Don’t Ever Break Your Neck

This turned out to be longer than I thought it would be so I just made it another blog post.

“Don’t ever break your neck.” That line was said many, many times by Russell Reno, my maternal grandfather. When he was in the military (Army-Air Force), another Private pulled a practical joke. He jerked down and back on Papaw’s helmet, breaking his neck. He wasn’t paralyzed or anything, just broken bones. It limited his career in the military, though. He was stuck in the states and grounded. When he got older, he would rub his neck and say “Don’t every break your neck”. He said it so often, it became a family slogan.

And no, I’ve not broken my neck. I’ve had “issues” with it for eons and it has finally degraded to the point that surgery is the next step. I am partly relieved because FINALLY something is getting done. And I am partly freaked out because ew, gross, surgery!

But let’s back up a bit. A bunch of fine, beautiful, wonderful, giving folks donated toward my goal of getting another dog to train as a Service Dog. But nothing has come from it yet. Getting that puppy has been a rocky ass road and I thought I had reached the destination at last. But, nope. Rebekah James (Redyre Rottweilers) has a beautiful female Rottie named Giggles. Giggles was to do the deed and produce her first litter. Except she came into season sooner than expected (before all her exams were done) so it was put off. Meanwhile, a litter Redyre had by another female (KK) was born and was thriving. Then they got parvo from a neighborhood dog. Rebekah lost one of the pups and went deeply into debt. She swore she was not going to produce any more litters. She’d had her heart broken enough. So I went looking elsewhere while waiting to see if she was serious. I found Cathy Ruben at Silverhill. Another excellent breeder who has quite a few of her pet quality dogs out there being therapy dogs and service dogs.

Which brings me to about four or 5 weeks ago. Silverhill was about to have a litter born. I was about to send her a money order. And then my arm got heavy. And my hand went numb. And my forearm. I couldn’t type very well with my left hand. I had yet another MRI done. Now there were bone spurs along with the everything else wrong with my cervical spine. I went to see the orthopedist again. He recommended I have an epidural injection done. That’s when we realized that this time was serious. This was not a “go to the PT again” fix like all the other times. There was no way I could handle an 8 week old pup. I called Cathy Ruben and cancelled my request for one of her pups. That’s when she told me they had been born just a few hours before.

Dammit to heck.

I was this close to getting a puppy finally. This close!

Back to the neck. I had the injection and it didn’t work. It actually made things worse and brought back older symptoms that I’d not experienced in years. Like, my face went numb. Now that’s a lot of fun! Try it some time! And today (12/17), I saw the orthopedist again. I don’t like him very much but he’s supposed to be a good surgeon. His people skills stink. Anyway, it is time for surgery. Some time in January I will have an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). I could wait, let more symptoms appear or these get worse then do the surgery. The worsening or increase would definitely show the source. Or I could see if they go away on their own. I’ll hold my breath if you hold yours. Didn’t think so. As for the surgery, there is a high success rate that the symptoms will be alleviated. Not so high a success rate the neck pain and headaches will. By going through the front, there is little cutting and a lot of moving stuff out of the way. Gross but there it is.

As for the puppy, Silverhill hopes to have another litter in the spring and…Rebekah and Redyre has decided to breed Giggles after all. As soon as I heard it, I sent her an email immediately, demanding (yes, demanding) to be put on the list. I even said I would take a nasty male dog if there were no females. I was disappointed (such a mild word for what I felt) I had to put off getting a pup again. Finding a good breeder is extremely difficult. I was even looking at one in Canada and one in Berkeley California. But there is no way I could have a puppy right now, not with the surgery coming up. I should be recovered about the time Giggles’ litter is born (that is if she even gets pregnant).

So we will start getting the house ready for my recuperation. Maybe even get a 2nd opinion on a few questions I have about the surgery itself. It feels good to be FINALLY moving toward getting this neck fixed. We’ve been going to Carolina Spine for over 15yrs now, just for that.

