Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Keep calm


For a long long time Mr F and I have wanted a dog.

Now a dog has arrived!

We knew if we became dog owners again it would have to be a carefully planned operation. It wouldn't be as simple as just picking up a puppy from somewhere and taking it home. I worried a lot about having a dog and being disabled. Could I walk it, control it, amuse it, look after it when I wasn't feeling well? Would it knock me over, struggle to get out of the front door, woof a lot when I needed to rest? Was it feasible to be a dog owner when I couldn't walk far and had daily pain and fatigue?

We were determined to make it possible. For years and years we'd longed for another dog, having had a German Shepherd before I was disabled. During his lifetime my mobility impairment had a big impact on my interaction with him and he never, in his old age, got socialised to me using a wheelchair (as much from our inexperience with it, as anything).

To add to this confusing change of circumstances, I didn't know how to be a disabled person at first (who does?) and all that it entails - sussing out living accomodation if it needs to change, getting the right access equipment, the job, the pain, fatigue, endurance and energy levels - just having a life again has taken me years to acomplish. With the move to the bungalow, and some stability in work, life has become easier. My head is in as much of the right place as it'll ever be. I'm pretty much resigned to knowing I'll never get everything right, 100% of the time. Still waiting for a better chair, but now as a powertrike owner I can go outside.

Now seemed to be as good a time as any to start thinking about having a dog again. So we started looking. I found a good training school. And a good vets. And some good accessible pet suppliers. But a dog? Nothing. No breeders I found locally had any puppies. Now we'd decided for sure, the newpapers had no GSD's for sale. I wanted to make sure we got the right dog, with a good temperament for training, as I'd found an organisation called Dog Aid who I hoped would help me train the dog above and beyond what a general class could do. Dog aid were great, very friendly and helpful. They sent me an application pack. But nobody knew where I could get a dog.

Then the universe provided. How we got him and why he's the right dog is another story for another day, as I'm overtired and having trouble thinking and writing clearly. In the build up to him coming to live with us, we were like two little kids, getting all excited and then telling each other to 'keep calm, keep calm' in high, breathless voices! In this blog I try to keep a focus on the side of my life that is affected by disability, so I really want to write about the things encountered as a woman becoming out as a dog owner again after becoming disabled. I can't promise there'll be no mushy stuff, but I'll try and make it incidental to the main points!

But now I have to go, because I've told him I need regular breaks today to pace myself through the fatigue - and am being prompted to stop by the sound of a ball being dropped repeatedly near the safety gate.

We've got a dog! Yay! (Keep calm).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Running away very slowly


Mr Fang opened up the garden shed for the first time over the weekend. To begin with there was a rusty padlock on the door we couldn't budge, then when we snipped it off we realised a flagstone outside the door had risen - preventing the door being opened more than a crack. First glimpses of what seemed to be a very promising potting shed complete with a (possibly dodgy) power supply and built in storage were only visible through a 2cm gap in the door.

Which is why we didn't spot we had a wasp's nest.

In fact, I didn't even know what one looked like. When we opened the door and switched the light on, the first thing we said was 'Good grief, more exotic DIY' at the cable hanging from the ceiling. We were in awe of all the inbuilt storage, so immediately started planning what to do with all the new space. Then, I spotted a funny looking crepe bandage apparently stuck on a nail on the wall - but just before I could reach out and touch it, Mr Fang screamed 'OHJESUSBLOODYHELL!' and ran out of the shed as fast as his legs could carry him.

I, using my walking stick and being crap at running, stood there in alarm wondering what death or danger was about to befall me. By the time I'd maneuvered myself in the direction of the door with all the speed of an Olympic sloth, Mr Fang had run down to the pond and back again to tell me that he'd seen a spider.

'Is it on me?' I asked in horror.

'Nooo - but it just ran across the wall there... look, it's on one of the cabinets!'

Since I was at the opposite end of the shed and my spider phobia is tiny compared to his, I decided that attempting to run after 10 years of abstinence wasn't worth it, and besides, I could easily land in the pond. In fact, I was sure fate would conspire to bestow a comedy moment upon me should I make any attempt to move quickly. That's what usually happens. One thing I don't post on this blog much are the frequently bizarre situations in which I dislocate my knee. And I just knew the equation of me trying to hobble out of a shed and then falling into the pond with a dislocated knee would provoke not sympathy but howls of laughter amongst friends and family. So I ran away very slowly, which to the uninformed observer might have looked a little like a purposeful-but-gentle limp, but was actually a Very Fast Limp compared to my usual bipedal motion.

Five minutes later I was in the garden regretting telling poor Mr Fang that the spider's eyes were big enough to be seen on top of little stalks. Some men like to go and find peace in a shed, but Mr F will never be one of them.

After that, the shed lost it's appeal and we slunk back into the house to snack on junk food and watch Weeds.

Thoughts of establishing an efficient potting shed drifted into my mind again yesterday, and with my spider-phobic husband at work I decided to go into the shed again to plan where everything was going to go.

Again I nearly prodded the little bandage-like thingy. 'Maybe it's some kind of giant butterfly cocoon' my stupid urban mind babbled, before getting up to speed with 'Oh no, there are some cocoons under the window and they look very very small compared to this, so either something big came out of it, or lots of little things, like, um, a horde. Oh...' Oh.

With this in mind I decided to google images of wasp's nests, and found a picture. Ours looks exactly the same as the one posted above. Some of the pictures that looked like ours were labelled 'hornets', not wasps.

'Oh' indeed.

Cue a call to the local council pest control department, who were probably out slaying things and didn't answer the phone. Still, our local services are reasonably efficient and allow you to complete an online form if you can't find anyone to speak to. I found the pest control section on their website easily enough and began to fill it in.

Please state the nature of the problem
Wasp or hornet's nest

Please state the location of the problem
Garden shed

Please state what action you require us to take
Please come and get rid of it, because we don't want to try it ourselves.
My husband is unavailable to go into the shed.
I am disabled and am only capable of running away very slowly.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

PLEASE don't let yourself in!

assisted living

I took some desperate measures lately when staying in an adapted bungalow during a working away trip. The bungalow was part of a site where people have their own place, but have care staff letting themselves in to help on a regular basis. What I didn't know at the time was that the 'vacant' bungalow I'd been allocated was the one where all the staff used to go to hang out in and have their fag breaks. And the set up was such that you couldn't lock yourself in.

The first night there I assumed I'd had a weird dream that a man was in another room in the bungalow and he had a bad cough. I distinctly remember giving myself a stern talking to regarding the non-existence of ghosts, and that I'd be better off going back to sleep than leaving my bed to investigate something that wasn't real...

...then early on in the morning, I was just coming to when I heard a someone letting herself in the front door. Before I knew it there was a strange lady standing in the bedroom wanting to know who I was and what I was doing there because she wanted to put the telly on and have a cup of tea before starting work. Eeek! Was the coughing man real? Nobody ever admitted to it.

After a further morning visit from a young Portugese gentleman who didn't seem to understand me telling him I was living and working there for a while, I decided to tape over the keyhole and attach a message with a heartfelt plea. Dunno why I took a picture of it, but there you go. No more interruptions, thank goodness, but I was slightly twitchy until I left.

I sometimes wonder if I'm unlucky when it comes to working away accomodation, or if these frequently bizarre happenings are something every disabled person experiences?