Puzzle as psychiatric service dog: our first day

Yes, it’s official, Puzzle’s papers are all set and Puzzle is not a “pet” anymore.  I guess she wanted to hold off for a few seconds.  Normally, she does not protest putting on her vest…we’ve tried it on a few times of course before…but today, in Dr. P’s office, she backed up when I tried to put it on her.

This surprised me.  Puzzle likes any type of “clothes.”  But now that I think of it, perhaps she wanted to stall for a few seconds, just so that she could remember her last few idle moments as pet.  Then, quickly enough, these last seconds were gone.   Just a memory.  I slid her little red vest over her head and fastened the clasp, then I  re-fastened her leash, the fancy purple web lead I have that attaches to a loop around my waist.  We trotted out of Dr. P’s office and into the world, Puzzle now a working dog.

But let me back up.  This has been in the works for…how long?  When did it begin?  I’d say it was one of the residencies at Goddard, but which one?  Maybe it was July 2008, around the time my eating disorder began.  I was taking lithium at the time and falling asleep in the workshops, which was not a good thing.  There were several residencies where I had trouble participating due to technical trouble such as this.  Once, I had a bad cold.   I also had a bad cold when I went to the reunion in 2010.  Just bad luck.  But in 2008 it was the Lithium that made me so sleepy I could not stay awake.  I managed to glean what was necessary, and would go back to my room for a snooze whenever I could.  I wasn’t yet aware that I was suffering from rape trauma or that the lithium was the culprit.

One of the faculty members, Aimee Liu (you may know her, she wrote Gaining) approached me and suggested that I bring Puzzle next time.  She said that maybe Puzzle could be my service dog.  Instinctively, she knew that Puzzle does a lot for me.  We had talked about Puzzle.  What she didn’t know was that Puzzle was so young and both of us needed to do a lot of work that I was not capable of doing.  I could not handle Puzzle in public at the time.  She pointed out some of the service dog laws.  Our director, Paul Selig, has a service dog named Darla, a Silky Terrier.  She is darned cute.  She is so tiny that she fits into a little briefcase type thingy.

So I looked into it.  One of the things I did was to go to a few psychiatric service dog websites.  I researched quite a bit.  I went to messages boards.  Some of the folks on these message boards weren’t so nice.  I was rather shocked.  You’d figure folks would be open-minded and kind.  So I went away.

But still, it was all in the works.  As you know, Puzzle was very friendly and outgoing in 2007 and 2008…and then I moved and we had that little incident with the shopping cart lady  here at our new residence.  Let me explain for those of you who don’t know….

I moved here September 3, 2008.  Now my eating disorder was just starting to take hold of me, which I didn’t know, not at all.  And I was petrified.  I had recently been raped and was moving here to get away from the guy.  It was wicked hot that weekend.  I came here with my boxes and the neighbors…I dunno, they were immediately hostile.  I had no living room shades and they were out there on the balcony, and they could easily peek in on me anytime they wanted with no shades on my windows. It took a couple of months to get my big shade.  The smaller shade I got months after that but I didn’t want to wait.  I had covered that window with photos of Puzzle.  Those photos are still up there.  They finally came to bring the shade and I said, “Hey, I didn’t want to wait…someone else can have the shade.”

For the first week in the shadeless apartment I cried.  There were boxes everywhere and I had no air conditioner.  It was over 90 outside every day and it didn’t get under 70 at night.  Inside, it was over 85.  If you’re unpacking and crying at the same time, I guess your body heat goes way up.  Yeah, it was unbearable.  I begged my family for money for an air conditioner, and got it. Delivered.

Meanwhile, the shopping cart lady freaked one night over Puzzle.  The shopping cart lady is a lady who uses a shopping cart instead of a walker and that’s why I call her that.  She shoved the shopping cart at Puzzle.  That did it.  Puzzle’s personality changed as far as the neighbors were concerned.  My personality changed as far as the  neighbors were concerned.  Maybe it was for the better and maybe it was for the worse.  We will never know.

All that is beyond us now.  The shopping cart is not part of our life.  Puzzle has replaced that memory with better memories and experiences, and so have I.  Puzzle is now a working dog and I am now the owner of a working dog and we have put that behind us.  We have to.  A working dog cannot be a skittish dog afraid of being nudged by a shopping cart.

Puzzle is the missing puzzle piece, the piece that fell into place.  In the winter of 2011, I experienced It.  You may recall It and how Puzzle helped me with It, but I could not handle a service dog at the time.  Now, I can.  See, I couldn’t manage a service dog on the bus and subway.  I couldn’t manage myself on the bus and subway.  Now, I can manage Puzzle.  I can manage myself.  I can be in the world a whole lot better if Puzzle and I are together because of how she helps me.

