The Freedom I Find In A Guide Dog

I’m going to try and get into 2 carnivals in a row. Holy crap!

So, the topic of this carnival is freedom. Funnily enough, for me, I had a bit of a harder time coming up with something. I blame being busy and tired. But after thinking for a while, I think I settled on something.

I get a lot of comments to the effect of “Oh you have a guide dog, it must be nice to be able to get out.” or “That dog really opens up the world for you, doesn’t she?” This usually happens on the bus, and the person asking is getting ready to get off at the next stop, so there’s no time to explain how complicated the answer is.

I certainly would say that having a guide dog makes things easier as far as getting around. But I would never say that without a dog, I would be completely housebound and never get out and do things. I’ve had to do it before, and I’ll do it again.

I realized the amount of freedoms having a dog gave me when I was between Trixie and Tansy. I went back to the cane because I had to, and even though I still got from A to B, it was a lot slower and more laborious of a process. I also had to remind myself that nobody but me was going to move me out of the way of that tree. A few trees helpfully made that point clear when I hit them, but yeah. I had to pay far greater attention to my line of travel when crossing the street. No other half of the team would clean up my alignment. I had to make sure I was doing good cane technique so I wouldn’t go head over heels down a flight of stairs I didn’t know was coming up. I had to pay better attention to all the uneven bits of ground along the way. I had to remember exactly where the turn was to go into the corner store, or I had to remember precisely how to cross at that angled intersection. I had to really listen hard for traffic in case somebody decided that traffic lights and stop signs were a suggestion. All these things, I hadn’t had to worry quite so much about for a few years now, and it felt strange, and exhausting, to have to focus on them again. It really did illustrate the pieces of travel that Trixie had taken over for me, freeing my mind up for other things, like enjoying the birds or the breeze or just thinking about life. But I still was able to do them…it just wasn’t my preferred way of doing things.

What scares me is when people say “Oh my uncle is going blind and he doesn’t get out much. We think he should get a dog.” No, not yet. He should get some O and M training first, learn how to get around safely, and when he can do that, if he still wants a dog, then he should go get it. If you get a dog before you can travel safely on your own, the dog will not open doors for you. It might walk you into a few, and find some garbage cans instead of doors, but the experience will not be liberating. I forget who said it, but someone said if you’re always getting lost without a dog, getting one will only cause you to get lost faster and with more gusto. I learned this the hard way with Babs. She learned that more often than not, I didn’t know where I was going…so why not take some side trips along the way, to this garbage can? This junk on the sidewalk?

I realize this view of how much freedom a dog provides probably differs a lot depending on the kind of assistance the dog is giving. Chances are, someone whose dog performs physical tasks for them would find a whole different type of freedom in having a dog. Maybe they would feel that without the dog, they wouldn’t get out and about as much. But I think people need to realize that not all the freedom a person has is in the paws of a dog. Handler and dog are a team, and without the dog, the person isn’t completely helpless.

So what’s my point? Do guide dogs give their handlers more freedom? For sure! But is the dog the difference between the handler having all the freedom versus any freedom at all? Hopefully not!

Tansy Updates, Great And Small, Part I

Um, hello there. It’s September. I haven’t written in a long time and it’s getting so all the beginnings of my posts look the same. But I’ve been compiling a lot of notes, to the point that even looking at the notes file makes me want to run away. Let’s start with the easy stuff, the Tansy stuff.

Tansy is one unpredictable pooper. With Trix, I pretty much knew when she was going to go, and other times I would sometimes gamble, be bad and not bring a bag and I wouldn’t need one. I can’t ever do that with Tansy. She’ll poop 2 or 3 times a day, but you never, ever, ever know when they’re going to be. And, sometimes when she gets excited, she poops more, and sometimes she poops less. Very very odd.

Also, when she pees, it’s super loud. Like, I can hear her peeing even if we’re on grass. That’s weird to me, since I could only hear Trix at the end when we were running out to pee all the time. I’m way too fascinated with her peeing and pooping. I can hear it now. “Come on, you haven’t written in months, and the first thing we have to sit through is talk about doggie bathroom habits? Really?”

It’s funny what she thinks she’s figured out. She thinks that her evening food will always come from my backpack. Why? Because I feed her at work before we leave, just so she doesn’t have to wait a long time if I have a bunch of errands to do after work. I figure if she’s fed and contented, then we’re free to keep movin’ if we have to. So I bring her evening meal with me to work, and feed her when it’s time. So, some weekends, I’ve seen her taking longing glances at my backpack, as if it holds the holy grail.

