Repost: ON MOBILITY AIDS

Hi again. Given my current situation, I thought I would repost this from 2006:

When I wrote this, I was utterly frustrated and headed for yet another breakdown.  I brought this into a writing class but was hospitalized before the class had a chance to give me feedback on the piece.

2/12/2006

 

ON MOBILITY AIDS

 

The woman in the wheelchair (me) enters a bank.  She is obviously struggling to get through the heavy bank doors, so someone takes pity (lots of pity) on her and holds the door for her.  She wheels through.  The bank PR person, in attempt to sign up as many new accounts as possible, allows the poor woman in the wheelchair (me) to go to the head of the line.  The teller window is too high to see over while one is seated, so the poor, incapable woman (me) stands to speak to the teller.  The PR person is shocked–this handicapped woman, this cripple–standing?  The male teller gives the sexy woman in the wheelchair (me) a look-over, and smiles.  She is helpless, vulnerable, available, and defenseless.  He looks her over again as she slip-slides her ATM card in the groove, and he notes her name (mine).  The woman sits back in her wheelchair, her business concluded, and again is helped with the heavy bank doors.  She exits into winter (not really–it was May, but winter sounds more poetic).

 

The woman using a walker (me) exits a cab, which cost her a fortune; she is too handicapped to use public transportation and The Ride (handicapped transportation) hasn’t yet been approved for her.  She clumsily pulls her deformed body (mine) up to the office building entrance.  She tries and fails to punch in the code that will allow her to enter the building (my shrink’s).   She tries again, then realizes she needs to take off her gloves.  Someone approaches her and asks, “Can I help you dial the number?”  Annoyed, (I really was!) the misfit shakes her head.  The door buzzes (bzzzzz!), but the retarded woman using a walker (me) can’t get the door open.  Finally, she succeeds, and struggles up the stairs.  A shrink (not mine) rushes through the upper door, glances at the woman, then quickly turns away; she is invisible and not worth his time.  He skips down the stairs and whizzes out the locked door without speaking to her.  Later, the shrink motions for the woman using a walker (me) to follow her to the office.  The shrink walks quickly, feeling uncomfortable, not offering to help the now crippled patient (me) with her belongings (my knee was really killing me at this point), turns to the patient, and says, “_____ (my name), I didn’t realize you use a walker now!”  (Get my drift?)

 

After two months of this bullshit, the unfortunate woman’s knee injury (mine) has improved enough to enable her to use a cane.  She waits for the bus (#70) to take her to the kennel, where she will pick up her dog (named QB).  After a few minutes of waiting, her knee starts to hurt, and she realizes she needs something to lean on, tries to use a tree but the tree is too bent over to lean on.  She looks around anxiously.  An able-bodied man leans on a trash barrel, but doesn’t offer to let her use it.  It is her fault, after all; she did it to herself, let herself go; she’s a fat lazy pig, can’t even walk right because she is so fat, can’t help herself; she’s grotesque–and smells (I don’t).  Later, the girl working at the kennel looks on the woman with the cane (me) with disdain while she struggles to get her dog’s harness on.  The bitch (me) doesn’t deserve help, can’t even take care of her beautiful dog (named QB) or herself.  She let herself go.  She’s ugly and undeserving.

 

The woman’s injury (dislocated patella) heals; she is free of mobility aids and their covert meanings.  Because she is neither attractive nor unattractive, but ordinary looking, no one pays her heed.  Her neighbors conveniently forget that she once used a wheelchair, a walker, a cane; they saw her disability in themselves and didn’t want to face the fact that they, too, are trapped in their respective helplessness.  She is capable now of taking care of her dog (named QB) and herself (me); she is competent, intelligent, friendly.  She takes care of herself, loses 30 pounds, is independent and mysterious.

 

But months later, the woman’s injury (dislocated patella) worsens.  She finally figures out (duh!) that it might be a better idea to use crutches rather than a wheelchair, walker, or cane this time.  As she stands and waits for the bus (#70), a young man, seeing that she is temporarily infirm–is it a sports injury, perhaps?–asks, “Are you dating anyone?”  He grins.  She leans on her crutches and flirts back at him.  Later, the bus (#70) shows up.  She struggles up the stairs which the bus driver politely lower for her, and is immediately offered a seat.  She attracts attention.  People smile at this woman on crutches (me) and ask, “What happened to you?”  Yeah, something happened to her.  It’s not her fault.  It’s unfair.  She didn’t deserve such a fate.  And after all, it’s temporary.  She’s normal; relax, she’s normal.

