Six Months Of Shmans

Tansy has been very much neglected up here, but I have once again amassed quite the list of updates, observations and acknowledgements of time.

Back in October, Tansy got out her barf bingo dabber and checked off that month. I think the little rip stole some dropped food at a social event at work, but even so, it’s another month where she has barfed. I wish she wasn’t so silent about it. I had no idea it happened until a colleague pointed it out. Hmmm, is that less or more disgusting than asking a colleague to graphically describe ooze coming from a cyst? Maybe it’s a toss-up. Har!

Shmans went through a phase of having little lumpy bumpy skin irritation things. The vets weren’t sure what they were, and we treated them with medicated pads and they went away. A few came back when I went home to mom and dad’s so I’m not sure if it’s an environmental allergy or what. Thank goodness they have stayed gone though. I kept having nightmares that one day I would rub her belly and a great hunk of skin would be covered in lines of unnoticed lumpy bumpies!

Then one day, when Brad was here, he commented that Tans’s underbelly looked all baggy and bunched up. His comment was “it looks like she’s going to have pups!” I had a few nightmares about discovering that Shmans wasn’t spayed after all and was about to have puppies. You can see it’s really easy to fuel my nightmares. The vet says that’s just the way she is and not to worry. It hasn’t changed, so I guess that’s just Shmans.

I also noticed one day that her neck felt flabbier than usual. For now I’m going to say I’m just paranoid. Her weight is mostly staying the same, but I can never predict when it will bump up or fall down.

She had another session of losing hair on her paws. This time, when it grew back, it came back white. We don’t know if it’s the boots, maybe this brand isn’t as uniformly made as the official Pawz ones, or they’re made out of a different kind of rubber, but once again she had rubbed patches. It’s always on different paws though. In previous years, it was on the rear paws, now this time it was on the front ones.

Speaking of boots, I had a new experience. I had to put boots on her while riding in a car. I would have never been able to pull this off with the other boots. But with difficulty, I got them on. When I left, I didn’t realize how much salt was out until she started hopping. The car was right there, so I had to put the boots on during the ride so when we got to where we were going, she would be protected. Add that to the list of things I’ve learned to do, right up there with relieving two dogs and having to find something else to serve as an emergency poop bag.

Poor Shmans has such a hard time finding dogs that can handle her level of energy but aren’t too rough. I saw a dog who actually scared poor Tansy. We went to visit a coworker, and she has two little dogs. The one was pretty calm, but the other one wanted to make sure that Tans knew she was on his property. The first thing he did was pee on his house. Then, he wouldn’t stop trying to dominate poor Shmans. Imagine a little Boston Tarrier-like dog trying to show Shmans who was boss. Not only that, but he kept trying to hump her head! He’s blind, so I guess he just aimed for some part of her and went to town. Tans was not sure what to make of this and just tried to stay out of his way. Tans, you have such a hard time.

She is getting older though. She has some grey that is visible, and some white on her paws in addition to the new white that came back after the hair loss. Someone described her as salt and pepper, and that she has a beard. Someone else said she looked wise, I’m not sure if it was her facial expression or what. I also notice that she seems more chilled out. Her moments of insanity are shorter and she takes longer to charge as I used to call it. She’s started lying down on the bus again, and she lies down in places where I wouldn’t expect it. Yes, this dog is mortal.

Our buddy J thinks she’s more chill too. While he was here, we were getting ready to leave but I had to head back for something, so Steve and J stepped outside and Tansy just wandered out with them and stood there. That would have never happened when she was younger, as history will attest. She would have been up and down the hall like a shot. But she just stood near J and waited for me.

But she is still full of beans. She still loves J a lot, and when I went to meet him at the station, Shmans jumped on him. Randomly, as he was sitting around, she would come running over and start bonking into him and being a total goofball. One morning, he tried to do some stretches and situps and things, and Tans got right in his way and thought he was on the floor to play with her. She has been known to give in to her impulsivity a little bit more. I can’t remember where I mentioned this, but during the fall semester, I had a co-op student working with me until January. Inexplicably, whenever her teacher would come to observe, Tansy would surprise me by leaping on her in harness! Just once, thankfully only once, she decided to suddenly increase her speed while on the stairs because she saw something that distracted her. That little lapse in impulse-control scared me. She absolutely adores the guy who sometimes brings a dog to work. I now have a picture of that dog!