It’s extremely hard to explain.  And maybe it’s the fact that it can’t be explained that’s the beauty of it.  Or maybe that it’s late in the day, that we’ve been so busy, that we’ve done so much and taken in so many experiences today that I’ve worn myself out now and need to rest.  I do know that suddenly Puzzle is a different dog, and I am a different person, from here on in.

 

 

PS:

I added to the last post that no, I was not going to stop the meds.

Service dog AND meds.

AND running.  Yeah, I started that, too.  Just a tiny bit.  I’m being super careful.  Not with Puzzle, either.  I can’t run on the street, only on the track where it’s soft.

Oh, by the way, I heard they are going to re-do Victory Field!  What does this mean?  Will the track be even better?  Will it still be 1/4 mile around?  Will it still be absolutely gorgeous at sunrise?  Will the ninth lap still be just so awesome? Will I ever be able to do nine laps?  Thirteen laps like I used to?

I promise myself no more than thirteen laps.

So far, I have run four laps, one mile.  Cool.

Well, gee, sometimes the music gets real decent and I just have to fly.

Why I temporarily disabled my Facebook page, and why I don't miss it

It all goes back to why I began using Facebook to begin with.  I resisted.  A couple of years ago I was invited to Facebook and I took one look and decided I wasn’t interested.  What on earth was it for?  A public place to post photos?  Show off where you’d vacationed?  Tell everyone you showered that day?  It seemed, in a word, stupid.  I opened an account and never used it.

I called it “Fucking Facebook” because it seemed to take up way too much of everyone else’s time, especially those games, which served no purpose except to waste time.  Did the games cost money?  I never did find out.

There was this “farming” game that seemed very, very addicting and I thanked God (or whomever) every day that I was not addicted to this farming game.  I never played it and it always seemed stupid to me.  Absolutely idiotic.  Like child’s play.

So then I realized that a whole bunch of Goddard students were on Facebook, and maybe it was a good way to keep in touch.  I was in touch with my Goddard friends via phone, after all, and this was a way of keeping us all together.

Or so I thought.

Gradually, Fucking Facebook began to replace those precious e-mails and phone calls.  It totally sucked.   Instead of meaningful conversations, we had one-liners, such as, “I agree!” or, “I am keeping you in my thoughts,” or, “Yay!”

I mean, honestly.  I don’t even hear laughter anymore.  Hardly any complete sentences.

If I see one more quote from God I am going to scream.

I started posting my blog posts up on my wall, and this may or may have been a mistake.  I got very few comments.  All this fed into my paranoia.

Then, one day, I phoned a friend and decided to go check Facebook to see when she was leaving town. Perhaps she was out of town already.   She is a non-Goddard person.

Then I saw it: No posts.  Nothing.  And this: ADD FRIEND.

Yeah, she unfriended me.  And her partner as well.

Jaw drop.  My heart actually skipped a bunch of beats.  Or so it felt.

Was this really necessary?  I didn’t think these people were that immature.  Also, they are tech savvy and know how to “hide” people.  But yeah, I’d been unfriended.

How did I react?  I immediately felt extremely sleepy.  I fell asleep for several hours.  I woke up and thought it through rationally.  Should I say something?  Should I ask them why?  Clearly, they chose not to approach me and chose not to say anything to me.  So I decided to pretend I hadn’t noticed.

Then, later, I made the decision to get off Facebook entirely.  I decided that if folks find (or, rather, found) me that unpleasant to be around, then I should bow out.  And I did.

I have the diagnosis of paranoia, and it’s not good to hang around Facebook if you have paranoia, medicated or not.  Paranoia can be paranoid schiz or paranoid personality disorder, and I have neither, just paranoia.  I looked it up and it fits me to a “T.”

There is no cure…yet…that I have discovered from looking online.  There are a bunch of things that can cause it including dementia.  A lot of folks with dementia have it.

I had to concede to taking meds for it, unfortunately.  And I feel one heck of a lot better.  I am taking the minimum lowest dose to keep the paranoia at bay and I am watching for TD.  I am not taking a med that will make me gain weight.  It does not dope me up.

I searched and searched for alternatives to meds.  They say B vitamins for voices…or live with the voices…but for paranoia, nothing…just meds.

Until….

The missing Puzzle piece: Tomorrow I am going to see Dr. P, bringing with me papers to sign….Puzzle will be officially Service Dog In Training!  Yay!

Yes, I believe assistive animals can be key for people with illnesses such as paranoia.  There are a lot of folks with schizophrenia who are helped by service animals.  Puzzle helped get me out of the house while I was going through really bad body dysmorphia.  I believe that body dysmorphic disorder is an illness that is so misunderstood and so underresearched that there is much to be discovered in the use of service animals for these sufferers.

It has been a few weeks now, and we have pretty much already made the “transition.”  It is incredibly hard to describe this pet-to-SDIT transition to someone who has never been through it.  I guess you can liken the depth of it to transitioning from one gender to another.