A Rejected Piece about QB: Reprint

Hi folks,

I recently sent the following piece out to a dog anthology seeking short pieces and it was sent back yesterday with a “form rejection”–that is, they didn’t like it much.  This piece was also rejected by Pitkin Review last fall.  In my research I have found that publications frown upon pieces lamenting the death of a beloved pet.  After all, didn’t Mark Doty write a wonderful book on the topic, Dog Years?  But Doty’s book was about so much more than dogs….I have been told by instructors that the piece I am posting here is a little different than most, and does indeed have some merit.  I am republishing it here.  Perhaps this blog will be its only home.

THE DEATH OF QB


The apartment was cold and dark when I arrived home from the veterinary hospital, and music played softly on the bathroom radio.  QB always preferred it that way.  Now, it didn’t matter. 

I felt like punching something, trashing my apartment, throwing a chair, anything, but it wasn’t anger that drove these impulses; it was a streak of sadness, and a shame that cut so deeply that no violence could undo it.

I had left my apartment that evening by taxi with an apparently healthy three-year-old Sheltie.  I returned at 1:30am, alone, also by taxi.  When the driver asked, “What happened to your dog?” I mumbled something vague, and pretended instead to be interested in his computerized navigation system.

I remembered wryly the headlines that had floated around in my mind only days before: “Killer Sheltie Mauls Woman.”  Or, “Woman Kills Own Sheltie.”

I wasn’t going to argue with myself the fairness of the situation.  Life had already taught me that it wasn’t going to do me any favors.  Death can be beautiful but often isn’t, and life is damned ugly when you think about it.

I switched on the desk lamp that served as a makeshift living room light, then turned up the heat some, until I heard the hot air blower click and then rumble.  My computer had run a virus scan that night.  No threat(s) found.  How nice.  No messages on the machine. 

I tossed my knapsack on the floor.   In it were QB’s collar, his leash, and his treats bag that I kept hanging on my key lanyard.  Also, I had a stash of QB’s favorite junk food treats that I fed to him only a minute before he was injected with poison, while he struggled to remove the IV from his left front leg.

I sat in my swivel chair and cried for a while, putting my tissues in a little pile that QB would surely have raided, shredded, and eaten if he had been with me. 

I remembered the smell of feces at the moment of death.

Euthanasia for a dog that is old or sick is a difficult decision, but to put a dog to sleep whose behavior is aggressive and incurable but who is otherwise healthy and well is a decision ten times tougher. 

People close to me supported my decision, but I went to the veterinary emergency hospital on my own, just me there by myself, for the purpose of killing my best friend.

I went to bed at 3am, and awoke at 7:30 or so Saturday morning.  I put on some coffee, and didn’t bother getting dressed.  What was the point?  No dog to walk.  I needed a shower, to wash off of me the stinking filth of the deed done the night before. 

But I waited, and made some phone calls instead, wrote some e-mail, and changed the light bulbs in the living room.  I waited, because when I walked into the bathroom I thought I saw QB lying on the cool linoleum floor by the toilet, where he liked to hang out.  I waited, because I wanted to live with that filth, repugnant as it was, for just a little while longer.

As promised

Yes, I did find a bunch of QB photos that I had taken that I had completely forgotten about until I discovered them just a few days ago!  Here are two of him at the tender age of four weeks–with me:

1 mo old

And here he is at all of 19 days:

4x6 QB 19 days #3

4x6 QB 19 days

Teensy, isn’t he?  I’ve cropped the photo, because I wanted you to see him better, but I think the reason I hid the photo (from everyone including myself) was that it showed my figure, and I thought I looked too fat.  Aw, man!  On close look, I was about five, more likely ten pounds less than I weigh now, totally acceptable according to Weight Watchers.

**************************************************************************************************************************

Dear Readers, I am about to show you something I could never have shown you when the photo was current, in 2005.  Perhaps it is because of the anonymity of online life that makes showing you this photo feel “safe” right now.  Perhaps it’s the distance that I feel between the time I took the photo and now.  Or the progress I’ve made.

I would not let anyone else take this photo.

Here it is:

Scroll down…

Scroll down…

Scroll down…

and down…

downer

and downer

way down

fat for blogNo, I wasn’t sticking my stomach out.  I was holding it in.  Desperately holding in everything, hiding from everyone.  I weighed close to 200 pounds.  I squeezed into a size 22.

Now do you believe me?

****************************************************************************************************************************

Yesterday I was on the phone with my mother, and decided to take a chance, a big chance, by telling her I went clothes shopping.  The idea was to get her to contribute some $$$$$ for clothes for my teaching experience (yes, I got the job!) but our conversation turned sour.  I said, “Mom, I was pleased that I fit into a smaller size!”

