Back From Texas

Sunday, November 20th, 2016 02:38 pm
leopardwolf: (Lhunie Floof - Foxfeather)
Texas was great. Mike and I enjoyed our time together. After some stupidity dealing with a few rental places in Austin, we did get to see some nice places out in the Kileen/Harker Heights area. We got to meet a friend of ours in person and spend time with her and her family. Plenty of laughs and good food were had. We got a feel for the area and what is available in the rental market if we decide to move there.

Texas Trip

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 01:08 am
leopardwolf: (My Mind Escapes Me)
I'm heading to Austin, Texas along with Mike and Ember Nov 9th through 15th to look at rentals. Chakotay is staying with mom and grandma. I likely won't be online a lot during this time, so send me anything you want me to see. Anyone have any good audiobooks to share for the drive? Sci-Fi/Fantasy stuff is preferable but willing to try anything.
Tags:

Road Trip Recap

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 05:19 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
The endless flurry of activity recently is making my head spin. Here is a recap.

Before The Trip

Before I found out Mike and I were going on a road trip, I had to unexpectedly relocate my art room from one part of the house to the other. That took a lot of energy and time and required some help from the neighbor to move furniture.

Then I found out we were going to Oklahoma and had to get my car ready for such a long drive. Turns out I needed new tires and front breaks. Which was an unexpected expense of over $1,000 that my family helped cover. Considering the car is going on six years old and this is the first time I have had to replace anything huge like that, I am lucky they held out this long. It had to be done one way or another and thankfully family helped make it happen.

Flailing with last minute preparations to get everything ready, get things for the animals taken care of, and figure out trip logistics and give friends a heads up we would be in their neck of the woods for meetups. It was storming all week up till the day we were ready to leave. It is horrible to admit, but since we don't have cable TV anymore and I wasn't online checking posts or news or anything because of computer problems, I had no idea the Baton Rouge area had gotten hit as badly as it had. New Orleans got lots of rain, but we didn't have anything near that kind of flooding where I am staying. I felt horrible for not knowing sooner, though there isn't much I could have done for anyone in that area with my health problems. Thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was affected.


Travel Time

We didn't realize how bad the flooding was until we got on the road and ended up in the middle of it. Road closures of the major interstates, the exact direction we had to go to get out to OKC. Detours and traffic. Carefully navigating partly flooded roadways. Stopping along the way for breaks and finding the epitome of stereotypical horror movie "dead end gas station" complete with creepy dark road with dilapidated buildings in the middle of nowhere Louisiana where we lost GPS and cell reception at a specific spot along the road..... said NOOOOPE and turned right around to get back to the highway ( the reception came back after we passed that same spot by the way ). The 10hr drive took us about 16hrs. But we made it. And after some mild drama with the hotel, everything else fit into place as best it could.

Chakotay and Mike were buddies from the start. The pup kept doing the most adorkable things and endearingly grew on Mike. They had some wonderful male bonding during that long car ride. I can't count the number of times Chakotay's head was used as an arm rest while he happily grumbled and nudged us like it was the best thing ever. For his first time on a very, very long road trip in the back seat of the car, first time staying away from home, first time at a hotel, and similar activities, he did exceptionally well for a six month old puppy. Ember of course handled the whole trip like the pro she is. She was very happy to see Mike after so many months since our last trip to New Jersey.


Museum of Osteology!!!!

One awesome highlight - I got to have a total geekgasm at the amazing Museum of Osteology, which is a private museum devoted to the study of bones and skeletons, and part of the famous Skulls Unlimited. BOOONES. SO. MANY. BONES. As a bone collector myself, I was in heaven. The collection is amazing, and what was on display is only a tiny fraction of what they have. I took so many pictures, most for anatomy reference and artistic study. The taxonomic displays were amazing. I could have stayed there all day just staring at everything. Mike wasn't sure if he'd like it, but he said he really enjoyed it and thought it was neat seeing all the articulated skeletons. We were actually the last ones in the museum after they closed. I was totally geeking because hey, this is Skulls Unlimited! I couldn't help but ask if they had the Thylacine skull replica on site. I wanted a chance to hold it and admire it in person, since I have been drooling over it online for years now. I was so busy staring at it and talking with the staff about bones and anatomy and geeky things, I totally missed Mike sneaking the guy his card; I just thought the noise was the guy closing out the register for the evening. Until I was handing the skull back to the him so we could leave and Mike grinned at me and told me to put it in the box and lets walk out with it and the guy who was helping us was grinning too. I almost started crying, because I have dreamed of having this thing that represents something so special and deeply spiritual to me, and now I have the closest thing I ever could ( short of the real thing). It is amazing how similar it looks to my wolf skull. Now I will dream of having the felidae skull to complete the aspect circle.


