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.
leopardwolf: (Default)
I have been pretty sick since last time I updated. I started physical therapy again the week before it hit really bad. It's a flairup caused from over exerting myself, and amplified by the weird changes in the weather here. Haven't been sleeping well to begin with, so getting up to tend to puppy stuff wasn't as much an issue. It got bad enough that I almost had a full syncope attack during my physical therapy, and probably fully would have if Ember hadn't alerted me in time so I could stop what I was doing and get to a safe position and warn the staff just in case. To make matters worse I ended up falling during some hardcore pre-syncope roller coaster rides at home. Bruised myself up pretty good and was sore as hell. Only to have to go right to the radiology appointments and be asked to contort myself in weird ways and get poked and prodded so they could do the scans, which further pushed my pain threshold. Poor Ember has been hyper vigilant like she always gets when I get a flairup this bad. Unfortunately she has gotten to a point where it is increasingly difficult for her to do anything for me anymore. There have been several times where she lost her footing while counter balancing me and I almost fell down or into something. I haven't been using her for the balance and bracing assist as much because I don't want to hurt her or myself, and that has only made the flairup that much worse because of the added strain on my body. I am getting to where I can use my hands again, now that the random painful skin splitting,bleeding, and other pleasantries that come with these flairs is calming some. One tiny scratch I got on my pinky morphed into a huge gash and kept refusing to stay closed and heal even with bandaids, ointments, and finally going as far as using liquid bandage to hold it together. It was very painful. A similar split formed on the corner of my thumb and has been almost as challenging to convince to stop splitting open and start healing. Even still, I have managed to get 15 ceramic bowl dishes formed and drying as greenware, to be bisqued, glazed and fired to finish, a commission intended for office holiday gifts. I also have full intentions to work on that dog portrait painting, even if I have to fully bandage my hands to do so. I will stream while working on it, aiming for this Friday 16th around 8pm CST for anyone interested.

Moar Flares

Friday, September 30th, 2016 08:35 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
Well, seems like I got my wish for cooler weather. But along with the sudden change came a flareup of astronomical proportions. Everything is ANGRY. Migraine triggers with aura and halos, ocular distortion and blurred vision. I moved wrong and my lower back and hips aggroed and went out aaaand the icing on it all, my De Quervain's Tenosynovitis has flared up so bad I will probably need to get another corticosteroid injection. But at least it's a little cooler out. It's nice. But it would be nicer if my body didn't behave like it was the end of the world every time the weather changes. Trying to be extra careful about how I move, but I refuse to let it slow me down again after I was just starting to recover from the last flare. Lots of Gaba and pain creams all over. I shall smell of menthol! Excuse me while I go electrocute myself with my TENS.
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)
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)
Apologies for the delay updating this past month. I ended up staying in NJ longer than expected because I went to meet with a service dog organization for a client interview for a new dog. I was sick while I was there with a flareup, and came home sick with a sinus infection turned into bronchitis and upper respiratory infection. Went to the doctor and got antibiotics and an inhaler. It's been pretty miserable but I am starting to feel a little better. That said, I am getting back to work on the projects I left off with and will be sharing progress along the way on Patreon.

Christmas / Yule cards are also on the way, for those who asked or sent them last year, since my whole plot of silly "Christmas in July" sort of got botched, they are actually on time for this year's holiday haha. I think I'll send another batch randomly at some point too just to make up for it. Because we all need cheer year round! Hope everyone is doing well.
leopardwolf: (Lhunie Floof - Foxfeather)



I'm in New Jersey visiting Mike. Was sort of a last minute trip. He had time to take for vacation and we decided to do it now, because his time was limited and flight prices skyrocket for the holidays. I'm thankful we have a chance to spend time together. Had a chance to go see Jen and Girlie cat and visit with them and have dinner. Was so nice being able to see them again and love on Girlie. Went to my first Rangers hockey game at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. It was an amazing game to see in person. Had a ton of fun.