She replied, “Yes, well, they make the sizes larger these days.”

I used to think that I developed an eating disorder because my sixth grade teacher once told me I was fat.  But look at what I had to live with at home from day one!

I wore a size 10 to the job interview, which went off very well, by the way.  It’s a volunteer teaching position for my school teaching practicum.  I can’t tell you much about it because of the nature of the place and issues pertaining to confidentiality, but I will periodically share a writing exercise.

I told my brother what my mother said and he wasn’t the least bit surprised.   Then why do I come back, time after time, seeking her approval?  Why do I endlessly wish for her to someday say to me, “Julie, you did a good job and I’m proud of you.”

************************************************************************************************************************************

I did a damn good job at my semester at school and I’m proud of myself.  I’m doing a damn good job at losing weight and I’m proud of myself.  I’m doing a damn good job raising Puzzle and I’m proud of her and myself.  I did a damn good job at that interview and got my reward.

And now I’m tired.  Good night.

QB revisited

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about QB lately, wanting to write about him and how the situation I was in with him related to my issues with mental illness.

QB

June 27, 2006
“Daddy, doggie, doggie!” A young child pointed to QB and ran toward us. Closer, closer. Panic. So close I could see a drop of saliva on her pointing finger.

“No!” I tightened my grip on QB’s leash. He lunged forward. I held on tight. It often surprised me just how much power a 28-pound Sheltie could have. I held out my hand to stop the little girl. Dear God, don’t let her get any closer. “This dog isn’t friendly. Please–” my hands shook uncontrollably– “don’t come near. Please.” I turned to the child’s father, whose hands were clasped in front of him as if he were offering condolences. I took a step back. “My dog isn’t used to kids.”

“But he looks like Lassie!” shouted the child. “Lassie!”

QB leapt up a foot into the air on his little Sheltie legs and came down, then leapt up again and again. His puppy kindergarten teacher had told me, quite some time ago, that his extensive jumping would injure his knees, which, considering his age, was the least of my worries. This jumping was one peculiarity that got me suspecting he had something wrong in his brain. My neighbors called QB “Jumping Jack,” or, “Jumping Fool,” and several had said to me, “I’ll bet you wouldn’t have gotten him, if you’d known he was a jumper, all hyper, the way he is.”

The child shouted again, “Lassie!”

“Is he a show dog? Why does he do that?” asked the father. Show dog. Holy shit. QB would tear the show apart.

The father–he lived nearby, I realized, and was named Livingston–moved his daughter away.

Four teenagers, two boys and two girls, passed on the opposite side of the street, one girl talking on a cell phone. QB barked and jumped.

“Hey, there’s that dog again,” said one girl, blowing out billows of smoke from her cigarette. “He jumps. Look.”

“You’re a bitch, Shelley,” said one of the boys. “C’mon.”

I said to Livingston, “I–I have to go. He has to pee.” I ushered QB along the sidewalk.

Many of the tricks I’d tried to improve QB’s behavior hadn’t worked. I had tried different kinds of collars and harnesses, bringing a spray bottle of water along with me on walks, using a sound device, and making him sit during walks. Yelling at him certainly did no good. Sometimes I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and forced him to look me at me, and all I saw in his eyes was hostility and defiance.

We rounded a corner. At the end of the block several girls were playing with a basketball. Immediately, QB strained on the leash, snarling and barking in the direction of the girls, foaming at the mouth. I rushed him across the street. I knew he hated basketballs, for some reason. He hated balls of all sorts–baseballs, balloons, pumpkins, inflatable balls–these and many other stimuli would send him into curdles of aggression.

Coming back into my building, I said a quick “hello” to those of my neighbors that we saw in the lobby.

“How is it out there?” asked my neighbor June.

I held QB tightly to make sure he didn’t jump on her. “Nice, “ I replied. “Pleasant.”

“It’s okay if he jumps on me.”

“He’s got awfully muddy paws.” QB leapt up again.

June chuckled. “Look at that fool!”

“Yes, he’s a fool all right.” Luckily, no one else accompanied QB and me in the elevator on our way up to the fifth floor, but when the door opened, my neighbor Nicky entered. QB immediately pounced on him. “No!” I pulled QB back. “Sorry,” I said to Nicky. “I didn’t see you there.”

“That’s okay. It’s okay. Really. I don’t mind.” I could tell he was fibbing.

