the good, the bad, and the ugly (not in that order)

 

THE BAD

I continue to be dealing with anxiety. I had been feeling rather optimistic about my progress thanks to a few helpful books, learning to focus on my breath, essential oils, experimenting with meditation, standing behind a pretend waterfall and a wonderful therapist who reminds me to take all of these things with a grain of salt. I even drove over a small bridge last week and didn’t acknowledge it until I’d almost reached the other side. I was starting to think that maybe I had even reached the other side of this anxiety.

Then, life got in the way.

Our family is heading down to Hopkins this weekend for Dan’s 30th college reunion. I’ve been looking forward to seeing old friends and spending family time celebrating Dan’s alma mater and Anna’s future home (NOT home, temporary housing for four years). Everything was going according to plan until I learned that Anna can’t join us until Saturday because she has a lacrosse game and Dan needs to go on Thursday for business meetings. That leaves me and JackO to go over the Delaware Memorial Bridge alone.

The Delaware Memorial Bridge is HUGE!!

 

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Just writing this has me sweating. I’ve thought about taking the train or taking a longer route with a smaller bridge or waiting until Saturday to go with Anna or leaving early to go with Dan or calling for a “bridge escort”. Yes, that’s a thing. Over 400 people a year call a magic number from either side of the Delaware Memorial Bridge to get assistance. I know because I’ve done the research and have the phone number on a post-it note attached to my computer screen. I am officially ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE. I keep going back and forth about my plan, but (as ridiculous as it sounds) somehow that post-it has calmed my nerves a little.

Unfortunately, the bridge is not our only challenge this week. An attempt to be proactive and responsible Dan and I decided to take an old oil tank out of our front yard. We’re not ready to move just yet, but we know it’s in our not-too-distant future, so why not take care of any linger issues? We did our research, hired a reputable company and crossed our fingers. The finger crossing didn’t work. Our next step is soil remediation. We are not sure of the outcome, but it looks like this story may be far from over.

 

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I spent much of yesterday cursing, regretting ever buying a home and hating being a grown-up. The worst part is that we will not know the extent of the problem for several weeks – not great for someone who is spending too much time worrying about a long list of who/what/where/hows. Again, the sweat is rolling down my back as I write this.

THE UGLY

After a day with several steps backwards on my road to tranquility, I picked up my dog at the groomer. I didn’t know what to say when I first saw him. Finn has never had a good reputation. He jumps and barks and has even been involved in a lawsuit with our mailman. His one good quality has been his looks. He looks like a big, furry muppet. He DID look like a big, furry muppet. When I walked into the groomer yesterday he looked like a skinny, bald rat.

I felt sorry for the young girl who handed over his leash. She looked so sad and embarrassed, “His chart said you told us to cut off anything matted. At least he won’t need a cut for a long time.”

I tried to laugh, gave her a tip and told her not to worry. Then I grabbed the leash and tried to sneak Finn out to the parking lot without anyone seeing me walking a skinny rat-dog. Another step backward.

THE GOOD

Finn the rat-dog and I went together to go pick up JackO from school. I was steaming the whole way there thinking about bridges and oil tanks and money and bald dogs, but my mood turned quickly when I walked into the school and saw a friend and her son. I told her I was having a bad day and she said, “Jess, whenever I’m having a hard day I remind myself how lucky I am to have this kid in my life. Look at our boys – who’s happier then them? We get to wake up and see their smiles every day.”

She’s right. My boy – our boys – live in the moment and when the moment is good, they enjoy every second. I need to focus on the good moments and not worry so much about the complicated/expensive/scary moments. I know somehow we will get to Baltimore and our yard will get cleaned up and my rat-dog’s hair will grow back. I just need to get behind that waterfall and let my worries spill in front of me. Don’t judge them, just witness them and allow them to pass (am I don’t that right?).

Jack and I walked out to the car and I was starting to feel better. When I put Jack in the car he started laughing uncontrollably. I didn’t realize what was going on until I realized that Jack was looking at poor Finn lying in the back seat.

Life is more GOOD than BAD or UGLY.

