Meet Tesla

Sunday, February 12th, 2017 08:00 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
This is Tesla. His registered name is Tesla Leuchtet Den Weg vom LhunThyla ( Tesla Lights The Way - from LhunThyla ; my owner/kennel tag ). Tesla is an AKC registered German Shepherd ( Alsatian ). He is 13 weeks old. I have had him for about a week, but didn't want to post anything publicly till I knew for sure I was keeping him. He is a Galliard, born Waxing Gibbous ( a day shy of Ahroun! ) . Very vocal and likes to tell you about all the things. He has a great personality and is already more like Journey was in his confidence levels, which is a good thing. Certain personality traits about Tesla remind me of Journey and Chakotay both. Tesla's namesake is in honor of Nikola Tesla, famous Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity system, wireless communications, experiments in wireless power transmission, and much more. Tesla coils, anyone? :D The symbology behind "lighting the way" is both toward that namesake, and the hope he will light the way for me as my new service dog. So far he is doing well with basic training and everything he is exposed to in public. His hips and body structure look great; he does the "Superman sprawl" which is an early sign hips should be okay. When I went to meet him and was doing the initial evaluation, he was quite the character. While talking to the breeder, I set my treat pouch down off to the side. Next thing we knew, puppy had picked the whole thing up and was happily trotting back toward the garage carrying it! A metal trash lid dropping right behind him when he wasn't expecting it and umbrella/object testing did not phase him, he had quick recovery. He happily greets strangers and other dogs. As long as the OFA xrays come back good, he will be clear medically. As long as he can overcome any adolescent fear periods he might have, he should be okay behaviorally. Fingers crossed he will be the one. Third GSD is a charm? Lets hope so. I will be setting up a fundraiser to help cover his medical and xray expenses, and so we can get into some training classes for socialization as soon as possible. Anyone interested in donating can send donations to leopardwolf@gmail.com via PayPal. I am offering artwork or creative things in return, based on donation amounts for anyone interested. Thank you for your help and support! Follow along here: http://www.facebook.com/JourneyWithServiceDogs