QB was as relieved as I was to be home. As I refilled his water dish, thoughts ran through my mind: Was I a bad dog owner? What had I done wrong? The Beings had been threatening since QB was a tiny puppy to take him away from me, was this their way of carrying out that threat? And–what was wrong with QB? Was he mentally ill? Some of his behaviors were normal results of poor training, but others….My dog was becoming a source of deep concern to me–and embarrassment.

And then I thought of my mother. Had she felt similarly when I became ill? Did she question her parenting? Was she embarrassed by me? Once, I overheard her say to my father–and yes, I knew she was talking about me–“Alan, she gives me the creeps.”

On my table, the Yellow Pages were open to the page I wanted. I knew I could no longer put it off. I picked up the phone, and called the veterinary behavior specialty center recommended by QB’s vet, and made an appointment.

The Death of QB

11/13/2006


 


THE DEATH OF QB


 


The apartment seemed cold when I arrived home from the veterinary hospital.  Cold and dark.  Music was still playing on the bathroom radio.  QB always preferred it way.  Now, it didn’t matter.


 


I felt like punching something, trashing my apartment, throwing a chair, anything, but it wasn’t anger that drove these impulses; it was an ethereal streak of sadness.  That and the shame foisted on me at the animal hospital.


 


I had left my apartment that evening by taxi with an apparently healthy three-year-old Sheltie.  I returned at 1:30am, alone, also by taxi.  When the driver asked, “What happened to your dog?” I mumbled something vague, and pretended instead to be interested in his computerized navigation system.


 


I remembered wryly the imagined headlines that had floated around in my mind only days before: “Killer Sheltie Mauls Mentally Ill Woman.”  Or, “Mentally Ill Woman Kills Own Sheltie.”


 


I wasn’t going to argue with myself the fairness of the situation.  Life had already taught me that it wasn’t going to do me any favors.  Death can be beautiful but often isn’t, and life is damned ugly when you think about it.


 


I switched on the desk lamp that served as a makeshift living room light, then turned up the heat some, until I heard the hot air blower click and then rumble.  My computer had run a virus scan that night.  No threat(s) found.  How nice.  No messages on the machine. 


 


I tossed my knapsack on the floor near my bicycle.   In it were QB’s collar, his leash, and his treats bag that I kept hanging on my key lanyard.  Also I had a stash of QB’s favorite junk food treats that I fed to him only a minute before he was injected with poison, while he struggled to remove the IV from his left front leg.


 


I sat in my swivel chair and cried for a while, putting my tissues in a little pile that QB would surely have raided, shredded, and eaten if he had been with me. 


 


I remembered the smell of feces at the moment of death.


 


Euthanasia for a dog who is old or sick is a difficult decision, but to put a dog to sleep whose behavior is aggressive and incurable but who is otherwise healthy and well is a decision ten times tougher. 


 


People close to me supported my decision, but I went to the veterinary emergency hospital on my own, just me there by myself, for the purpose of killing my best friend.


 


I went to bed at 3am, and awoke at 7:30 or so Saturday morning.  I put on some coffee, and didn’t bother getting dressed.  What was the point?  No dog to walk.  I needed a shower, to wash off of me the stinking filth of the deed done the night before.  But I waited, and made some phone calls instead, wrote some e-mail, and changed the light bulbs in the living room.  I waited, because when I walked into the bathroom I thought I saw QB laying on the cool linoleum floor by the toilet, where he liked to hang out.  I waited, because I wanted to live with that filth, repugnant as it was, for just a little while longer.

Prozac Puppy’s Progress

11/5/2006


 


PROZAC PUPPY’S PROGRESS


 


QB bit me again today, after a long period of improved behavior.  I had been hoping that the Prozac was finally starting to take effect, but QB’s extreme behavior today told me otherwise, that he is still unable to maintain self-control under certain circumstances and therefore cannot be externally controlled.  When conditions he considers scary or threatening are present, he cannot stop himself from being aggressive.


 


Today, as we were finishing our jaunt, rounding Lexington Street, QB spotted a stimulus, and began to bark and pull on the leash.  I assumed he was barking at the middle-aged gentleman ambling toward us on the sidewalk, dressed in a white t-shirt and painter’s pants, but it was not this man, it was something further along.  Was it a squirrel?  A Halloween decoration in someone’s yard?  Neither of the above.  Today’s big bad threat was an Evil Orange Traffic Cone.  There seems no rhyme or reason to what QB considers The Enemy, but traffic cones are among the most Evil of them. 


 


QB snarled, jumped, snapped at the cone, and jumped around some more.  I considered turning away down a side street, but there were none that led to my building.  I assumed that once QB had the opportunity to sniff the traffic cone he’d see that it was harmless.  We moved closer.  QB growled and barked; the foam leapt from his mouth onto the pavement.  I tried to get him into a “sit” position but he was too tensed up to listen.  He snarled and jumped, twirled, and snapped his teeth into my thigh.


