Another year older… Time to reflect

It’s my birthday today and as, is often the case, it led me to reflect on the past year.

I’m pleased to say that for the most part it’s been a peaceful year. I’ve not had any emergency hospital or emergency room admissions. I’ve come close, a few times, to anaphylaxis but have managed to mitigate the reaction fast enough by taking extra antihistamines and getting away from the source immediately.

Both my dogs are fit and healthy. Anything that Kai has eaten (he’s a goof ball off duty!) has been returned one way or the other. So no need for emergency surgery for him thankfully.

Relationship wise there have been a few friends that were friends for a reason or season and others that have proven that they’re here for a lifetime. Nothing difficult or hard to deal with; just the natural ebb and flow of life.

So I am actually delighted to recognise that I had a peaceful year. May this next one be just as peaceful!

It’s a hard life…

So I just got back from my second camp at my seasonal site. I feel as so I now have pretty much everything there that I could need and will now only need to take food, clothes, charger for my hearing aids and my knitting!

As you can see from the picture – it’s a hard life for Molly & Kai when we’re camping! They both love it. We go for a walk every 2-4 hours. Not too far as my lungs aren’t up to that yet but there is a small hill to climb which is stretching my limitations in a good way.

Apparently the site is much busier on the weekends. The owners told me that there had been over 15 children there on the previous weekend. Much as I love kids, I think I’ll stick to going mid week where I can.

I still have 8 days of vacation to take before the end of June!

Anyway, this seasonal camping malarky is fun!

Seasonal camping…

A little while ago I posted about my internal debate as to whether I should take a seasonal campsite this year, or travel as I have in the past. I said that I’d let you know my decision.

So, as you can probably tell from the title, I have decided to take a seasonal campsite for 2019. I’ll be staying at the Busy Beaver campground near Hilton Beach on St Joseph’s Island.

The site that I thought I wanted wasn’t initially available but the campground owners, Steve & Lorraine, offered me a different site which is nicely tucked in the trees and so it will get plenty of shade. This is essential with two large dogs, my being a red head and not having any air conditioning! Ironically the first site did become available but after discussion I decided to stay with the site we’d agreed on.

So for the past week or so I’ve been gathering together things that I’ll need. Some of which I had, and others I had to purchase. Hopefully, I’ve pretty much got everything now and if I really do forget something essential at least it’s only just under an hour’s drive door-to-door.

My new adventure starts this coming weekend. I have tickets to see Crystal by the Cirque du Soleil on Saturday. So I’ll be moving on site on Sunday with a plan of staying there until Friday and actually taking some vacation time.

There is no WIFI on site but I have a skyroam device that I want to check out. This device uses cell towers to create a secure WIFI network for a simple payment per day, month or year. I have 13 day passes so I’ll start with them and see how it goes. I’m pretty sure that it won’t be good enough for streaming video but hopefully it will allow me to access my work files so that I can come back to the site over the summer and work from ‘home’.

The weather forecast is a bit unsettling as rain is forecast for most of the week. The forecast keeps changing though so hopefully the rain will blow through before Sunday and I’ll have a dry camp. I’ll be taking wellington boots just in case. Mine aren’t bright pink like the ones in the picture but they’re still flowery!

So I’m starting a new adventure – a seasonal camp site. I’ll let you know how it goes…

To seasonal camp or travel…

So, as some of you may remember, I bought a new little travel trailer back in September 2018. I say new, but it was made in 1972. So it’s just a year younger than I am. However, it’s in great shape and I had it completely re-wired, last year, before it went into storage for the winter.

Now that the new season is almost upon us (it starts the May long weekend) I have a decision to make. In the past I’ve always travelled with my trailer. I took my previous Boler to Prince Edward Island through Canada and to Rhode Island through the USA on different trips.

Last year I camped with my new trailer in Sturgeon Falls for the long weekend after buying it in North Bay. I like camping and I like travelling so it seems like I just need to decide where to travel to this summer.

So that was my original plan. I booked a shake-down camp in St Ignace the week following the long weekend in May and started planning a much longer trip to meet friends at their seasonal site in Alberta. But then I saw a posting by the Busy Beaver Campground on St Joseph’s Island just 45 minutes away. They have a few seasonal sites available. So yesterday I went out to see them for myself.

Two of the three sites wouldn’t work for me. One was very exposed and my fibreglass trailer would just become an oven without any shade. It had a great view of the water though! The second was tucked in between two other larger trailers. It had shade and a great view but I have two dogs and one of the big trailers had little children. I could see me spending my whole summer trying to get them to leave the dogs alone. It would also have been very difficult to enjoy if I didn’t get on with the owners of the two big trailers as I’d have to walk between their sites to get anywhere.