Please God, Don’t Let the Baler Break

I have been thinking of duality lately. Duality of personality to be specific. When we go about our lives, we act differently in our various roles. How we act at work is often not how we act at home. Yes, we must behave differently due to societal norms and constructs, but I am discussing more on a primal level. An actual personality difference. We see that often in the media when someone goes nuts and kills someone. Many people who knew him say things like “I never would have thought him to do that” but others, perhaps those closest to him or those who saw him in a different role, would say “oh hell yeah, I can see him doing that”.

My biological paternal parent died last week. My father. My dad. My daddy. The man I once looked up to and wanted to be like. The one I would do anything for and often did. The man that had a duality of personality. Kenny Johnson would do anything for anyone that asked. He really and truly would. And he would ask for nothing in return. When we would be working on our farm and had our equipment out, we would go to another farm to help them do the same. It’s what folks did back then. He was well respected. He was prayed for (he did not attend church) but we was respected. He was a hero. A neighbor’s child had an accident and it was the quick thinking of my father that saved her. He worked all day at the glass plant then came home to work the farm. He was not one to be idle. He truly was a good, honest man.

Then there’s the other side. Kenny Johnson had a temper. And he directed it at his kids. No matter what he was really angry at, his kids were easier targets. Which brings me to the hay baler. Anyone who has ever baled hay with a square baler knows what I mean when I say they are the devil’s own nightmare. They need constant care. Constant watching. When they work, they work well. When they don’t, they are a pain in the ass. Spitting out 7 foot bales weighing five pounds or 2 foot bales weighing a hundred. And working in hay is hot, itchy, hard work. Back then, it was done by hand. The tractor pulled the baler which pooped out the bales. Then the tractor was driven with a trailer attached and folks picked up bales and handed to them to whoever was up there who stacked them carefully. It was driven to the barn where it was all unloaded and stacked again. Hot, itchy, hard work. I’ve seen my older brother hit so hard he was knocked off the driver’s seat of the tractor. I’ve been knocked so hard I saw more stars than I already was from the heat. All because the baler broke and dad was mad at it but took it out on us. Instead of teaching my older brother how to better drive the tractor through the field, he was hit. Instead of teaching me how to do whatever it was I did (or did not) wrong that time, I was hit. Same when we were planting tobacco. Or working any field or crop or task or whatever. We weren’t taught. We were beaten until we stumbled onto the right answer. Many nights I worked by the light of the truck, straightening up tobacco plants, my butt getting kicked every other plant, because I was taking too long. They were crooked because of how they were planted. I was being punished because the ground was too wet, too dry, or the planters were not paying attention. When we were out there, we prayed the baler worked. We prayed the tractor kept running. That the truck did. That the spreader did. That the weather holds. That everything goes right and Daddy doesn’t get mad. Please don’t let the baler break. Please don’t let daddy get mad. Please don’t let him take off his belt.

It wasn’t just in the fields that we feared him. It was at home. Dad drank beer. Lots of it. And he wasn’t a mellow drunk. We never knew then what would get him mad. I once spent over an hour looking for his carton of cigarettes that he demanded I look for. I looked everywhere. Couldn’t find them. I was getting the “If you’d looked everywhere, you would have found them so keep looking!” comment from him. Finally, I was standing at the front door, knowing I was about to get berated again, when I turned to tell him I really and truly could not find his damn cigarettes. That’s when I finally found them. He was right, I had not looked everywhere. I had not looked right by his fucking seat, right by his beer cans on the floor. And out of my mouth comes the sarcastic comment I really should have kept in my head. I was knocked out of the living room and into the kitchen where I slid across the floor until I collided with the cabinets. Mom stepped between the two of us and told him to stop. That I was actually right. The cigarettes were right by his hand and that he had driven me to smart off. Dad never hit me again. I think it frightened him a little that he had hit me that hard. And that I had finally stood up to him. Bullies are like that.

[I truly believe I am such a sarcastic person because of all the comments I had to hold in all those years. The “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” crap. There was no way I would have said what I wanted to say so I kept it in.]