She’s still testing, mainly trying to sneak sniffs. This drives me a little crazy, since she didn’t sniff much at all when we came home. Now it’s like every chance she gets, she tries. Ug. I’m sure this is partially due to people responding to her sniffs with pets and love. I tell them to stop, but already the damage is done.

She has occasionally tried to scarf things, but still, for the most part, she’s good at not diving…which is good since we pass through the mall food court pretty regularly.

We’re still working on her jumping problem, which is proving to be quite pesky. I did setups at work, getting people to greet her, turning their backs and ignoring or pushing her away when she jumps and giving her love when she calms down, but all that’s done is given her a list of people not to jump on…so she still tries to jump on random strangers, which are the ones I’m least prepared for. And every so often, she’ll decide to try and jump in harness! Thankfully that’s not a daily occurrence, but it happens more regularly than I’d like. Grrr dog. What else can I try?

As I get to know Tansy, I start to notice a ton of similarities between Tansy and Babs. It’s kind of scary. I know most people would say “How can you say that, Babs was yellow and Tansy is black?” But their personalities and behaviours have a lot of weird similarities. For one, Babs was a super confident and strong dog. If she knew a route, you could feel it. On the less good side, if she wanted something, she was going for it. Tansy is too, and I feel that confidence as she weaves through complicated things and doesn’t get phased if we have to turn around and try again a few times. But the difference is she has learned that she can’t just push me around to do the bad behaviours. She tries to sneak, but she doesn’t just waltz over to a garbage can or piece of trash on the ground and go for it, paying me no mind.

Babs played like Tansy too. She was a jumper at the beginning, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. In play, I think she felt she pretty much ruled, and that carried over to work. At least Tansy knows bunches of things I don’t like, and she takes it to heart if I tell her something isn’t good. Sometimes she gets my message all confused and thinks, for example, that I suddenly don’t want her playing tug anymore, rather than don’t jump on me for the tug toy, but I think she’ll figure it out with time.

Babs was also very obvious about who she liked and who she didn’t, and made up her mind quickly. If she didn’t like somebody, she would just ignore them. It didn’t matter how much they talked sweet to her, she would act as if they didn’t exist. I see Tansy do similar things.

Then there are the smaller things. For example, Tansy snaps at bugs a lot. I don’t look forward to the day she snaps and catches a bee. I remember Babs had already learned that lesson when I got her. Also, when she’s playing, her jaws are always moving. She doesn’t mean any harm, but we’re always telling her to stop nipping. She also used to try and move her jaws when I would go in her mouth to see if she had gotten something. I put a stop to that real quick, since Babs chomped down on my hand once and did some pretty significant damage. Those memories don’t go away, so Tansy got the message that when I go in there, you stop moving those chompers, got it?

One thing Tansy is not that Babs was, is a dog-humper. Tansy has met Rosamae, and Rosamae tried her little dog-humping trick, to which Tansy responded with some pretty awesome evasive manoeuvres. I didn’t see it, but Steve said she went way down, then popped up and kicked Rosamae in the head. But never once did Tansy try to return the favour, nor has she ever tried to hump Trix or any other dog she’s played with.

I think Tansy and Rosamae had a pretty fun weekend, but I think Rosamae, an 8-year-old dog, eventually wore out my energizer bunny. It took a while, and they seemed a better match for each other, but eventually Tansy would screw off to a bed and go to sleep.

This is going to sound really weird, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s getting way easier to say Tansy is my third dog. I never really liked saying Trixie was my second dog, even though she was, and not acknowledging Babs also seemed wrong. But Trix felt like my first dog that worked out. Now that I’ve had a dog that had a long career, I guess I feel like I can acknowledge even the one that didn’t. Yup, weird I know. Probably I wouldn’t have even thought about it if my first dog had worked out and the second one was Babs. Anyone else agree?

I’ve also noticed some more differences between Trix and Tans. For one, Tansy plays with squeaky toys totally differently. You’d think, because of her maniacal style of playing, she would just rip that sumbitch open and murderize the squeaker. But no. She sort of treats them like there is something alive in there, and she must extricate it, but do it gently. It’s kind of adorable.

We know that she doesn’t care about fireworks or thunder or hail. We have also learned that she doesn’t care about alarm bells or dark, narrow stairways! Score! We had a fire alarm go off, and Tansy, Steve and I had to go down 16 floors by the stairwell. Tansy just went down in a calm, methodical manner. Awesome. No headlamp for you.

But she hates grates. She’ll deal with them, but she’s not happy about it. I have discovered that there’s one at the entrance to the bus terminal. I couldn’t figure out why she would sort of avoid the door, then do this hop, skip and a jump over the entrance. ThenI stepped on it. Ok then!