Love, Jess

FYI – Rereading this, I feel a little guilty about saying that Finn’s only good quality is his looks. He is one of my favorite writing companions and always knows when I need a little extra love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our (kinda) Skilled Companion

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Keegan is a Service Dog. To be exact, he’s a “Skilled Companion” which means that he has been trained to work with people with disabilities (JackO) under the guidance of a facilitator – that’s me. He was trained for two years by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) and is qualified to be in public – wherever a human is allowed.

Today Jack, Keegan and I are going out to Long Island for our Public Access Certification Test. We will be meeting up with a CCI team and several other CCI graduates at a mall where they have us work for an hour to see whether on not we are still qualified (under CCI standards) for public access. I’m a little nervous.

I hope the folks at CCI don’t see this, but I am pretty sure we’ve ruined Keegan. Sure, compared to Finn (our other pup), Keegan is a star, but when I think back to the dog we brought home 7 years ago, I cringe. Keegan knew over 40 commands and did not need any guidance to behave perfectly when in public. Now he’s a very sweet, kinda smartISH pet.

I keep warning our CCI trainers that we may have gotten a little lax over the years, and that perhaps Keegan’s skills might be a little rusty. The team has been sweet, assuring me that they understand that Keegan’s primary role is to be Jack’s buddy. “As long as your team can be handled safely and appropriately in public you should be fine”.

Fingers crossed.

So why am I brining him? Because I am a rule follower AND because I feel that if I DESERVE to be scolded, I should be. A great deal of time, effort and money went into Keegan’s training. If we are falling short on our end of the bargain, I need to do what I can to rectify it. After all, I am the first person to judge people that take advantage of the rather loose definition of a service animal.

I am an animal lover and I know a pet can be a member of the family. I also know that many pets can be well behaved and probably wouldn’t cause much of an issue in public, but the training it takes to insure an animal is silent, respectful and helpful in caring for specific disabilities is huge.

If you buy a vest on-line for your pet so that he/she can accompany you on vacation, you are actually hurting people who can’t be independent without their animal. If your dog/cat/miniature horse/ferret does not behave appropriately in public, people start to complain that all service animals are just “pets with vests”. We don’t want laws to change regarding public access for service animals because so many people gain a huge amount of support and independence because of their four legged friend. I know for Jack, Keegan is primarily a best friend/furry pillow, but some people rely of their service animal for far more than licks and cuddles.

So we are up bright an early to drive out to Long Island. Keegan has been bathed, his nails have been cut and his vest has been cleaned. I’ve been working on “Wait” and “Under” and “Car” for weeks, and we are as ready as we are going to be. I will let you know as soon as soon as we get the thumbs up or thumbs down.

Love, Jess

PS If we do not pass, CCI isn’t going to put me in handcuffs and take Keegan away. They will work with us to regain what we have lost.

For more information about CCI go to http://www.CCI.org

 

UPDATE: We passed with flying colors!!!!!!!

 

My other silent boy

For those of you who have been worried that I may be sharing too much with Jack, I’m sorry. It is true that he has heard more than a teenage boy should about local gossip and various peri-manopausal symptoms. I am trying to be better at avoiding such topics when Jack’s in earshot. And, it’s not just because I’m worried that he is going to blackmail me – it’s just the right thing to do.

The truth is that he is not the only holder of my secrets. I have another silent boy in the house who’s also a really good listener. His ears are floppy and he lets me lie on the couch with him and rant about everything. He never gets bothered if my breath is bad or my feet are stinky. He just snuggles in and lets me vent about things and sort out my crap. He is the one that people should be worried about – Keegan knows EVERYTHING about EVERYONE.

Things I am too scared to even write in my private journal have been shared with my furry friend. There’s something about the way he looks at me, that I know he understands and cares. Keegan’s brother, Finn (AKA “Bad Dog”), walks away in the middle of a story if he hears a truck outside or the postman walking up the front steps. Keegan never leaves my side until he knows I’ve really let it all out.

Yes, I know that technically Keegan is Jack’s service dog, but the truth is that without him, I’m not sure that I could manage. There are just some days that I feel like I am going to explode (or implode). Stuff builds up and I need someone. I can’t always burden my friends and family – particularly when it’s my friends and family that I need to discuss. We all need a sounding board and Keegan is mine.

