Listen, Observe and Respect

As a Service Dog handler I hear constantly to “educate” people about Service Dogs and the laws.  As a community SD people try to help one another not to forget it isn’t about you it’s about the next SD team that comes to where you are now.  If you have an access issue we tell each other, “Stay calm, tell them the law, repeat yourself, give them a hard copy of the law, give the the 800 number for the ADA, educate, remain calm, think about the next team behind you- make it better for them” etc.  I try as much as possible to stick to this model, I carry little printed out cards that have the ADA laws, phone number and appropriate questions on it, I explain (often beyond the ADA required explanation) what my SD does and why I need him with me, often revealing personal information to do so.  Generally I don’t have a problem with this but what I do have a problem with is when people think they are entitled to this information because I have a SD.

The whole point of a SD is so that I can live my life as normally as possible.  While I understand that taking a goofy looking (I love him, but he looks like a cartoon character), dog in a vest every where I go attracts attention.  I explain it to other people who ask whether they should get a SD that when you are accompanied by a SD you carry with you an “attractive nuisance” much like a pasture full of horses.  Even if people aren’t invited and the fence is posted as electric, they will pull over and take pictures and/or reach through the fence to pet/touch your horses.  Well with a SD, even when your dog is labeled “Service Dog Do Not Distract” people will.  They will stare, talk to, touch, pet, push, step on, even kick your SD.  You have to be prepared to protect your dog whenever necessary.  They will stop you from what you are doing and ask questions (and yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question) or even demand information.  This applies to both businesses and “civilians” if you will.  People think that because you have the right to have this dog with you all the time that they have the right to know why, in full detail.  I try to keep a good attitude and explain that I have type 1 diabetes, he is a medical alert dog and he alerts to dangerous fluctuations in my blood sugar.  Often, this answer is like opening Pandora’s box.  Then people want to know how he knows, how he alerts, what numbers he will alert at, why I need a dog to help me with my diabetes, why can’t I take care of myself etc.  If I choose to not get into specifics with people then Judah becomes an imposter dog that I put a  fake vest on and I become a liar, all because I just want to shop like them and every other patron in the store.

Beyond all the complications of having a SD with me, it works for me.  He makes my control better, he makes me more confident and less afraid to drive and do things on my own.  Before Judah started working I wasn’t driving, wasn’t doing anything without a “chaperone” because I was terrified of something happening without help near by.  I don’t think a SD works for everyone, even some people who want a SD aren’t equipped or prepared to live and travel with one.  The cost money, they need to be clean, groomed and trimmed regularly, they require you to be attentive to the needs of another living thing while already having to be attentive to your own disability.  It’s a lot of work and responsibility every time you go anywhere or do anything.  This extra work would make things too complicated for some people, some people don’t like dogs, some people aren’t able to handle the care and constant training that comes with having a SD- so they don’t have one.  So when people say to me, “Well, so-and-so has diabetes and he doesn’t need a SD to deal with it” I really want to reply with something like, “Wow he so lucky!  I wish I wasn’t such a lazy shmuck who didn’t take care of myself” or “yeah well you know having random people stop me, interrogate me, take pictures or video of me (yeah that happens too), tell me I can’t go places, and tell me how to take care of myself is awesome, it makes me feel important. So I take my dog everywhere!”

Type 1 vs. Type 2 A simple, short explanation.

This brings me to my next point, I have type 1 diabetes, it is not the same as type 2 diabetes.  In fact, there really isn’t anything about them that’s the same except that they both effect the endocrine system.  I am not going to play the “my diabetes is better or worse than yours” game here either.  They both suck.  The easiest way for me to explain the difference is that one is an auto immune disorder (type 1) and the other is the result of many things including; a hormone released by belly fat that makes it difficult for your body to use insulin, the bodies inability to produce enough insulin (usually due to too much stress on the pancreas), and often is related to poor diet and too much inactivity.

Often type 2 can be managed through a great diet and exercise plan, it can even be completely reversed!  Type 1 cannot be reversed, it can not be managed without insulin, in fact without insulin I would die- so would you, your mom, your great auntie and you super in shape brother who is in the marines.  Insulin is necessary for your body to live, end of story.  Type 1 diabetes is when a person’s immune system attacks their pancreas (really it’s more like attacks their islet cells where your beta cells live) and it prevents it from producing the insulin hormone (along with other hormones) which is essential for life.  Without insulin your body can not use the fuel that you put into it, literally, I could eat everything in sight and would still starve to death.  The only way to live with type 1 diabetes is to inject insulin into the body from an outside source.

