The Ground on Fire

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Well here is a post a little off topic, but totally worth mentioning (at least I think so).

While we were on vacation we decided to lay low for most of the trip, taking it easy, sleeping in, that sort of thing. There was one thing I wanted to do while in Pennsylvania. I wanted to visit Centralia. I had seen a documentary on the town via Netflix, “The Town that Was” I am pretty sure was the name of it. So here is the story with Centralia; in 1962 the town was burning trash at the landfill (pretty standard in those days) before the Memorial Day celebration that was held yearly at the near by cemetery. This particular year the fire wasn’t put out properly/completely or otherwise traveled down into the ground. Well Centralia was a mining town, coal actually. This fire caught one of the veins of coal on fire in the ground which eventually led to the entire mine becoming a huge underground fire. This fire swept through town (under the ground) and cause damage and high levels of carbon monoxide. The short version of the story is that after being unable to stop the fire the government bought the town and told the people they had to leave. Most people did and as they left their homes were knocked down as well as most of the other buildings.

There are a few die-hard citizens who refuse to leave. This is their town, where they grew up, had families and imagined their futures. Recently they sued to try to get their property back but their suite was denied. The fire still burns under the ground. It has moved outside of town and now burns in the hill behind the cemetery but the damage has been done. There is a large section of highway 61 that was closed and re-routed because of the fire damage.

We walked down that highway, looking at the graffiti as we went and then marveling at the damage that the coal fire had caused so many years ago. It was both eerie and exciting, it was like a scene straight out of The Walking Dead. Miles of divided highway stretched before us, partially overgrown, covered in spray paint and so very quiet. It was amazing (though covered in broken glass and oodles of spray painted penis’) and led my imagination to try to picture what it was like when this town was full of families and pets. The town street are all still in place with driveways and all, but the buildings are gone and the lots are becoming overgrown. What an amazing place. Apparently the movie “Silent Hill” (never seen it) was based (loosely) on the town of Centralia, and I could see how this setting would work well for a horror movie.

It IS right out of the Walking Dead!

It IS right out of the Walking Dead!

broken

After walking the highway and driving through town we decided to walk up the hill and try to find evidence of the fire. With Judah on leash and Musher’s Wax on his paws (to protect him from the heat and other things on the ground) we headed past the cemetery. It didn’t take long and we began to see puffs of smoke rise out of the hillside. We poked around for a while and found several small sink holes with condensation on and around them as well as steam and smoke rising out of them.
hole

It was amazing. It was a cool windy day and we decided to sit down and take in the view (which was GREAT as long as you didn’t face the opposing mining operation on the far hill) and so I could test my blood sugar. The ground was warm, to the touch, it reminded me of sitting in a heated seat in a car. I mean, noticeably warm to the touch, incredible.

The view from our seat.

The view from our seat.

While we were there we also saw several areas where the fire had broken through to the surface and scorched some things. So much of the area was overgrown but still identifiable that it seems to have effected me. I can’t get it out of my mind, what a place! It’s filled with so much history, hope, sadness and emptiness. I know that I want to go back and spend MORE time there, for sure.

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The Graduation, The Diabetes and The Dog.

As I mentioned before we just spent a week in Pennsylvania, we were there for my little brother’s (known from here on out as ‘Midge’) graduation from college. It was very exciting to see his campus for the first time and get to see him in cap and gown, what a day. I don’t mean to take away from the joy of Midge’s accomplishments, but I admit there was a part of that day that rivaled my brother’s success.
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We were onto week 2 of Judah being restricted to his leash because of a leg full of stitches, so needless to say this husky had some cabin fever but he was handling himself very well. We stood outside of the building graduation was happening in and waited for what seemed like forever. There were a limited number of seats and we wanted to make sure we were in the building where graduation was actually happening and didn’t want to end up watching it on a projection screen. My mother was the second person in line (of course) so we were guaranteed good seats. When they finally opened the doors we made our way to the middle of the room near the aisle. My parents and Marshall and I settled into our seats with Judah and I on the aisle for more space and an easy exit if necessary. Judah was more alert than he usually was by this point but I figured it was a new place and a strange place at that, plus he had just alerted to a low (very LOW by the time I actually tested) and I was sure I was now rising fast from over correcting. He alerted high and I checked (188 mg/dl), small correction and back to waiting. As the room filled up Judah became more and more distracted.