Yesterday was Keegan’s 7th birthday. I tend to forget birthdays of people/creatures I love (just ask my nieces and nephews). Ironic, because I expect everyone to remember mine — November 19 — 13 more shopping days left. Keegan’s puppy raisers reminded me today and I instantly stopped what I was doing to showered our boy with some love. Then, I gave him a nice long walk and two cups of kibble for dinner. Next year, I promise to throw in some balloons and streamers.

Thank you Keegan for being Jack’s best friend and my therapist.

Love, Jess

For more information about Canine Companions for Independence check out: http://www.CCI.org

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A great listener and so handsome.

a crowded, wonderful holiday

I spent the entire drive to the Block Island ferry lying on top of the luggage in the back of the car. I’m not sure why everyone else gets a proper seat. Even Keegan gets a prized spot at Jack’s feet. At least they were taking me with them this time. Last week the whole family left me at home with Maria. She’s sweet, but I miss my family when they’re gone. It’s hard to tell them, so I decided to show them. That guy who keeps showing up at our front door, filling our mailbox and leaving without even a hello — I bit him.

I’m guessing that I will own the title of Worst Dog for a while longer. That’s one of the humans’ favorite games over the Fourth of July on Block Island. There are 18 of them and 5 of us dogs. Seems unfair that they highlight our bad behavior when they are creating most of the chaos. Parades with candy being thrown, loud explosions coming from the sky, days at the beach leading to lines at the outdoor shower and so many dishes in the sink. And, there is the excessive bad language, especially during dinner time. It’s as if there is something wrong with me eating out of Dylan’s hands. WHY serve meat if you don’t want the dogs to have some? Besides so many of the kids are at just the right height for me.

After three days, it was time to say good-bye. My mom tried (again) to put me in the wrong car as she was packing, but I’m on to her and settled into my usual spot on top of the dirty laundry. We made it home safe and sound. I’ve been told that we are heading back up to the island in another few weeks, but it’s not quite the same as our Fourth of July madness. There are never more than four dogs at a time in August!

Thanks PopPop and Sue for hosting another fun-filled holiday!! It’s always a little nuts, but we all enjoyed every second!!

Love, Finn

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Keegan

Keegan

Last Friday I found myself at the veterinarians office explaining to the woman behind the desk that NOTHING could happen to Keegan, “Seriously. He’s not just my son’s assistance dog, he’s family.

Keegan is an exceptionally well-trained dog but, as we were told again and again in team training (the 2 week boot camp Jack and I attended before bringing Keegan home), dogs are dogs and we need to make sure they don’t get into anything they shouldn’t. I lost my focus last week and Keegan ate a “foreign object”.

At first I didn’t think too much about it. Finn (our pet dog who also goes by the name “Bad Dog”) eats things all the time and he’s managed to live longer than his breeder promised — I mean, estimated. But, when Keegan started vomiting I took him directly to his veterinarian. X-rays and sonograms determined that he’d done a number on his stomach but he’d managed to expel the majority of the the object and he should pass the remainder. He was given IV fluids and we were sent home with special food and instructions to closely monitor him and sort threw his elimination. I assured his doctors that I was well versed in both monitoring and elimination.

“Monitoring” translated into lots of middle of the night check ins, and “sorting through his elimination” was especially interesting with limited sleep. It was a tough few days before he bounced back, but we were willing to do anything for Keegan. I  knew how important he was for Jack, but until last week I hadn’t appreciated how important our furry friend is to our entire family. He keeps me company while Jack’s at school. He’s my walking partner and my sounding board. He knows all of Anna’s secrets. He allows Dan and I to sleep comfortably, knowing that Jack has his buddy cuddling next to him in bed. And, Keegan warms all of our hearts with his ability to entice people into approaching Jack – people otherwise intimidated by his quirkiness.

I’m often asked what Keegan does as an assistance dog and I’ve always answered with the same explanation, “He’s Jack’s best friend – his constant companion”. Now I know that Keegan is much more than Jack’s dog; he belongs to all of us. He’s a big, hairy piece of duct tape.

Love, Jess

If you would like to learn more about assistance dogs (or make a donation), please check out http://www.cci.org