I am a lot like my paternal parent. I can’t help but be.
– I have one helluva temper. I have worked hard to keep it under control. I know I have it. I know that demon lurks under my skin. I avoid situations where I know I can lose control of it.
– I like to think I will do anything for anyone. I believe in the pass it forward philosophy. I have been helped out along the way. And in return I have helped out others. I don’t think about what I will get out of it. I know that makes me sound like such a freakin’ good person. I’m not.
– And I can sweat in a snowstorm. When we hung tobacco, we could always tell where Dad was or had been because of the puddles on the ground. Of all his physical attributes, I just had to get that one, didn’t I?

So as folks talked about how great a man he was, I winced. Sure, he was. But that greatness is dwarfed by the damage he caused. Some can say he was only doing what he was taught. That he was raising his kids the way he was raised. To which I say bullshit. If something makes you uncomfortable, you find another way. If it doesn’t, then you continue it. So it didn’t bother him to continue it. And when my younger brother (who left the farm too young to really experience all this, thank you God!) said he hopes he grew up to be just like him, I really winced. No, Kevin, you didn’t grow up to be like him. You grew up to be better. When you had your first child, we prayed you would not be like him. You weren’t. You were better. You talked to Ryan as he had his many, many (many, many) tantrums. You didn’t beat him. Or scare him just by entering the room. You are a real father to both your kids. You did not perpetuate the cycle. Your kids will do anything for you. Not out of fear, but out of love.

Childhood memories are tainted when we look at them as adults. Those memories were formed by that child and still contained by the view of that child. The child in me both loves and hates Kenny Johnson. But both those emotions are overwhelmed by the fear of him. The memories I have of him are almost all coated in that fear of him. Even those that are of love, there is that fear. As an adult, I could have looked him in the eye and confronted him and those fears. I chose not to. I chose instead to protect my Self and never contacted him. I wish I could say “this even is what broke the camel” but there isn’t. It was several events that ended when he said “I won’t let you kids ruin this marriage like you did the first one.” It was his multiple affairs that ruined the first marriage, by the way. But it was his inability to admit fault and his attempt to pass the blame onto me that made me step back and realize he had not changed. That he was not going to hear what I was saying. At any point in all those years since, he could have approached me. He knew how to get in touch with me. Instead, he chose to purge me. I was never brought up in conversation. Family stories were told without me in them. It was as if I had never existed.

I chose to not go to his funeral. It was a big decision for me and I did not make up my mind (for the last time) until the night before. I am Southern. Not going to my own father’s funeral? I am damned to hell for that. But the benefits of going (which were numbered less than three) were not enough. I will head over to The Valley later and pay my respects my own way and without an audience.

Thoughts of Time

You know those motivational quotes with oceans or bridges in the background? The quote says something like “if someone is toxic, get rid of them” or something along those lines.

I did that. Got rid of someone “toxic” to me. I made the choice to take care of myself, to protect my Self because, when it comes down to it, no one can do that but me. It was not an easy decision and it was not done on a whim and it certainly was not made because some motivational quote told me to. I did it because this camel’s back was getting tired. The weight of time was heavy. So, I removed myself from a situation. From two people actually, although one was much easier than the other. Removing them removed an entire part of my life. A huge chunk of it was suddenly outside my reach.

Over the years, things changed and I often considered re-inserting myself into this person’s life. But I couldn’t do it. Telephones ring both directions. So do mail deliveries. This person could contact and call others but never me. Hell, I was never mentioned. And now it is too late. He died this morning. It is not regret that I feel. It is more like I am holding the scales, putting my care of Self on one side and this morning on the other. It is a cold, heavy scale to hold.

And then I am reminded of my invisibility. In removing myself from them, they removed me from them as well. It is as if I never existed. And that is a weird weird feeling. It was happening prior to me walking away. I just made it kinda official I guess. I’d been slowly phased out for years.