I expected a certain amount of unusual behavior from Judah in this strange setting, with not enough exercise, so far from home- but he was taking that to an extreme. He wouldn’t sit still, at all. He kept trying to touch the man sitting in front of me, with his snout, with his foot, with his body he didn’t care he just had to touch the guy. I am nearly certain that this man (and the other people around us) didn’t think there was anything going on, but knowing Judah and how he usually handles himself I was embarrassed. Then after ten minutes or so of trying to molest the man in front of me he began to pant, and SHED like crazy!

I am a stickler for a clean, not excessively shedding service dog. It is spring and Judah is a husky mix so… there is a lot of hair going on. I brush him every day for a long time to ensure that I don’t run into this embarrassing shedding issue. I mean, you could see the hair all around him on the floor! It was awful. My mom and I thought it was the acoustics of the room (it was a big gym) perhaps freaking him out, I thought I was going to have to take him outside. During all the restlessness Marshall had pointed out that there was no way for us to know if there were other diabetics in the room, good point, but really what am I supposed to do?! I can’t exactly stand up and say, “Excuse me could all the diabetics in this room please check their glucose? My dog thinks someone is having a problem.”

Eventually the man sitting in front of me turned around and struck up conversation to pass the time. Turns out he was a dog person and was very interested in what I was training Judah for. Oh geez… here we go. I explained that he is in fact my service dog and that he is a medical alert dog who alerts to my blood sugars etc. Then man replied, “I have that problem too. I am a type 2 diabetic.” I couldn’t help it, I laughed and looked at Marshall who just shook his head and grinned.

“Well, Judah has been trying to alert you since you sat down here” (it had been nearly 45 minutes).
The man looked stunned. His wife leaned over to become part of the conversation and he filled her in, she replied, “Well maybe you should check your sugar.”
“I
have been.” He stated.
“And?”
“It is high!” He pointed up and I couldn’t help but notice what looked like excitement on his face. “You are so smart, what a good dog!”

With that Judah curled up and with a big sigh went to sleep. With the exception of a few position shifts during the 3+ hour graduation, he didn’t move again. Well he did once, to alert to my low blood sugar (guess I shouldn’t have corrected the earlier high!). After the ceremony was over and the hundreds of people made a mass exodus Judah glued himself to my side and we were able to weave through the crowd with most people not even noticing he was there. What a good boy…

"Stupid human, see once I told him I could sleep.."

“Stupid human, see once I told him I could sleep..”

OH! Did I mention that one of my brother’s classmates graduated alongside her seizure alert service dog?! It was awesome to see! They even announced his name with her’s and he wore a cap, it was GREAT! 🙂
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A Lesson in Spanish…

We recently took a ‘vacation’ to Pennsylvania to attend my little brother’s (I call him Midge, developed from midget when we were kids, this is no longer true- he is nearly a foot taller than I am) graduation from college! We hired a friend to come and stay with all our critters and Marshall, Judah and I packed our things and ourselves into the VW Rabbit and hit the road. In all the hussle of getting ready I never slowed down long enough to realize that Judah had never been on a trip overnight where we were staying in a rented room. We always stay with friends or family and he is almost never without any of the other animals. This would certainly be a test! OH! And did I mention that he had been ‘on leash restricted’ for a week with one more to go from his foot/leg full of stiches? A husky required to ‘keep calm’ and restricted to a leash does not a relaxed dog make, but well, I trust him- he’s a good boy and takes his job seriously.