Now, when people suggest that if I had led a better life then I wouldn’t have to deal with this in the first place it makes me the closest to homicidal I have ever (and hopefully will ever) been.  I couldn’t have stopped my immune system from attacking my own body, that’s what autoimmune diseases are- when a persons immune system attacks their own body for an unknown reason.  So, when people who know me (or who don’t know anything about me) tell me that I shouldn’t take insulin and that I should eat some special diet and exercise more it takes everything I have to hold my composure and try to explain to them that no matter what I do, I have to take insulin.  I send them to definitions and resources so they can see the difference between the two types (there are more than 2 types but most confusion centers around 1 and 2), explain that there has been type 1 diabetes for much longer than we have had fast food restaurants and TV dinners (There is documentation of diabetes as early as 1552 BC*).  Trust me, if I could “cure” my diabetes by running everyday and eating more veggies and protein I would.  Yes, a better diet and more exercise helps type 1 patients to stay healthy, reduce their insulin requirements (exercise makes you more insulin sensitive), and regulate fluctuations- no denying that!  BUT, no matter how perfect we take care of our disease, we still must take insulin, or die. Period.  I have had a “friend” tell me that I am “stupid for taking some medicine a doctor tells me to take, just because he told me to take it”, that if I did more research I could find a better way to treat and cure my diabetes!  Well shit sign me up!

I find it exhausting to try and educate people who have clearly already made up their minds about these things long before they have ever met me or Judah.  Some people will get the message, will step back and listen.  These people will also walk away thinking, they will get home and google some things, read articles and educate themselves.  The “other” people will argue with you, call you names and won’t allow themselves to learn a damn thing.  At some point you have to accept that this person is ignorant and doesn’t have any interest in talking to you and not at you.  So for those people I am glad that there are laws on the book to protect me, but at the same time how can I be satisfied with leaving the conversation as so unsuccessful?  I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve decided; if I can walk away from the conversation having kept my composure, not having used derogatory language, listened to said ignorant person’s opinions, and didn’t stoop to their level then I have successfully navigated that interaction.

We type 1’s don’t choose to operate this way, we don’t choose to stick needles in our stomachs over and over again just for shits and giggles, we choose to live.  I am so tired of people telling me I am wrong, that I can do better, and that I am silly for taking the “easy way out” by using insulin (yes, I’ve heard that one too).  I use insulin because I love my family, my boyfriend and my life.  I use insulin because while not using it might be the easiest diet in the world (OOooo I was SO skinny when I got diagnosed, I’d never been a “skinny” girl before!) it will also kill me, slowly and painfully.  I use insulin because I have pets (and a SD) that I committed to taking care of for the rest of their lives.  I use insulin because I haven’t finished saving dogs from uneducated hands and bringing them back to a happy balanced life yet.  I use insulin because I want to make sure that I can see to it that people who don’t know anything about my disease are taught everything they should know.

I use insulin because I am not finished here, I have a message to send and a difference to make.

*http://www.defeatdiabetes.org/about_diabetes/text.asp?id=Diabetes_Timeline  <– This is a cool timeline of the history of diabetes!  Check it out!

pictures in this post are NOT my own, they are the result of a google search.

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Husky Wants to Run!

Judah has finally gotten “good” enough (and I have finally gotten the guts) to get on some roller blades and go for an adventure with my husky man.  I have always wanted to do this but have always been concerned that Judah would, well, kill me.  He is a very good boy and has always been pretty responsive to me but he’s still a dog, a fast, strong dog.  He also has a propensity for chasing squirrel and/or chipmunks.  He also has an aptitude for catching them.  Now when most people hear me say that I get a response like they are repulsed or saddened by this, no need!  Judah is a catch and release man.  In fact he usually seems surprised and confused when he catches them, he looks at me with concern in his eyes and a mouth full of creature.  Then when I say, “Drop it” he does, and watches said creature run away.

Well the other day I finally decided to go for it.  Just a little up and down the street in front of my mom’s house.  I had a witness (chaperone) keep an eye on me just in case but all went pretty well!  The only time I fell was when the puppy decided he wanted to try and he got a little tangled up in my feet.  It wasn’t a bad fall, a little road rash but no broken skin.  Judah knows (and is great with) voice commands, he has pulled me before on skis and has done a lot of running (in front of the car) so he has had lots of practice.  He knows commands for faster, slower, right and left (not perfect on the turn directions but he gets the idea) and stop.  Well after our successful, though short, first time with husky pulling woman on roller blades I decided we were ready to step it up a bit.

Sunday I got up, ate breakfast and had some coffee.  After that I decided, “What the hell?  Why not give it a try?” so I suited up.  I packed my meter, a juice, told Marshall which direction we were going to head in and we agreed if I wasn’t back in an hour and fifteen minutes he’d jump in the car and come peel me off of the pavement.  I took a deep breath and headed out the door.  Judah knew exactly what we were doing and he seemed pretty happy about it.  He walked next to me down the driveway poking the roller blades every other step and wagging his tail ferociously (he’s not really a tail wager).  We made it to the end of the driveway and I sat down to put my blades on.  Check my sugar one last time (155 mg/dl a little high but the activity would bring it down so no correction).  Put on Judah’s vest and head out!