When Steve and I would hug or sit together, Trix would always come up to us and sit in front of us, or snuggle up with us, as if she would like to be part of the group hug. We used to call it our little family. But with Tansy, when we hug, she acts like a little home-wrecker. Queue the song.
So now, because this song is a Gretchen Wilson song, I would say “Hello Gretchen” when Tans would charge between us as if wanting to break us up. Predictably, Tansy responds to the name Gretchen now!

Unlike Trix, Tansy will tolerate a gentle leader, but needs it somewhat less. She usually needs it at the ends of long days when she might be a bit tired and her focus just isn’t there. But I don’t find myself peeling her nose off my legs, or more embarrassingly, other people’s legs, nearly as much as I did with the Trixter.

Also, she hasn’t had a single ear infection, and hasn’t exhibited any signs that she needs her anal glands expressed. Awesome. But her toenails grow like gangbusters! I know I don’t walk maybe as much, but jeebers I tend to think I get a fair bit in. Not according to cap’n hyper growing nails over there.

Another thing she does is when she’s waiting for me to bring her food, she droooools! I mean there’s a string of it hanging from her chin, and coworkers joke about it. Trix was never a drooler like that.

And this is almost frightening, but there is no need to pill Tansy, i.e. shove the pill in ye old gob and make sure she swallows. Nope, just put it in her food, and it will be no more. She will eat so fast that she won’t even notice.

And this is just the beginning of what I’ve been able to write down. I have more, and more, and more. So if you’re not bored out of your skull wishing for some story about some dude hucking food at some other dude or some other funny joke, stay tuned. There is much more to come.

Long Weekend Audio: What Made Me Choose A Guide Dog

Here comes another one. This one will be quick. Ceci asked me what made me decide to get a guide dog…so I started talking.

I hope something in here makes some sense. Sometimes I feel like my thoughts are a bit disorganized and confusing. But I think my main points are walk with some guide dog teams and if you can, spend a little time with one, so you can really get a feel for it. And, ask lots and lots of questions.

I wrote some of this down in this ADBC post from a while back but here it is in audio form. Enjoy. This one’s only 15 minutes.

The Guide Dog Obstacle Course

Holy crap where is time going? It’s carnival time again. And I was an extra big loser and didn’t post the link to the October carnival when it came out. I’ll blame having a brand spankin’ new job for that little slip-up. Ah well, I’ll do better this time.

The subject of this carnival is obstacles. Amazingly, when I saw this topic, I knew instantly what I was going to talk about. Now, the trick is getting it into something comprehensible. I warn you right now, this one is probably going to be long, winding, confusing, and huge.

Something neat they did at GDB for each class was set up an obstacle course that we all had to pass through to get from our dorm to the training buses, or vice versa. The dogs had been through this obstacle course and knew it like the back of their paws, but it was to get used to following your dog and to get to know what it felt like for them to dodge obstacles. But when you think about it, going through the process of getting an assistance dog of any type, and learning how to be a team, is a great big obstacle course, and the obstacles are slightly different for each person. If you’re going to make it from contemplating having a service dog to having one and being a seasoned team, you have to navigate the obstacle course that lies between A and B. Let’s talk about that course, what it was for me, and what it can possibly look like for others too.

My first obstacle was uncertainty. I’d heard how much people liked having guide dogs and how awesome they were, but I just wasn’t sure if I was ready for it all. Could I handle all the responsibility? Even if I could handle the every day things, what on earth would I do if that dog had a huge vet expense? Was I a good enough traveller that a. a school would consider me a good candidate, and b. the pooch would get enough work? I had heard that getting a guide dog was a bit of a gamble because not all teams worked out. Could I handle the heartbreak if it didn’t work out? Would I be able to do it again? On the other end, I felt that once I had decided yes, barring the team being a total fail, this dog would be with me for 8 or 9 years. Was I ready to make such a commitment? Then I think about the people who have to pay thousands of dollars for a service dog outright. If I’d had to do that, it would have been game over.

I spent a lot of time in that phase, because I didn’t know anybody with a guide dog well enough to just ask them question after question after question. I think this is the reason lots of people stay in that phase, along with the misinformation out there about whether you would need a guide or service dog. For example, I’ve heard stories of lots of people who are legally, but not totally, blind, walking around thinking they had too much sight to get a guide dog. They would hit things their cane couldn’t find or struggle along, all the while saying they had too much vision. Meanwhile, they would probably qualify for, and benefit from, a guide dog.

Or, I hear about people who have a second disability along with the main one that makes them think about a dog getting the idea that they wouldn’t be able to manage a dog. In fact, lots of people who have trouble hearing or have bad joints or other disabilities do just fine with a guide dog. It’s all about finding the right school and the right help.