Femur Funny

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 08:36 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
Ember and I went to an appointment with a new doctor the other day. When we walked into the room, we found this anatomy model, who looked like it had seen better days. The femur bone there was broken in half, taped together with duct tape to make it whole again. After the doctor comes in and we introduce ourselves, I gesture to the model and say "I hope you don't plan on fixing me like you fixed him". The doctor grins and replies "Duct tape really *can* fix anything!" He's a keeper.
leopardwolf: (Default)
Thank you to everyone for their thoughts and concern over me having to go to the ER yesterday. ER finally confirmed what I have suspected for a while - I have Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN). And it is probably directly caused by my Sjögren's Syndrome. They gave me a new medication that tries to target TN nerve pain, and it was finally able to break through the agony late last night/early this morning. I went to bed with the lower left side of my face swelling ( inflammation related ), and when I woke up today the entire left side of my face was swollen and eye watering from the puffy around it, making it hard to see out that side. Using an ice pack on it, so will see if that helps reduce the swelling. Otherwise I am stable, still in pain but new med is helping. Follow up with primary doc and Neurology Monday. I am a zombie, will be while getting used to this new med. Recap on what led to this point: I was in so much pain, I hadn't been able to sleep for days ( worse than normal ) because the pain always gets insanely worse at night. I have an extremely high tolerance for pain these days, and my Gaba med normally takes enough edge off that I can "ignore" it ( just suffer through it ). On the second day it was getting to where I couldn't tolerate it anymore. Aunt tried to help by getting me all sorts of ice/heat packs and OTC stuff to dull pain. It got so bad that night/early morning that I almost called an ambulance ( my aunt was asleep and she can't drive at night so only way I could have got to ER is that way or call cab and I was worried Medicaid would not cover ambulance ride and had no way to verify at 2am ). It was weekend, no way to speak with Medicaid people to see what was covered, I just decided to suffer through it. On the third day of insane pain I went through my entire daily dose of Gaba in 3.5hrs and it did nothing. I knew it would only get worse again come evening and I didn't think I could deal with it again without wanting to destroy something from how much it hurt. For pain to hurt me bad enough to make me give in and go to the hospital or ER on a weekend, you know it is seriously bad. So neighbor took me that evening since aunt can't drive at night ( thanks again so much! ) and dropped me off. The EJGH staff was AMAZING. First person we were met with was security, and he stopped me when he saw Ember.... I was seriously ready to destroy someone/something at that point from the severe pain and I was having worried flashbacks of the horrible experience I had several years ago with the security douchebag at LSU hospital ER trying to deny me access if I didn't show him "proof" Ember was a real service dog ( this is against the law ). Thank the gods, this lovely gentleman was far better trained and considerate. He noticed her vest and the patches clearly defining what she was, smiled and said nevermind and told me to go ahead. I heard other hospital staff whispering as we wandered past, all saying "its a service dog" to each other, sounding as relieved she was the real deal as I felt that they recognized what Ember was. They were tons more professional and knowledgeable. That's why I chose to use EJGH general practice doctors for my care, and their conduct in the ER only reaffirms I made the right choice. Compared to the LSU ER horror, getting in to the EJGH ER was quick and rather painless. I was worried it would be crowded on a Saturday evening, and while there were enough other people, the staff had a nice system set up for intake and directing patients. They brought me to an exam room in a wheelchair to avoid me going full syncope due to the pain I was in, worried to make me walk that far down the hallways. I was thankful for that. Ember got to show off what a well trained dog she was and that made her happy. She's been so worried over me the past few days. The nurse helped me into the hospital bed and Ember took her place beside it to wait. I got to watch some HGTV while waiting for the doctor. We don't have live cable anymore so it was a treat to watch. The wait for the doctor was brief. She went over my history and current symptoms, I explained I had experienced this problem numerous times before but this was about the worst it had ever been. After a quick examination she agreed based on my history that Trigeminal Neuralgia was most likely responsible, probably directly caused by my Sjögren's causing irritation/swelling/pressure against the nerve bundles somehow. She wrote me a new prescription to try Carbamazepine, got an additional referral to Neurology for me, told me to follow up with my primary Monday, and that was that. They discharged me with paperwork and took me to wait for a cab in the lobby, and were kind enough to make the call for me and inform them I had my service dog with me. It was while waiting I noticed some tightness in my face on the left side, the effected side. I was still in a ton of pain and rather out of it, but realized after poking at it gently that it felt like swelling, and not realizing it was there before I got a nurse to ask the doctor. Unfortunately since they had already discharged me, it meant I would have had to have gone through the whole intake process again, and my cab driver showed up at that time. Not wanting the poor gentleman to wait or have come out to get me for nothing, I decided it was probably from my Sjögren's attacking the glands or something. I have had milder swelling where the salivary glands are before, figured that was it and decided it wasn't worth the trouble to wait around for them to likely not do anything else for me anyway. Couldn't be medication related because I hadn't started the new medicine yet, so clearly it was inflammation. I figured if it got worse, I could go back. The cab driver was very nice and considerate, thought Ember was just amazing. He called her a Rougarou ( Louisiana folklore / French for Werewolf ) when we first got in and told his dispatch he had "Miss Brittney and her Rougarou". That made me all sorts of happy and geeky, and when I responded showing I knew what the term meant, he was just as delighted. It was a pleasant drive home with good conversation, as much as I was limited to talk at the time. Much thanks to Metry Cab and Mr. Jim! My aunt was able to drive me to the 24-hour pharmacy just down the block, since it wasn't too far and well lit with street lights. Had to wait forever for the new med to be filled. Finally got home. Took meds. Became a zombie. Finally got some rest. Took me way too long to write this so it makes sense. The end.
leopardwolf: (Default)
The Rottie Unfortunately Diva ( an affectionate nickname we gave her ) the Rottweiler puppy didn't work out. After further evaluation and working with her, it was obvious that she just didn't have the right characteristics for assistance dog work. She's still a great little puppy full of potential. but she'd make a better family dog, which is exactly what she will be. With the help of the woman I got her from, we contacted someone else who had responded with interest in the puppy after I had taken her. They are a family of Rottie enthusiasts who have had them all their lives, and it was clearly a perfect match. Some things are just meant to be. New Puppy Afterwards I did come across another puppy. This one was admittedly younger than I am normally comfortable with taking a pup for evaluation, but the mother dog had stopped nursing the litter and they had been taken by the owner's daughter to care for and find homes for. The daughter has experience with animal rescue and rehab, so the pups were in good hands and well adjusted for such a young age. The new puppy is a Labrador ( Chocolate ) / Great Pyrenees mix, who is currently six weeks old. She passed the temperament test and startle recovery test far better than I expected. She has a beautiful personality and is very willing to stay engaged. She is a confident little puppy sponge. She is playful and curious, and has potential. The only thing I am uncertain of is if she will be large enough as an adult. Hoping there is a mega growth spurt coming soon. We are playing the name game to see what fits her best. Some names up for consideration: Keala ( Pathfinder, the path ) Raksha ( protection, nurture, pathfinder symbology ) Jakara River Aina ( Joy, Forever, Celtic/Finnish ) Jera Seeker Rain / Rainy Amaya ( Night rain, Japanese ) Zephyr Another Dog So Soon? Something I feel I should say for those who don't know me well enough. Some might look at this as me playing "musical puppies" and think it callous of me. I want it to be understood I don't make any of these decisions lightly. My animals are my family. In the case of these dogs I am evaluating and "trying out" for lack of better phrasing, I get just as attached to them as I am to my animals that have been lifelong companions. The difference in the end however is that I can't let those emotions rule my judgement, if I know that animal is not a good fit for the work I need it to be able to do. I love and respect the animals. I can't force them to be something they are not. I need a very special type of dog, with a very special personality and abilities to adapt to things that most dogs would want to avoid. I need a special dog that will ignore all those pressures and just enjoy working with me and going places with me as my partner. Assistance dogs are considered medical equipment, not pets. Realistically I need to look at it that way and remind myself I can't keep them all, as attached as I get to them through this process of attempting to owner train my new service dog partner. It makes letting them go that much harder. Even if it doesn't work out, I always make sure the dog is going to a good, responsible home, and I keep in touch with and follow up to be sure everything works out. The same as I have always done for any animals I have rescued and fostered over the years. I have seen too many people who owner train use dogs that really should not be working any form of public access, for one reason or another. It is not fair to the dog to try and force it to be something it is not. Doing so would set a bad example on me as a trainer, and be a poor representation of the assistance dog communities as a whole. That is why I am being as selective as I am. Because it is the right thing to do, and it is necessary to ensure my dog is not a liability in public.