Confession:  Right now Judah is pulling in his Service Dog vest… controversial I know.  The truth is I am doing this for two reasons; 1.) I had a custom pulling harness made for Judah a couple winters ago and it no longer fits him.  So until I get a new one… 2.)  If I go down out on the road and am unresponsive- it is important that any emergency responders know that Judah is my SD, and he shouldn’t be separated from me.  Marshall and my mother both expressed concern about this blurring the line between work and play.  I don’t share this concern mostly because I don’t have issues distinguishing between the two with him.  In addition once I have his new harness made we will switch to the pulling harness for these running activities.  Then perhaps I will have to get a couple SD patches for the harness just in case…?

Judah took off at a VERY fast pace right out of the gate and I had a moment of hesitation.  What was I thinking, I’m not that good on roller blades and living out in the boonies means these roads are not straight or flat.  I mean what happens if he decides to keep charging downhill?  Granted I could just let the leash go and call him back but that defeats the purpose and is too dangerous on the road.  Luckily as we approached the end of the street we live on and I gave the “whoa” command he immediately fell to a heal position and gave me eye contact.  We nicely stopped at the end of the road and watched two cars pass.  I decided to go against traffic so I could easily see oncoming traffic but quickly realized this was not going to be the right approach to this adventure.  The truth is we were going way too fast to be traveling like a pedestrian.  We have clocked Judah running (with no back pack and not pulling) at 30MPH, we weren’t going that fast but would have easily flown by a leisurely bike rider.  So after we cleared our first downhill we switch back to the right side of the road to continue our run, never missing a beat.

Up hill, downhill, corners and over the bridge, Judah kept running.  He was very responsive and clearly in his bliss, it was honestly the coolest thing I have ever done with this dog.  He was doing what he truly loves to do, what he was made for.  At every uphill I would start to skate to try and relieve the pressure on Judah, I didn’t want to push him too far our first time out.  Well I would relieve the tension from the pulling lead (attached to the vest, I had another longer leash on his flat collar for direction and control) he would push forward and take the tension back up, he loved the sensation of pulling me, and I loved it too!  I began getting into a “tuck” (like I used too when dry land training for alpine skiing) and letting him pull me freely.  It didn’t take long and he completely picked up on what we were doing and how it needed to be done.

On our adventure we passed, loose dogs, tied dogs, squirrels and birds- Judah did little more than tip an ear at them and when I’d say, “On by, hike hike” his ear would come off them and he’d continue forward.  We even had a deer run across the road in front of us on our way back and while he did get a little faster a quick, “ah ah leave it, easy” set him right back into rhythm.  We made it all the way home and came to a nice stop at the end of the dirt driveway.  I gave the “stay here” command and took my blades off as well as Judah’s equipment.  When I had my crocs back on we walked up the driveway (yeah he actually walked somewhere without being told to heal).  I came in the front door and when Marshall heard me he appeared in the stairway looking concerned.

“We just made it to the post office and back.”

He looked stunned, “You have been gone for 35 minutes I thought something was wrong because you were back so fast.”

“How far do you think that is?”

“It has to be at least 4 or 5 miles, at least.”

“Nice!”

We went back out again today and did the same run.  This time we shaved off at least 5 minutes!  This boy loves to run!  I will try to get some pictures and maybe even video of this soon!  He is really something to see when he’s moving like that, absolutely gorgeous!

Epic Meltdown? Oh yeah.

Over the past year I’ve learned a lot about how diabetes can influence your emotional state and your personality.  Different people have different symptoms or ways that these particular things manifest themselves.  I go one of two ways (or a combination of the two) one we have affectionately (or not) named “The Dragon Lady” the other is just “The Meltdown”.  The Dragon Lady tends to arrive when I have missed a meal, and therefore a dose of insulin and a necessary intake of carbs.  The Meltdown tends to manifest when I have had a bit of a roller coaster day as far as glucose goes.  Well the day before thanksgiving was certainly a meltdown day.

I woke up once again to a paw in the back of the head, ugh.  Well I have managed to sleep in later than usual.  “What is it?”  I roll over and Judah climbs on top of me and begins to bump my face.  When Judah is laying on top of my he doesn’t generally distinguish between high or low, he just wants me to test.  This morning however he was continually pawing my chest with one foot, must be high this morning.  Test strip, prick finger, squeeze, apply blood to strip, beep, wait, beep beep and… 209mg/dl (8:44 AM)… shit.  Guess it’s time to get up and eat.  Shit, not the way I wanted to start my day.  Get up, make eggs with a single piece of toast, give correction and bolas (aggressive correction, I always need more insulin for the first half of the day).  I admit I got pretty lost in the day for the rest of the morning and didn’t test again until 11:30 AM (prompted by Judah) 200mg/dl- well I still have Insulin on board (IOB) so I’ll wait until lunch and see what it does.  This makes Judah upset, he wants me to do something, sometimes I wish I could explain my logic.