Plus, while I was in university, I didn’t think I could spend a month in guide dog training because most summers I was taking courses as well. So in a sense, not feeling like I had the time to dedicate to this was another obstacle. When I hear about people getting guide dogs in the middle of a school semester, or getting a guide dog right before heading off to school, and then I see them succeed, I feel like they are a far better person than I am. I personally feel like I need time to digest things, and don’t need to be doing course work during my down time at guide dog training, or learning a whole new place as well as how to work with a guide dog. To me, that just sounds like a recipe for disaster. But it works for some, so all the more power to ’em.

But as I was getting close to the end of my degree, I gave it more serious thought. After finally figuring out what questions I needed to ask, I started talking to people. Some of those fears and uncertainties started not to seem like such a big deal.

And then, once I decided to do it, came the difficult task of choosing what schools to apply to. Yeesh. There are so many things to consider. What kind of follow-up do you get? What about help with vet bills if you need it? What is the training like? Can you find grads from each school to talk to? Can you get a general sense from people about what schools have a good reputation and which ones aren’t so good? If you get accepted to two schools, what on earth do you do? Do you just take the first class that comes along, or do you decide that you only go to school b if school a doesn’t want you? So this wasn’t so much an obstacle as it was a slippery spot.

Ok, schools decided. Now comes the application process. Don’t get me wrong, all those forms are probably very helpful to the schools, but jeebers hell that alone felt like an obstacle. Plus, depending on what school I applied to, the forms weren’t always accessible right off the bat. So, suddenly I had all this material dropped in my lap, and didn’t know what to do with it. And not all these forms were to be filled out by me! I had to get doctors, ophthalmologists, and other people to fill some of them out. It was a small obstacle of sorts, but I figure it’s worth mentioning.

And it’s at this point along the way that you might start finding out how people around you feel about this whole dog thing. Some people might have misgivings about it, for lots of reasons. What if someone you live with or visit is alergic to dogs? How will they, or you, know if your guide dog will cause a reaction? With most people, it’s as simple as if they don’t touch the dog, they’ll be all good, and you might have to make sure the dog doesn’t come over and try and make friends with them if you’re visiting them. If it’s someone you live with, you’ll have to start thinking about ways to make things manageable, if that’s possible. But all this planning and negotiating could test how ready you are for this lifestyle change. In a way, it’s a warm-up for when you come home with the dog and have to start being assertive and say “Yes, this dog can come in your restaurant or store.”

The documentation is in, now it’s time for the home interview. I hate to call the home interview an obstacle, because they’re not out to make it hard for you. But it can delay your progress to having a guide dog because they see things that need work, or they say something that makes you start to rethink the whole thing. You’re probably beyond that point once you’ve gotten here, but hey, anything’s possible. So what could they see that could slow things down for you? Sometimes it’s your level of ability to travel on your own. Sometimes it’s where you’re living. Sometimes it’s something else. At any rate, if something looks off, that may slow you down, or make you reconsider.

So you make it through the application process and are accepted. You head off to class. You may think it’s over, but it is just beginning. Only then do some people truly realize how much work goes into having a guide dog, and that no matter what time of day or night, that guide dog is your responsibility. Sometimes, this can be an obstacle for people who didn’t ask enough questions or watch enough teams or whatever. Suddenly, they’re back to the uncertainty phase of “Am I really ready for this? Do I want this at all? Maybe I don’t mind my cane. My cane doesn’t yelp when I fold it in four and throw it in a corner.”

So you make it through training and you graduate and come home with your new partner. Unfortunately, for the first little while, life may seem full of obstacles. First, I don’t know if this happens to everybody, but I was tired as hell for the first month or two. I felt like my life was completely rearranged, and now I had to think of all these things to do with the dog, and just when would I have time for my normal life again? Of course, that went away once I figured it out, but that can seem like one hell of a trial, if not an obstacle.

On top of that, depending on who you live with and how they are with respecting what you need to do to keep your dog working for you, you may have a battle on your hands. It’s even more tiring when you have to fend off people in your own home from feeding your dog things or trying to play with him or her or constantly saying “Do we really have to bring the dog?” Hopefully this won’t take too long, but it isn’t easy when you’re so new and unsure and all that stuff.

If that isn’t enough, depending on where you live, you may run into lots of “You can’t bring that dog in here!” and you may have to get very good at educating people on the laws in your area. Thankfully, I was very lucky and really didn’t deal with a lot of that. But when it happens, it can be stressful.