Updates, Nirding

Friday, July 1st, 2016 07:15 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
I return. Sort of. I have had a horrible go at it with reoccurring flair ups of my autoimmune issues. No thanks to the stress of having to jump through more hoops to get a little help.

It is better explained here, with neat pictures of my crazy flesh!

http://www.patreon.com/posts/handy-hands-5871180


It is finally letting up enough where I can think somewhat clearly and function enough to venture on here and see what everyone is up to.

I have a ton of little updates to make here or there, mostly passing comments about random things that have happened.

That includes a very random and rapid visit from my friend, the good doctor Jenn.

She brought along her friend and fellow doctor Abby ( who was moving to Louisiana, yay! ) and Abby had with her an awesome gyr-burd.

The nirds taught me great wisdom of avian ways. Shenanigans were had, great photos were captured ( envy of Jen and her snazzy super lens ), tasty gator was partaken and good company shared by all. It was an awesome day and evening full of laughs and animal geekery that I have been dying for.

They got to meet Ember and Chakotay and experience the silly that is service dogs given a "relax and say hi" command. Chakotay did very good for his first lengthy outing working alongside Ember with all sorts of crazy distractions ( like birds! ). It was also his first experience doing a long and boring down/stay under a restaurant table.

It was totally worth the recovery time from all the activity afterwards. They went to the French Quarter the following day before leaving town, and while I wish I could have too, there is no way I could have gone along and managed to keep up. Especially not in the scorching heat and humidity.

Other stuff happened. I found a baby possum skeleton, I saved a fledgling Blue Jay in epic fashion, I have been training with my dorky dogs when my body allows, and I continue to battle medical conditions and fight for the aid I need. With the Medicaid expansion I am finally getting access to immunological medications and other treatment options, which we hope will better control symptoms.

I think I covered all the main highlights.
leopardwolf: (My Mind Escapes Me)
I have been dragging through the past two months or so with a Sjögren's flair up. I get them regularly and stress and weather conditions, alongside complications from my Ehlers-Danlos and other conditions, can make them worse.

Been having a horrible time with my tooth and jaw issues. The nerve pain has gotten so bad I have had to increase the amount of Gabapentin I am taking and taking it to near maximum daily allowances just to get relief. It's gotten so bad I have had to blender things I eat and stick to eating soft stuff. It's insanely frustrating because the pain is so bad at points between it and the Gaba I can't think straight or get anything done. I have a whole mess of updates and things to share for Chakotay that are back logged, among other things.