Well Judah decides that because I am making the wrong decision he will shadow me for the next hour until he alerts again and this time is insistent.  He brings my kit to me, not taking “no” for an answer.  I test again, 200mg/dl (12:21 PM), damn it, this is kind of bullshit.  So I make lunch (black beans, red pepper, onion, mushroom, broccoli- sauteed in a pan with olive oil, add a little apple cider vinegar and some of the bean juice from the can right before you shut it off, delicious!) and give my self another correction and bolas.  Eat lunch, let the dogs out, play chase the stick for a while and Judah wants to stay outside when the rest of us decide we are done.  He does this, when you call everyone to come in he will lay down in the middle of the yard and look at you.  If you tell him, “No, it’s time to go in” he will but it’s a nice cool day and his husky body loves it.  So I clip him onto the run (he is still a dog and has a great weakness for squirrels) just to be safe and head inside.  I bake some rolls for Thanksgiving dinner and settle down to some computer time.

Before too long I hear Judah outside starting to fuss, a little whining and I can hear him jumping up and down on the deck.  “Must be ready to come in now” to the the other three dogs in the house (one is my mother’s) and I head to the front door.  As I step out onto the deck Judah seems to be losing his mind.  He is acting like he hasn’t seen me in a week.  He jumps up onto me, seriously, my dog doesn’t jump on people, especially not me!  “Off” I make him sit and un-clip the run from his collar.  He breaks the sit, bump, bump bump, bump, he’s frantic.  “What is it?”  Two paws to the chest, hard.  He sits down and then again, too paws to the chest.  “Alright, alright let’s go check.”  I opened the front door and Judah immediately went to the den and sat next to my kit on the table.

Strip, prick the finger, squeeze, apply the blood to the strip, beep, wait, beep beep and… 55mg/dl (3:25PM), holy shit.  “Good low, Judah, good boy.”  I head into the kitchen and grab a Capri Sun (17 carbs) and suck it down.  It freaks me out that I can be that low and not feel anything strange, I really don’t know what would happen without my Judah!  Now me being a bit ADHD I wonder off on a new project and don’t test again until Judah tracks me down (upstairs now) about an hour later.  Bump, “Seriously?!  What is it?” One paw to the knee, “Show me again, what is it?”  Again, one paw to the knee, this time he flexes his foot so it feels like he’s grabbing me.  “Alright, we’ll check, get your kit.”

I follow him down the stairs and he meets me in the kitchen with the kit.  Strip, prick the finger, squeeze, apply the blood to the strip, beep, wait, beep beep and… 170 mg/dl (4:33PM)  “What the fuck is this bullshit?!”  What a day!  Well I made the decision not to correct this high and see where it went.  Marshall got home a little late so we were looking at a late dinner.  What a frustrating day I’ve had, up and down, with no pattern I could really follow and it was making me feel tired and sick.  Well poor Marshall makes it home and I begin to feel less tough and less in control (it’s easy to feel like I can handle anything when I don’t have a choice).  Marshall knows that when I have a day like this I tend to be a bit of a sissy girl when he gets home, like a little kid, I just need someone else to deal with this garbage sometimes.  It is totally unfair of me to think that Marshall should take this burden from me and usually I recognize that, but not today.  He walks in the door right after another alert from Judah, a low (65mg/dl 7:10PM).

I rip my meter out of the case and show him all my readings for the day, explaining that this second low is after an uncorrected high.  He can tell I’m not feeling good about things.  He recommends I eat chocolate to correct the low (and probably hoping it will correct my attitude as well) and I do, dark chocolate with hazelnuts 🙂 my fav.  Not long after that as I am sitting there watching Marshall make dinner (bless him for being SO good to me, he just worked all day and he’s the one making dinner) I get to feeling exceptionally mopey.  I headed upstairs and curled up on my bed, alone, in the dark.  Now I don’t even remember if I said something rude to Marshall or not, but I do know that my mom felt the need to come upstairs and roust me.  I heard her coming up the stairs and I started to cry… shit.  She sat down on the bed and began what felt like an interrogation (it wasn’t, she was simply investigating the situation).  I kept telling her to “Go away” and “Leave me alone”, it must have felt like a flash back to 10 year old me after being grounded.  After she failed after many attempts to get me up she declared she was going to mess with my ferrets and I’d better get up and chaperone her.  Proof of 10 year old me being present, it worked, I got up, stopped crying and went into the “weasel room” (as we call it) and told her all their names and personalities.  She convinced me to come downstairs and told me to check my sugar again.

