Saturday, November 22, 2014

It's All About Them

Who does it hurt when you pass your pet off as a service dog when it really isn't one? It hurts people like myself, Steve, and others who rely on our dogs for daily functioning. That's not an understatement either and I"m not exaggerating. The only reason I get out of bed in the mornings because Bentley needs to go out, be fed, and walked.  My depression is at an all time high right now and not in the good Las Vegas way. My health care "team" wants to put me on some massive drugs where I can't function as a small business or even as a wife or just as Keri! Or, they just tell me, "It's all in your head." Well no duh!  It is all in my head! My head just has a stupid chemical imbalance at the moment armed with horrific memories that are on a playback loop, and enough noise and static that make me want to live in a sound deprivation chamber. But that's on the light days and I digress.

Seriously, who does it hurt when you pass your pet off as a service dog when it really isn't one? I found out today for myself and I swear that my head is about to explode. See, Steve is lucky, he has his training group he can go to when strange things or stupid things or questions arise.  I have this, the web, this blog and on occasion a trainer might pop up and give me their opinion, but the rest is good old fashioned reading and researching. So here's what happened.

I've received a lot of orders this week, yeah Team Valkyrie. I needed to refresh my supply of backing fabrics, and I had a little saved up in my business account to go do so.  Normally, (and I did this all last year) I just ordered online and hoped like hell I got the colors right. Well, this year I have Bentley and so we set out to local fabric store here in Everett to go and Hunt All The Fabrics. I suited him up, hopped in the car and drove to the store.

As we walked into the store, my brain went on total overload from the bright lights, the electric rainbow of colors and textures of fabrics and quilts on the walls, hanging from the ceiling, and in cases in front of me. I could hear the scream of the light bulbs in the ceiling, and the air was getting hard for me to breathe.  I forced myself to stop and take a deep breath, listening to Bentley beside me. He's a warm dog. The heat of his body is comforting under my hand and his fur is a texture I've grow accustomed to.  I look down "at the plain brown dog" and get my eyes to focus again. He has his "smile and wave" look on his face and his tail is wagging slowly, ready for his command, ok Momma let go get all the fabrics so I can sniff new things. We head off down the rainbow wall of tonal fabrics and I pull the ones I need. Or well, I'm assuming I'm pulling the correct colors, I'll ask the cutter up at the desk, she knows me. We head over and there is a woman in a Duke University jersey waiting to get her items cut.  She leans over to pet Bentley and I ask her to please not to, he's working a the moment.

"So he's mean then?  He must be because he's got that mean Pit Bull look to him," she mutters. That's when I knew this was not going to end well.  My mood, my lack of sleep and well, lets face it, my mouth just didn't stop.

"No," I answered. "At the moment m brain is over stimulated with the colors. Bentley is helping me navigate the store. I need him to help me not knock over things, not that I should need to explain my health to a total stranger just so I can shop at a store, but thanks for that vote of support and confidence!" What I'm thinking is, "Yeah, you jacked up freak of nature.  I've trained him to protect YOU for people like me!" You'd be proud I didn't say it but I really wanted to.

You would thing she would have then been wise and stopped there (wearing a Duke Uni shirt you'd assume intelligence) but nope. I turned and ask my cutting lady if I pulled lime green and bubblegum pink and we were discussing it when holy crap the Duke lady reached over and started petting Bentley!

Rattled because Bentley was totally off of my attention and, well, because I said no, I growled, "I asked you to not pet my service dog. He's not here for you he's here to help me!" She immediately pulled her hand away. She muttered something and I apologized to my cutting lady and was shaking because of the disturbance I thought I caused.  I wanted nothing more than to drop everything and run out of the store and go home. But I stuck it out. Dumb move, Keri.

The cutting lady got done with my set of fabrics and we walked over to the cashier's where she was ringing me up. My card has a wonky strip, so you have to get creative when running it through the machine. Again the Duke lady showed up and then announced to the other people in line, the store manager and the cashiers that, "I used to have an English Bulldog. Best dog ever. I couldn't bear to leave her at home so I sewed up a vest for her and took her with me everywhere I went. NO one could tell she wasn't trained! I probably should say this in front of people like her (nodding her head my direction) because well, we can tell that dog is nothing but aggressive because he is a Pit Bull. She's obviously imbalanced and is lucky to have my tax dollars supporting the likes of her. Stupid dog doesn't even know to ignore people."