Tansy standing with Charlie, one on each side of me.
Tansy and her new deskmate

Anyway, even if he doesn’t have that dog with him, Tans will exuberantly greet him. His desk is right next to her space and sometimes, when we’re coming back from somewhere, she’ll try to go visit him first. She also will forget her manners and run from our area to say hello to that one coworker with the super-dominant little dog I talked about earlier. Occasionally, if I’m working late and the cleaning lady comes around with the vacuum, Tansy has decided she’s a play toy too. I have sometimes heard a voice say “Go to mamma, go to mamma!” and I have to rescue this poor woman while hiding my embarrassed face. And of course, she has been known to lure other dogs into our area. I don’t know how she does it, but every now and then, some dog will break free of its owner and come bounding in here. So Tans keeps life interesting.

All these stories remind me of something I heard while passing by a kid and his mom. The mom was telling the kid that the doggy was working so he couldn’t pet the doggy, and the kid was trying to argue that no, the doggy doesn’t look like he’s working. Wanna bet, kid? If you’d seen the events above, you would know that yes, she is working sooooo hard not to be bouncing off the ceiling right now.

But she still can control those impulses. She was hilarious with my co-op student. She would be very reserved, then I would take the harness off and only if I brought her over to the student did she say hello. She would get up on her hind legs and give her a hug and some kisses. I wish I had a picture. It was like she knew the student wanted a guide dog and wanted to show her what it was all about.

Shmans was none too pleased with the last winter. Sometimes I think she wished she could hibernate. In the morning when it was almost time to go, she would get super quiet, as if I might forget her if she didn’t make any noise. Oh dog, I don’t like this winter either.

Something new she’s started doing is she won’t just celebrate after a meal, but she’ll celebrate while I’m getting it ready. Well, I’m glad she’s happy. She also chooses where she sleeps, and if she misjudges when it’s time to rise and shine, she’ll take the hint and either go back to bed or flop into the crate.

If I’m at the office late, even if I feed her, she will get so excited when I show signs that we are leaving. It’s like she’s saying “Good! I can go home and totally loop out and then relax. Finally!”

Let’s add some songs to the list of songs Tansy gets excited over. Oddly enough, she likes “Joshua Giraffe”, but only when it starts speeding up.

She has decided that River by Sarah McLachlan

is a good one, as well as “Is Anybody Home” by Our Lady Peace

and “On Top of the World” by the Carpenters.

Oddly enough, a song she has heard many times has recently joined the awesome list, and that’s “The Happy Song” by Imogen Heap.

Just a few weeks ago, she decided it was worth dancing to. It sometimes seems like she likes the theme from Dr. Demento,

but I’m not sure about that one. W’w’w’w’w’w’wind up your Shmandaloop!

We learned at Christmas that Shmans will not tolerate wearing things for fun. We tried to get a picture of her with a Santa hat on, and that Santa hat flew! We also tried to put bells on her, and that was not a good idea. I have never seen her work so fiercely to get something off. So, harness, jackets, boots and mut muffs are ok, but keep those bells and hats away. Ok then.

Another amusing part of Christmas festivities was when we started singing “If you’re happy and you know it.” Somehow, we ended up singing “If you’re happy and you know it, pat your leg,” and this drove Shmans nuts. Everybody was patting their leg! Were they all calling her? What was she to do? Poor, poor confused dog.

She got some toys at Christmas from my Secret Santa. We had a funny Aira moment. The agent was describing the package since I couldn’t find a braille note until we got to the bottom, and maybe the lighting wasn’t awesome. When we got to the toys, they were stuck together with Velcro, and the agent thought the big one was a kangaroo. So we thought the thing stuck to it must have been its baby, or Joey. Then we found the note and found out it was a squirrel and an acorn. So, they were nicknamed the squangaroo and the jacorn from then on. The squangaroo didn’t make it because Tans was trying to use it for rougher play than it was intended, and the poor thing ripped, but the jacorn is still with us. We also got some smaller stuffed toys in March, and sometimes she picks up the jacorn and one of those and brings them to us.

