Thursday, 21 May 2009

Shit Happens.

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing today. I had my guide dog matching visit on tuesday 19th of May as promised, with the lovely Quasia. My meeting the dog and the practise walk you do went extremely well. The instructor reckoned I'm a natural guide dog handler - he even started the basic training right then and there. It felt wonderful and right and me and Quasia hit it off right away. A perfect matching visit in other words.
However ...

The meeting of my gsd Jalen and Quasia did not go so well.

In the past Jalen has had issues with other dogs - he can be fearful and combative to some dogs, yet ignore others. He has been like that all his life, right since he was old enough to go on his first walk. However, when he met my fiance's guide dog two years ago, he fell in love immediately. 
We introduced them - Jalen and my fiance's dog Otto - in my back garden, both on leashes, with Jalen muzzled, at either end of the garden. Jalen and I slowly approached my s.o. and his dog, over the space of fifteen minutes or so. Jalen needed to know that Otto wasn't a threat to him and to get used to his presense. Eventually we met in the middle and they sniffed each other, and all was well. When they were released from the leashes there was abit of posturing from Jalen, but Otto stood his ground and then they clicked. The muzzle came off Jalen and they picked up a tug toy and played tug o war - with my elder gsd Bindi (who had already met Otto, ignoring him completely as he always did with other dogs !) who I sadly lost last year. They've been best mates ever since.

The guide dog instructor recommended we let Quasia and Jalen - and Otto of course - meet off leash, which I was pretty doubtful about as  Jalen can be unpredictable with other dogs off leash. I told the instructor this, but he insisted it was off leash or nothing as he didn't have the authority to do it on leash. 
Jalen's got issues with human strangers too, the little (sorry, hooning great) love, but he's good at heart. He warms up eventually, but it takes patience. I had assumed that the instructor would have to come and meet Jalen and get to know him first, and be accepted by him - but he said it wasn't neccessary for him to know Jalen and that we could do this with him watching through the kitchen window. I was pretty surprised at this as I thought he'd want to be there, but hey - I wasn't in charge here.
 Jalen is the sort of dog who needs to be told how to act in fearful situations, he sees me as security and wants to be close. He needs to be able to check in with me to see what to do, as these days he's without his moral compass, if you like, in dog form - Bindi. Some dogs don't like to be restrained on a leash when they meet other dogs, but Jalen reacts better if he is. But I went along with the instructor despite my misgivings - what choice did i have ? -, which proved to be a mistake. 
Jalen ran over to Quasia. After a second or so he postured and barged her. He was muzzled so he couldn't nip her. I called him back and told him to leave her alone, which he did immediately when I gave him the command, so I made him sit a few feet from me and let her wander around. If he moved towards her threateningly I told him to "leave it", which he did - but the instructor said to let him go and see what happened. Jalen totally didn't know how to react without my guidance so he barged her again, and she squealed. From then on he either ignored her or rushed at her randomly, he just didn't know what to do. The instructor then said for me to give them some titbits, which Otto and Quasia could eat, but I had to feed Jalen his through the muzzle and he was frustrated, which made him even more aggressive to Quasia, and to Otto too, who got a telling off for picking up treats from the floor. It was a total disaster - Jalen was very confused and looking for me for guidance but the instructor kept telling me not to intervene. This was not what my fiance and I experienced with Otto and Jalen meeting - but that was done on terms we knew would be successful. I knew this approach would not work, and I had said so !  

Eventually we called a halt to it, and the instructor told me that this was not good (I know this - I'm not dim). I was very upset because it was such a difference between Jalen meeting Otto and then meeting Quasia. I felt the instructor had got it wrong and should have done it on leashes as we did with Otto as we described to him, and the instructor admitted he'd got it wrong too. No shit ! Too late now though.
 The instructor said we needed to see improvement in Jalen's behaviour towards Quasia in order for them to place her with me. I said I understood, so we agreed to meet again after he (the instructor) had asked advice from his manager. He could have just done what we said we knew would work from past experience of course, but the damage was already done.
He took Quasia off and left us, and I cried all afternoon, I was so upset and disappointed. My fiance blames the instructor for it failing - I just didn't know what to think.