I get to my meter in the kitchen and test.  The number comes up and I am back into meltdown, and now it’s reached epic proportions.  250mg/dl (7:57PM)  “What the hell is going on?!  I can’t keep doing this shit.  This doesn’t make any sense, up and down, up and down enough!  I don’t wanna do this anymore, I don’t want this anymore.  I give up!”  I am sure these and a slue of other ridiculous statements were flowing out of my mouth at a shocking pace and volume.  Everything my mom says to try and calm me down just seems to send me farther over the edge.  I am fairly certain that this is when she retreated to the other room (we were all supposed to watch a movie together) with my father and brother visiting from college.  Marshall managed to at least bring my volume down and told me that if the number made no sense to me then I should wash my hands and check again.  Perhaps there was chocolate on my finger?  (I was in such a tizzy I hadn’t used an alcohol wipe)  I was crying my eyes out as I washed my hands and checked again, 189 mg/dl (8:03PM).  Instantly I calm down, it is high but makes way more sense (I may have gone a little overboard on the chocolate).  I give a correction and bolas for dinner.

We make our way into the den to join my family and watch “Bad Ass”.   Before the movie is over I check again (Judah demanded) and it’s 183mg/dl (9:54PM)  I still have IOB so I wait it out.  Marshall and I head outside with the dogs right before we go to bed.  We play with Judah and  the puppy for a while and though Judah is bumping and poking me I assume this is all part of the excitement of playing.  We head inside and upstairs (we have recently moved into my parents house to save up some money so hopefully we can buy next year!).  Marshall and I settle into bed and watch some TV.  Judah begins banging on the bedroom door wanting to get out, I assume to go and hang out with the rest of my family who is still up and about.  We let him out and less than a minute later my mom is at the bottom of the stairs, “What does one paw mean?”

“Huh?”

“What does one paw mean?  Judah just came down to the den and stared at me, when I asked him what was up he gave me one paw and then stared at me until I stood up.”

“One paw is high.”

“Well check your sugar please.”

So I checked, “151, it’s high, not wicked high, but too high.”

“Wow, I mean I know that he alerts, but he just came to tell me!  Your dog has just impressed me so much, he is really amazing.”

I couldn’t help but giggle (at least I wasn’t crying again), I looked at Marshall and then said to my mom, “I think he was trying to alert outside but we were all playing so I wasn’t really getting it I guess.”

“So he came to tell me?!”

“Yeah, if I don’t ‘get it’ he will find someone that does.  He’s a pretty smart guy.”

“Incredible.”

It’s true, he is incredible.  So is Marshall for not only taking on the burden of financially supporting us right now, but for taking on the burden of a girlfriend with type 1 diabetes and never even considering running for the hills.  Of course my family is also incredible for understanding the meltdown is absolutely nothing personal and for taking in me and Marshall and our brood of animals (3 dogs, 4 ferrets, a bird and a turtle- our cat is being elsewhere because my mother’s cat doesn’t do cats).  I find that in the moment these meltdowns feel so real, so awful and totally necessary at the time.  Looking back now I can see how irrational the whole evening was, but while I was standing in it it was the most genuine feeling ever.

I checked one last time at 11:45PM to finally get a good reading of 128 mg/dl and got to go to sleep, which I clearly needed.  Ugh, what a day!

Oh and I loved the movie by the way 🙂

This is our Family Picture from Thanksgiving. I am not sure that my sister wants her kid’s photos plastered on the internet so I cropped the part of the picture I know everyone really wants to see anyway! 🙂

Give Thanks.

This time of year people are always explaining what they are thankful for.  They announce it over facebook or other social media, they make it a daily activity at school or even the office.  I always think that this is a wonderful tradition that reminds people how lucky they are and helps them realize what is really important.  This year however I’ve developed a slightly different opinion on this tradition.  Thanksgiving means a lot to people and it can also mean a lot of different things to those people.  For instance for my family it is a time that we get our family together in one place with no scheduling nightmares and no one rushing off to work, school, etc.  However, it is also the day that my Aunt Helene (my mothers sister) passed away after a long battle with leukemia.

I will never forget that day, we were at my grandparents house (dad’s parents) when the phone rang and we got the news.  It was a hard day for all of us, especially my mom of course.  Now every year we confront this day trying to make sure we use it to celebrate our lives but there is always the awareness that this day was also Helene’s final goodbye.  I have had people express how sorry they are that this day that is supposed to be about thanks and joy has been turned into a reminder of losing a loved one.  I have been thinking about this a lot lately and while I am so sorry and sad to have lost her I am not sorry that it was on Thanksgiving day.  The truth is I am thankful.  I am thankful that through all her fighting she was never alone.  I am thankful that she was able to be with us as long as she was, that she got to see her kids go through much of life’s trials (though not all) before she had to leave.  I am thankful that she had a chance to say goodbye to all the people that she loved.