Sometimes when she’s playing, she will inexplicably let out these little yips. I was worried they were pain, but I’m not so sure anymore. It’s like she’s so happy she can’t contain herself. Of course, I’ll keep watching and we’ll see, but for now, I’ll say they’re happy.

I am sure there are things that we do that probably frustrate our guide dogs, like getting on different buses. I’m sure they’re thinking “You just got off that moving chair thing, why do you want to sit on another one?” But I can add shopping for a couch to the list. There are few times when I actually imagine what Tansy is thinking, but last Saturday as we shopped for couches, I heard her thought process loudly and clearly. It went a little something like “Woman, I just found you a seat. Why do you want to find another one? I just got nicely settled and you’re asking me to get up again. Did you not like this one? What’s so different about the one we moved to? It’s not that far from that other one! You’re weird!” Sometimes, on our way to the couch we were interested in, Tansy would just stop and try to direct me to a seat, any old seat. Poor baby, she had no idea.

Back in September, my grandma moved into an assisted living place. When I have had the chance to see her, Tansy has decided that random residents need some love. We’ll be trying to go by one of them and she’ll try and scooch over so she can nuzzle them. Even though I mind, thankfully they don’t. I wonder what she notices about them.

Can you believe that Trix has been gone for over a year? February 21 marked the anniversary of her death, and it is now April. We are chugging through all of her anniversaries too, and it blows my mind. I reached out to her raiser on what would have been her birthday and we both said we were thinking of her. It was really weird not to buy her Christmas presents this year.

One of the things Tans inherited from the Trix days finally bit the big one. Remember that no-spill water bowl I bought for Trix at work? It finally died. It started showing signs of wearing out with a wee crack, and then it just started coming apart. I ordered a new style of no-spill bowl, and after one bowl nearly got lost in the postal strike, it arrived from Amazon. It stores one heck of a lot of water. Even with two dogs drinking out of it whenever my nearby coworker brings in his dog, there is still lots left. It must seem magical to the dogs. It has this floating piece that only lets up so much water at a time, but as they push on it with their noses, more water comes up. It makes me think of a bottomless cup.

A couple of weeks ago, Tans and I celebrated 6 years as a guide dog team. Shmans has now worked the longest out of all 3 dogs, Trix being the only real close competition. But she has smashed all her records in age while working and time working together. On May 31, Tans will turn 8. To put it into perspective, when Trix turned 8, she had been retired for nearly 8 months, had been with Brad for almost 6 months, and Tans and I had just gotten home a couple days before. I’m not trying to call Trix a crappy guide dog or anything, I’m more saying I can sigh a sigh of relief that I am not a dog-breaker.

And those are the majority of the Shmans updates for now. I have a bit more news, but it needs to be in a post all on its own. Basically, Shmans got to see her raisers again, and I want to chronicle those adventures, complete with pictures! See you then.

When Will It End?

I’m glad Gill wrote this, because it’s given me the push to post a couple things that I’ve been meaning to post for a while. First, a song.

And next, this essay that really scrambled up my brain as it’s intended to do. When I found it, all that was written was below the ***’s.

Finally, before I let her take it away, I want to clarify something. When she references being shown the Nazi salute, it was in drama class as part of a play. Also, this was at a school for the blind, so the teacher assumed that the kids probably didn’t know how it looked, so had to physically show them. I know the woman to whom she is referring, and I think she would be heartbroken to think that Gill thought she was trying to encourage the kids to support what is embodied by Nazism rather than realizing she was just showing them how to act a part in a play.

Over the last several years, several acts of hate and terror have occurred. Charleston, Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, and just last week the good people down in New Zealand experienced it on a scale that no nation or person should experience it. Shout out to the Prime Minister and other high-ranking officials there for putting laws in place that would prevent this sort of thing.

Shame Game

These acts don’t just hurt the victims or their fellow countrypeople. The sadness and grief goes around the world. In my own personal way, it kicked me in the stomach and created deja vu. Over twenty years ago, I was in a high school drama class and we were taught the Nazi Salute along with the “heil Hitler!

When I woke up last Saturday morning, I couldn’t even look myself in the mirror. I felt those same feelings of shame to be white that I did twenty years earlier. I rarely spoke of them, but brought it up with my prayer group that morning at church. They told me not to be ashamed, but to feel good that I have a social conscience.