Looking back, no, it didn’t happen overnight.  I think it started in May.  The seed was planted when I started cooking for her.

I cannot begin to tell you how everything is now falling into place.  I have had a rash of good luck.  Or maybe it’s just how I  see things.

No, I don’t miss Facebook.  And no, no one has contacted me asking me where I’ve been.  I don’t feel hurt by this.  If I do go back, it will be as the This Hunger Is Secret fan page, in professional capacity.  Well, maybe.
PS: No, I’m not going to stop the meds.

See my (and Puzzle's) VIDEO review of the Outward Hound Pet Sling!

This is our first attempt at making a home movie.  See me and my co-star, Puzzle, in action!

http://www.amazon.com/Kyjen-Outward-Hound-Sling-Blue/product-reviews/B0081XIJSS/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

 

Puzzle news

Puzzle is helping me get out more.  She is bringing me more confidence.   I take her with me everywhere now.  As you know, or perhaps you don’t, Puzzle has already been doing several tasks for me.  For years, she has been reminding me to take my meds.   It got tough when I started to defy her.  She can be very insistent.  Now, I am back to taking meds.  Reminding me to take my pills was her first service dog task.  There were others.

“Grounding” is another task she does.  Or at least that’s what a therapist would call it.  Apparently it is the touch factor that helps with grounding.  Personally, I think the word “grounding” is too clinical.  Many dogs do this for their owners naturally.

Puzzle also helps me with digestion.  It’s uncanny how she knows when to do this.  I lie down on the couch and she puts her head right next to my tummy.  I don’t know how it works, but the power of touch seems to speed peristalsis.

Puzzle is a huge help with shyness, body dysmorphia, and paranoia.  She melts away my anger.  She gives me confidence.  She gives me a sense of purpose.  She is a companion to me.  I come out of my shell.  I become me.   Things that didn’t make sense before now make sense.

So I guess last May I did have part of the puzzle solved the day I decided to cook for her.  The important piece was realizing that Puzzle needed to be in my life more.  I didn’t say anything right away.  I know that eventually I wrote a piece on my big “Red Dye #2” revelation in the beginning of May and why I switched her over to homemade food.  It was an act of love.

Now, I bring her everywhere.  I have joined a place called _____, where ex-patients gather.  I came here knowing that I needed to do something, to be with people, but not a “mental health day program.”  I hit it off with the director, Nanci, right away.  She agrees with me about so many things!  The director knows the laws about service dogs and emotional support animals as well.  She also knows dogs and dog training.   She sees potential in Puzzle.  I guess she sees potential in me, too.  Believe it or not (many probably don’t) I used to have a knack at dog training.  I have very much forgotten those skills, but I intend to regain them.  I think Puzzle respects me.  She comes when she is called.  She does what she is told and the only reason she doesn’t do what she is told is because she is confused about the instructions.  She is eager to please.  I think most dogs are.

I am going to try to get in to see Dr. P within a week or two.  I need a letter to make it official.  Meanwhile, here is a photo of Puzzle in her new role.  We are in transition.

Here is Puzzle in her vest. I sewed the “Service Dog” and “In Training” patches onto the vest myself.

Puzzle has been coming to church with me.  She will be coming today.  If she falls asleep during the sermon, will anyone be insulted?

More news…I might be going to North  Carolina in November, for the month, that is Puzzle and I might be doing a bit of traveling, working in exchange for room and board.  This will be out in the wilderness.   I will be doing this for National Novel Writing Month.  More later.

What do you think?

Check out this article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/health/fathers-age-is-linked-to-risk-of-autism-and-schizophrenia.html?emc=na
Much as I do consider myself an “ex-patient,” I still agree that there is something to the “biochemical” theory of mental illness.  I definitely think genetics is hugely responsible for who we end up being.  And that’s kinda sad.

There is indeed mental illness in my family.  My mom had anorexia when she was a teen.  It lasted two years and she got better…well, supposedly.  It runs around other parts of the family as well.  We are seeing ADD skip generations, but surely it is a recessive gene.

There are many who say that ADD and ADHD do not exist, but I think they do.  I have seen my mom in action and compared her to others who have been diagnosed.

I feel that a lot of kids get “labels’ for convenience so that the schools or parents or some authorities can medicate them and get them to shut up.  Often, a “behavior problem” kid is just a kid who is being bullied.  Stop the bullying and you will stop the behavior problem and there is no “need” to medicate.  Sometimes, the kids aren’t getting enough to eat and are hungry and this is causing the problem.  It can be as simple as a stolen lunch.

Anyway, autism and schizophrenia are real.  I believe that these are genetic or due to genetic mutation and the study sounds authentic to me.  There is no reason to place blame on anyone.  Genetics aren’t anyone’s fault.  Anything can get passed on and life is all about genetic mutation.  That’s why we’re here.