It was a long drive (plus we never like to go the most direct route, you miss too much that way!) and nearly 9 hours after 2 false starts from the house we arrived in Drums, PA. We were staying in a timeshare my mom rented through her work, a two bedroom place for the two (well three) of us. It was literally about 10 feet from the water- poor Judah, he loves to swim… oh stiches.

It was a nice view :)

It was a nice view 🙂

We had a good time, there were TONS of birds around where we were staying! Orioles, all kinds of sparrows and swallows, geese, ducks, king fishers, hawks, black birds, cow birds, and even a SWAN that hung out each morning right off our patio- it was amazing. Judah was GREAT about all the activity of the critters, he watched but didn’t try to chase and even tried making friends with the swan and a couple geese, they weren’t into it.
swan
We made 2 trips to the local walmart while in Drums. After we left the first time I told Marshall I enjoyed NOT being stared at the whole time I was there. At home we get watched constantly, I understand and I try to be friendly and a good ambassador but I do use a service dog to live a more normal life. While we were in this particular walmart not one person stopped me, not one person pointed and whispered, and not one person touched him- I admit it was refreshing. I enjoyed it I think, it really was vacation! Our second trip to the local walmart was possibly the most humiliating experience I have ever had.

We were trying to make a quick trip to grab some snacks, pizzas and some other odds and ends and we came around the end of an aisle to an entire family (2 parents 3 kids I believe) in the aisle. The youngest child (in the cart) began to point and shout in spanish. I assumed he was yelling something about the dog and I just smiled and we continued past. From then on, ANY TIME that child saw me in the store one of his family members would point us out and he would begin to sound off. It didn’t take long and every spanish speaking person, couple or family would begin to repeat several phrases in spanish, loudly. They didn’t seem upset or offended by his presence there, more excited and curious- but my goodness they we LOUD. I wish they had just asked to pet him instead, or at least turned down the volume. I was so humiliated I actually thought I might cry. Even worse, I couldn’t get away from it. Every where I went someone was pointing and yelling in spanish. Marshall could see my distress and kicked into hyper drive, he scooped up the last few things and we headed to the register. As we made our way through the parking lot and the yelling continued. I admit I DID cry a little when we got back to the car. (I am not going to color this as a race thing at all and I hope no one takes it that way, this would have humiliated me in any language- though NOT knowing what was being said DID make it a little more embarrassing.)

I have so much more to write about from this trip, keep checking back! It was SUCH an adventure!

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Feel the Love

Yesterday Judah and I had another adventure! We went to one of the local middle schools and met with their 8th grade health classes. It was a wonderful experience for both Judah and me, we met a bunch of great kids, got to share our story (from beginning to now) and got to meet several children who know exactly what it’s like to be touched by the big D. I spoke to each class telling them about how I find Judah, how I was diagnosed, how Judah began working, how much diabetes sucks, how having a service dog is great AND complicated, and how to pick up and keep moving forward.

What amazed me the most was that each and every student listened intently to my story. I remember 8th grade, I remember how hard it was to sit and listen when the sun was beating down and spring had so clearly sprung. I was pretty thorough in my story telling and my description of my new life so there weren’t a whole lot of questions but the ones that were asked were great. I met several kids whose mothers were diabetic and using the pump! I guess there are far more local type 1 diabetics than I ever thought, it was kind of exciting to find out- it seems rather obvious now… I mean there is a diabetes center in town, they must have business right?

I can honestly say that the highlight of our middle school adventure was the third and final class that I spoke to. When I returned to the classroom (after lunch) the health teacher (and close friend) informed me that there was a special guest in the class. She introduced me to a young student (an 8th grader that was not in any of the classes we visited), he had been excused from his class so he could come in and meet us. He is a type 1 using a pump too! He has been type 1 for a lot longer than I have and even shared some of his scariest hypo stories with us. He was a fantastic, kind, and respectful young man who seemed just as excited to meet us as we were to meet him. At the end of our talk the students filed out to go play capture the flag and I stole an extra couple of minutes with him. He told me about a D camp that he goes to in the summer pretty close to where we live. We chatted for a few minutes and I gave him my e-mail as well as my blog address and asked him to keep in touch with me. I would like to put together a D camp at the local resort I work at seasonally and figured I may have found a great resource in this well spoken young man.