We all have, and should do something good each day. It doesn’t have to be major, but something as simple as saying hello to your neighbors, or holding the door for someone. Like my mother told me after the Paris attacks, “we can be agents for change and peace.”

Bill Vastis is gone too soon.

I’ve needed to write this for about a month, but of course I’m behind. You’ll notice I haven’t written the post from Christmas, and that needs to be written too, but this needs to be written first.

Late last month, I got the shocking news that Bill Vastis had died. Bill was someone I met 20 years ago, and then would see from time to time over the years. He seemed to know everyone and had traveled everywhere. He had one of those personalities that drew everyone in. He was willing to try anything, and I don’t know a thing at which he didn’t excel.

I have to tell the story of how I met Bill, mostly because it’s a chance for me to make fun of myself. Almost 20 years ago, eek, I worked as a counselor at CNIB SCORE camp and he was our boss. I was still in high school, and when I told the folks at my high school that he was my boss, their response was “Oh I remember him. Hey! He might be shorter than you!” As I have said before, I’m kind of short. So I thought maybe he was a couple inches shorter than me. I thought nothing more about it.

On the day I met him, I came into a room full of chaos and people moving around. I heard someone say “Hi, I’m Bill,” and it sounded like he was sitting down. I opened my mouth to crack a joke about how he must be having fun greeting everyone from a wheely office chair when I heard an echo of a memory in my head. “He might be shorter than you!” I reeled my office chair joke in fast, and it’s a good thing I did, because Bill, at full height, was just over 4 feet tall. That would have been a terrible way to meet my boss.

It turned out he was not at all sensitive about his height, although if I had said that stupid thing, he probably would have just told me that no, this was his full height, and I would have felt really, really, really stupid. We went to Sportsworld as a fun activity when Sportsworld was still a thing, and Bill would gleefully ride the kids’ rides because those were the only rides he could get on. I remember him riding the fire engine and vigorously ringing the bell. I remember how he impressed everyone by reaching the very top of the climbing wall.

I remember one night, before we went to a Japanese restaurant, they were going to teach us how to eat with chopsticks. Maybe Bill was just a really good actor, but he told us that he didn’t know how to use chopsticks either, but he was going to learn. He struggled for a bit, and then he got it, and said “This is wicked!” and after that, he had it down. This was Bill in a nutshell. If he decided to learn something, he figured it out and rocked it. He seemed to enjoy all of whatever he set his mind to conquering.

I didn’t talk to Bill a ton over the years, but whenever I did, it was a fun and interesting conversation. He was always doing something or going somewhere interesting. When he passed away, I was amazed at how many people of all ages knew him and had a story to tell about how he impacted their lives. Going at 46 seems entirely too soon, but he sure filled that brief life.

Are You Being Passive-Aggressive To The Computer? That’s What I Thought!

I keep seeing this commercial where there’s this warm fuzzy style music playing and this kid is asking her virtual assistant questions. First, it’s how old is the earth, and then the kid starts asking unanswerable questions like “Do you know how the sun feels on your face?” and “Have you ever seen a shooting star?” I eventually figured out that it’s an ad for Nature Valley, but before I knew that, all I kept thinking is “This kid is a total asshole!”

If you haven’t seen the ad, here it is.

Seriously, little girl. Would you walk up to a dude in a wheelchair and ask him “Do you know how it feels to run? It feels amazing!” That little robot you’re dragging around through the tweet tweet birdies just wants to help you with your homework. I hope it gives you a few wrong answers just for spite.

The strategy article claims they’re trying to encourage people to go outside, which is a fine message. But why do they have to make the kid be such a total heel to the robot? Are they going to next have the kid run through the children’s ICU telling all the kids that she can go outside and they can’t?

I’m sure the visuals are all cute and heartwarming and aww that’s so adorable! But when you can’t see it, it does not give you the positive vibes. Heck, you don’t even know what the commercial is for. It’s memorable, but not in the way they want.

Can You Help My Friend Make Her House More Accessible For Her Kids?

I don’t think I ever wrote about Katie, someone I went to university with. It’s a shame. I guess most of the time I would have had occasion to write about her, there wasn’t a blog, or I wasn’t writing for it. But now she is needing a little help raising some money to install some accessibility equipment so her kids can move around their house independently. So, I wanted to tell you a little bit about her so you might think about giving her a hand because of how cool a person she is.