 


It was a sharp bite that felt like a needle prick, but it wasn’t deep; it barely broke the skin.  Nothing was hurt, I knew, except my spirit.  I knew I should get QB away from there as fast as possible, and as we passed the Evil Cone I knew in my heart that if this Evil Cone were an infant, or a child, or a person of any age, and QB felt for that person the way he felt for the Evil Cone, that person would no longer be alive.


 


As a dog owner and adult citizen I know I am responsible for my dog’s actions.  What if he hurts someone?  I mean, what if he seriously hurts someone?  Can I truly say that any disaster is one hundred percent preventable?  Whereas before I would worry about QB jumping on an elderly person and knocking her over, now I worry about QB tearing that person to bits.  Of course he’s always on leash, always with me, but what if–


 


You hear stories about Pit Bulls, kept as attack dogs, that kill people.  These dogs are put to sleep.  Sometimes you hear about a house pet that kills a newborn baby out of jealousy.  The fate of such dogs varies but generally they are spared.


 


I must say, I’m very frightened.


 


 

Prozac Puppy’s Progress

11/3/2006


 


PROZAC PUPPY’S PROGRESS


 


For several days, QB has had enough self-control to calm himself with the sound of my voice alone.  Treats are helpful in extreme situations but when QB is presented with ordinary stimuli such as Halloween decorations or newspapers wrapped in plastic, I can calm him by speaking to him in a soothing tone and turning away from the stimulus.  I have even been able to “convince” him to lose interest in other dogs using the soothing technique.  When it comes to pedestrians I generally use treats because I don’t want to take any chances on QB biting, but it seems that the biting stage is over at last!  I also use treats when trucks pass, because QB can’t seem to stay in control around them.  Like a soft voice, treats have a calming effect, especially when used repeatedly.

Prozac Puppy’s Progress

PROZAC PUPPY’S PROGRESS 10/27/2006


 


Today is QB’s 18th day on Prozac.  Last night I saw what I could say was the first indication that the Prozac was influencing his outdoors behavior.  Normally, when I took QB out at night, he barked ferociously at three trees in the front yard of our building.  He did this every time, and the neighbors found his outbursts scary to watch and listen to.  Someone even asked me, after seeing QB in action, if he was an attack dog!  But last night all that changed.


 


After I bundled up, I attached QB’s head harness (here is the Halti harness at PetSmart: http://www.petsmart.com/global/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524441775200&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302025643), I made sure I had a plastic bag, my gloves, my headlamp (here is a good cheap one at batteries.com: http://www.batteries.com/productprofile.asp?appid=315672 ) for seeing what I’m picking up, and a hat, and we were all set.  QB was his usual self in the hall, eager to get into the elevator and outdoors.  It was around 6:30 and dark out.  I always get nervous that someone will approach us out of the shadows and scare QB.  I worry about a confrontation but everyone assures me that that will never happen.


 


Tree #1 is a large pine tree surrounded by–yep, you got it–pinecones.  When QB was a puppy he got a kick out of those very same pinecones and used to play with them and try to pick them up; nowadays he “plays” with the tree by trying to scare the hell out of it.  Last night I braced myself for the worst.  I took off one glove and grabbed a few treats to “bribe” QB with, should he become unmanageable, but QB totally ignored Tree #1!  I let out a deep breath.  So we went on to Tree #2, also a pine, but smaller.  QB slowed his pace.  No barkie!  I was beginning to wonder if perhaps QB had something hidden up his little doggie sleeve until I realized that QB doesn’t have sleeves, and we progressed across the circular driveway to Tree #3, a maple near the flagpole that sits in the middle of the driveway.


 


This had to be some kind of joke.  Surely, someone had switched dogs on me.  But we sailed past Tree #3 as easily as if it were merely a tuft of grass.


 


Could it be the Prozac?  This morning, again, QB’s behavior amazed me.  He was able to quickly recover when a large, aggressive-sounding dog barked at him from behind a fence.  I pulled QB along and encouraged him, and very quickly we were on our way.


 


Perhaps it is too soon to come to any conclusions.  In order to have a fair scientific experiment, there should be two QBs, one “control” that takes a placebo (that QB will be anything but in control) and the other that takes the real thing.  Neither QB would know what he is taking.  They would then be compared.  Needless to say, one QB is all I can handle and all I need and want and can afford.  God bless the little guy, he’s a handful!

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