The instructor called me back later that day, saying his manager had expressed doubts that it would work, but that they were willing to try again as long as my fiance and I followed some very strict instructions. I felt like saying, "Well, you method didn't work when ours might have !" but I didn't, of course. It's a learning process for everyone and I don't think the instructor had come across such a situation before. They can't always get it right.
So he brought Quasia back next day and we had our instructions given to us. We were to put Otto in the workshop out back so's not to complicate things. This didn't go down too well with Otto as he doesn't like it in there and he doesn't like being separated from my fiance, so he barked up a storm.
We were to have Jalen on a leash with my fiance in my front garden. I was to approach the gate with Quasia on a leash, and wait to see what Jalen would do. We weren't to give either dogs any commands at all, just let them bark or sit or stand, or whatever. Then I was to walk past Jalen with Quasia into the house, and sit in the front room. Jalen and my fiance were to follow, and sit in the dining room where the dogs could see each other but still on leashes. My fiance and I were not to tell Jalen to quieten down or to sit or to do anything - we were to let him do what he wanted, but restrain him from lunging towards Quasia if he tried.
So we did this - Jalen whined and barked in a high pitched voice as Quasia and I approached, but stopped when we stood still. He let us walk past without a word. I went into the house and sat down, my fiance and Jalen followed and sat in the dining room. Jalen barked and whined but eventually calmed down and lay down on the floor. My fiance said there was no tension on the leash - Jalen was not lunging or pulling towards us. He obviously felt better having the security of the leash - which we knew would be the case all along. Quasia just looked at him. Then she got up and sniffed the tv next to us, so Jalen got up and barked. She sat down again. He sat down again. I tickled her belly and Jalen whined in protest, or interest, one out of the two.
This went on for half an hour or so, with Jalen barking or whining on and off, but not showing any aggression towards Quasia at all, and in the end we said that it was time to stop for today. My fiance and Jalen went outside into the back garden and I took Quasia out to the instructor at his car. We were encouraged as the situation showed promise.

Now here's where it gets even worse !

My neighbors, as reported in other posts, can be total arseholes. As Quasia was getting into the back of the car, my neighbor drove up in his car, shouting my name at me. I ignored him, as he has been agressive to me in the street before for reasons only seeming to be know to himself and whatever I say to him doesn't help. He persisted - he kept on shouting at me. So I said, "Hello."
He then yelled, "You've got one dog in the house barking and one in the workshop !"
So I said I knew that and that we were doing some guide dog training today. He yelled, "Well I don't have to listen to it !" So I said, "Ok, thankyou - but can we not do this now ?" He then said, in a very threatening tone, "You don't want to go down that road with me."
I said, abit taken aback "Ok, but let's not do this now please." And turned to walk away. I know what he's like - I've experienced his intimidating behaviour before and quite frankly, there's nothing that says that in the course of being neighborly and listening to someone's complaints that says you have to stand there and take it whilst some aggressive man shouts at you from the safety of his car. The instructor followed me and we walked into my garden. The neighbor followed into his garden and kept pace with us, saying, "You don't want to go down that road with me !"
In the end I said, "Ok, whatever." I'd got to my front door by that time.

I was pretty unhappy when I got in. The instructor was very confused about what prompted the neighbor to be so aggressive and threatening. I explained that it wasn't the first time. 
The insructor called me back the next day and said that guide dogs felt they couldn't add to a situation with my neighbor by placing a dog into a situation where there might be barking which could make the neighbor aggressive, for my sake and the sake of the guide dog, and my dogs. Basically, what I understood from him was that they wanted to call it off. I asked him what he would do if he were me, and he said  he didn't think this situation was going to work with all the outside pressures on it, and that if it were him he'd give it up.

