Saturday, February 4, 2017

Safe Behind a Shining Star

Feeling Okay, Hooman?
our walkway to the driveway

It’s been a cold and snowy winter with lots of barometric changes, which of course affect my health. The most I've been able to manage is some laundry, occasional meals, and taking Heath out in the dark and ice at 9 pm every night to put the sheep inside, as the Maremmas are now spending nights in the house as the boss complained he heard barking. Thank God for Heath's help, even with his untrained herding skills he gets the job done for me quickly. We inherited because TheMan blew a gasket one night, unable to get them to cooperate.

We undertook the 4 hour drive to town yesterday to see a shoulder specialist to find out why injuring my bicep by simply lifting my saddle a few months ago should have gotten increasingly worse until I could no longer use my right arm and having so much pain setting in my shoulder. It looks good so far, it’s soft tissue damage that is in the bicep tendon and created a lot of inflammation all the way up under the ball joint and down my arm, so a shot of cortisone in the joint may solve the problem. If not, a second might. and if that doesn’t do it, then we will look at surgical options but i am banking on the cortisone injections.

I had been able to pay off our credit card and Dr bills early so we went to a dealer and bought me a new car. It’s a little new, blue, Subaru and is just what I was looking for. Great gas mileage, 4 wheel or all wheel drive, a back-seat for the Heathen and room for his crate, my suitcase, and sundry other things so I can go on road trips and get away from the ranch I loved so dearly, but has been holding me prisoner because of my limitations. The incredible man I married isn’t thrilled about staying here alone and working for long periods of time, but he understands how this has affected me both physically, emotionally and spiritually. He could hardly miss the tears that leak out now and then. So now I have a few things to get done, like get my license plates, find my new drivers license, and purchase a few things to keep the Heathen in the back, as stuff coming up and hitting the undercarriage still frightens him badly and he jumps into the front, getting twisted and choked in his harness. Not a good scenerio.

We were talking about this yesterday, what an enormous change he has made in my life. I have always been shy, and always been a ‘loner’. Even when I was younger and in shape, I tended to avoid people, when possible. While showing horses for clients I was found either ringside coaching my kids, or at the barn grooming and warming up, but not socializing and having ‘fun’ like so many others. Perhaps that is why it seemed like such a chore. But hey, that’s me. Since getting sick, I have put on so much weight and aged so badly, that I have been ashamed to be seen, so I retreat to my shell and try not to even go out in front of the house unless I absolutely have to. The woman in the mirror is a stranger to me, and I’d rather keep her under wraps. But when going somewhere with Heath, people notice him instead, and talk about him, and my anxiety tends to melt away. And he does garner a huge amount of attention. I could never even consider doing these things without him.

Just in the 2 days we spent in town, all the folk at the dealership spoke to him, and even let him come on my test drive, in spite of the snow and his somewhat raggedy looking undercoat where dirty snow or water had splashed on his leg and belly feathers. He was of course, perfectly behaved and the salesman was impressed with how he jumped into the cargo hold when I asked and quietly laid there for the trip. After purchasing a different car and agreeing to pick it up the next day, we went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner. The smell of steaks and lots of distractions always make me worry, but I shouldn’t have. Other than wanting to forge ahead of me a little bit to try and meet a youngster passing us (he is absolutely wild about kids) we were seated at a booth across from an elderly couple. I was hoping he would behave like usual, as I was afraid that they might take offense to a dog in the restaurant. Instead, as they got up to leave, the lady tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that he is the best behaved dog she’s ever seen, and they appreciated how he went right under the table and laid quietly when I asked, in spite of all that was going on around us. I really appreciated the compliment to us both.