This is one of the first days the Gaba has been able to control the pain enough for me to sit and type some. I also have some medical updates but that will come in a different post and may wait till Monday since I have an appointment with my Rheumatologist. Hope everyone else is fairing better and doing well.
leopardwolf: (My Mind Escapes Me)
The Social Security Administration denied my Disability claim.

Despite the overwhelming evidence I submitted. Probably because they didn't bother reading any of it. Not surprising. Their job is to deny everyone.

Time to appeal and fight back. It'll go to hearing before a judge. I knew it would happen this way, I was expecting it. My current plan is to represent myself. I have already been formulating a best method of approach. I will probably be contacting people to request testimonies and witness statements as evidence for the court case.

I will need help and support through this difficult process. My life depends on this having a positive outcome. That may sound dramatic, but it is the truth. Without aid, I have nothing. I am out of options.
leopardwolf: (Default)
My birthday is this week, May 21st. This is the new service dog fundraiser. If you have a few bucks to spare, please consider helping. Pass it along too. Thank you.

http://www.youcaring.com/brittney-steptoe-570453
leopardwolf: (Default)
Apologies for the recent radio silence. Been having a real rough go at it the past week or so. My teeth/jaws have gotten worse and the changing weather makes them flair real bad. The nerve pain I get from it is overwhelming. My Gaba meds just manage to take the edge off. But then breakthrough pain hits and I take more Gaba to beat it back. Once enough is in my system, sedating effects kick in and I am lucky if I can manage to remain awake and coherent to get anything done.

On top of that, Wasabi has been sick recently and unexpected vet bills popped up. He is stable for the moment and on a new special diet, but may need surgery for teeth and other stuff. Really uneasy about putting him under with his age of around 12 years old ( he was an adult farm rescue estimated at a year or so old when I found him ).

I had Chakotay in two training classes, but had to drop one to get the refund because his next round of vaccinations are due and I didn't get money I was supposed to for that because of other drama. The only reason we can remain in the other is because a friend/fellow trainer is kind enough to let us sit in on a puppy class she has as an assistant trainer so Chakotay still gets the exposure and socialization. Really need to generate more money for service dog purposes.

Still waiting to hear back from SSA. Have a doctor's appointment on the 12th with my Rheumatologist. Trying to find out about getting in for oral surgery somewhere so I can FINALLY get these horrible teeth taken care of. They need to come out and I need implants, which is going to cost a small fortune ( insurance does not cover implants normally, even if I had insurance, which I do not). Because of my EDS and other medical quirks, I can't do dentures. The longer I wait, the worse it gets and I am risking more serious bone loss and complications in my jaw and facial structure. I am already in constant pain and having major difficulties chewing/eating and talking for extended amounts of time. It is miserable, but there isn't much I can do without the money.

I tried going through LSU dental school but haven't heard back on the new referral in months and last I asked they claimed they didn't do them anyway ( which I find odd since you know, where else is a dental surgeon going to learn to do the procedure? ). They told me I'd have to find somewhere else to go. So now I am searching for an oral surgeon locally who might empathize with my situation and be willing to somehow work with me before this becomes more serious than it already is and requires more extensive corrective surgery of not just dental structure, but entire jaw bone structure.

Happier updates with puppy pictures and art stuff later.
leopardwolf: (Default)
To clarify something with the service dog fundraiser I have been doing, because a friend pointed out some confusion. We were having a discussion about me needing to come up with $120ish for a training class and I was saying I'd have to raise the money. Trying to be helpful she made the comment "At least you have the $700 from the service dog fund if you need to use that".

I actually do NOT have that much. That is just the total that was raised from the time that I first got Journey until the time I had to rehome him (almost 2yrs worth). This was before I made the choice to apply to CPL and everything. That money at the time was specifically raised to go toward his training and care, or toward service dog related expenses, and it did. Some of it went to help cover some expenses during the two trips I took to visit CPL.

In reality I only have around $380 remaining currently. $250 of that is tied up in a revolving line of credit (LOC) with the bank. This was done to hold the money for the service dog fund purposes but to also help improve my credit, since I had medical debt and have been unemployed. It works sort of like a credit card. I can spend up to that amount, but I have to "pay it back" at the end of the month. Until I close the LOC anuyway. When I do, I get that $250 back. But I don't plan on doing that anytime soon because it really has helped improve my credit so far.