This neighbor has threatened me before - he once said if I didn't stop my dogs barking, there were "thing I could do to sort it, but I won't do them -- yet." His exact words. 
I had been trying at that point, which was two years ago nearly, to come to some solution to make him happy as I want to be a good neighbor, but he has complained about every little thing I've done or any little barking the dogs do either in the house or even playing in the garden. Any barking seems to annoy him however little it is. But his own dogs are allowed to bark left at home all day, but he doesn't see that as a problem and dismisses it if I try to get him to see that it cuts both ways. I've only ever mentioned his dogs to him when he's complained about mine - my point being, we all have to get along and there is going to be noise from each other's houses when we live in a terrace, but we just have to live with it now and then. Jalen isn't a barker and Otto only barks now and then, so now and again surely isn't grounds to get a cob on. But he becomes aggressive if I don't immediately cave to his demands and nothing I do (and I have certain;y bent over backwards to accomodate him, however unreasonable he has been) placates him. I've done all I can to minimise my dog's barking and I'm at home most of the time anyway, unlike him and his wife (and noisey baby), who leave their two dogs barking all day long from about eight in the morning til late afternoon. Jalen doesn't bark at all when I go out - I know this because I have audio recorded him every time I've been out for the last six months (call me OCD but I want evidence on my side !) so this nasty individual had a problem with a couple of minutes on and off barking for only forty five minutes in one single day ! My perfectly reasonable and polite explanation wasn't enough for him, as he plainly sees life as one rule for him and another for everyone else. The irony of it is - if he hadn't been on holiday from work that week, he wouldn't have even been home to hear it !

He's also complained about the conifers in my garden being too tall (doesn't affect him as they don't overlook his house and don't block the light), about a walnut tree in my garden being apt to grow really large - which again doesn't block his light as it's far enough away from the houses not to do this and is actually on the other side of my garden to the boundary with his garden - which is incidentally full of trees too, not that I care. And he's also complained that I make too much noise "running up and down" my stairs because he knows (he says) I have no carpet on them (true). However due to the fibro I can't say I've run anywhere for the last few years - I may lump about abit as I struggle with stairs, but I'm in bed by ten thirty every night, for pity's sake. And it's not like I live above him - I live next to him ! And how many times can one go up and down stairs in one day, exactly ? I've got a bathroom downstairs so I basically come down in the morning, at about half eight (by which time he's gone to work), and go back up at about half ten in the evening. I might go up and down a couple of times during the day but - I mean, whatsamatter wiv yoo, you silly man ? He's not even there during the day - neither is his missus most of the time.

However - I can hear you thinking, "Surely there must be more to it than that." And I agree - and the more to it is that he treats his wife like total dirt, and his child the same. I have heard him shout at them in a manner that many people would feel is inappropriate. His idea of disciplining his own dogs is to pull their ears (I have witnessed this first hand, and even had his wife cry out in shock at him doing it to confirm I really did see what I thought I saw). He thinks all people a shade darker than white are dole scroungers and gamblers - he once told me, when I first moved in here and didn't know what an arse he is that he often drove to the coast and saw "these muslim benefit scroungers putting our money into fruit machines all day long. It shouldn't be allowed". He also told me that his step daughter (who doesn't live with him) who has severe learning difficulties and a mental age of eight (she's in her late teens) needed to "grow up  - I don't cut her any slack."
What can you say about someone with views like that ? 
I imagine he sees me and knows I'm on disability benefits and thinks I should be put out on the street or something. Never mind that this house was bought with money that my ex and husband I actually earned !

I don't mind admitting if I've done something wrong and making amends - and I don't mind not knowing if I've done something wrong and making amends when I am told about it - but what I do mind is aggressive tactics. I'm not there to be treated like dirt. If you want me to hear you, I'm all ears if you're polite. If not, I'm afraid I am not going to stand for it. I will walk away.

Coupled with the previous intimation that he'd sort the dog barking issue if I didn't in his own way and the fact that he's also trespassed onto my property to alter lighting to suit him without my permission, his method of delivering said threats - which is to scream up to me and whoever I am with in his car when I am out in the street (very scary for someone who can't see - for all I know the car could mount the pavement) I was concerned enough to call the police. As for the trespass - he had complained that my sensory support installed assistance lighting in my garden was too bright and that it reflected off my workshop and woke him up, so I said no problem, I'd get them back to reposition it. A couple of days later he came round, handed me the bulb and said he'd come into my garden and changed it for a lower wattage bulb when I was out. I said that he'd not given me a chance to get sensory support so sort it out and that I needed the brightness of the light due to being nearly blind (he knows this, though). He just handed me the bulb, said, "Well, it's done now." And walked off.