I don’t mean to be morbid, but through all the years since she has been gone I have wondered why that date doesn’t evoke a more emotional and sad response.  After the past year and all of the things that I have gone through, how sick I was and how scary that experience was has given me perspective.  I don’t want to feel bad about saying goodbye.  I want to feel glad that she was able to tell the people she loved what she needed to and that when the cancer took everything that made her who she was she was able to go.  I am thankful.  Thankful that every year on Thanksgiving I get to look back at the good fight she fought and the impact she was able to have on people.  She taught us a lot, how to be strong and how to love no matter what stands in our way.

So this year I am thankful for perspective, for life and love.  I am thankful that I have a family that stands by me even if they think I am making the wrong choice.  I am thankful for friends (even when they get lost within themselves) and thankful for the time to make new ones.  I am thankful for the sun, the moon, the stars and all the things I don’t understand about the universe.  I am thankful that I am still here because I haven’t finished learning things.  I am thankful a dog that understands me and what I need better than even I do.  I am thankful for generosity, humility, honor, and forgiveness.  I am thankful for respect, education, communication, and happiness.  I am thankful for everything that makes my life what it is and what it can be.  Dare I say that I am even thankful for diabetes?

In some strange way I think I am.  Being diagnosed with this disease and knowing that even with PERFECT control and care my life will certainly be shortened (an average of 10-13 years I’ve read) has made me realize that I need to just live my life.  It has taught me that everyday should start and end with me sharing my love and respect with those who mean the most to me.  I has taught me that being thankful can mean a lot of things and that no matter how limited I may be, I’m here and I’m still fighting.  So don’t forget to look around and remember what you would be missing if it was all over tomorrow and don’t forget to make sure that everyone in your life knows how you feel!

Happy Thanksgiving, eat lots and don’t forget to Bolas! 🙂

Laugh, Love and LIVE!

I find that it is easy for me to forget how lucky I am and how special Judah is.  Type 1 diabetes is something that no matter what I do, I will never get rid of, I will never “get better”.  This is a very difficult thing to accept about my life, but over the last year I have slowly come to recognize that this is just part of me now, part of who I am.  It is incredibly difficult to try to explain to people what it is like to have diabetes, what it is like to be in a true battle for life.  The truth is, that is what I do.  I fight for the right to live, my enemy is my own body.  This is very hard to accept and it’s even harder to try to explain what state of mind it can put you in.  This is especially true when the journey starts off with you being EXTREMELY ill, being that close to being gone (dead) is very shocking.  I have one tool that helps me to battle with my body and my mind.

Judah is my service dog and my best tool.  The technical term is “owner trained service dog” but the truth is more like “dog trained owner”.  Judah taught himself to alert when my blood sugar was too high (at that time I was VERY RARELY low).  After I introduced him to the low scent (saliva sample) one time he began to “real-time” alert.  He taught me how to understand his alerts, when I need snacks, when I need more insulin, but what’s more, he knows when I am just tired of it all and he doesn’t let me stop fighting.  There are days where I would love to go through the day without testing, taking insulin or counting carbs, but I can’t do that and Judah doesn’t let me forget.  As “cool” as it is that Judah does his job sometimes I wish he would let me get away with being “bad” sometimes.  I always say that sometimes I just want to pretend that I am not diabetic- but the truth is, I am.  Really, if I ever “forget” it just makes it harder for me once I decide to “remember” again.

There are plenty of times when Judah has reminded me that this is who I am now, this is my life and then only way to keep it is to keep fighting.  This morning was no exception.  Marshall and I are in the process of moving out of our own house and into my parents house (bless my parents for offering to take us, and our brood of animals, in).  This morning at  6:30 I was woken up by a dog on top of me (there were 4 dogs sleeping in our room, our three and my parent’s dog).  I didn’t even pick up my head, I snuggled my face deeper into the pillow and asked, “Is that Judah?”  Marshall confirmed the identity of this current smotherer and I asked, “What is it?”  With that I was bumped and smacked with a paw in the back of the head.  “Alright we’ll check.”  He accepted this and jumped off the bed and I slid out of the room to go down to the bathroom.  When I came back Marshall had placed my kit on my pillow (human hint- more subtle than the dog beating me in the head, but still, the end goal was clear) so I crawled up to my pillow which Judah was now sitting next to.

The boys seem to be settling into my parent’s house just fine. A little too comfortable perhaps?

