Joey

 

Joey.  What do I possibly say about him?  Of course he’s awesome.  Everyone who sees him, especially when he’s in action, is stunned by his perfection.  And he is all of those things.  Beautiful, well-behaved, loves me, knows 200 commands, extremely impressive blood line.

 

And we naturally thought, because we had lived with a labrador for twelve years before as a much-beloved pet, that this would be similar.  Oh no, not at all.  Well, just not much.  There’s a huge difference, apparently, between a pet dog and a service dog.  Especially one from this place.

 

He has been, for me, extremely overwhelming simply all the time.  It’s slowly getting a little better, as I’m getting faster at caring for him, he’s adjusting to our routine here, and we’re establishing a pattern together.  I’m learning to read his signals;  my husband used snow fence to create a “fenced yard” out back so that sometimes I can sit out there and throw a tennis ball to him, and he can toilet outside.

 

Joey became my full-time job.  I, who had my hands full just caring for myself, and was so proud of beginning to do a few little jobs around our house again, couldn’t do any of that.  Not only that, but my husband was having to chip in to help with Joey several times a day as well.  There wasn’t time in my day for my self-care routine, let alone cleaning or cooking.  It was all consumed by Joey tasks.

 

This really took our entire family by surprise.  In the first place, we have never been close friends with anyone who had a service dog.  In the second place, this place in St. Louis takes great pride in being far more thorough than any other dog training place in the entire country.  I’m having to learn to balance all that, because I have struggled with being a real perfectionist myself.

 

Here are just a few of the dozens and dozens of rules about their dogs:  not ever off the leash outside, unless you have a fenced yard;  groomed daily; teeth and ears cleaned weekly;  exercised twice daily for twenty minutes each time;  kenneled 2x daily to prevent separation anxiety;  nails maintained with a battery-powered Dremmel 2x a week.   And because he knows so many commands, the challenge of not using one of those words in casual conversation is very great.

 

We had installed an invisible fence for our previous dog, Remo.  That wouldn’t be a possibility for Joey, it seemed.  Ever.

 

Our first week home, I had to hold his leash all the time, except for two brief kennel times each day.  Given that he had come home with me on Wednesday of the first week, and had been on the leash all evenings for a week and a half, this meant 2 1/2 weeks of holding Joey’s leash.

 

The second week home, he was allowed  to “drag” his leash.  This was really weird for him.  He was used to being no further than a leash length away from me, so he would follow me around all the time.  Having been in the bathroom with me for almost three weeks and being trained to “bump” things…..including doors….didn’t allow me any more privacy this next week.  It just had the added disadvantage of surprise.

 

The third week, he graduated to a shorter leash.  This was still weird.  The 4th week, he was bare in the house.  This is how we’ve been for several weeks.  Joey is still obsessed with me.  He follows me from room to room, from side  to side of the room, is right behind me when I turn around.

 

At this point, until it warms up and I can walk outside, he won’t be much use to me.  I can’t take him in public unless my husband is with me, because I’m not yet improved  enough to handle him on my own.  So my days are pretty much complicated with Joey care right now, for no return.  Vacuuming up his hair, cleaning and washing his paws when he goes our three times a day, grooming, exercising, brushing his teeth…..

 

I believe we will be a great team.  We will walk together outside, without me having to cling to someone’s hand, or wait until someone has time to walk with me.  I LOVE to walk.  That is the only form of exercise open to me now.  I would walk for hours if I could.

 

When I am able to go with him in other people’s cars, we will go and be able to be dropped off places.  For example, the mall.  Even with my hiking stick, it is far too overwhelming and open for me to maneuver on my own.  But with Joey, maybe someday it will be possible.  He is lovely and strong, and very willing to help me and take care of me.  I can definitely see that.

 

On days like this, though, in March when it’s muddy, no one can come and see me or take me places because of our stupid road,and it won’t stop the darned precipitation…..it’s so hard to hold on to that vision of summertime walks.  Our bible reading a few weeks ago was about Noah building the ark, and our pastor reminded us that it took Noah over 100 years to build the ark.

 

I just hope I don’t have to wait that long.

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My Unwelcome Neighbor

 

I have a really annoying neighbor who moved in uninvited three years ago, and just won’t leave.  I’ll call him Mr. V-Stib.  He has a cousin who visits sometimes, and then it gets MUCH worse.  They really partay when they’re together.

The cousin is BPPV,  the most common vestibular problem.  I do exercises every day to mostly keep this guy at bay,  Whenever he comes to visit, which is about twice a year, really bad things happen.  Every movement of my head  results in violent nausea.  But–on the other hand, when he does show his ugly face, we can call my doctor and tell her that he’s here again, and get an order to go back to On With Life and get treated for he/it. Then  I just need 6 or 8 bi-weekly sessions of physical therapy to recoup the ground I lost.