He was a strong man but with screwed up priorities. Wouldn’t take one fucking step in this direction. That’s all it would have taken. One wee bit of effort on his part to show me..something. I know he was given my contact info at least once. And I know he knew how to ask for it. But he couldn’t. And he didn’t. So he pretended I didn’t exist and now he is dead.

Dad, I never stopped loving you. How could I? I believe now you understand at least. I wish you had understood a little sooner though.

Southern Service Dawgs

Because I haven’t enough to do, I started up an older project a few months ago.

A long time ago, back when I first started training Joella, I got involved in a Yahoo group for folks who were training their own Service Dogs. It was an interesting group of folks that’s for sure! Anyway, we realized there were a bunch of us who lived kinda sorta close together and we decided to have a gathering. I can’t remember the date but Jo was young so it was probably ’01 or ’02. We had a get together at Elena’s house in Charlotte. It was rather fun! I guess there were about seven dogs of various sizes (Akita, Keeshound, Aussie, Rottweiler, Beagle, several Mutts) but you know, not much barking at all! And they had a blast. We let them off leash in Elena’s fenced-in yard once we figured they were getting along and off they went.

And it was good for us humans to get together, too, to meet in person and get to discuss our dogs in person. I’m visual to a fault so getting to see what people meant when they were discussing something really helped me. I am still really good friends with Elena and am online friends with at least one other person from that gathering.

My project that I restarted is the Southern Service Dog website, ServiceDawgs.org. It’s been in existence since shortly after that gathering. I tried to keep up with all the SD laws in the Southern states but states change their websites a lot (which breaks links). But now there are two organizations that are doing a good job of keeping track of the laws and keeping it all organized. I also had several listings of commands several of our dogs had, what we were working on, photos of the dogs at work and play, etc. I really wanted to emphasize that Service Dogs were DOGS, not robots. They had down time and yet all of them would “work” with the cape off. The cape was just for the public’s benefit, really. Anyway, since I am getting back into the Service Dog thang again and doing more research, I dusted off the website and revamped it. It’s still got a long way to go, however.

It used to be based purely on html code. Oh, that was fun to do. Then I did it with CSS which was slightly better. But now I have it on WordPress which will really keep it organized and easier to update. I am basically starting over since so much of the information from the old site no longer applies. Which brings me to the point of this missive. If anyone lives in the South and has a Service Dog, or would like a Service Dog, or trains dogs, or breeds dogs that would make good Service Dogs or has anything to do with dogs and Service Dogs, I invite you to join me on this endeavor. I would like to have regular blog posts by individuals (other than me!) on topics related to Service Dogs in some way.

Interested? Comment below or on my Facebook page!

Fenced In

We need to rebuild the dog lot fence. It won’t be in the same area but on the other side of the house, going down into the garden (or what once was the garden). That means the pear tree has to go. We’ll start measuring soon, deciding the size. Then calling around for estimates. The original dog lot was HUGE. The dogs miss it muchly.

The old fence was put in, wow, how many years ago? Long time ago, that’s for sure. Fifteen maybe? The part that attaches to the back porch was done later. And the Dog Deck was done back in ’09. Yeah, time flies when you’re pouring money into an old house. Which happens a lot here.

We have decided to hire a company to put it in versus us doing it ourselves. We could have a fence party, which is how the first one went in. It was a blast! But now all our friends are as old as we are. Instead, we’ll have a fence opening party and folks can bring their dogs to pee on every post. Having someone else put one in will cost more but hopefully will last longer. Before the limbs fell, most of the posts were being held up by sheer determination and honeysuckle vines.

Anyway, this is a Google maps pic of the house. The red line is where the fence used to be. Well, technically it is still there but parts of it were smashed. The yellow is all they have left and includes the Dog Deck. The pink line is about where we’d like to put it.

Another reason we need a dog fence? We have three big dogs. Mike is the smallest at 60lbs, Whisper is around 75lbs, and Sam at 85lbs. And sometime in the spring, we’ll be getting a puppy. They’ll all need space to stretch out and run.