And then there’s the ultimate obstacle…when the team doesn’t work out and you have to decide. Do I do this all over again, or do I just go back to life without a dog? Did the good outweigh the bad? If so, what would I do differently next time? I had to do this after Babs didn’t work out, and god that was painful. But I think I knew in my heart that when she was showing me the positive aspects of having a dog, I wanted that again.

Sheesh! I think we made it through the obstacle course! I’m sure there are other possibilities I haven’t thought of, but those were the ones that came to mind. Please don’t think that I’m saying that getting a guide or service dog is more trouble than its worth, or something equally negative. All I’m saying is someone really has to want it to follow it all the way to the end. Plus, sometimes obstacles are a good thing. I have seen lots of people run headlong into getting a dog, crawl through class gripping the dream of having a dog with white knuckles, failing to see the warning signs that maybe this isn’t a good idea, and then get coughed out the other end and want to give up at the first little hitch they encounter. Obstacles, despite their negative connotation, give you time to think things through. They make sure that you really want this, or I would hope they do.

And here’s a message for all the people who say “Why doesn’t x person have a dog?” As you can see from this long, winding post, deciding to pair up with a dog isn’t an easy one, and for some, it may not be the right one. At the end of it all, each person has to know whether having a service dog is right for them. We can just hope that people considering it get all the information to help make that decision.

>What A Difference A Dog Makes!

>Since I’ve been such a blog slacker this year, I missed the April assistance dog blog carnival. Plus I was kinda stressed out by something which I still need to write about. But anyway, the July one came up and I decided I was going to do my best to hit it. So I went to read about it. This is what I read. The topic is “the difference”, and the deadline hit me on the head like a rock. “July 22…” That is a very significant date for me when it comes to dogs, because July 22, 2005 was the day I had to give Babs back to the school and accept that she needed to be retired just 8 weeks after bringing her home.

So, I could not ignore this carnival, even if I wanted to, especially since the topic was “the difference”. I thought about my training with Babs versus training with Trixie, and what a difference it made to be prepared, to know what not to do, and to know how better to stand up and ask about things that worried me. What a difference a couple of years and choice of school made. What a difference between dogs. Just, what a difference!

Ok, let’s slow down. How about we meet Babs, shall we? Everything I ever wrote about her is in there. I even put up my training journals, although I posted them 3 years after the fact.

Babs, god love her, did the best she could. She served a purpose, even though it wasn’t to be my guide dog for years to come. When she was good, she was freaking amazing. But oh, oh, when things were bad, they were baaaaaad.

But I, also, didn’t have a clue. I went into training with minimal ideas of what to expect, how to deal with things when they didn’t go so well, or what was just plain old wrong. I didn’t know dog switches were possible, nor had I a clue about how many dogs’ careers were ended early. I was living in a dream world of la la la, I’m going to have a guide dog, things are gonna be great, la dee dee.

Then, Babs came along to shake up my world. First off, I don’t think we were a good match. She was dominant as all hell, and I was timid at the time. She was more dog than I could probably handle. Plus, as I discovered in training, she was ill.

As we found out, we didn’t work out. On July 22, they came to get her. “I’ll need the harness, the leash, and her medication,” Peter said as he stood at my door. This man had driven me around on many training routes, and now he’d been dispatched to come get my dog. Medically, behaviourally, she wasn’t going to work out. So off she went to live with a family who would love her as a pet. And I was left to wonder just how I’d managed to fail so epically. I didn’t blame myself for the medical issues, but I gave myself hell for allowing her to think she was alpha.

Fast forward to March 21, 2007. I was going to get a female black lab named Trixie. That morning, I went over in my head what I would do differently, and even so, I wasn’t sure I could get it right this time.

When they introduced me to Trixie, among other descriptive details, they said she was 55 pounds. My heart must have landed in my throat. After all, Babs was 52 pounds, and she was too much for me. What was I headed for with a 55-pounder? “Are you happy with her?” the trainer asked as I processed all her information as best I could. I managed to say yes, but I was scared shitless. But I was soon to find out the difference between Babs and Trixie was like night and day.

For one, the training was different. I was in a class full of new dog handlers, which meant the instructors had lots of time for us and the class was geared for the newb. When I trained with Babs, inexplicably, they put me in a retrain class. They promised me individualized training, but at the end of the day, the ratio was still 4 students to 1 instructor, and a limited amount of time. It wasn’t gonna happen.

Second, Trix is a totally different dog with a totally different pull. If she wants to, she can pull like a freight train, but that isn’t her constant speed. And although food can be o so tempting, she isn’t driven to it as much as Babs was. Plus, she doesn’t think of herself as the alpha. What a huge difference that is alone! And perhaps most importantly, she’s been a very healthy dog, so much so that the rare times she’s sick, I don’t know what to do.

