Sunday, April 3, 2011

grieving the loss

I've never felt very close to my family. I always participated in the activities, picnics, and family reunions, but we just don't seem to have much in common. One of my uncles died when I was 12, but I wasn't very affected; maybe I was detached, I don't know. My mother told me the little info she had about my adoption, but I never felt comfortable expressing my true feelings about it to her.
When I was 18, I got my first guide dog Valerie. I never had a dog before, so this was a totally new experience for me. I remember thinking she was huge (she is a 48-pound black lab), and I was uncomfortable when she licked me. I didn't know what her signals meant, when she needed to relieve, when she wanted to play, ETC. I stayed at Seeing Eye for a month, and I got used to her and her signals. I went back to my mother's house, and three days later, I moved to college to start my freshman year. I was sooo overwhelmed. I wasn't prepared well with orientation and mobility, and I didn't know how to explore new areas on my own. I spent my first two-three weeks lost on campus. I asked people for directions, but I never took the same way to and from a building twice, so I couldn't form my mental map. My roommates and floor mates were in to drinking, smoking weed, and partying, and that isn't my thing at all. I was feeling alone and lonely, and having Valerie helped so much with that. She was confused because I wasn't giving her consistent feedback at the beginning since I was so lost myself. If I don't tell the dog where I want to go, she can't help me get there.
After the first few weeks, I had a general idea of the locations I needed to know. I had also started talking to people in classes, joining campus volunteer activities, and having lunch/coffee with friends. Valerie snored threw chem class, and I almost joined her. She went with me to campus movies and curled up with me in the beanbag chair, even though she wasn't supposed to. We went to plays and concerts. We experienced navigating threw snow and continuous campus construction at the same time. They moved the fences every day from January threw July, and it was always an adventure going to class. We had fun at new year's where she stole a chicken leg and carried a pug in her mouth as if it were her puppy. We went to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress for accesssible textbooks and the Louis Braille coin. We went to Baltimore where we saw a dolphin show, walked for hours, and got followed by tourists with many small children.
Through all of these happy experiences, we had significant problems. We were alwys at the vet because she was constantly scratching, and they gave her more and more medicine for bacterial infections that never seemed to go away. She also got a UTI, which put her out of work for three weeks. One vet insisted she had mange and it couldn't possibly be alergies since she was only three. After ligistical issues with my college town vet, we finally scheduled sskin alergy testing with a vet hospital in New Jersey. What should have been a simple trip turned out to be ridiculous. My friend Beckie and I missed the greyhound bus by five minutes. I refused to go the next day and lose $120 in B&B fees, so we were going to take a later bus and transfer to another later bus. Her family decided they didn't like that idea, so they drove us to New Jersey. We got stuck in traffic in a constant downpour, got lost, and a 3.5 hour trip turned into six hours.
When we arrived, the B&B owner made an access issue by saying she didn't allow pets in her home because a family member was alergic, and she had some other nice hotels she could recommend. Hers was the cheapest in the area, and she wasn't legally allowed to do that. After explaining the laws and threatening to get the police involved and file a law suit, she backed down. We went to the vet's the next day and it turned out that Valerie was alergic to 17 tenvironmental things, as well as three foods I had found threw an elimination diet. The shots were $300 per month. I had paid on carecredit for the vet visit and on credit cards for the travel and B&B.
I didn't have much money as a college student, so I used at least $2,000 from my scholarship to pay the care credit and four months of alergy shots. The shots combined with benedryl made Valerie exhausted. Since she had previous working issues, was too tired for my active life, and since I definitely could not afford her continuing care, she was retired.

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