Yes, you read that right. I’ll be getting a puppy. We’ve talked about it for a while. It’s still not written in stone final (I owe Elena an essay) but we’re getting things done that need to be done, even if the puppy doesn’t happen. Dog fence tops the list. Next is lift for truck. If I am to get a puppy to train as a Service Dog, then I need to go places more. That’s the whole point, to get me out of the house. And I can’t do that because I can’t load the chair by myself. After that is more general house arrangement stuff. You know how it goes. One thing leads to another. You can’t get one thing done until you get this other thing but you can’t get that one done until that one over there is done and….yeah, old houses. Gotta love ’em.

The Pig Didn’t Fly Because….

I finally found something I was looking for! An article from the perspective of the woman with the pig on the plane. If she were legitimate, one would exist. On my one hand, perhaps she is. Perhaps she does have issues and truly desired to have this animal with her on her trip. And that is her right according to the Air Carriers Access Act (links at the bottom) which covers planes which the ADA does not.

She (I’ll call her RB) is upset from it, of course. RB has had to take her Facebook page down. Photos of RB’s face were posted on a news site and people who were in photos with RB on her Facebook page prior to the incident were not happy to be identified with her. Go friends and co-workers! Love to you, too!

I tried to read the article in a way that I would understand her side. RB must be miserable and even more mentally pushed back. And I did try. I always do. Because I always hold out the hope that there was a mistake somewhere, you know? That surely to shit someone really did not take a pig on a plane, faking it as an emotional support animal!

But there are a few things that stuck out. And this was someone who was not with her but speaking from elsewhere but it does make me wonder even further. Anyway, Victor Kinoian, the owner of My Pet Piggy LLC where the woman bought her pig, says she (the passenger) worked with the airlines to ensure the airlines was aware she was arriving with her pig. Then he says:

“American Airlines knew they needed to accommodate my customer, so after calling & triple checking for approval to make sure a pig as an ESA (emotional support animal) was allowed to fly, she received no help from them that day or placed in an appropriate seat to ensure safe travels & proper accommodation for her ESA.”

Red flag. For one, it is not the airlines that determines the seating. The passenger does. Why did SHE pick a seat in the middle of the plane? Why not the bulkhead? As a person who has flown with a Rottweiler, I didn’t expect the airline to appropriately seat me when I got there. I expected me to pick out the best seat ahead of time. I’m not a child. And she’s not mentally ill, she’s not mentally challenged, she has a need for emotional support. That means she has the mental capacity to determine this for herself. Ahead of time. This wasn’t Southwest she was flying.

And she didn’t need help from them. She could walk to her seat by herself. She could put her bag away by herself. Her special needs were for emotional support. If she needed special accommodation to assist with that (seated early to help with crowds, for example), then she would have gotten it.

“After passengers became very standoffish towards Hobey, he had an accident, & as we all know, accidents do happen.”

Um, not by Service Dogs. I would be devastated if my SD pooped on a plane. If this guy who is selling pigs to be emotional support animals thinks “accidents happen”, then he’s an idiot. I know that pigs not eating “slop” must have better smelling poop than pigs that do, but we’re talking about a very crammed airplane. I don’t care who poops, it’s gonna stink for several rows.

And if Joella, my Rottweiler Service Dog, if she had gotten upset every time someone was “standoffish” toward her? She’d have crapped a lot. Thank gawd she just gave them her softest look instead and said “Why don’t you like me?” and moved on.

“What is expected of an ESA? Are they not allowed to have accidents? If my 90 yr old grandma has an accident mid flight, is she to be removed?! It’s not to be funny, but if there wasn’t so much grey area for situations like this to occur, this would have never happen. My customer was setup for failure by the airport and deserves an apology and an apology to all the passengers on the plane for having poor regulation and lack of common sense.”