And finally, when my time with Trix came around, I knew a few things, and had made about six zillion mistakes with Babs, so I was determined not to make them again with Trix. And although I may have made a few with Trix, they weren’t nearly so catastrophic. As well, with Trix, if anything didn’t look right at all, I would speak up about it immediately. I accepted so much on blind faith when I went to get Babs. That was not going to happen again.

So, the one thing I have learned from all of this is everything can make a difference, from the dog, to the kind of training, to the handler’s experience level and state of mind. All of it makes the package. Change one thing, and what a difference!

And even though it may sound like I don’t have much good to say about Babs, she made a difference in my life too, making me decide that I do want a guide dog despite all our troubles. I still feel her mark on my heart to this day. I think about her, and wonder how she’s doing. Babs, I hope you’re happy wherever you are, enjoying life as a different kind of dog, a pet.

Weeping For Willow

Well, I’m still up. I took a wee unintentional nap. Now I’m just loading books on my Stream so I’ll have things to listen to during my travels home.

But I wanted to make a quick note of something I found out today. I was sending notes out to friends wishing them a merry Christmas. I sent one to the guy I called student Tim in my Babs journals. I had heard that Willow, the one who graduated with him when he was in our class, was ill, and needed to be retired. Now I hear that he just put her to sleep.

I know their lives are much shorter than ours, but I’m never ready for a pooch to pass away. It especially scares me since Babs and I graduated with them. This really makes me want to check on Babs.

Sorry to leave on a sad note, since this is likely my last post before I hit the greyhound. I basically have to be headed for the station in about 6 hours. woo hoo. I’m gonna be such a zombi!

You Have, One, New Drug Deal In Your Mailbox

Here’s a tip. When calling your boss and leaving a voicemail, always check that you’ve hung up properly before continuing with your activities, especially if they involve making a drug deal. If you don’t, you may end up fired, just like Joseph Stankiewicz did.

He claims that it’s not him on the recording, but a judge noticed that the voice is the same, and it even mentions expecting a call back from his work and tells his companion to be quiet if he gets a call back. So um, he’s kinda busted.

Also included in this article is a long list of other folks who didn’t learn how to properly hang up or dial their phones, including the dude who meant to call his friend, but called his boss. He somehow didn’t notice he had dialed wrong, and left a big ol’ message on the machine about how much his boss was driving him insane.

This reminds me of something that happened to me. I was back at guide dog school getting Babs, and a friend called me to see how I was doing. We talked for a while and I said I wanted to call mom and dad, but it was tricky to do that, since there was only one phone in the hall. My friend said she had conference calling capabilities, so she could connect me with mom and dad. I thought this was a great idea, and asked her if she would do that. She called them, but we got their answering machine. I left a message, and then I thought she had hung up. So we were gabbing away…and…then I heard the old familiar boop boop that means you’re approaching the limit for the answering machine! We were still leaving a voicemail! I asked her to erase it, and she tried, but failed. So mom and dad got a voicemail complete with a bunch of swearing. They took it well. I turned 40 shades of red.

Thoughts Knocking Around In My Head

I have more random thoughts. I must be in a thoughtful mood since I’m here all alone. Maybe it keeps me from talking to myself if I write on the blog. Na, I’d probably talk to myself anyway, and hey, if I’m talking, I could be talking to the Trixter.

What I did find myself doing yesterday was singing, and of all things, Tom Lehrer’s Christmas Carol. It just came to me out of the blue. I can’t help but be amazed at how much of a genius this guy is. He wrote that in the 50’s, and it couldn’t be more true today, sometimes I think it’s even more accurate today. As far as I know, Tom Lehrer is still with us. Let’s make sure he didn’t get swept off the planet in the great herd-thinning of 2009. Wikipedia says he’s still alive, so let’s hope they’re right. Phew! I don’t have to make a so long for him! Let’s hope he’s still as bright as he ever was. It would be ashame if he’s now wasting away with Alzheimer’s or something.

Last night, I had it reaffirmed that time is going too fast. Huppy’s mom invited me over to their place for dinner. After we finished eating, we were watching some special features on a Star Trek season DVD that they had, and they had an interview with James Doohan, ya know, Scotty. I was trying to remember when he died, and they said it was 2005. I refused to believe them, so looked it up, and my god, it was that long ago! That couldn’t be possible, but it is. I can’t believe I don’t remember that. I mean, he died two days before they came to get Babs. You’d think those two events would be etched in my memory together, but they’re not.