The police have been and logged his actions, telling me basically to ignore him and that I have a perfect right to have dogs barking at my house now and then - he would only have grounds for compliant if a "statutory nuisance" were proved, which forty five minutes on and off or so of barking for a very good reason plainly isn't. Ditto dogs barking when they play in the garden, or dogs barking at the door when someone comes to it. This is all that ever happens from my house - however his own dogs bark constantly when they are out, which is pretty much every week day. 
The copper recommended I don't bend over backwards to accommodate this man as I had been doing - he said I should live my life, I'm doing nothing wrong. If my dog barks hello to me when I get home at half ten in the evening should I go out now and then - tough luck. If they bark when someone comes to the door - tough. It's allowed. If they bark in the garden now and then when we play, so what. Again, it's allowed. It is the nature of dogs.
A chat to the environmental department after the instructor from guide dogs left confirmed the same  - they were very sympathetic and said I had nothing to worry about. I was within my rights and within the law. End of.

 The police said that they would go around and have a chat with him and let him know that antisocial behaviour such as trespass and intimidation in the street was not acceptable however, but I didn't want them to. If anything similar happens again I will call them back and ask them to though. 

A couple of days after this encounter, a letter from the local council turned up, informing me he has made an official complaint against me. Sighted help lady didn't have time to read it all (it arrived as she was leaving) so I phoned the environmental department up for another chat. They told me not to worry, the letter was only a formality that they had to send out when someone made an official complaint, and that I was totally within my rights and was doing nothing wrong, as they had said before. They told me the neighbor would have to keep a diary of when my dog/s barked and send it to them within five weeks. They advised me to keep my own diary in case he tried to make stuff up, and to keep a diary of his dogs barking too in case I wanted to make a counter complaint, as they felt his dogs may actually be causing a statutory nuisance - due to the regularity and constant nature of the barking from them when the neighbors go out - where mine (by which I mean Jalen and Otto when he is at my house - Otto isn't mine, but he's my responsibility when he's here) aren't ! I said I'd keep the diaries but didn't want to counter complain - it would be petty. 
I asked if a letter from guide dogs to support that the barking was only for forty five minutes or so, under their instruction and part of the process involved in my getting a guide dog would be appropriate, and they said a letter would be great but it wasn't essential, they were happy with my information as it stood. They said that when he wouldn't be able to turn in a diary that showed a statutory nuisance - by which is meant a constant barking for long or regular periods, not just one offs - , the file would be promptly closed and any further complaints he might make to me or them could be used as evidence of harrassment of me by him, in view of his previous actions. They were very sympathetic and said this sort of thing happens all the time - a neighbor gets snotty and complains in during a hissy fit, only to have their bubble deflated pretty quickly when the law shows them that they have no cause for reasonable complaint. They recommended I tell him, should he say anything to me in the future, that I could just as well complain about him too if I liked with likely more success - so to "grow up and live and let live" was the chap on the phone's words. ;) But they also recommended I take care if he roared up to me in the street in a temper again, and log anything like that with the police.

So the upshot of it all is this -

Guide Dogs wrote to the environmental department supporting me and saying the barking was their fault and only for forty five minutes or so on one day.
My fiance's guide dog instructor has since said she felt that introductions off leash between new dogs do not work, and she would not have done it that way. She can't say alot I guess but I get the impression she thinks she would have been successful where this instructor wasn't. She said, rather cryptically, that "things had been learned" by us all as a result of the hoo-haa.
I have suspended my application for a guide dog at this point - this whole trauma of it has been too much for me. I am going to let the dust settle before I think what to do next.

So - there you go. A years and three months worth of waiting for a guide dog was brought to naught in the space of 48 hours. Sens-fucking-sational. :(

I have thought long and hard about posting this - I am aware that some might say I am slagging guide dogs off and blaming them. Not true - I am just saying what happened. It was a shitty thing for all of us, instructor included. I imagine he went home at night doubting himself just as much as I doubted myself (and Jalen too). Sometimes things just don't work out. No lasting harm was done - nobody got bitten, Quasia didn't seem bothered by Jalen after it all happened and the instructor said she seemed fine with other dogs afterwards, if a little more aware of them. She'll be placed with someone else and go on to make a great guide, I'm sure. And Jalen forgot about it all come the next morning. So the only one to lose out of it all was me, and I can wait. I've been fucked up in the eye department for the last thirteen years without a guide dog - if I waited a few more years until Jalen was no longer with us rather than try again, for example, it wouldn't matter too much to me. I'm disappointed, yeah, but I can live with it.