Took Ember along with us into Manhattan. She did flawlessly well for such a loud and overstimulating place as the big city and a sports arena can be. MSG staff were awesome about Ember being along. She got an official MSG ID card and everything. I have been taking her out with me since I got here, each time we went anywhere to get her re-accustomed to working in public and to see how she'd do with it, before deciding to take her into Manhattan and MSG. Ember went back to her solid work ethic as if nothing ever changed, even after not working for almost a year. She alerted me during the game when I got distracted by the intense beginning and forgot to take my medicine. She also woke me at one point when we overslept ( alarm didn't go off ) and I was late taking my meds. Woke up with my heart racing ( yay tachycardia ) from a dead sleep to her on the edge of the bed trying to get my attention. After she woke me and I showed her I took my meds, she went back to doing her own thing.

Ember will probably end up going home with me and be put on an anti-inflammatory to help keep her comfortable while working. Mike has been pretty unhappy about it because she keeps him company and keeps him sane around here, which I can't blame him for feeling that way. I wouldn't take her if it wasn't as much of a medical necessity as it is. Hopefully it will only have to be for a few months.

I was originally supposed to fly home Nov 16th, but plans suddenly changed last minute when I heard back from Canine Partners hours before my flight. Originally I was supposed to contact them when I got home to set up details for me going to their facility for a tour and an interview with the training staff. But that would have been more money spent to travel there to not even know until after April if I was being accepted as a client.

I told them I could stay if they could somehow work me in, that I'd change my flight home. With the holidays and other things going on, it didn't seem like it would be possible. The woman who has been helping me got in contact with the training director and they approved it! I have a client interview with them on December 3rd and will get to work with some of the dogs so they can see what might be a good fit. I really, really hope that means being partnered with a successor dog is right around the corner. Maybe I will get lucky enough to be in this coming Spring team training group.

Jaw Dislocations

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 07:50 pm
leopardwolf: (My Mind Escapes Me)
So however long ago it was that my jaw got stuck open that one night where I couldn't close it, and had to pop it back in place, apparently my jaw has been dislocated all this time since!

Which must be why the grinding/popping stuff got so much worse, and was hurting more, I could hardly chew or open my mouth fully. It started bothering me real bad the past week or so. I tried flexing and massaging and pushing at the area for some relief. I popped it the other night and had a sharp pain at the hinge area the past few days. Been taking Gaba, and the nerve pain in the jaw hinge finally let up and I noticed today I could chew mostly normal. I was just able to eat a hamburger for dinner mostly normally for the first time in goodness knows how long!! There is still popping sensations like I had prior to the dislocation, but not nearly as frequent or as painful. Trying to be extra careful with it. Fingers crossed it behaves itself.
leopardwolf: (Lhunie Floof - Foxfeather)
As of Friday I heard back from CPL about my application for a new assistance dog.

"Your application is with the trainers. I want to let you know that Fall Team Training will start Saturday so we are in hyper drive here so the trainers might not get a chance to review the application until after team training. - Carol"

Fingers crossed this puts me one step closer to being accepted!


http://www.youcaring.com/brittney-steptoe-428674
leopardwolf: (Default)
Apologies for the lapse in presence on and off recently. I have been busy for a little while working on putting together all of this information for my disability application process. Digging through old paperwork to find things to use ( thank goodness I kept it ), collecting and sorting documents from providers. Just waiting on responses from two doctors and that should do it. I wrote a ton of things with medical jargon and ICD-10 codes to throw at them. 10+ pages to tell them how all this affects my daily life and ability to function. Hoping "doing the work for them" will strengthen my case some, but not holding my breathe. I expect I will be denied the first go-round, as that seems like the popular thing for them to do. Will probably be submitting everything before the end of the month. Anyone interested in reading any of it and giving their input? Also on that note, would anyone like to write anything on my behalf for me to submit to them? On why you feel I should be able to finally get this help I needed ( and probably should have asked for ) years ago and why it is more important I have it going forward? I mean, lets face it. My body is self destructing itself one collagen molecule at a time. That isn't going to change anytime soon!