Visiting With Friends!

Mike had a chance to see one of his friends and I had a chance to see some of mine. One being my childhood friend Gabrielle, who is the Burt's Bees knees for understanding and accepting my special crazy self in all the years we have known each other. She helped us brave the wilds of Kansas in search of a meeting place with plentiful food options. The other being my longtime friend Ash, who I hadn't seen in person in nearly a decade, wow! Ash it was great getting a chance to see you and James and reminisce over the good ol' days and sketchbook stains, like a lesbian! Thank you all for driving to hang out with us and have dinner. Wish we could have stayed longer! There was just not enough time to share all the laughter and hugs and love. We must do it again! You guys also need to come visit down here! Just not during the summer because it is waaaay too hot out there.


The trip was way too short, most of the time spent driving. Mike couldn't get extra time off because work had every Sunday this month blocked off, no time available. So he couldn't get the day off and extend his stay longer than the week. It would have been nice if we had more time to explore the area and visit with friends while out there. We made the best of the time we did have. There was a lot of laughter and shenanigans, which we both really needed.

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: (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)
Disability Stuff

This month is flying by. Have had so much going on with finalizing my filing with the SSA. A few aggravations along the way, but those were made up for by going in to drop off paperwork for SSDI and unexpectedly getting to apply for SSI without needing an appointment as I originally thought I would. Everything sort of fell into place just right. It is all done, and now the waiting game. Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I did a lot of reading and research into the process, and spoke with others who went through it. I spent the last year compiling *everything* from my medical records and digging up old documents for FMLA and similar, and writing thoroughly (30+ pages worth) explaining everything in depth and fine detail. With everything else I have done to prepare, I think I have a strong case. Burden of proof is all on me, and I think I have done everything I possibly can. I probably presented the materials much more thoroughly than most people do.


CPL / Service Dog Stuff

Speaking of flying. I fly out this coming week to New Jersey. Going to drive out to Pennsylvania for a CPL support class, where I will have a chance to meet service dog teams from CPL's program. Looking forward to meeting the people and their canine partners who I already know, in person rather than just online. Looking forward to meeting new people and dogs too. Hoping I'll get to interact more with the staff and ask everyone there all sorts of questions. We also have plans to go to a trade show while I am there. Hoping to find some resources and business connections for future investments. Lots of excitement planned, just have to find a way to make it all a reality. One step at a time.


Back And Dental Stuff

My back is feeling a bit better, and almost "normal" again. Hoping it stays that way. I ordered an ortho brace online and have been wearing it as needed to avoid further stress or injury. I found out I have Osteopenia in my lumbar spine. I came across an old radiology report while gathering files for SSA that I hadn't seen before, from just before we moved from Minnesota. Supposedly my old doctor in Minnesota didn't bother to tell me because she didn't feel the overall average of everything added up on the test was out of the ordinary enough. But the radiologist clearly marked it as Osteopenia. Seriously, *any* kind of bone density loss can be a bad thing, *especially* if it is in your SPINE. You have a duty to tell someone that, especially when they are taking medications that are known to *leech calcium* which puts them at increased risk. *Especially* *especially* after you told them to *stop taking their calcium supplement* because their blood serum calcium level was higher than normal. Even not taking it anymore it is still abnormally high. Not to mention the medical diagnoses I have gotten since then and how they'd relate to something like low bone density in the spine. I have to get another bone density scan as soon as I can somehow afford it ( add that to the list with the MRI I really need ) and pray 3+ years not knowing and being off calcium supplements hasn't caused more damage and I can start taking more direct preventative measures to improve or at least prevent further loss. Had some horrid snarky issues with my teeth ongoing and once again looking at needing oral surgery. Trying to find somewhere to get it done under full sedation. It's insane how difficult it is to find something like that, and worse when you don't have any coverage for it.


Otherwise things are okay as they can be. Taking it one day at a time and focusing on the good stuff. Hope everyone is doing well.
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.
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.
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)
Decided to go to the airport today to reintroduce Journey to the scents and the hustle and bustle so we're ready for our flight out on Wednesday. They had a live band playing New Orleans style music, which was awesome. While we sat there, several people stopped to say hello and thought Journey was awesome. One of them said her neighbor works for the sheriff's office and trains their cadaver dogs, which I thought was really neat. Later an officer wandered over and I grinned when I saw K-9 on his uniform and he complimented on Journey and we started chatting about Shepherds and Malinois and other dog training geekery, which is awesome because there aren't as many really dog geek people down here as there were in Minnesota! Turns out he's the K-9 Commander for the JPSD. I had to try really hard not to die from uber respect happy and ask him a ton of questions.