I am also ware some might say I am being indiscreet about my neighbor. However I haven't said anything here that isn't common knowledge if one knows the man in question (his step daughter, his opinions, etc are all known about the neighborhood so anyone reading this who knew me would already know about all this. Slander and libel only apply to untruths, I believe).
 And I am entitled to my opinion that the man is an arse - just as he is entitled to think I am an arse (as I'm sure he does). And he can complain to the council about me all he likes - I know my rights and so do they. No harm no foul. If they told me he had cause for complaint I'd do something about it. But they haven't said that.
What he isn't entitled to do however is try to intimidate me, so I will be keeping tabs on this situation and keeping in touch with the police.

  Apologies for the length of this post - if you've read this far, I salute you ! 

Monday, 18 May 2009

A Small Victory in the Parking on the Pavement War

The hooning great truck I mentioned earlier in my BADD post that is always parked on the path outside my house finally got a parking ticket on thursday. It's only taken the relevant authorities two or so years to do this !

My neighbor let me know it was there, plus a trailer on the back. A trailer on the back of a flat bed truck - I mean, ffs ! And there's never anything in either of them ! So I went out to investigate. Interestingly this time a poke about with the stick and a grope revealed it was only slightly on the path, which I am usually prepared to ignore - but it was parked slap bang across my driveway meaning nobody could get into it. There were other neighbor's cars parked at right angles to it on the grass between the pavement and my house, which means access to my house was completely blocked off. Which meant that Darryl, my other half, would have been screwed when he got back from his thursday night noise making sessions with the bands he's in - him and his mum would have been lumping amps and guitars around for many yards more than they should have to in order to get them into my house. All because some arsehole can't be bothered to park in his own driveway.
So I phoned the police - as I have been advised to by the very rozzers themselves on every occasion I have ever tried to bring dangerous or selfish parking to an authorities attention - and told them.
They were more interested that it was blocking my driveway than that it was on the pavement and thus a potential hazard to visually impaired people or those in wheelchairs or with prams. I explained that it had been going on for some years now and despite the traffic warden coming out (who did diddly squat and might as well have not bothered), it had gotten worse and worse. As I explain every single time I have to call them up.
 I was told that they had received complaints about the truck that very night from someone else because it was also directly opposite a junction and causing a hazard (I would love to know who that was, but of course they weren't about to tell me) and promised that an officer would be despatched forthwith to ticket it.
And ticket it they must have, because the following morning saw the truck gone, and it has not appeared in that position again so far. And we're into some days later now.

A small victory methinks. I wonder how long it will last ?

Monday, 11 May 2009

Matching visit news

Andy from Guide Dogs called me this afternoon. He is coming out to do the matching visit with me next tuesday morning at eleven. 
This afternoon I happened to be in a computer workshop with a lady called Annabell, who happens to have a flat coat retriever guide dog called Amy, who is of similar size and weight to Quasia. I told her about my matching visit and she said, "Well, you can baby sit Amy for this afternoon !"
So I was treated to the company of lovely Amy for a few hours. She was extremely affectionate and licky and fun, I loved her instantly. I have known her for a year or so but this was the first time I got up close to her for an extended period of time. She was either giving me a right dog snog or laying on my foot, which was fine by me. I don't mind dogs licking my face - some people don't like it, but I am fine with it. I haven't been sick - as in, thrown up - for many years - and that was from enjoying a night of extreme refreshment if you catch my drift (and then eating some rubbish from the local salmonella burger van outside a nightclub). So I'm not overly worried about dog germs. However she also wandered over to Otto and sniffed his bum, so I wasn't so keen on the kisses after that ! It's one thing knowing they do that, we all know they do it - but having them do it right in front of you then trying to give you a big sloppy tongue lashing a second later is something I'm not nuts about.

If Quasia is anything like Amy I'll be a happy bunny, because she's lovely.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Ooooh, guide dog news !