Snarky body

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015 07:35 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
My body has been throwing a fit ever since I stopped working Journey. The more time passes without the help of a dog, the worse I feel. I haven't really been out anywhere in nearly two weeks but I finally had to go pick up a few groceries. So sore and exhausted afterwards. My hips, knees, back, and ankles are seriously on the warpath and my normal exercises are not helping. Soaking in a warm bath or TENS is only temporary. Gaba helps for breakthrough, but I am having to take it more frequently to control things during the flairs which increases fatigue and cognitive difficulties. Changes in weather probably aren't helping either. Migraine keeps coming and going. I hope one of these organizations will accept me to receive a new assistance dog. Otherwise I am not sure what I am going to do. One day at a time.
leopardwolf: (Default)
Wow! You guys are awesome! Since the first post, we have already raised $80 and have more on the way for the fundraiser. Please consider donating. Even a $1 goes a long way, because if 50 people donate a $1, that is another $50! If you can find it in you to pass on that Starbucks for one day, toss that $5 our way!

Share and encourage people to check it out and share as well. Remember, you guys are helping me keep my independence and safety by doing this!

Thank you so much!


PayPal is leopardwolf@gmail.com

or


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


or



http://www.gofundme.com/steptoe-sdfund
leopardwolf: (Default)
This fundraiser is to help me acquire a new service dog for mobility assist and medical alert purposes.



I suffer from chronic medical conditions, including a genetic connective tissue disorder known as Ehlers-Danlos, and conditions that affect my autonomic nervous system, my own causing neurocardiogenic issues with my heart and blood flow.



My service dogs are life savers. They have been trained to sense certain chemical changes and alert me to them, to keep me out of danger. They help me navigate daily life safely.



Journey, my current service dog, has hip dysplasia. Which basically ends his short career as a mobility assist and medical alert service dog. Losing him as my lifeline and partner is a huge loss of freedom for me in my daily life.



I now need to apply through an organization for a new assistance dog. I need to come up with money for the applications fees, which are $25 to $50 per organization. Then wait to be approved and matched with a dog. I need to start a huge fund raising effort to help me get the assistance dog I need, which in the end will likely cost over $5,000.





I don't have the financial ability to owner-trainer another dog myself like I did with Ember (my first dog) and Journey. It took me a year just to find Journey ( after reviewing countless candidates ). It's the risk of owner-training, you might think you find the perfect dog, but something unexpected could always happen.



I can't keep going through dog after dog after dog covering expenses for vet work, training, etc. just to have them not work out and have to start all over again. Which is why I am making the hard decision to turn toward an organization for an already trained dog. Getting one through an organization also means if I have problems in the future, or when the dog is ready to retire, I can get a successor dog through the program.





I will most likely end up approved going through Canine Partners For Life, which is located in Pennsylvania.



I need to travel to their facility for team training, which is a 3 week program. All expenses for travel to get there, hotel, plus transportation while there, cost for food and for admission to places for field trips during team training are my responsibility.



Here is info they give about related expenses coming out of my own pocket:



= = =



To purchase basic supplies for the dog - cost approximately $300-$400.





To travel, at your expense, to CPL for a 3-week, mandatory team training session.





To arrange for your accommodations for the 3-week training session. Cost for hotel and meals are approximately $2000. Free housing with volunteers may be available but not guaranteed.





To arrange and pay for your daily transportation to and from CPL and on field trips for the 3-week training session.







To provide your own meals (breakfast, lunches & dinners) including some field trips out for meals (and for your aide if one accompanies you).







To provide your admission costs for field trips during 3-week training session – approximately $100 to $200 per person (and for aide if one accompanies you).







A requested donation (to be determined by a sliding scale – ranging from $1,000 - $3,000) should be sent to CPL before the start of team training.