That was it. With tears rolling down my face I grabbed my card just as the transaction went trough and ran out the door.  I know, I know I should has stood up and said something but my brain just barfed, I couldn't get a straight sentence out if I wanted to. I had just gotten Bentley unvested in the back of the car when the cashier came out and handed me my bag, gave me a light hug and told me not to give up, the other woman was rude.

Yes, that store was pet friendly and pets come in and out as they please. Bentley has been there before, the workers there know him and have always respected our rules. If they ask to pet and I can drop my guard for a moment, I will allow him to do so.  I'm not mean, I need him on me right now.
Yes, I could have, should have immediately corrected and educated that woman, but my brain went on hiatus and just getting out to the car was a feat of superior strength. I feel like a child throwing a fit, and I shouldn't. I'm pretty sure I was insulted, or at least that is what my brain is telling me at the moment.
No, I'm not unstable, no Bentley is not aggressive. Yes I work him every day. Yes we are new. Yes I"m doing this on my own and it's a pain in the ass doing it this way but it's better than me never leaving the house ever again.  What you all want from me?

The vast majority of people who misrepresent their pet dogs as service dogs simply do this to gain access to places that normally restrict pets; they just want to spend more time with their dog. Loving your dog is not a bad thing. However, they do not take the time to think about how their actions affect others, because the fact is, it's all about them. This woman embodied that. The unfortunate reality is that the entire service dog community suffers. When "fakers" get called out, it puts them in a bad place and they lash out for being wrong instead of cute. To people like me, that lashing isn't just a "let it roll off" thing.  Honestly, this will replay in my head for days now. I'm hoping by putting this out there and writing it down will help. I'm hoping Our Tribe will read this too.  We need you all, Tribe, to help educate. You know, you've seen Steve and I without the dogs. You know how messed up our lives were without them! If in doubt, ask. Honestly, just ask.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to Do a Google Interview - Foreman Style


First, wow oh WOW! Just to get a phone call from a head hunter this fast was one of the best feelings EVER. Google was sort of put into this waaaaaay up in the "It would rock to work there but chances are they don't want an older-fresh out of college-noob" box on the shelf of life. Being a disabled Vet, with a service dog, with a cane has this look of "I'm so not supposed to be a part of that culture."
Wrong.  That's exactly what they want.
Having talked to his job mentor at Parsons, as well as his new Voc Rehab Councilor here in Seattle, lots of interview practice between Charlie and Steve, it was decided that yeah, he needed to take this shot even if it is a hard-core high turn around-high burn out position.  Yeah, he won't been there but awhile, but it sure would look good on his resume! So, he dressed for the job he wanted and went for the tie even though it's not the norm for that culture.  Because it's been raining the past few days used the umbrella as his cane, just because, and he groomed out Charlie until he was a cream colored puff ball. And 5 minuets later the humidity got to the dogs fur and he just frizzed right back out!
After a 30-minuet delay, Steve discovered it was a group interview of sorts.  The Google-Bothell campus is a smaller version of what we've all come to expect form the Google campuses with all the bells and whistles.  In this case not a single employee even batted an eye about Charlie! Charlie on the other hand was the calmest he's been in months. Lots of ping-pongs, food, foosball, massage chairs, you name it; the distractions were all around them and he just rocked the area, 100% totally on Steve. Not one person tried to pet, touch, or even acknowledge Charlie! It was...blissfuly normal!
After the group info session, they took each person aside for a semi informal one-on-one session. Steve met all of their GIS qualifications in spades. He was personable and respectful...a little too respectful apparently. He was told that he would find out next week if he makes it to the next level of managerial interviews. He he makes it through that, he's hired and he would start work late October.
Oh and if he does make it to the Managerial Interviews, he needs to be more...Google-ly.
We are thinking Deely Boppers for Charlie and jeans, a button down and his bright flaming blue cane for Steve!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cut ALL the THINGS!

This weekend was spent creating a bit of mayhem and using extreme prejudice against the front yard hedges. We're not just talking "a little hedge." We are talking about 60 feet of 4-8 feet high laurel, juniper, English Ivy and raspberry bushes all bundled up together in a mash of of sticky, sappy, thorny, prickly, spider infested fun.
The previous tenants left their yard clippings off to a corner that then over took the side and outside of the fence line creeping and crawling over 6 feet of open area and the corner stop sign. Nice going there dummy.  You could have caused a wreck at that corner. Steve discovered a way to whack it down enough to start the killing off process and open up the area enough for drivers to see and not wonder what monster truck was barreling up the hill at them as they took a right turn. All I can think is dumb ass. Anyway, I'd say a good 75% of the yard is done thanks in part to a kick butt team of Valkyrie, SchnoodleFish, and Foreman.