The remaining $130ish is the actual "spending money" I have right now specifically for service dog or CPL related things. The rest of it is gone. It was spent back when I had Journey for his care and supplies, and some of it was just spent recently for the new things I needed for Chakotay.

This is why I keep sharing the link to the fundraiser. I am in limbo waiting to hear back from SSA on Disability, so unless I sell art or creative things, a commission, or something from my Etsy store, I don't have any other source of money coming in unless someone is kind enough to donate.

Did the "amount raised" display on the fundraiser confuse anyone else ( make you think that was how much I still had)?

Should I start a brand new fundraiser at $0 amount so people realize I really don't have $700 already toward the cause?

I hate that I even have to ask for help, I'd much rather people buy my art, crafts, jewelry, or commission me so they get something in return.

But aside from dog training and animal psychology related training and sharing my knowledge, that's the only other thing I can do, and all of it is limited by my health problems at any given time.
leopardwolf: (Default)



Good Sits, Downs, Leave Its, Waits

Working on Stay, Focus and Duration

Multiple Outings To Pet Friendly Stores ( in short time I have had him )

Met 100 New People Before 10 Weeks Old ( yaaay puppy socialization! )

Got Nails Trimmed Without Batting An Eye

Visited Local Starbucks And Did AMAZING down-stay!!! (First "no pets allowed" store exposure.)

AKC STAR Puppy Material! ( Need class and testing eval, but he already does behaviors)



Chakotay will be 10 weeks old this coming Sunday, April 17th.

Disability Update

Thursday, April 14th, 2016 06:48 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
Stage one of Disability determinations completed. I called SSA today and apparently I have a new worker, which explains part of the run around. She confirmed everything with me and told me she'd be submitting my case to their doctors for review tomorrow.

Now waiting to hear back on the medical determination stage. This is the big one, where the longest wait normally is. Cross your fingers, and send tons of positive thoughts and prayers for a positive outcome. Hoping for the best, expecting the worst.
leopardwolf: (Default)





Finally have a chance to sit and write a puppy update for those who have been waiting.

Chakotay is the pup's name.

After a week of narrowing it down and seeing which sounds he responded best to, it was between that and Tesla. He chose. He responded far better to "Chakotay" and "Kotay".

Been busy with puppy stuff. Socializing and training. We have gone to local Petco and Petsmart for exposure to new things and meeting awesome people and even a few different animals.

He had an appointment with the vet today, and both the vet and one of the vet techs recognized his name. They kept wanting to call him "Commander" ( the character's eventual rank in the show ). I think they decided they needed to go rewatch the series on Netflix after our visit.

Chakotay weighs 13.6lbs and is 9 weeks old currently. He has big feet and big ears and is a fluffball of an adorable Alsatian. Healthy as a horse and it is obvious he's going to be a big dog as he gets older. Which is just what I need.

Chakotay is a lot more sensitive than Journey was, but he also seems to be learning much quicker and has a better body structure.

Some things ( mostly sounds ) startle him at first, but when we come across such a thing he recovers quickly. I normally recreate the situation if I can, so he can see what causes it. Once he does, he's totally okay with it after I make it into a big happy thing and give praise and treats.

I have pictures and video to upload and share and some funny things I have been taking note of to share.

I have to raise money for upcoming vet expenses and PennHIP Xrays, and puppy and obedience classes. Anyone interested in helping, who can spare a few dollars, please consider purchasing artwork or creative things from me, supporting me on Patreon, or donating to the service dog fund raiser to help us stay on track. Feel free to share, repost, reblog, re-whatever! Thank you for taking the time to read and for your support.

Shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/LeopardWolf

Support: http://www.patreon.com/leopardwolf

Donate: http://www.youcaring.com/brittney-steptoe-428674
leopardwolf: (Default)
Quick update. Ankle is still tender but as long as I am not on it too long I can tolerate the pain enough to walk on it for short amounts of time and for short distances. Puppy is doing good, will write more about that in a puppy update I am working on.


Getting increasingly aggravated with the SSA and this disability determination process. They sent me ANOTHER letter requesting info I already gave them. This is the third time they have done so.

I filled out the application online and it specifically asked for this info and I filled in the blanks. Then I also submitted it with the info I gave them to copy in person. All of that info was carefully organized and selected because they had already asked for it, or I knew they would ask for it, so I included it thinking it would help them and make the process more efficient.

So how can you not have it and still be requesting it unless clearly you haven't bothered to actually look through my entire file?

Or you are just wasting time, resources and paper.