He took the post-it note I gave him with my information and made his way into the hall. He turned back and smiled and said, “I really want to get a dog like that someday” then went to head back down the hall. Ugh, way to tug on my heart strings kid!

“Hey”, I said and he turned back to me, “You stay in touch with me.” He nodded and smiled again.
“Really though, I am hoping that in about a year I will be ready to start training dogs again. You stay in touch with me and I can help you.” All I can say is I REALLY hope he does. He deserves the independence and confidence that Judah has given me and it seemed to me like he would be a fantastic handler as well as a great advocate for service dogs and diabetes.

It really was a great day, it left me feeling good. Truly, good. All I want to know is that I am making a difference, even if it is small and only matters to a few people. I had big dreams and big plans for my life when I was young, as time has passed and things have changed I haven’t always been sure that it was possible- yesterday reminded me that things can change and we can still put one foot in front of the other and that’s all it takes. Just steps. Steps towards what you want, with those steps you make progress. Progress is all we can really ask for, I mean it’s about the journey right?

Poor Judah

Poor Judah, we have had a bit of a stressful past couple of days. Saturday afternoon we went to a friend’s house and our three dogs were running around having glorious fun dog times rolling in the dirt, chewing on each other’s legs and seeing who was the fastest (or most evasive). After the black flies got too overwhelming we piled them all inside and had a pretty subdued evening. The next morning (Sunday) I got up farely early, let each dog out for his morning bathroom break. Then, per my usual morning dog routine we had some play time. A few minutes of one on one for each boy and then a little bit of dog on dog time. I played fetch with Judah, as always struck by how fast he is. Then I let he and Goose tackle each other and race around, next it was Jordan and Goose. Eventually, it was time for the tick check (I check everyone at least once a day during this time of year).

We all agreed that the front deck was the place to be yesterday morning so 4 people and 4 dogs all hung out drinking coffee and soaking up the sun. As I made another trip across the deck I noticed that there were a few dark stains on the deck boards. When I bent down to check them out I saw that they were blood. Not a whole lot, just little prints that I can honestly say I recognized as dog foot curves. I told my mom to check her dog while she brushed him and we checked each of our dogs while we did the tick check. I wasn’t too concerned, no one was limping or moving slowly- everyone seemed totally fine.

Well Judah was the last dog that was checked. Marshall was sitting next to him and I was standing in front of him so he was up at eye level. From that vantage point I don’t know how I had missed it. Just below his ankle there was a flap of skin hanging. Well we sprung into action, hot water rinse and flush and a better look at the skin. It was maybe an inch and a half long and not terribly big but upon closer inspection it was the least of the problem. The flap was concealing a clean, long, deep laceration. It started above his ankle and wrapped around his leg ending at the heel of the pad on his right hind foot.

Goose had found and demolished the last of the vet wrap we had left over from his foot injury so we piled into the car and headed to the local tractor supply co. (the feed and grain was closed). We picked up some vet wrap, some horse ‘pack’ gauze (thick, absorbent, doesn’t stick, and the backing is plastic) as well as a topical treatment. When we got back to the house and cleaned it out some more Marshall called me over as I gathered the dressings, “Hey, this is really bad.”
“How bad? Like, ‘do what I do and keep a close eye on it’ or like, beyond me bad?”*
“Come look at it, but it’s pretty bad.”
Honestly I still wasn’t all that worried, Marshall is pretty squeamish and he was right into it so it couldn’t be that bad right? Wrong. I climbed onto the dog bed with him and took his foot from Marshall, I am not squeamish so I pulled that sucker right open. Well let me just say, I could see how his toe works!