I called the Guide Dog people today. Probably because it's nearly three weeks since I heard from them and I was so fed up today that I was desperate for some good news. I also had my hair cut today and god know what my hairdresser was doing, but she has cut my fringe (bangs to you guys across the pond) so short that I look like a total mong. I don't need to be able to see myself to know this. I feel like a total mong. My hair isn't hanging in my eyes so therefore, to me, this equals mong-ness. I hate it when they do that - but they seem to want to tidy me up or something. Pity their efforts make me look so stupid ! They might as well shove a basin on my head and cut around it at the front for all the style I have when I come out. If I could find somewhere else to go that was within walking distance I would. Perhaps it's time to scour for a mobile hairdresser.

Anyway, the phonecall could have back fired on me big time if the chap in question had told me the doggy he had thought he had for me was a non starter, but luck was with me. Which was nice !

He said he was just going to get around to calling me anyway next week, to set up a matching visit. He feels the dog is the one for me, and the next step is to match her with me on a walk to see how we all get along. If all goes well I should start to train in the middle of June, at a hotel in Ipswich. He didn't have his diary on him at that point but he will call me back at the beginning of next week to set a date.

The dog in question is a girl dog called Quasia. All guide dogs in a litter get names beginning with the same letter, so I guess her siblings were puppies by the name of Queenie, Quentin, Quincy, and er ... yeah, other names beginning with Q.  She is a black flat coat retriever slash golden retriever mix. Apparently she bonds very quickly with her handler and needs consistent handling from someone who is very dog oriented, and who wants to work very much as a team rather than just to follow along. She has the bounciness and happiness of a flat coat retriever but can be abit stubborn like a golden retriever. They feel she's the one for me because although I've never had a guide dog, I am well known to them as a "doggy person" with lots of dog experience. My pet dog, Jalen, is full of personality and needs a consistent level of discipline to keep him in line, so I'm used to being the alpha dog.
She's what they call a medium sized dog, weighing in at twenty seven kilograms. To me that's a small dog, as my Jalen weighs nearly fifty and Bindi, who I lost last year, was sixty at his prime. But in guide dog terms, she's a medium. She has feathery legs and a longish coat, and of course I am in love already without even having met her.

The matching visit can be abit of a shock for first time guide dog owners, so I am told - and I can only imagine how true that is. I am well used to pet dogs, but being guided by a dog in harness is a whole new kettle of fish. How a potential first time guide dog owner is supposed to tell if the dog is right for them after a ten minute walk around the block is beyond me - they have no frame of reference (and if they do happen to pin a pet dog experience on the event as a frame of reference, in my opinion they'd be pretty unwise.)
The matching visit is to see is you can get on with the dog, whether the dog can get on with you, and presumably whether the two of you can walk down the street without getting killed or seriously injured - albeit in the company of the guide dog instructor.

I've talked at length about the matching process to my bf, Darryl, who has had five guide dogs. He agrees that even if you do have a guide dog before and have a frame of reference, it's pretty hard to tell if the dog is right for you after ten minutes unless you have a very definite criteria for the dog - for example, it must not sniff around at all, or it must not lick your hand, or something else very obvious from a first impression.
I have none of those criteria - I want a dog to guide me and have very little idea what to expect in that regard, despite having known Darryl (and Otto) for two years, and having travelled along behind them in all sorts of environments. Otto guides Darryl and I trot along behind in their wake with the stick - it's the safest place in town ! I make much better progress with them than I do on my own - with a guide dog, you sail by the bins, cars, people, etc - as you are doing the overall navigating and the dog is taking care of the immediate surroundings, for the most part - unless the immediate surroundings are unexpectedly hazardous or challenging, like for example, if some knob parks a huge truck on the path and you have to figure out whether to try and inch past it or go out into the road (what guide dogs call an "off kerb obstacle," and what guide dog owners call "the driver being a twunt"). 
With the stick, you're doing both the navigating and the immediate surroundings interpretation - usually in my case by bouncing off things.

I can't really describe how I feel about the prospect of getting a guide dog. I have never been a happy stick user - I just can't get used to the idea that people are watching me bounce off stuff and are  thinking, "Poor cow." With a dog, most people see the dog first, and then you - if they see you at all. They usually think, "Aww, look at the doggy..." and you're just incidental. Which can work against you if they are not savvy in the way of not distracting assistance dogs. But the dog is often a good ice breaker if you need help, or if people want to help you. And of course, you're never alone with your guide dog. Getting around with the stick can be a damn lonely process.

So to say I am made up as a made up thing is an understatement. I am also nervous as hell ! 