The Boys are settling nicely into the area.  Charlie has become a lot more peppy and even more playful and vocal. I think the Washington sea air has made a difference and agrees more with him than the dryer mountain air. His ear is gumming up fast though so Steve has to keep on it daily. Under vest in the area, people really sit up and take notice at how big, fluffy and kind he is. He's not the normal service dog and trust me, this boy know it.  He's really working Steve too. They are out and about more daily, walking and playing and hopefully this next week, pounding the pavement for interviews.
Bentley is also thriving better in the Washington air. The consistent squeaking and hyperawareness has all but dissipated. He's really turning into a mellow mushroom! Don't let that fool you with the energy levels though!  We are taking these guys out 3-4 times a day to hard core run around and chase and play ball in the front yard (I'm really not worried about them leaping over a 6' wide by 8' high laurel fence) which has both given them a ton of freedom.  Bentley fly's across the yard and turns on a dime! It's a blast to watch and he has so much fun.  It's a night and day difference with him these days and when he's under vest, he just glows. I'm still working on getting over my fear of the grocery store, so I'm hoping once things settle down for us this week, I can be brave enough for just B and I to head out on a breakfast run.
This weeks plan is to catch up on all the older orders and get them out of my hair. I'm also hoping to spend some good hard training time with Bentley. Steve and Charlie are daily sending out resumes and even though people are telling him he's "unemployable" it's not an answer he's willing to accept and he WILL find his dream job soon.

That's it for this evening. I'm off to enjoy the PNW sunset and the freshly shorn hedges.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Round 2: Ding!

So yesterday was a complete wash out. I did attempt to get started on the items, but nothing happened. I got them to the house out of storage but then I crawled back into bed and hid after that. As much as I love Seattle, and this area, it’s nothing but a huge, massive PTSD trigger for me. I try to think of the good things, but I see a corner or a store or a tree or something and BLAM! I’m back in the past and freaking out, I mean on the floor boards of the car bawling and screaming. I had no idea when we made this decision that it would be like this, but I'm going to have to learn to work through the fog and smoke and keep pushing forward and make new thoughts about that store or that tree.

Then, Judy and Steve started talked yesterday afternoon.
And talked and talked, and Judy being a mental health councilor started pointing Steve to various state programs, including one called Apple (Washington Apple Health Program) for low to no income. We were immediately approved! I get to go back on my blood pressure pills, my heart meds, have access to a neurologist for the TBI as well as a mental health councilor for the anger and stress.

Oh thank you to the almighty! I can’t even begin to tell you just how amazing this feels to know in a few days I can call and make an appointment. Judy did point out it’s still a crap shoot as far as seeing a PA or a MD or even just meeting with a nurse practitioner, but one way or another I can start getting help and if I can work with the stupid VA teams, I can work with the civilians.

So with that high note, I leave you with the plan of attack: Work on Maureen's pillows and bag; finish up Joane’s bag, find that dumb box with Annetta’s shabby chic quilt fabric because I just can’t find it anywhere.

Oh, and it’s been suggested that instead of emailing, I’m going to be brave and start making these posts on WinterSpring. I’ll back date to some of the fist entries so there is a little bit of a backstory.
Because. I can. And there is now a following of 6. Whoo.

And I just found Annetta's box of fabric!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Accountability Day, Oh Goodie.

I did manage to get three orders out yesterday. I’m going to work on my, “Oh holy hell I’ve had these for how many months and they are not out yet?” special requests so that is no longer looming over my head and making my mind not shut off.

  • 2-22” pillows with appliqué
  • 2-bags

Something else, I just can’t remember what it is at the moment, I have it written down somewhere.
We’ve been here officially 1 full week. It feels like 1 full year. As much as I adore Judy and Dave, this isn’t my home and I’m not able to just settle and get it together. My TBI is off the charts and I’ve managed to sew 4 projects incorrectly and it’s so frustrating. Steve is loosing faith every day. We’ve contacted several veteran’s services. All of them have turned into the “We’ll call in a few days” and they never have. Ranging from emergency housing to work services. There’s only so much more of that I can take, I can only imagine what it must be like for him. He’s told me on numerous occasions that he wished he’s just remained a stupid video game tester and not gotten the degree. That breaks my heart.

We’ve also hit the end of the line financially. Again. And Again. At 42, I really just don’t think my body or brain has the capability to take it much more. I don’t think we will be getting our deposit back from MSU Housing (and honestly I’m too chicken to call and ask). The VA releases the last of the his stipend money’s. It should get us through October if I’m VERY careful. After that, hands in the air.