The fact that one of my conditions is actually listed on the SSA "auto determination list" should make this entire process totally irrelevant. But noooope.

Because, government.

Puppy Names Take 2

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016 02:40 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)



Originally it seemed like Tesher would be the pup's name. I liked it, he seems to respond to it, and there is symbolic meaning behind it. So I thought. But I like to research meanings behind things. I found that it is actually the Hebrew word meaning "tip". As in giving your waiter a "tip" or "gratuity" at a restaurant. And Tesher-t in Egyptian is blood, red land/desert, or a vessel for drawing water (wisdom/truth - thus teacher?).

So for those reasons alone, we'll probably nix it. The other problem is people I interact with on a daily basis ( thus he would interact with also ) are having difficulties remembering it (and pronouncing it correctly).

Amusingly, the longer fictional name Chakotay seems easier to remember, maybe because of how the spoken syllables flow together. Anyone who watched Star Trek Voyager will know and remember it. In the Star Trek universe, in the language of Chakotay's ancestors, the name means something akin to "Man Who Walks the Earth But Who Only Sees the Sky/Stars".

Some people had a hard time with remembering Journey's name at first too, and that is far more common in usage than the other possible names I came up with for this new pup.

I like unique and "off the beaten path" sorts of things with meaning behind them. Plus it offers far less chance of a "common" name causing a problem in public or confusion in social situations with people who might have the same name or a similar sounding name.

Tesla is easier to remember it seems, simply because of the greatness behind such a name. Genius and inventor. Energy, electricity, spark, brilliance, lightening (tesla coils), all those things come to mind in symbolic association.

Solar might be the easiest of all to remember. There was solar storm activity and solar wind activity increase the day he was born. Solar is Sol, the sun, brilliance, life giver, guiding light. Lots of similar symbolic meanings.

So now I will flail some, edit some training videos documenting progress, and maybe roll a D6 to see which name comes out on top.

Puppy Names

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 02:45 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)



A list of potential names for the new puppy. Keeping in mind as a working dog, I needed something people wouldn't commonly use in conversation, something preferably multiple syllable so it doesn't sound like a command, and something that doesn't sound too much like any other names in the household / family.


He is a Ragabash, born under a New Moon (amusingly enough).


His father's name is Midnite. His mother's name is River.


Trevor ( I have a Bone Gnawer Ragabash by this name)

Voodoo

Mojo

Tesla

Lantesh

Chakotay

Tesher ( Gift, Teacher )

Hunter

Sounder

Solar

Haze ( State trooper at traffic checkpoint suggested it. :) Foggy night. )

Thor

Draco

Orion

Chance
leopardwolf: (Default)
As I mentioned in my last post, I recently took a trip to Pennsylvania to attend a CPL support class and meet some of their dogs and working teams and to get some hands on participation. I found out all the alert dogs they had available have been paired with other people that were on the waiting list ahead of me, and there are still others waiting. So I wouldn't be getting paired with a dog this year unless they came across one from another source, which is unlikely.

A few days before our flight home, my friend Christy messages me to ask if I had found any new prospects, since she knew what had happened with Journey washing out from the hip dysplasia. I told her what I had just learned from CPL.

It was then that she told me her family had come into the possession of a little male German Shepherd puppy, and that they wanted to give him to me if I wanted him. They know how valuable service dogs are, Christy being an owner-trainer herself.






Shocked and humbled by their offer, but very hesitant to try again because of what happened with Journey and the hip dysplasia, Mike and I began doing some serious talking and considering. It could be up to 2yrs before CPL might find the right dog to pair me with.

I'm not sure how much longer Ember will be able to work. She's starting to show signs of her age when she works on top of her damaged toe issue. She won't be around forever, as much as I hate to think that way. She's 10yrs old, and most service dogs retire around this age.

On top of that, I have to come up with over $5,000 just so I can go and get a dog when CPL finds one to pair me with. That covers the expense of hotel for a month and some other expenses, but there is also needing to pay for travel expenses for myself and someone to come with me, which is another issue.

I need someone to be with me during the entire month of team training. I originally thought mom would be able to do it, but she has to take care of my grandmother and their dog, who cannot be left alone. Mike and my aunt cannot take that long off work. There aren't many other options that won't be awkward or expensive unless I can find a friend or volunteer to go with me.

So after discussing this with family, we finally decided it was worth the risk to try again with a new puppy and for me to owner-train it in hopes it will work out.