If thine eye offends...

(Warning - eye talk that may make some people squeamish follows in this post !)

 My eye has been offending for some years now - the last two of them being due to not only having large useless areas of scarring in the retinas, which cause blind spots, but also an allergic reaction in my right eye to my contact lens. Or to the solutions I use to clean and soak it. Or to the protein that naturally builds up such little discs of plastic when they have to live in one's eyes all day long. Or to there being an R in the month. Or to some other thing that the eye bods don't really know about. Or if they do, they don't tell me.
My left eye hasn't been able to see anything useful for the last sixteen years. One morning I woke up and Whomp, there it was (to paraphrase the song) - or rather, Whomp there it wasn't. In the night I had had a massive bleed through my retina due to myopic macular degeneration, and by the time the doctors figured out why and what it was caused by (several years later as it goes) it had scarred so badly that the only thing I have in that eye is light perception in the very bottom right peripheral.
Two years later I was drying my hair, and Whomp - you guessed it - but this time, it was my right eye and luckily only in the very centre. I've had some lattice degeneration in the peripheral and surgery to wall the areas of bleed off in an attempt to prevent them spreading since then. But in 2000 I got registered blind, and it's been downhill ever since.
This year I was told I had cataracts forming too - nice, just what I wanted - and for the last two years on and off my right eye has been reacting to my contact lens, which clears up the sight that remains in the peripheral of my right eye. Without it I only have light perception in that eye so it's important for me to be able to wear it - as wearing a lens makes not one jot of difference in the other eye of course. I can't wear glasses due to the strength of the prescription needed for me (at the last count when it was able to be "tuned" it was minus 20.00 or so) - they would be so heavy that they would hurt my fibromyalgic phiz, and even then, glasses don't deal well with peripheral vision, which of course is the only thing left for me.
So for the last two years the eye bods at the local hospital have been telling me to take the lens out for a month / week / days or so, then to keep it in, then to take it out, then to shake it all about... depending on who I see at the clinic  - you get the idea - and have given me various drops, salves, goops, and antibiotics in a bid to stop my eyes from forming little blisters on the underside of my lids where the contact lens irritates. Once they figured out that was what was causing the my eye to feel like someone has stuck a gritty stick in it, that is.
Their latest idea is that I should change the sort of contact lens I wear from a gas permeable (made of rigid stuff) one, to a soft one made of silicon hydrogel. Like a little flat jelly fish, in other words.
There are a few issues for me with this.
One, my remaining sight is so little that it is almost impossible for my contact lens bod to figure out what I can and can't see. I can't see letters on the chart at all - though with the right eye in a dark room I can tell it is there if it is lit from within. So to tune the sight in a lens is pretty difficult as we have no common frame of reference. 
Two - soft contacts aren't the best for the truly pathologically myopic such as myself as they don't offer the clarity of vision that gas perms do - which is why I started wearing gas perms when I was twelve. And thirdly, they are so jelly like and light that I can't tell if they're on my eye, on the end of my nose, in my hair, or somewhere else. Ad they don't seem to make much difference to my sight when they are where they're supposed to be, namely in my eye.
But I have given them a shot anyway, despite being fairly convinced that I am going to lose them in fairly short order. They keep getting deformed by the eyelid when I blink and falling out. They also make my eye sore in a different way by making me feel like I have a flattened jelly fish stuck on my eye. And the real weird thing - when I am walking outside and the wind is blowing into my face, the lens gets cold and feels very strange indeed. Even with shades on (which I wear in different tints all year round).

The other option the eye bods have up their sleeve is a clear lens extraction - or CLE - in my right eye. Like the op they do for cataract patients, but when the lens is clear rather than cloudy. Technically my lens isn't clear at all, due to the forming cataract I mentioned earlier - but that is what they are calling it. If the lens inside my right eye were taken out, it may well mean I didn't need to wear a contact lens in that eye. Or if I did, it would be a thinner one, which might cause less irritation. They could also implant a focused lens in its place that would correct any myopia that remained, so I am told.
 However, fiddling about with an eye with such a volatile retina as mine has its risks - big style retinal detachment being one of them. And we know what happens when the retina detaches - that's what happened to my bf in his left eye. And now he has no sight or light perception in that eye (and incidentally none in the right one either, as it is a prosthetic one !)