I’m going to stop being a Debbie Downer and go get this day started. Have a good one. Oh, and here's proof that I *have* been working on the SchnoodleFish collars.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

3 Packet Roast and Gravy for the Crock Pot


Can one technically have a gravy orgasm? If so, yes Ma'am, you are welcome!
I've just died and gone into a food coma.  Why didn't I find this recipe BEFORE. I've now fed two Army vets this roast and it's like Oliver Twist in my kitchen, "Please Ma'am! May I have more????" The best part is, it's dead simple to make!
Next time, I'm going to need a bigger roast.

Ingredients Needed:

  • 1 beef roast, any kind, sized to fit your crockpot
  • 1 package Ranch Dressing mix
  • 1 package brown gravy mix
  • 1 package Italian dressing mix
  • 1/2 cup very warm water

Prep:
Haul out that crock pot baby! It's going to be a good day!

Steps:

  • Line your crock pot with a liner. (One less damn thing you have to clean up.)
  • Place roast in crockpot.

  • In a bowl combine the envelopes of mixes together.

  • Sprinkle on top of the roast. Or just dump it in, either way, make sure you hit the meat.

  • Pour in 1/2 cup warm water.

  • Cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 4-5.



Don't forget to take the meat out for a few minuets before you cut it and let it rest.  Makes it just that much juicer!


For the Gravy:

  • Pour the liquid from your crockpot liner into a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  • Thicken with a cornsatrch slurry (1 Tablespoon cornstarch and 2 Tablespoons of COLD water)
  • Make sure the drippings are boiling before you add the cold water mix.
  • Makes a delicious gravy.



Again, you are WELCOME!
And a big old thank you to Keeper Worth Recipes for this amazing find! You are a rockstar!




Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lead Dog From Behind

Disclaimer (and before my trainer hollers at me):
No this is not where I normally allow Bentley to work from.  He is usually at my side; very close by my side. We were out walking and taking photos of his new MOLLE patches and I put him on a "long lead" so he could have a bit of time off.


July has been officially labeled as "Challenging." Ok, who am I kidding, it sucked weasels backwards thorough a knothole. While the beginning start out with grand possibilities it took a serious downturn right after the 4th when both dogs came down with a nasty virus that caused colitis. As the virus ebbed it totally unbalanced the boy's intestinal bacteria and they became overloaded with the wrong stuff.  So. for almost 3 weeks we've enjoyed the use of the Bissell SpotBot and nightly emergency potty breaks.  That's not to say we blame or are angry with the dogs at all. We've both been very worried and upset we couldn't make them feel better.  If they could have talked, I know they would have been apologizing for the accidents, we both have very polite canines. Needless to say, our whole way of living changed around keeping the dogs comfortable and recovering as quickly as possible without breaking the bank. Between vet visits, massive amounts of chicken and rice and medicines, Steve and I were on a lot of mac and cheese and hot dogs.  It was worth it.  This week took a turn up, and with new meds onboard, probiotics and a really good, easily digestible kibble suggested by my trainer, Ron, these two immediately snapped back to their old selves and for the first time since the 4th, I got a full night's sleep last night.

One of the things we discovered while the boys were officially "off duty" is that they still must have their manners.  Just because they didn't have their vest on doesn't mean they get to be knot-heads and forget their training.  We were accused by a few people of being to harsh on sick dogs by telling then no, they couldn't counter surf their noses or they couldn't run around bumping into and moving the furniture. "But they're sick! Give them a break!" If I let Bentley counter serf now, and he snags a piece of meat that could potentially upset his stomach even more, it's another trip to the vet and more sleepless nights as we run outside for emergency poos.  If they rough house now, they will get the idea that it's ok to do it in the future and that's just not acceptable. I'd rather get them outside in the fresh air and run around where they can stretch their legs and really run. I'm not mean, my Bentley is my life and Charlie is Steve's, but there must be rules, boundaries, and limitations no matter what - sick or 100%.

So yesterday when it became obvious the Boys were back (you could all but hear, "Dad, I'm board. Mom I'm board let go do something," the vests went on, and we took a small trip to the mall to walk around, get our feet under us again in the cool air, and see what we needed to focus on this week. I can report, we didn't lose any training ground and in many cases we all bonded even more tightly as our teams and were able to really communicate our needs with each other. It just rocked.  Sometimes the Alpha needs to let the others take point every now and then.