Our reasons were pretty simple. If this new puppy works out, I save $5,000 and the stress of having to somehow raise such a large sum all at once, possibly on very short notice, to afford the travel and hotel expenses to stay the month for team training at CPL, in the event I couldn't find volunteer housing or other ways to save on cost. Even if I could I am still looking at over $2,000 for expenses.

If by some stroke of luck CPL does find a dog to pair me with *before* I finish training this puppy and have a chance to see if he'll really work out as an assistance dog, then I always have the option to rehome him if necessary like I did with Journey.

If I end up having to wait nearly 2yrs anyway in hopes of being matched with a CPL dog, we should know by then or even before then if this new pup will work out.

He comes from working lines, his parents look solid and no history of issues, and his paws are huge for his size. He's going to be a good sized dog when he grows up and fills out. He's a lot like Journey in a lot of ways, but also vastly different in many others. He's insanely smart and responsive and already catching on to things fast like Journey did, and he is just making 7 weeks old.

Still, our experience with Journey makes this a very difficult decision. To put that much into a dog only to find out the hip dysplasia is there. I would rather know sooner than later, and there is some sort of version of the OFA hip/elbow screening that can actually be run on puppies instead of having to wait till they are almost 2yrs old for growth plates to close.

The problem is that testing is very expensive from what I understand. It would be worth it for peace of mind to know the dog I am putting work into is proven solid. But on the other hand it would be heartbreaking to spend that much money on the testing only to have worst fears confirmed and find out I am right back to square one again, and with all funds exhausted.


Either way, I will still be on CPL's waiting list. As long as I keep following up regularly and meet their criteria, I will still have the option of getting a dog through them in the future.

Now I just need to come up with a good name for this little guy.



I am still keeping the fundraising active. It can be found here:


http://www.youcaring.com/brittney-steptoe-428674


I may still need the full amount for getting a dog from CPL, either now or in the future. In the meantime I will also need to cover puppy vet costs and related expenses as the pup matures and for x-ray expenses. Any help with this is greatly appreciated.
leopardwolf: (Default)
Back from New Jersey. The trip was short but went really well. We went to a trade show to see equipment and other things. After that we drove out to Pennsylvania and stayed the night at the hotel near CPL, then attended the support class the next day. It was nice to see how they run things and meet others who were already paired with CPL dogs. My friend Carolyn and her CPL mobility dog Cherry came and we finally got a chance to meet in person and after the class go and have amazing nom nom sushi, yay! Ember was waiting out in the car with Mike during class so I could work with one of the CPL dogs. I got to work with a beautiful male yellow labrador named Diesel. Great dog, great personality. He was already paired with someone though.







During the class he got a little restless at points and I'd reposition him and give him a down-stay command, but he'd eventually move again and come toward me. I wasn't sure if it was alerting behavior or not, since there was a younger female black labrador with another lady near us who also kept turning toward us a little restless. She also kept staring at me and whining, but I thought it was because I had my treat bag and was rewarding Diesel for good behaviors, which is why I also thought he was restless, wanting more treats! Turns out Diesel was alerting to my neurocardio symptoms, and when I glanced at the clock I realized I was due for my medicine. He alerted within the same time frame Ember normally alerts when I am due for it. It was really awesome having a dog I don't even know alert to me. I mentioned the behavior from the black lab that kept focusing on me, and they told me she was from one of their lines known to alert so they were glad to know she was displaying the behavior and they'd follow up on it.

I asked them some questions about the whole process since I am on the waiting list, and was curious to know how many other medical alert dogs were in the making since Diesel was already paired. They told me unfortunately all the dogs that do medical alert are currently paired with their new partners, and none of the dogs in the kennel rotations right now are displaying the right behaviors frequently enough if at all to make a solid medical alert dog. Which basically means since there are other people already ahead of me on the waiting list, I probably wouldn't be getting paired with a dog this year. Then there is also the problem of finding someone to attend the entire month of team training with me.