I admit, I had a little melt down. I don’t think I would have had Marshall not been there, I am alright at keeping it together under pressure- but Marshall always makes me feel safe enough to melt down, weird right? But, come on, this is my dog, my best buddy, my LIFE LINE, and I’ll say it, a little bit my baby. “This is REALLY bad. Has it been too long to stitch it?”

We talked back and forth and decided that we would wrap it properly (keeping it closed, clean and dry) and call the vet in the morning. We are supposed to be going to Pennsylvania next week for my little brother’s college graduation. We are playing it pretty close as far as money for the trip and knew that this vet visit would probably mean no trip. This didn’t help me keep it together much, I love my brother and he deserves an audience when he graduates. Once again, my parents to the rescue!

Not only did mom pay for the condo we will be staying in while in Pennsylvania but she also said that she would cover Judah’s bill at the vet (to be paid back when I go back to work). So of course mom is the hero of the day, thanks mom!

This morning, like any good (obsessive) mom, I began to call the vet’s office an hour before they opened. At the stroke of 8am they answered.

“Good morning. This is Emilie and I have a little bit of an emergency. I was hoping you could squeeze my husky Judah in today…?”

“Let me check the computer. What sort of emergency?”

So I described the nature of the injury and the timeline so far.

“How far away are you?”

“I am right down the street in Effingham, maybe 20 minutes away.”

“I have an appointment available at 8:30, that’s in 25 minutes.”

“I will go drag my boyfriend out of the shower, thank you!”

I burst into the bathroom (poor Marshall) and told Marshall we had to leave NOW. Like the good sport he is, he rushed to get dressed (as did I) and we piled everyone into the car. I sat with Judah on my lap because after I unwrapped his foot he (and the other dogs) couldn’t resist the urge to try to remove (chew off) the flap of skin that was there.

We got to the vet’s office and he walked around like everything was fine. Once in the office the first thing the vet and the tech said was how cute and kind he was even with his leg bleeding all over the place. It took one quick look and she informed me that he would indeed need stitches, I did the right thing by not rushing him to the emergency vet because he didn’t need it, and that they would keep him for at least the first part of the day.

“Is that alright. I know he is your service dog, are you alright leaving him here.”

“Honestly, I am fine with that, I trust you guys.”

“Good…”

But, I think you need to know- he doesn’t kennel well. At all…” They gave me that questioning look…

“When you say that what do you mean?”

“Well, he eats crates. All kinds.”

“So we have to make sure we don’t give him a blanket or anything?”

“Well yeah, I wouldn’t give him anything. honestly, I would suggest you drug him first. I know that sounds, well bad, but he just doesn’t kennel. I have been working on it for 3 years, he’ll do it for me but not to be left.”

“Hold on.”

After waiting with Marshall and the tech for a couple of minutes she came back into the exam room, “He said he could just take him first thing. So if you want to go get a cup of coffee and come back in about 45 minutes he should be all set.”

Well it was a long 45 minutes and we were back at the office. Well, Judah is all stitched up, vaccinated, and on the mend. He did test positive for Lyme and is going to be on antibiotics for about a month just in case (no symptoms or anything, not really a concern), but he is doing well and other than being a little groggy seems to be fine. He was able to perk up and beg for a dog cookie at the coffee wagon on the way home, so it can’t be all bad.

As I finish up typing this post this afternoon he is sleeping across the room on a sun spotted couch with his camo print vet wrapped foot running just fine along with the other three in some dream pursuit. I think it is important to note that not only did Judah alert as we were getting ready to head out to the vets office (a high, he was of course right) but he also alerted after we returned home, still under the influence of some drugs- he alerted to a low and hit it exactly on 80 mg/dl (which is his target alert for low glucose). You just can’t stop this boy and I am thankful for that everyday!