What is expected? They are held to high standards, sir. They are representing not only all the other ESAs that come after them, but all the Service Dogs, too. And you, sir, are setting a poor standard. I expect my Service Dog to act in such a way no one knows she is there. I expect my SD to respond appropriately to stress (hide behind me, right Joella?) and not poop on the floor.

There is no grey area. It is written as a law called the Air Carriers Access Act. Read it. Perhaps your “customer” should, too. I take that back. There are grey areas. They are there on purpose. It is there because no passenger, no ESA, no SD, no situation is identical to the next. You cannot rubber stamp this and expect us all to fit.

RB could be legitimate. If she is, she needs to tell the guy she bought the pig from to shut the F up ’cause he’s an idiot and is not helping her or anyone else one dang bit. He’s enjoying his few minutes in the limelight while she is at home, probably with the curtains closed. Does she deserve the heckling? Did she really get herself a seat not in the bulkhead? I’ve seen photos of the pig in the airport. It’s not *that* big but it would not have been happy in that little space at her feet from Rhode Island to South Carolina. Did she really expect the airlines to take care of her that much? If she did, then she is…well, she needs to plan a little bit better the next time.

Correction: I originally called the law the Air Carriers Act but it is the Air Carriers Access Act. I have corrected all of the references. I should have known it was too easy and too few letters! Elena is much more smarter than me and caught it. – PaulaO

Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) – web version | pdf version
Air Carriers Access Act FAQ (pdf)
ACAA Summary from Disability Travel
Air Consumer Rules – scroll down to “Part 382”
Another article about RB (basically says the same thing but has more photos of the pig)

Whisper Update

So an update on Whisper girl.

It’s been over two months on the two different enzymes to treat the “exocrine pancreatic inefficiency” (EPI) thing, something GSDs get. Then she got really sick and tired of the enzymes and refused to eat. She’d eat anything else but not her meals. She would either lay down or turn and leave the room.

Last Wednesday (4th), Lorna took her to the vet (I had a killer headache). Whisper had not gained any weight maybe a pound or two. So our wonderful vet started over again, looking at the entire Whisper puzzle again.

– The blood test for the EPI had come back borderline anyway but it can be. We had assumed it was the cause for the weight loss and the lack of weight gain since it is oh so typical of the breed. Dr K tossed that diagnosis out the door.
– Whisper’s urine had a ton of bacteria but she had no fever. White blood cell count was normal. (see? puzzle)
– Red blood cell count was low. She was anemic.
– We decided to do some other blood tests to see some other numbers and based on those, we may or may not do an ultrasound. One of the tests was a better red blood cell count which would tell how long she had been anemic.
– Based on those results, which were even more puzzling, we opted to do the ultrasound the next day. They were looking for several things. Whisper had gone through a heat (yay) several months ago so it could be a uterine infection, which would account for the bacteria and the anemia but not the weight loss. There could be something intestinal which would account for the weight loss and the anemia but not the bacteria. An ultrasound would see both of those things as well as other organs.

The ultrasound results were puzzling, of course.
– Liver looked good.
– The intestines were fine. If she had the EPI, they would be thickened so that dx just officially got kicked. (which is good ’cause that enzyme is expensive!)
– The uterus was fine, although slightly enlarged but not unusual. No infection there.
– But the spleen had an “undefined” area. In ultrasound speak, you want everything to be defined. You want to know this is this and that is that. You don’t want blurry and fuzzy. It seemed to be just one area of it so it could be an infection that just isn’t big enough to warrant a fever.

After discussion with Dr K, we decided Whisper would get spayed and they would do exploratory surgery to look at the spleen and a few other places. That was done today.

Whisper’s entire spleen was “thickened”. It was removed and was sent off for biopsy. Based on the results of that, we’ll know what to do next. Dogs (and humans) can live without a spleen, even though it is a blood filtering organ.

We went to see her this afternoon. She was still kinda stoned but far too happy to see us. She began bleeding from her surgical wound while we were there and they had to do patch work on her.

We will speak with the Great Dr Knepshield tomorrow and know more specifics.