Heath lays under the table at Texas Roadhouse. His good behavior didn't go unnotced

Celebrating with steak, mmmm

We stayed at Holiday Inn Express in Boise, which I highly recommend. The staff is always super friendly and its always clean and nice. I was out front grabbing stuff out of the truck while Randy got us a room. I had Heath wipe his feet on the mat when entering, which is NOT his favorite thing to do. The man behind the desk said “Well, I guess I will have to take your word that he really is a service dog since his vest says so, even if you have no certification papers”. I asked if they’d been having dog problems and he said yes. I gave him an ADA card that explained there are NO papers on a service dog, they aren’t required to wear a vest, etc. and the easiest way to tell if they are for real is their behavior. It also informed him how to protect their business from an acclaimed service dog that is causing problems. He was really appreciative and said he was going to post the card in the meeting room so he could inform the rest of the staff. I felt good because there are a lot of people taking advantage which causes not only bad feelings toward real teams but increases problems for real teams as well as it can seriously unsettle and damage the confidence of a service dog, which is not allowed to defend himself, to be faced with a poorly trained, barky, aggressive, rude dog of any size or breed, especially when working.

Once in the room, my calm, reserved, well behaved sheppie turned into a whirling dervish, pleased to have had his boots and vest removed and had the two of us in hysterics with his antics. Other than waiting until I had my pjs on, (shorts and a t-shirt) to tell me he needed to go out and do his business…at 25 degrees F, he was a good boy. Out we went, me in my t shirt and snow boots and he  off leash with his happy on. I was only mildly frostbitten when we came back inside.

Next day at the doctors, several people commented and asked to pet him. I had to turn them down because he gets too distracted and wants to play with everyone. After awhile, a man came in, looked our direction for a moment then turned to the lady behind the admissions desk. She asked if she could do anything for him and he said “Yes, I want to buy that dog!” We laughed and I was again, really proud of Heath.

Next was Costco, where we were stopped several times and asked about his breed, then a man came up and said “It’s so nice to see a service dog BEHAVE like a service dog! I’ve trained dogs for 30 years and it’s not hard to recognize a phony or the real thing.” I was wow-ed. Again, none of the anxiety raised itself, because Heath was the focus of attention and I felt safe in the background behind his shining stardom.

What a dog!!

We were next faced with a 4 hour drive home in the dark, in the snow, in a vehicle I was not familiar with. I had a fair idea where the windshield wipers and defroster were as that was my key concern. I had already put the service dog stickers on the window so if we had a wreck, first responders would know to look for him and not to separate us. My car has one of those On-Star kinda deals so it tells me where I left it in the parking lot, if I forgot to lock it, if it's stolen, where it's at, and gets me help if I am broken down or in a wreck. A good option for me, I think. Now if they will just pass reciprocity so you can Concealed Carry across state lines so I am not vulnerable while driving long distances alone, waiting for help to show up in the event of an incident.

I was following TheMan in our embarrassingly dirty truck, knowing Blu Roo would look much like that when we made it home. It is, after all, a ranch, with 50 miles of dirt road leading there. I was pretty nervous,  unable to figure out how to work the radio or anything, and unable to take my eyes off the road, or my white knuckled fingers off the wheel. Only about 30 minutes out, we had a lot of road debris hitting the undercarriage which was unnerving Heath and throwing stuff onto my windshield. I couldn't find a sprayer for the front windows, so increased the wiper speed hoping to get it off. The defroster was running full blast and my vision was awful. Everytime there was an oncoming truck I had zero visibility as the whole windshield would go white. There was no white line on the side or lane markers in the center for that period of time. I kept praying they wouldn't pass me on a turn. We had to follow a snow plow into Jordon Valley and it didn't get any better. Finally, about 2 hours from home, I managed to signal TheMan to pull over at Rome Station as it was about the only place on the 4 hour trip to do so. It turns out the snow plow had put something down on the road that messed up our windshields on the outside so we could not see. He washed it several times and there was a marked improvement. I think both Heath and I hyperventilating probably didn't help the defroster any. I imagine that will probably be my worst trip in Roo, and I still love him, so it should be a brighter future for us, and no...I repeat...NO driving at night!

Pretty soon we will start travels in the Blu Roo. We’ll start small with a 5 hour drive to my brother and niece’s house, then build up to traveling farther for longer periods until I make it down to see my kids. The long, lonely winter is looking a lot better…now if I can just time it between record snow falls and flash floods….