Many people know that tactical and law enforcement K-9 training has always been a huge interest to me since I was a kid and grew up watching Rin Tin Tin, and movies like K-9 with James Belushi and Turner & Hooch with Tom Hanks. Back in elementary school the D.A.R.E officer I was friends with even got one of the local department's K-9 units to come to my house and do a demo with his dog partner, which is one of the huge things that inspired me to work with and train animals ( and why I trained my amazing childhood dog Norton with German commands! ). For a long time I have wanted to get involved in that area of professional training, but things got mixed up and dreams put on hold when Katrina turned everything upside down and in the years that followed things were so rough I never had the opportunity to pursue it further.

I almost didn't go today and decided at the last minute to swing by the airport while waiting for my prescriptions. So that inner voice and gut feeling kicked in, telling me it was meant to be that I met this awesome gentleman today and got to share stories and dog training humor. Funnier, he made a comment about almost getting the cadaver dog job and it just wasn't his thing, and I laughed and told him about the lady who said her neighbor was that trainer, and he laughed too and said it had to be the same person because she was the only one in the area. Small world. Huzzah for meeting awesome people!

Birthday Wish

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 09:25 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
My birthday is coming up on May 21st ( two weeks from now).

I have one big wish I am asking for this year, and hope to somehow make possible.

I want to go visit my dad.


I haven't seen my dad since I was about 3 years old. We recently reconnected with each other this past December, when he found me online.





He stayed in touch long distance throughout my life. We lost contact and track of each other after Katrina. I searched for him online for years and never managed to find anything solid and all the contact info he ever knew for us changed when we lost our house. The one address I did find and send a letter to, was returned by the post office as "undeliverable, address not found". I was worried I may never find him.

Then he found me. I have been so overjoyed with being able to catch up after all these years and have a chance to get to know him better and share stories and memories of childhood.

Our only form of contact has been via phone calls, texting, and online chat sessions when he can get online through the local library for a few hours at a time. He is a telecommunications contractor and having a hard time finding large steady jobs, so his money is extremely limited or else he'd happily be paying part of the expenses to have me come visit.


It would mean so much to me ( and him ) to be able to go see him and would hope to spend a week or so visiting. He's not getting any younger ( no offense dad ), and I want to have an opportunity to visit with him in person while I still can. Many people never get that opportunity. I don't want to be one of them.


We'll need around $1,600 USD for this to happen.


My PayPal: leopardwolf@gmail.com


I am estimating for round trip travel expenses, for having someone take care of my marine aquarium while I am gone, fuel, possible need for lodging (not sure I can make the full drive in a single day with my health issues ), food expenses for the trip and while I am there, and some extra spending money to be able to take my dad to do some nice things and for any unseen circumstances.


I'll be documenting the trip along the way, so you'll get to share in the adventure and the reunion through pictures and video.


If you have a few dollars to spare, I would be eternally grateful if you'd consider contributing to giving the gift of spending time with my dad in person after so long apart.



I'd create a crowdfunding thing for this, but didn't have a lot of success with them in the past outside of friends helping ( thanks again you guys! ). I'm not sure if it's the kind of thing people would care about enough to help, since it's not a medical necessity ( sure it is! ) and I really don't have a lot to offer in return besides art and creative things or my supplies and materials for such things. I could do dog and cat training and behavior consults in exchange. Website and graphics stuff too.



While this doesn't have to happen by May 21st, I am hoping to make the trip within the next month if I can raise the funds.


Thank you for taking the time to read.


You have permission to share / repost / reblog this to help spread the word so more people might see it and want to help.

NJ Trip Recap

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014 08:29 pm
leopardwolf: (Default)
Thursday before we left we went shopping to get a few last minute items for the trip. Journey went with me and was beyond amazing. On the way to check out a box of ziplocks fell from the cart and Journey picked them up for me.

At the checkout the cashier dropped a pack clean wipes and I asked him to get them and he looked at me, and I laughed and called him a jerk for not picking it up, as I turned to get something else from the cart. The cashier laughed and said that as soon as I said that, he turned around and picked it up. When I turned back he held it for me and got lots of praise.