That brings me to the third. Which is tucked into the trees so it gets plenty of shade. It doesn’t have a perfect view but it’s not bad either and it’s less than a minute’s walk to get a better view. So I’m debating what to do…

Fortunately, Steve & Lorraine (owners and managers of the Busy Beaver Campground) don’t know for sure yet that the third site is available so I have some time to think. Do I want to try a year of seasonal camping in the same place?

On one level it appeals a great deal. Much as I love travelling it is a hassle to make and break camp every day or two. I love the idea of being able to leave clothes, things to do and some food there week to week.

It could be nice to be next to the same group of campers all summer. Though that could be bad too if we don’t get along! But I’m not too concerned with that as I can usually get along with most people and the campsite is strict about campers being quiet at night-time.

Not having a bathroom in my trailer the bathrooms on site were important to see and they are great. Newly renovated and exceptionally clean. They’re also accessed with a key so only campers on site can use them.

The good news is that the campsite doesn’t have WIFI. The bad news is that the campsite doesn’t have WIFI. Thankfully, I did have cell coverage by the office at least. I forgot to check at the actual campsites. So I wouldn’t be out of touch completely.

Given that I plan to spend most of my summer conducting a systematic review which entails a great deal of reading this could work out perfectly. Little distractions and plenty of time to work on my research. I just have to remember to make sure that I have copies of papers on my laptop itself and not just on my G drive.

So, assuming the site that I want is available I have to decide do I want to seasonal camp?

The maths is pretty simple. It works out that I need to spend 7-9 nights a month at the campsite to simply break even on what the cost of nightly camps would have been. If I am there more than that I gain.

Additionally, if I want to stay for next year I can store my trailer on the site and not have to move it. That appeals too and would save the storage fee that I’m currently paying.

Given my disabilities a seasonal site may be the safer option for me as well.

So it all comes down to the fact that I have to decide if I’m ready to have my wings clipped or not.

I’ll let you know what I decide…

Fake disabilities… Fake service dogs…

I’ve written before about the issue of certification for service dogs in Canada and how discriminatory some provinces are for service dogs and their handlers. However, there is a growing problem across Canada in terms of people faking disabilities in order to take their pet dog out in public.

Actually I doubt that they realise that that’s what they’re doing. However, if you take a pet dog out in public and call it a service dog when you’re not disabled to a point that a service dog mitigates your disability then you are faking a disability.

To have a service dog in Ontario a medical professional must have written you a letter, that you must carry with you, that states that you need a service dog to mitigate your disability. Without that letter a dog, no matter how well behaved, is a fake service dog.

Why is this such an issue? Well it takes about 2 years to fully train a service dog and training continues throughout its working life. Service dogs are trained to cope with a huge variety of situations and scenarios. Throughout all they are required to be calm, quiet and do their job.

Pet dogs are not trained to the levels that a service dog is. Even extremely well trained dogs, such as a police dog, is not expected to behave as calmly as a service dog is.

So when you bring your pet dog out in public and come across a legitimate service dog team the majority of pet dogs will misbehave. They’ll bark, lunge, try to ‘say hello’ to the service dog and in some cases even attack the service dog. I know of several teams whose service dogs have been attacked and the dog had to be retired from service work as a consequence. Leaving that handler isolated and bereft.

Additionally, people take their pet dogs out in public and they are way beyond their comfort level so they misbehave. That puts the next service dog team at risk of being refused public access due to the first dogs behaviour. It’s not right and shouldn’t happen, but it does.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are an American concept and is needed to allow pets in non pet friendly housing. They do not exist in Canada, aside from in Calgary by-laws for livestock! With that exception either your dog is a full service dog or it’s not.

If it’s not then please realise that when you take your pet dog out in public and call it a service dog that you are really faking a disability.

To be totally honest having a service dog is hard work. It’s not something many people would choose unless they’ve tried everything else first. It’s like having a permanent toddler. Everywhere I go I have to think about my dog’s safety and what tools, such as boots or ear protection, I might need.

Additionally, I have to be ready to deal with the people who try and interact with my dog when it’s working despite a clearly labelled vest which asks people to ignore the dog. I also have to be ready to listen to everybody’s dead dog story. I have no idea why service dog handlers are expected to listen to such stories but I’m not alone in coming across this. Even if people leave us alone they still point and stare. Working a service dog is not for the faint at heart. A 10 minute trip to the store can become 30-45 minutes easily just dealing with other people.