And in my attempt to find out when Scotty got beamed up to the great beyond, I found Dead or Alive, a site dedicated mainly to knowing if a given celebrity is dead or alive. You can waste some serious time going through this thing. You can also get scared when you see they’re tracking people who are my parents’ ages and younger, and they say they only track people after they reach a certain age or if they’re sick.

The huppy really wants to crawl, or move, or scoot, or do something. I know, before I know it, he’ll be on the move and causing trouble. That must have been why I had the dream I did the other night. I dreamed he was laying there babbling and gurgling and kicking his feet, and then suddenly he was up, on his feet, and running around. Then he fell down and instead of crying, he said perfectly clearly, “Ow! I hurt my arm!” We were all amazed in the dream, and none of us were able to say a word. What a silly dream.

Two more little tips about Echo. If you do reply via email, and you have your email program set to add people to your address book who you reply to, you may want to go through your address book every now and then and clean it out of Js-Kit addresses, because every comment thread you reply to has its own email address.

And this is also why the poor things get flagged as spam. Each address is long, and hairy, and full of numbers and letters, and they look like the spammiest spam ya ever did see to a spam filter. So we may be training the poor spam filters for a while.

I had something reinforced the other day that I already knew. If you have to use the bus to get around, for pete’s sake, don’t forget anything anywhere along your route. If you do, and you have to finish everything by bus, you will significantly lengthen your time doing everything.

The other day I decided to go get Trixie’s weight checked, and I found something last minute that I needed for Christmas. I had ordered it before, but it was backordered, and it was looking like it wouldn’t make it. So I found it in town. It wasn’t there when I looked before, but I decided to check again, and well look at what I found!

Anyway I set off. But what I didn’t realize was I didn’t have my bank card with me. I expected it to be in my coat pocket, but had just moved it the night before. I realized this just when I got to the store. Now that’s an embarrassing moment. You feel like such a tool. You walk in a store and just realize that you forgot your bank card and you have no money on you. You’re sure the people in the store think you’re crazy for walking in there with nothing to buy anything with.

I finally decided I would have to bus back downtown to the bank, convince them I am who I say I am, and get some money out that way. So…I had to wait for the bus to take me downtown. I just happened to miss a bus, so I had to wait 20 minutes. I got downtown, got the money, and ran another errand downtown…and happened to miss the next rotation of buses, so had to wait again. Then I had to go back out there, buy what I came for, and then wait for the bus…which I just missed, and then transfer to another bus that would get me home. This tacked on at least an hour and a half of simply twiddling my thumbs waiting for buses and riding them. Ridiculous!

I know inefficiency is the nature of the beast when you’re dealing with public transit, but…good god! I was praying that someone I knew would randomly appear, complete with car, and help me out. But I think because life wanted to teach me a lesson, nobody did, and I had to do this all by bus. Did I mention that Thursday was freezing? Let’s just say I’ll be obsessively making sure I have my bank card with me every time I’m going somewhere else, which means I’ll forget something else I need.

And speaking of forgetting things, I could have sworn I had something else I had to say, but I can’t remember what it would be. Oh well, when I remember, at least I don’t have to catch a bus to put it up.

So I think that’s about it for now. Everybody stay warm and cosy, especially those of you who are being hammered by snow down in the states. You can also keep the snow where you are. I don’t need it to stop me from getting home for Christmas.

I’m Running Out Of Names For These Thought Posts

Here comes another thought splatter. Enjoy.

Silly Trixie has a new morning habit. She usually sleeps out in her bed in the living room. I have no idea why. But at some point in the night, she gets up and comes to the bed by me. But she used to just come in and lay down. I’d wake up and there she’d be. But lately, she feels the need to say hello to me. She doesn’t make a big production out of it, she just puts her head up on the bed and gives me a sniff or a lick. Then she quietly lays down on her bed and waits for me to wake up. What a little sweetheart.

Every winter, I have to relearn those little things that help me deal with the picking up of Trixie’s poop in the snow. The first time snow falls, I’m so clueless. I forget that I can in fact see the contrast sort of, so aim is a little easier. There are times when I think about that relieving harness thingy. But I’m still not sure.

I’m really wishing I hadn’t lost that whistle that I had from the Babs days. Honestly, I don’t know how I lost it, but try as I might, I can’t find it. I had totally planned to teach Trixie to only eat after I blew the whistle, and always carry it with me, because once it’s associated with food, it’s a great recall tool. I wish I had that right now because I want to take Trix out in the snow to play, but the snow is covered with ice, and I’m always afraid I’ll fall if she’s running around on a flexi which is tied to me. If I could let her loose and just call her back every so often, I’d know where she was at and be able to keep her from the road.

