors’ barn, I opened my mouth to call my duo home, but before I could speak, my neighbors’ dogs started barking. Gadget spotted his best friend, a Lab mix named Shadow, and lunged to the end of his leash.

“Come on!” I hissed, still trying for stealth. “We’re not playing. We’re leaving.” I could hear Lilin calling from her house. I wasn’t sure if she was calling me, Sharon, or her dog, Shadow.

“Its Sharon,” I yelled, so she wouldn’t think I was an intruder, sneaking in at dawn’s early light. “Sorry!” I bellowed, as an afterthought, preparing to head home.

The Anti-Lassie

“In dog training,” the books say, “timing is everything.” This is true. Today Gadget gave me a lesson in timing as swift and sure as if I’d been wearing a choke chain.

As my scooter reached the halfway point in its arc toward home — perpendicular to my gasping service-dog-in-training — Gadget bolted, pulling my scooter over on top of me. Relying on the quick thinking and steady nerves that have made me the skilled dog-handler I am today, I immediately took charge of the situation.

“Aieeeee!” I screamed, as I slammed into the hard-packed earth.

“Ow!” I clarified, as 200 pounds of metal and plastic landed on me.

Then I tried to get up. Unfortunately, my right foot was pinned under the scooter, which was now an immobility vehicle. I looked at the dogs to see how they were coping with this sudden, troubling turn of events.

 

Sharon, Jersey, and Gadget

An outing after Gadget had learned his stuff, Jersey was retired, and the chair and I were upright

 

Jersey lay contentedly in the grass about 30 feet away. Gadget continued to hurl himself to the end of his lead, oblivious that parts of the leash — as well as of me — were trapped under the scooter.

I assessed the situation and decided on a plan.

“Help!” I yelled, flailing in the dust. “Lilin?” I hoped my neighbor was making her way behind the barn to find the source of the ruckus. “Help! It’s Sharon!”

Then, both dogs, hearing my distress, continued as they were.

“Oh my God! Sharon!” Lilin rounded the corner, gasping, her hand covering her mouth.

“I’m taking the dogs to the vet,” I said inanely as I lay in the dirt. “That’s why I’m up so early.”

Seeing another human with me, Gadget trotted over, waggled at the two of us, then went back to desperately trying to get to Shadow.

Lilin is not a big woman, but bless her, she is strong. She lifted the scooter off my foot and helped me tip it back onto its wheels. Scratched and grimy, the right side of my overalls hanging broken, I had to keep reassuring her I was okay.

I really was, too. No injuries, just scrapes and bruises — especially to my ego. After all, the reasons I’d acquired a scooter and a service dog were to become less needy of other people’s help. This was not how I’d envisioned it coming together.

Nonetheless, Lilin and I untangled the dogs and made our ways home, Gadget straining the whole time.

I have faith that Gadget will make an excellent assistance dog, once he is trained to get help in a crisis as opposed to causing the crisis in the first place. For the time being, however, I have changed his rank from “assistance-dog-in-training” to “hindrance dog.”

-Sharon and the muse of Gadget (who truly earned the title of Service Dog with every passing year)

We welcome your comments as always.

 


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