When I picked up my kit, Judah moved down to the end of the bed and watched me.  I sleepily stick the test strip in my meter and prick my finger, blood to the strip, beep, wait, beep beep.  “Good high Judah, good boy.”  Marshall comes back into the room, “What was it?”  I grin and pat Judah on the head, “217.”  Marshall (also still sleepy), “Good boy Judah, good boy.”  Marshall slides back into bed and I dole out a correction dose, Judah watches me inject and then decides he is going to sit and stare at me.  I was sitting at the foot of the bed talking to Marshall and Judah is sitting opposite me, periodically alerting to the high sugar.  At first I thought, “alright give it a rest I gave insulin there is nothing else I can do” but as he continued to sit, content to watch me and remind me that something wasn’t right I couldn’t help but feel content too.  As much as I would rather have slept in and pretended I didn’t have diabetes this morning he knew that this wasn’t an option.  Judah knew that for me to really have a good day, I would need to have a good glucose, I would need to not beat myself up about why and how and just deal with it.

Judah doesn’t care if I am not in the mood, too tired, too busy, angry, sad, excited, anxious, sick, healthy, or just plain exhausted.  He doesn’t care if I think he is wrong or even if we aren’t together, he knows that it is important for him to do his job.  He seems to know that my life depends on him.  How do you show gratitude to a dog for keeping you alive?  How do you show him that he is the difference between living life and struggling to live?  Well for Judah it seems, his reward is that I am still here and that he gets to continue doing his job, it’s true they don’t ask for much in return do they?!  I believe that all dogs are special, that they all have something to give and that they all deserve the absolute best we can give them.  Service dogs are no exception, they give us our lives back, keep us getting up each morning and never ask for anything except the love of the pack.  Judah took on this job himself, taught me be healthy himself, taught me how to keep my head up himself, and wants  nothing more than to share it all with me.

I guess it’s easy to forget everything he does for me everyday because no one taught him how- no one asked him to do that.  Sometimes it takes slowing down and looking into his eyes for me to remember that he just wants to make sure that I am going to be here.  It’s easy to take him for granted, it’s easy to forget and he doesn’t care.  He doesn’t care if he gets in trouble for breaking a down/stay ten times as long as he finally gets to alert me when something is wrong.  For Judah it’s worth ten corrections and scoldings to make one good alert, sure you can train this and someday when Judah retires I will train it, but there is NOTHING like true love, true devotion and the instinct to keep the pack safe and together.  He takes my breath away everyday.  Judah is love and trust at its absolute finest.  It’s nice to be reminded how special the relationship we have really is, I think he’s earned a good run today (that is Judah’s ultimate reward, he is a husky after all!).

This is Judah sitting with “Rudy” our parrotlet. Rudy is the boss of all our creatures, even the cat is afraid of him!

No Test Strips? No Problem For This Pooch!

Being a type 1 diabetic is very complicated, discouraging, scary, isolating, frustrating, and EXPENSIVE.  I don’t know how many diabetics out there do not have health insurance (or medicaid/medicare) but I am one of them.  I know I am certainly not alone but it seems to surprise people every time they find out that I have no health coverage (even doctors and nurses).  The truth is that I am lucky enough to have a boyfriend that doesn’t think twice when I say, “Just opened my last vial of test strips”.  He just replies, “Well we better order more”, no discussion needed.  There have been times that I have run out (though Marshall always fights me on this), because the truth is sometimes there are other things that need to be paid (though Marshall would choose test strips every time).

Well I order my test strips from amazon.com (cheapest place I have ever found) and this means that I have to be prepared to wait for these to arrive in the mail.  Occasionally my timing sucks… like this time.  I used my last test strip yesterday mid afternoon.  So, since then Judah’s alerts have been all I’ve had to go on (not an ideal situation).  He was confused and irritated when I would tell him he was a good boy without ever testing.  He brought my “kit” to me today multiple times and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t testing (I even tried faking it, but he knows how it’s supposed to beep when I test so he wasn’t buying it).  Now for those of you who aren’t sure how this works I will explain (at least how it works for me and Judah):

When Judah smells a change in my blood sugar he (in a perfect world with a perfect alert, which isn’t how it always goes) will bump me with his nose, and then, when prompted with, “What is it?” he will show either high or low. After he alerts, I test my sugar and correct as necessary.  He is honestly never wrong (save ONE time).  If I test and the meter reads that I am in range then it means I am going up or down- a recheck in fifteen minutes can settle that if I am not sure which way it’s headed.  He largely taught himself to do this and when I began doing exercises to nurture his new talent he immediately put together what the end goal was and now can tell me before my meter when something is happening.

Well I was 26 hours with no strips (until 3:45 this afternoon), which actually isn’t very long considering I had run out.  However, any diabetic will tell you- anytime without test strips seems like an eternity.  Needless to say today felt like a total crap shoot, I couldn’t test when I woke up, when I ate or when Judah alerted… bummer.  That being said, Judah still did his job all day and I had to accept that this was the closest I would get to and semblance of control today.