I met Katie for a few reasons. She would help me get to class sometimes, and she also worked the desk at the residence where I lived. I always had so much fun with her. She was very good at cracking me up. Sometimes we would leave strange messages on each other’s answering machines, and this was back in the day when people shared answering machines. Sorry, former room-mates of Katie. This little song will always make me think of her.

I only knew it as far as “The apple of my eye”, but that’s it. That was her voicemail greeting for a while.

We went to movies, hung out and had fun, at least I did. Sometimes she would tell me about this camp where she would volunteer and all the kids she would work with. I eventually figured out that this was a camp for kids with various disabilities, but she never made a big deal about their disabilities, they were just kids who were part of her summer. When she got married, there were a ton of kids from that camp who came to her wedding.

As the fund-raiser explains, she and her husband went on to adopt two kids with special needs. Now those kids have gotten bigger and are having trouble moving around on their own. So she wants to install an elevator called a telecab in their house. That will cost $40000. It looks like she’s well on her way. So far, she has raised nearly $6000 and this fund-raiser was just created a few days ago.

I know many of you probably don’t know Katie, but she is an amazing person who would do anything for these kids. I hope you can help her out by either donating or sharing her story.

Happy New Year! Don’t Screw It Up.

It’s a New Year, so how about a nice happy soundtrack? I would embed it, but the embed code-maker sucks large accessibility balls.

the old year is now in its grave. Good riddance, and be gone,
to all the things you said you’d do and either didn’t, or did wrong
a new year to screw up is here, a new year to screw up
it won’t be long ’til it goes wrong, a new year to screw up

it’s like a brand new couch you buy, that you know soon shall be stained
Like snow that lies so pure and white -til a dog lifts up its leg.

The new year’s like a baby child, placed upon your lap,
and like a baby’s diaper, it will soon be full of crap.
chorus x2

Seems pretty appropriate, especially with Premier Drug Fraud running things. I guess we can hope that we don’t screw things up on a personal level. Happy New Year, everybody.

So Long, Aunt Merle

I should at least do this in the right year.

I don’t know if I wrote about my one great-aunt much. It doesn’t look like I did. She lived across the street from my grandma and they used to go back and forth pretty regularly. She was single her whole life, and seemed to enjoy her freedom, travelling a lot and having a good time. My mom would tell us stories about the trips she took with her and some of her great-aunts when she was a kid.

Eventually, My great-aunt needed to move out of her house and go into a retirement home. This was something she knew she had to do, but she didn’t like letting go of her house and some of her independence. Then, my grandma moved into the same home, so at least they were close to each other.

Sadly, they didn’t get to have long together. My great-aunt passed away at the end of November. It was so sudden that it didn’t feel real and still kind of doesn’t.

I’ll definitely miss the phone calls. I couldn’t go visit her often, but I called her every week or two. She would always ask for updates on us and tell me about the goings on there, at least what she knew. She usually mentioned something that made me laugh. She had a sense of humour, right up until the end. She was also brutally honest about how she was feeling. Although it was hard to hear, I appreciated that she didn’t try to sugar-coat it. She didn’t mind letting me in on the squabbles she was having with my grandma. Being sisters, they tended to disagree a lot. One of the last times I got to call her, after saying the usual “Hello. How are you?” she launched into proclaiming “Your grandma’s a kook!” After I stopped laughing, I got the story of what was going on. I don’t think she was as kooky as she thought, but it sounded like she was having one heck of a time.

She was determined that one day, they would fix my eyes. I had explained to her many times that fixing my eyes would be super risky and I probably wouldn’t go for it because I had never been able to see, and every time it seemed llike she understood, but whenever I saw her again, she was convinced that some day I would be able to have my sight. It was sweet, she just wanted us all to be healthy, so I stopped trying to explain things to her and I just smiled.

I’m glad I got to visit her recently. I heard some funny stories about her being a kid, things I had never heard before. If I understand it, somehow she got stuck in a turnip truck. At least she didn’t fall off the turnip truck, but it sounds like that would have been a scary few minutes.

It’s weird losing more people that have always been there. This one especially makes me realize that it’s impossible to know when you’re going to lose someone, so we shouldn’t assume we’ll always have more time.