Medical Alert students must be accompanied by another person during the entire 3-week team training session. ( *** This applies to me, which means I also need someone to go with me and cover their expenses too )





= = =





This same sort of thing holds true for the other programs I qualify for. I have to travel to their facilities and pay for everything in the process, plus the money for the dog itself. Some organizations are able to offer dogs at no charge to their clients, but none that do service my area, or they do not train dogs to assist with the things I need help with or have other specific requirements for clients that I don't fall under.







I basically have to come up with over $5,000 to get a new service dog, before I can even get the dog.







I am starting that fund raising campaign now, in hopes I will have enough saved by the time I am approved and matched with a dog through one of these programs.







If you want to donate directly to me, my PayPal is leopardwolf@gmail.com



Here are links to fundraisers set both on YouCaring and GoFundMe:


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


http://www.gofundme.com/steptoe-sdfund



You can share those links, this post directly, or both.



I also plan to try to reach out to local charities and businesses for assistance. Either in hopes of sponsorship or that they'd be willing to let me put up donation flyers and collection jars or something similar to help spread awareness and raise the needed funds.





If you are interested in reaching out to businesses or charities in your own area who may be willing to help, if you own a business and would like to help raise funds, or if you would like to help with fund raising through some other means, please contact me at leopardwolf@gmail.com so I can provide you with information on how to do so.





There is no donation too small. We are grateful for any and all financial help in reaching our goal.





Even if you cannot help financially, you can help by spreading word about this and posting it for more people to see. Share it with your family, your friends, and anyone else you think might be interested in helping. Encourage them to pass it along as well.



Feel free to post it to your LJ, FA, Facebook, Twitter, DevArt, Tumblr, blogs, and anywhere else such a post would be allowed.





Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you in advance for you consideration, your thoughts, your time and your donations.




Love and light,

Brittney
leopardwolf: (Default)
Yaaay Ember! She is the Dog of the Day today!


Spreading awareness for assistance dogs and invisible disabilities.


http://dogoftheday.com/archive/2015/August/11.html




leopardwolf: (Default)
Today was a good day. I finally got the answer I have been waiting so long for. I have Ehlers-Danlos.

The missing link to my medical mystery and what is likely the root cause of the many years of medical problems in my life, from the more current to those reaching back to my childhood.

It was confirmed by a leading geneticist from Tulane Medical's genetics department after a thorough and extensive evaluation by him and his colleagues.
For those not familiar with it, Ehlers-Danlos (EDS) is a genetic disorder that effects collagen. Collagen is the main structural protein found in connective tissues of animals. Literally the "glue" that holds everything in our bodies together. It is found in everything in our bodies; Organs, ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage, blood vessels, teeth, eyes, skin, everything.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ehlers%E2%80%93Danlos_syndrome


There are various types of Ehlers-Danlos, some worse and rarer than others. Ehlers-Danlos is caused by a defect in the structure, production, or processing of collagen or proteins that interact with collagen. Some forms can be identified by genetic markers, and some have not yet been identified. It's a lifelong, painful condition with no cure.

Yet I cannot express how relieved I feel to know it is indeed the missing link.

Having leading experts in the genetics field acknowledge my concerns and confirm what I suspected (and questioned years ago to other doctors only to be dismissed)... to finally have some kind of closure and explanation to why it never got better when doctors promised it would.

Going in expecting the worst... to be seen by another doctor who wouldn't listen and would just blame Fibromyalgia despite my clear clinical history. That scenario happened so many times over the years I lost count.

These doctors not only got my medical record ( you'd be surprised how many doctors I have seen who never did or never looked at it fully even when offered ).... and read it. All of it.

I mention something I wanted to be sure they knew ( and wouldn't know unless they read my history) and they responded not only saying they "read that in my file" but then made another random comment based on something else they read (that I had not brought up).... I almost broke down crying right there because it's been so long since I had a medical professional do that. Know me and my full medical history. Which is really sad to say it is not more common.

I knew in that moment it was all worth the fight to get this far.

They listened. We thanked them more than we have ever thanked any medical professional.

Now the battle for disability and Medicare really begins.

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