Now not being able to know how far out of range I was I had to develop a strategy.  So when Judah would alert high I would give one unit of insulin and wait, if he alerted low I would eat a snack of 10 or 15 carbs and wait.  Well I wasn’t sure if it was working but he didn’t alert again after I corrected, at least not soon enough that it was connected to the previous alert, at least that’s what I assume.  Not knowing whether this was a good plan or not was pretty hard to feel confident.  Being almost totally hypo and hyper unaware added to my anxiety about what my sugar was doing.  It was, needless to say, a stressful way to spend my day (especially the day before a job interview!).

I ran down to the mailbox this afternoon and (play heavenly music here, and shine white light on the mailbox) they were here!  Well I grabbed them and ran up to the house to test.  Funniest part of the day was when I finally got my strips and Judah was completely uninterested in my testing (which really doesn’t happen, he always wants to know), I couldn’t figure out what his deal was!  I would call him over, “Come on we are going to check” which would normally make him excited but attentive.  Not this time, he would come over look at my kit and then scamper off to play with the other dogs, what gives?  Finally he came over and laid on the couch next to me with a big sigh.

I slid the test strip into my meter and pricked my finger, I had to hold my breath while I waited for the reading.  I think I even closed my eyes when I heard the meter beep telling me that the results were in.  I took a deep breath and looked at the screen, no way!  114, seriously?  Well obviously I had nothing to worry about, of course I didn’t!  Judah knows what his job is and isn’t going to let me not being able to test ruin anything!  So I guess next time this happens (hopefully not too often) I will know that my boy has my back!

Job Hunting- What Will They Think About My Service Dog?

I have not had to apply for jobs since beginning to use Judah as a Medical Alert Service Dog.  The first job I had with him was at the family resort that I had grown up working at.  They knew Judah from the time he was a puppy and they have all been on this Diabetes journey with me.  The people that I was working with were the same people that watched me grow up and been active in my life the whole way.  It is a small family owned business and they have watched me grow up and have always been supportive of me and my whole family.

Now, my seasonal employment is over and I could really use a “real” job with a regular schedule and health insurance.  I am desperate for health insurance.  I lost my health insurance less than two months after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, at the time of diagnosis I was a size 1 pant (I am normally a 10 or 12) and my A1c was 15 (it should be around 6, the chart in the doctors office doesn’t go above 12), so I was a long way from healthy or controlling my disease.  With out health insurance I am not able to take care of myself the way I should.

I don’t go to the dentist (I have serious dental issues), eye doctor (should go twice a year), and can’t afford to by the testing supplies in the amount I really need.  I do get most of my supplies of the internet because that is the only way to keep any “in stock”.  Marshall is very good about making sure that I don’t run out of test strips (test strips save lives!), and I am lucky enough that the diabetes center that I go to gives me my insulin, bless them.  Without this donation (and the donations of people giving their extra insulin), and samples from pharmaceutical companies I would probably be in and out of the hospital constantly, or worse.  I hope to get a job soon that will allow me to get health insurance and to allow other people to be able to experience the help and generosity that I have.

I have an interview coming up for a retail position (not my dream job but it’s better than nothing) and I have to admit that I am nervous.  They reacted well enough to Judah when we went in to pick up my application but who knows how they will feel when they have to consider him being their with me daily.  I also have concerns about how Judah will do in that setting, not that I think he would act out, but it is a new setting and there could be a learning curve.  That being said I am hoping that everything will go smoothly.  I know that I can’t be discriminated against because of my dog but they don’t have to hire me either.

I live in New Hampshire, this is a hire and fire at will state.  So they don’t have to have a “valid reason” for firing a person.  This also means that they don’t have to hire me either, though it would look good for an equal opportunity employer.  I also am unsure of how to work in the retail setting with a service dog in tow.  It would certainly be a new challenge for us to learn to move around a retail store as an employee and not a customer.  I am honestly a little terrified, but I guess all I can do is wait and see what happens.  I have been looking for jobs for months now and this is the first place to actually call me back, that’s something.

I hope that everything goes well and that the interview is a success.  Selling sports gear isn’t exactly how I wanted to get back into the work force but I know that we need the income and honestly I am not cut out for being unemployed.  I get so bored and it causes me to become pretty lazy, this is not typical of me at all.  Never mind the fact that living out in the middle of nowhere and being unemployed means that I end up like a poorly socialized dog (he he).  I get super excited when I finally get a chance to socialize and tend to be a little more exuberant than my friends are prepared for.

So I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that Judah is on his best behavior and puts his best paw forward so that we can make a good impression.  I’ll keep you all posted!  Thanks for reading!