A New Treatment For Diabetes! Sweet!

I just saw this CTV story about a new treatment for Type 1 diabetes and it looks pretty neat. From what I understand, this pouch full of cells gets implanted under the patient’s skin and mimics the pancreas, creating insulin in response to the amount of sugar in the blood.

I do have questions though. Since the patient’s original pancreas kind of went on strike, how do we keep this thing from doing the same? Does it have to be replaced every so often? If so, how invasive is the procedure of implanting it and removing the old one? Does the patient still need to carry insulin for the cases where it screws up?

I’m sure all of this has been figured out, or is being figured out in the clinical trials. If it works like they say, it does look kind of cool.

Chow, Chau.

I’ve been wanting to write about this story since it came out, but I can’t seem to get going. All I can think to say is “hands off!” To be completely honest, I had the urge to tell him off in more vulgar ways, but since he’s dead, I’ll stick with “hands off!” for now.

Here’s the story. John Allen Chau thought he was god’s gift to missionary work. He decided that North Sentinel Island, an island off India that was inhabited by a tribe that made it clear that it did not wish to have outside influences, needed some religion, and he was going to be the man to bring it to them whether they liked it or not. Let me explain how clearly they made it that they wished no contact from the outside. There have been laws put on the books to protect their way of life. Everybody who lives anywhere near the island knows that you don’t just go “loo dee doo dee doo” onto their island.

It turns out that they did not like his intrusion onto their land at all, and they killed him. His friends, a rather loose term in this case, who helped him get close to the island, got to watch the tribe drag his body down the beach and bury it. Police and coastguards from India wanted to get his body back, but it was no easy task and I don’t know if they ever succeeded.

Now, do you see why I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Mr. Chau? He doesn’t help matters with the entries in his diary where he claimed that God was protecting him from being discovered by the coastguards. Actually, God would have protected him better by not letting him get near the island. That whole passage where he said a kid fired an arrow at him and it hit his bible, and he thought that was a sign of being protected was also pretty ridiculous. No, that was a sign that he should get the hell out of there and rethink this whole conversion of the Sentinelese people thing.

I would have more sympathy if I got the sense that he genuinely wanted to help the people, but it sounded more like he viewed the island as a conquest. I can’t stand the idea of religion being forced on people. When I read about the way things happened when Canada was colonized, I could not feel good about it either. It drives me nuts when missionaries offer help, but under the condition that their recipients convert. Why not just help somebody and leave it at that? And in the case of Mr. Chau, why couldn’t he respect their wishes and stick to reaching out to people who welcomed him?

Maybe it bothers me because on a smaller scale, I have had people try to force religion on me. I have had people accuse me of not praying hard enough and that’s why I’m blind, I have had people lay hands on me in an attempt to heal me without asking if I want this, I have had one cab driver push religion on me by locking me in his cab until I gave him some sense that I might attend a service. If I want religion, there are plenty of ways I could seek it out. Forcing it on me does not work, and it doesn’t make me feel respected either. A conversation is fine I suppose, but if I say no, listen to that and move on.

So now, this guy is dead, and the seven people who agreed to help him are arrested, and some of them are likely traumatized from watching him get dragged down the beach. I hate to be an asshole, but they all kind of deserve it. If they’d just respected these people, they’d all be alive and safe.

The Dork With The Barrett Tattoo

I read about this story 6 months or so ago and meant to write about it then. Since it still makes me chuckle whenever I think about it, I’ll write about it now.

I heard about a guy who skipped parole and they were looking for him. When I saw Nathan Barrett’s description, my first thought was “Well, that won’t take long to find him.”

He is described as being black, 5’7” and 176 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He also has several distinctive tattoos, including a star and dollar sign near his left eye, a Nike symbol on his forehead, a butterfly on his neck. Tattoos on his forearms include the sun, a wing and the word Scorpion on the right and a wing, a moon and the word Barrett on his left.

Tattoos include? So, there were more? Why even try running if you are covered in various super unique tattoos, including your own freaking name? And why does anyone tattoo things on their face? You can wear long sleeves and cover your arms…but your face is much harder to keep covered all the time. Maybe I just don’t get it because I don’t have tattoos.

I was right, it didn’t take long. he was arrested 3 days later. I wonder if it was the tattoos that got him.