So let me reiterate: Please stop taking out pet dogs and calling them service dogs. You are discriminating against the disabled in doing so and making the life of legitimate service dogs teams much harder. Please just stop!

A service dog at work in the classroom

Unfortunately, we often hear in the press of schools refusing to allow service dogs in the classroom to work with their child partners. Either the school believes that they can provide the services that the service dog does, they’re concerned as to whether the child can fully handle the dog (including its potty breaks), or they simply don’t want a dog in the classroom.

In my case, the situation is a little different. I’m a Professor at Algoma University and my service dog accompanies me everywhere that I go, including my classroom. It takes a lot of time to train a service dog to handle a classroom situation. I often teach three hour classes. That’s a long time for a dog to hold a down stay. However, Kai (my service dog) does that on a weekly basis.

When I first started taking my service dog to class I was probably as nervous about how the students would handle the situation as much as how my dog would do. I shouldn’t have worried. My students are outstanding. They totally ignore Kai, even though many of them would love to pet him.

For his part, he curls up behind the lectern and as long as I stay within his sight he stays there for the full class unless he needs to alert me. His alerts are subtle and often not even noticed by the students. Sometimes I move out of his sight without thinking and he’ll come up to me and sit or lie down next to me until I move back near the lectern once more. Then he’ll return to his spot and wait. My classroom and my office are the only times that he’s off leash. The rest of the time I wear a cross-body leash that has him attached to me but leaves my hands free.

The only time that students even mention him after the first couple of weeks of classes is when he has his winter or summer boots on to protect his feet. I will admit that he does look cute in his boots though it’s like having a toddler watching to make sure that he always has four on and hasn’t managed to take one off. He’s good with them though as long as I get them on well he leaves them alone.

Kai is trained as a hearing dog primarily, then for mobility and mental health. Unfortunately, it wasn’t appropriate to train him as an allergy alert dog as my main allergen, citrus, is so prevalent in society and a dog’s nose so sensitive that he would be constantly alerting. Having said that, Kai has trained himself to respond to my having an allergic reaction far more quickly than I even notice that I’m having one. So, I’ve learned to listen to him and his actions and consequently saved myself from several anaphylactic reactions by being able to remove myself from the allergen quickly enough.

My colleagues are so used to my having Kai with me that if I’m ever alone, the first question is always ‘Where’s Kai?’. I’m not alone often but he does have to be clipped every six weeks to keep him looking good. Kai attends meetings with me and has a bed in my office where he can relax comfortably while I work.

Even though he’s a poodle, which are considered hypoallergenic, the University has accommodated people who are allergic to him as well as accommodating my need to have him with me. I can’t thank our Human Resources department enough for all the work they have done in this regard.

One day, we’ll probably come across another service dog team in the workplace when a student brings their service dog to class. It hasn’t happened so far but as the use of service dogs becomes more prevalent I’m sure that day isn’t long off.

For today though, I’m thankful that my employer accommodates my needs without any great debate and that I have never had to fight for accommodation in this area like so many students have.

Velvet boy is home….

Kai went to the groomers today. He usually goes about every 6 weeks. However, for a number of reasons it was closer to 2 months between clips this time. I dropped off a scruffy, dirty dog and got back a velvet boy very happy to be home.

I keep Kai in what’s called a ‘kennel’ or ‘puppy’ clip. It’s very short and as a result when he’s first clipped he feels like crushed velvet. When his coat is longer it’s more like the curly wool of a sheep as he has hair rather than fur. That’s why standard poodles are considered hypoallergenic by many.

He has his face and paws clipped even tighter which helps keep him clean and also helps me with his working gear. He wears a halti when he’s working and often has to wear boots either because of the hot sidewalks in summer, or the snow, ice and salt in winter.

While he was being groomed I took the opportunity to take Molly for a walk on her own. We met up with a friend and had a short walk in the drizzle along the boardwalk. Molly enjoyed the morning without Kai.

Right now she’s been pushed down the couch so that Kai can get back in next to me. She’s very tolerant of him as he’s very insistent on being next to me. She loved bedtime though when there’s space for both of them to be next to me! It’s a good job I’m single as I’m not quite sure where we’d fit another person in with the three of us and I have a king-size bed!!

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>Thankfully it was a quiet day for me. I try to plan Kai’s grooming days for such time as I find it very hard to manage without him. I forget how much I rely on him, until days like today when he’s just not there. I even had to pick my own cell phone up when I dropped it this morning!

Welcome home, Kai!