I should just buy another dog whistle. But I know not all dog whistles are created equal. This one I really couldn’t hear it, but I’ve heard some that I can actually hear and ouch ouch ouch! Maybe I should call the other school, and ask them about whistles, and take a big gulp and ask if they even know where Babs is or how she’s doing. She appears in my head, insistantly. Part of me really needs to know.

I have discovered that I’m doomed. Advertising has invaded my brain. The other day, we had the oldies radio station on, and on came “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” And before I made any conscious thought, I thought “What? It’s not back to school time!” Then I realized how ridiculous that was. The commercial for Staples that uses that song and advertises back to school supplies had taken a more prominent place in my head than the actual song. Oh dear dear.

The other day I had said that Harley wasn’t doing well, and wished that she would go before they had to take her in. Well, as I said in the comments, I got my wish. When mom and dad woke up, old Harl was laying there, just as if she was sleeping, looking very peaceful. Good, the poor thing didn’t have to go through some last moments of panic. That would have been no good at all.

I thought I’d mention two more things about Echo that I’ve noticed. First, if a sub-thread within a comment thread gets big enough, it gets collapsed in on itself, so the first couple things are shown and then the last thing is shown. There are a set of words that say x number more, click to expand. That text is clickable, even though it doesn’t look like it. So screenreader folks, you have to click that to see the rest of the thread. But if you subscribe to the threads by email, you won’t even have to deal with that. I’m amazed at how much bigger the threads get because I don’t have to go check on them. I just reply to an email. Then I look and…holy crap! That’s a lot of comments!

On the good news front, I’m seeing more and more often that when I get emails from Echo, the link doesn’t just go to the main page or something, it actually goes to the comment thread where the new comment can be found. You guys rock. Keep leaving the competition in the volcanic dust as Ro put it.

Speaking of Ro, she has news. She had her home interview, and it went well! I knew it I knew it I knew it. Now we just wait until I win the pool…er…she gets her class date.

I got some stuff for Trixie’s raisers! It wasn’t as cool as I had hoped, but I hope they enjoy it. Next year, I will get something that’s a little more filled with Trixie-related pictures or something. But at least this year, they did get to see her in person, so I guess that makes up for it.

Here’s a note to Wine Country Gift Baskets. You really should have a contact phone number on the site. Your site is a bit screenreader-unfriendly, and I didn’t feel like dealing with it. So I thought I’d call you, but searching for the words “telephone” or “contact us” didn’t give me anything. The only time I could find any reference to contact was on the order page where your site asked for my contact info. So, I broke down and ordered your basket from Amazon, and everybody knows how much Amazon pisses me off. Really, you should have a phone number. You don’t know how many people you may be losing who don’t feel comfortable giving their info over the net, or maybe want to ask a question about something.

But you know what getting Trixie’s raisers a gift means? I’m all done! I’m just waiting for a few things to come in the mail, but everything is bought!

And I’m also all done with this post. But don’t worry, you’ll be seeing more of me later today. Or maybe you should worry, if you’re sick of my ramblings.

Chuck’s Coming Today!

Well, Chuck from GDB is coming up today to see me. I’m looking forward to it and I’m nervous at the same time. I know last year’s follow-up went really well, so I don’t want to disappoint him. But at the same time, I’m having a few wee problems, some of them are definitely my fault, so I hope he can set me on the right path without having to get too mad, not that Chuck really gets mad anyway. Even when I bombed in 2005, he didn’t really get mad per se. Well, he was annoyed that Babs’s stuf wasn’t settled, but I don’t blame him one bit for that. Plus, I don’t think my home gave him a good impression. It wasn’t really the inside of my home that was bad, it was the outside, courtesy of Stupidhead and company leaving beer caps, glass and other trash about.

So here are my two pleas. Trixie, for the love of Pete, do not try to sniff Chuck’s, uh, nether regions, ok? You have a thing for that, and try as I might, you still keep doing it. Please, just for once, don’t try and have a grand ol’ snifferoo. Can you do that for me? Sometimes I swear you can understand English, so listen up. Don’t sniff Chuck there. Got it? Hope so.

And mother nature, please don’t drop one of those out of the clear blue sky rainstorms on us as we walk. I have a semi-longish route in mind, hopefully one that leads me next to a pedestrian walking a dog so Chuck can see my dog distraction issues, so I don’t need to be wet. and don’t have a thunder storm either. Trixie hates thunder, and it was thundering the day I bombed the 2005 interview, which was August 10, dangerously close to this date. Why do I remember such stupid details? Anyway, don’t bring bad things. Let us have a peaceful route.

That’s all. I’m sure everything will go fine. I’m just a wee bit nervous.