The trip to JFK in NY went very smoothly. Neither of the dogs were very phased by any of it. Getting through security was pretty painless. I let them know the dogs had metal on their collars and vests and would set off the detector, which they did. They did a physical search and we waited for stuff to go through the x-ray. One of the security people was afraid of dogs, and she was staying far back as she could laughing the whole time. She said "They're beautiful but I am terrified of 'em!" Which the other security people thought was hilarious.

Waiting at the gate we had lots of people curious about the dogs being there. We were among the first to board and were in the first row. Got the dogs settled and got comfy, had a brief delay before we took off. Only time the dogs were remotely concerned was during takeoff and landing, but that was more because of the incline and angle change when the "floor tilted" even though we were just sitting still. They quickly relaxed and were perfect during the entire flight. Once we landed at JFK, we got a ton of compliments from everyone as they departed the plane, saying how calm and amazingly well behaved and quiet they'd been for their first flight, even for working dogs.


While there, I had a chance to see some good friends I hadn't seen in years. Went out to Long Island to see Naryu and had sushi and ice creams and visited. Then headed back across the island to meet up with my friend Sherry and her husband and visited and did a lot of catching up. I got a chance to give her a gift I had been waiting a long time to give; a painting of her beloved dog who had passed away many years ago.

Back when I did a commission for her of her mother's dog, I had asked for an image of hers too. She had totally forgotten about it and got all teary eyed when she realized what it was. After that, we went to another part of Long Island to meet with my friend Sharon and her guy. It was a blast catching up with them because they are a lot like Mike and I, and we all used to work together. We had dinner and sat and talked. During the visit I learned a few new photography tricks for low light situations which made me happy squeeee. I really wish we would have had longer to visit with everyone, and it wasn't all crammed into one day.

The following day we went into NJ metro area down by the river, to visit with my friend Jen, who kept Ash ( the cat she was fostering for me ) when we left New York. It was so wonderful to see her again, and nice to meet her boyfriend, who was really nice. I brought Ash a plethora of toys and good catnip. She was delighted in the way only Ash can be delighted and she wallered and did silly things. I gave her tons of love ( as much as she'd tolerate, she's a one person cat ). She's looking great and the love between her and Jen is very obvious. I really wish we would have had more time and not been so far away driving wise so we could have visited multiple times.

During the visit we had a chance to go to the winery that makes Carroll's Mead or the Renn Faire. I was only originally going to buy two bottles ( as that's all I thought I could safely make it home with in luggage ), but thanks to change in travel plans I lucked out and got a whole case of honey heaven. I'm not a drinker by any means, but that stuff is soooooo good and so wonderful to cook with.


A few things happened during the trip that made things a bit meh, but overall everything was good. We had a great time and it was nice to see everyone up there, most of all getting to spend time with Mike. I brought him his birthday gift, and at the same time surprised his mother and step father and little brother with gifts of their own. I painted portraits of their dogs Starr and CJ, who passed away a few years ago from old age. They had those dogs as long as Mike and I have been together, they were both awesome. I wanted to give the in-laws something nice to remember them by, and they were very touched by the paintings. His little brother got an Oriental Dragon figure and some goodies to play and bond with his cat, and later I got him a Grumpy Cat stuffed figure. Because, Grumpy Cat!

I was originally only supposed to be in NJ for 2 weeks. Unfortunately what ended up happening is Mike getting forced from part-time to full time on very little notice and his entire shift changed, including days off. When we planned the trip, he was only part time and expected to stay that way till after I went home. Needless to say, come time for me to return, we had only had 4 total days to spend together that he hadn't been working. Everything worked out by my family wishing me to have more time to spend with him, and my aunt was okay watching the cats longer. So we changed my return flight and I ended up staying through till the end of the month. Originally I was supposed to fly home, but health concerns determined otherwise. So instead, I had to cancel the flight and book a rental car to drive home. There was some mild drama with the car rental, but that was overcome.

The drive home wasn't bad at all. I found nice hotels along the way where people were very nice, including staying at one in Roanoke/Salem Virginia. I couldn't help giggling at the names despite them not being related to either. About halfway through we started to hit some inclement weather. We found out that a winter blast storm was coming down fast and had we changed anything about the travel, we would have gotten stuck in icy and possibly snow conditions. Somehow we managed to stay juuust ahead of the storm front and got far enough south of the effected area just in time to where it was too warm to freeze by nightfall.

It was really nice to finally get back to New Orleans. The cats were surprised at first, then elated and extra cuddly. They got lots of love and treats.

I really enjoyed the trip. and now that I have a jetBlue credit I have to use within a year, I am looking forward to a chance to go back very soon!

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