That all sounds simple.  The reality is that, one morning I wake up, start to get out of bed, and immediately the world erupts into violence.  I might throw up, and I might not.  But I definitely feel like it.  Only my husband can take me to get treatment because I am in no shape to travel with anyone else and he has to get a day off.  At the risk of TMI, I always have to take a vomit bowl in the car.  Just saying’.

So usually I’m like this for several days while all these arrangements are going on, and we are getting all the delights of insurance worked out.

The “treatment” involves me laying down, usually with a trash can by the end of the bed (just in case.)  Then they have me roll rapidly from side to side, and several times with my head hanging off the edge,  and  then they watch my eyes spin.  Somehow from all this they can tell which ear canal those darned calcium crystals have migrated to this time.  It’s definitely not fun.  But I’m very very very grateful they can do such an impossible thing.

That episode earlier this summer turned out, despite days of pain-in-the-neckness, to be a blessing in disguise because it resulted in me getting a doctor’s order to go back for some much-needed physical therapy.  This really gave me a good start on my summer. And at the end of all this, I don’t have to deal with the effects of this one every day.  And that is sweet.

My permanent neighbor  is bilateral hypo function.  This one is pretty rare.  They say I have some permanent loss here, but not severe.  This one is low-grade constant all the time, but occasionally I go through periods of weeks where it is much, much, more severe. This  one is so complicated–I guess those of you that are THAT interested can look it up–but among its many personal delights for me are what I call my “personal earthquakes,”, which I think is pretty explanatory.  Or how I constantly feel like I’m walking through a funhouse, and when my hypo function is really acting up everything is in huge motion.  That’s fun. I read one description of it that described it as “always on a balance beam.”  That’s probably the best thing I’ve heard yet.

Another exciting extra I got  with my purchase of hypofuction:  frequently, I feel an invisible  push when I’m walking.  Given that my balance is pretty precarious at the best of times, this feels just plain mean.  So  I’m away from home, feeling sunny and confident, and trying to stride briskly out in public with my hiking stick, and suddenly I feel a hard shove that causes me to stumble.  And the shover just won’t stop.  He–somehow it is always a “he”  (sorry guys, but I guess I picture him as a big bully).

This is not at all funny, no matter how hard I try.  When I  suddenly am afraid it could happen at any time, it’s really hard to be so darn confident.  To not hunch over.  To not frown. And to put my shoulders back.  To take big steps.  To not suddenly become a sniveling heap of whining humanity.

But yesterday I had a revelation.  Earlier this summer, when I had my other reoccurrence, my therapist asked me to step up on a foam pad.  I couldn’t, even with her holding on.   I felt too dizzy still.  Then she went and got a weighted vest, put it on me very snugly, and held on to me lightly  and asked me to do it again.It was much easier that time.  I did it several times, and asked her what the heck was going on?

She explained.  My v-stib occurrence had been so harsh this time  that I had been having mini panic attacks, imagining that they had come back.  My imagined symptoms were maybe worse than my real ones were now.   My paralyzing fear was stopping me from doing things much more profoundly than the v-stibs themselves ever would be able to.

That was another life-changer that my illness has to teach me.  There just seems no end to the lessons that this pile of crap has for me.

So, if God won’t release me from me from Mr. Stupid V-Stib, if he’s here for the duration of my life–as it seems he is–I’m apparently going to have to make peace with him.  He won’t move, and I can’t move.  I’ve tried fighting him, and I’ve lost.  He’s still here.  So I’m going to have to make peace with him.  This is my fifth day of thinking of him as a fairly unpleasant neighbor.  People have them.  We don’t live in a neighborhood, but we hear stories.  And we’ve worked with some unpleasant people before, so it’s not like we’re beginners at this sort of thing.   Apparently God thinks I have something I need to learn from Mr. V-Stib.

I had been trying to avoid doing anything  that would bring on the symptom. The repercussions in my head and my stomach were so unpleasant.  But for the last few day days, I’ve been trying not so much to purposefully “lean into it,”, but to just behave normally.  To get on with my life.   And I’m finding, that it’s really not that bad, when you take the fear out of the equation.  Whatever I’m doing, whether it’s washing the dishes, walking to the refrigerator, or putting something away, if I feel something different, I just pause, think about it, and go on with what I was doing.  And already I find that I’m getting a little more used to it, I think.  As my favorite neurologist said, “the brain is a wonderful thing.  There seems no end to what it can get used to, adapt to, or how much it can improve from an injury.”  There seems to be a little of all three of those finally going on here.

OK, those words sound good.  They sound brave.  Here goes.  I almost convinced myself. Plus that last couple of days, he’s been bothering me much less than when I started this post.  That definitely helps my attitude about all this.

But not his cousin, Mr. BPPV.  Anytime he shows up, I’m definitely showing HIM the door!