Which leads to my next post, which will discuss that, and a little something else that happened as a result.
leopardwolf: (Default)
I have been a little scarce recently. Taking care of medical related stuff. I am finalizing my Disability/Medicaid application process next week. I will be going in person with faithful Ember at my side to present my 3inch+ thick folder of medical records and documents, letters of support ( thanks again to those who wrote them ), and fully detailed write-up of my conditions and their effects on activities of daily living and how they adversely effect my ability to work for gainful employment ( lack thereof ) or enjoy activities the way I could before my body decided to try and self destruct. I am going in fully expecting I will be denied the first time and will have to appeal. They normally almost always deny you the first time, even if you have a metric ton of supporting evidence like I do. If by some miracle I get approved on the first try, it will be so totally unexpected I will implode from sheer relief and happiness. I won't hold my breath though. Thoughts, prayers, luck, and well wishes are greatly appreciated!
leopardwolf: (Default)
(TLDR Version) I went and met with trainers and staff at Canine Partners. I had a chance to work with some of their dogs in the special mobility harnesses they use. They think I'm a good candidate for a service dog through them. I have been added to their waiting list. They're going to start looking for a dog partner that matches my needs. So excited! Now I just need someone who can come with me and stay during the month of team training.



If you'd like to help, please consider donating to the fundraiser and share it:

http://www.youcaring.com/brittney-steptoe-428674


= = = = =





The hotel we stayed at. Funny enough the decor was almost identical to the one we stayed at years ago for training when we worked for Verizon. We had our geek-on with Fallout 4 111 hoodie and Pipboy bag, and Firefox bag. Ember completes the set as Dogmeat ( her nickname ).











Ember laying in her famous "dogball" position at the hotel the morning of the CPL visit. She was minding her own business idly watching us. Then I said "Watch me" to her.






Creek behind the hotel. It was dark when we arrived, but we swore we heard water. Past the parking lot was vast pitch blackness. We found a rock and threw it, to moments later be rewarded with ther ker-SPLOSH sound of water. This is what we found the following morning.






The drive over wasn't too bad. I was playing with my new phone and a holder I got for extended range for photos and video. Maybe pictures with me in them will be less rare now that I can more easily take them myself. Ember sits weirdly and cutely when riding in vehicles.






Sitting at the CPL office waiting to be called over for the client interview. We were a little early. Taz the office cat kept us company and the staff was friendly. I didn't want to be rude by aiming my phone at everything, plus they have privacy policies like doctor's offices do. So behold, Ember and my braces.






We met with the trainers for my client interview. They had 6 or 7 of their own dogs present between the different rooms, and you'd have never known it without seeing them. We settled in and they asked me a lot of questions and we went over various details about their dogs and program. I got a chance to meet and work with two of the dogs directly, whose names were Amber and Moose. This allowed the trainers to see how we moved together, and let me try out their special mobility harness. I basically need a dog around Moose's size that moves at Amber's speed. I asked them if it was okay to snap this picture while we waited for them to get their dogs ready.


Ember was uncertain what to make of all those labs and a doodle present. She was a little concerned when I handed her over to Mike and stepped across the room to work the other dogs, not understanding why it wasn't her helping me. My body was acting up, and Ember alerted during the interview and again when I started to get up to work with the CPL dogs. My meds hadn't quite kicked in so I was hurting and my neurocardio quirks had me riding my personal roller coaster. Thankfully I managed not to fall or run into anything and my joints didn't give out on me in any embarrassing ways, so I think I did pretty good. All the dogs got treats at the end and everyone was happy.


Next we went over to the kennel area for a quick tour and to meet some of the other dogs on site. I decided it was best to leave Ember in the car and use my cane, so she wouldn't get over stimulated by having to ignore the 20 or so dogs in the kennel run and they wouldn't be overly excited by her presence. I didn't get a chance to take any pictures in there as I was too busy keeping myself in an upright position and listening to the trainer showing us around. I had a chance to do some interacting with the dogs, and play the "whoever stays quiet gets a yum" game. Many of them were fresh from their puppy raiser homes. The kennel was actually more empty than normal because a lot of the dogs had gone home with volunteers for the upcoming holiday. So we only got to see a small fraction of the dogs they normally have coming and going at any given time. Overall a very nice facility and the dogs are obviously well cared for.

It was a really nice experience. I'm thankful that CPL was able to accommodate me and schedule a visit early since I was already in the area, and that we found out with enough time to change my flight home. It all fell into place just when it needed to. Huge thanks again to CPL trainers and staff for helping make it happen!

They are having a graduate support class in March that also lines up perfectly with a trade show we want to go to, so we're making plans for me to fly out for both.


Overall, they think that I am a good candidate to receive a service dog from them. I have been added to their waiting list. They're going to start looking for a dog partner that matches my needs. So excited! Now I just need someone who can come with me and stay during the month of team training.

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LeopardWolf - Lhunpaurwen - Lhunie

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