So I am feeling quite sorry for myself right now - I've been lucky in the past that my retinal problems haven't hurt me, but now I am hurting in my eye all the live long day, and it is making me into an irritable bint. Somehow the eye pain is worse than all the other pains I get due to all my other bodily failings (varied in strength and frequency). It makes my nose run like a tap too, which is inconvenient as well as annoying. Nobody wants nose juice in their dinner, do they ? And the dogs keep licking my face to get it off, the dirty little beasts.

So, no funnies today folks. I am too miserable and whiny. And snotty. And I've got a jelly fish smooshed into my eye. 

Friday, 1 May 2009

When helping yourself doesn't help.

It's Blogging Against Disablism Day. So here I am, taking part for the first time, with my current thoughts.

I've just been mowing my lawn. It's like the Somme out there under the grass, and made none the better for my haphazard attempts with the petrol lawnmower, which under my visually impaired and fibromyalgic direction becomes more of a ploughing device than a cutting device. It looks like shite before I mow and looks like hammered shite afterwards. Yon boundary fences better watch out - I know I've reached the sides because even I can't mow a fence. ;) I can't hear a damn thing with the motor going and I'm so intent on getting it done before the stupid thing dies and I have to get my bf out to start it again (my little arms are too weak to pull the cord !) that I am taking no prisoners and I stop for no bugger. Dog toys, stones, bits of wood, grass, plants, nettles - I mow the bloody lot. By the time I am done I can barely stand up straight and am sure to suffer a penance the next day. Or for the next two days. Or even three. If I were a drug addict I'd have a fix before, during and after The Event.
Before I start the Grass Macerating Festivities, I am sure to try to ascertain whether my neighbors are at home. I listen carefully on the back step like a rabbit checking for a quiet moment to cross the road. I take my time, I wait. You never know with these quick moving types - they can come out of nowhere.
The reason for this is many fold - not least because I don't want them to see my cellulite and unshaved legs in my shorts, or that one of the neighbors is abit of an old perv who doesn't mind stooping as low as openly playing pocket pool whilst watching the blind woman next door - but for two main reasons.
One - they are a nosey, beaky bunch. They never say anything to me, but they just love to stare. If I'm mowing the lawn, picking up dog shit from the spending run, potting up plants in my little shabby plastic greenhouse, wobbling up the garden path to the workshop with something heavy or cumbersome in my arms - they're there, beaking. I know this because a) I'm not stupid, I can hear the whispers, and b) I've been told this by my best mate, who watches them watching me. They just love it - the nastier or more difficult the job, the more they are held in thrall. And not once do any of them offer to help me or even acknowledge me if I speak - my "Wotcha" is met with scuttling away or silence. I've mostly given up speaking to them.
The second reason is - as "blind" people, both me and my bf are not allowed to do anything for ourselves. If we do, it means that anything we might have an issue with that they've done - like, parking in front of my front gate so we can barely fit a Rizla through the gap, let alone a white stick, or a guide dog, or, leaving their bins in unexpected places, or, parking their damn great flat bed truck on the path as opposed to in their driveway so we hit our heads on the wing mirror as we attempt to get by - is us just "being awkward". Any requests that could they please not do said things as it prevents us from getting out of the front garden safely are met with, "How can you mow the lawn / pick up dog poo / put your bins out / etc then if you can't see my car ?"
The same attitude comes from the local Traffic Warden, who, despite being sent out on numerous occasions in the last two years by the local Safer Neighborhood Team ("Yes, your concerns are a priority to us madam, I can assure you ...") to deal with illegally parked cars that we've bounced off, has yet to do anything at all about the problem. Her answer is that although a car / truck / van may be parked on the path, opposite a junction and over a drop curb to a driveway (as it would be if it were parked directly outside my house), it isn't an obstruction as "anyone else would walk around it". This would mean walking into the road, or onto a piece of grass that is full of hillocks and drops away towards our front gardens in an alarming slope. Not the best terrain for guide cane users. Or indeed wheelchair users, or mums with prams. Etc. I dunno - the Traffic Warden of yore woulda slapped a ticket on a vehicle if it had so much as one wheel on the path, let alone ringing all the cherries of being on the pavement, over a drop curb and opposite a junction. But these days ... none of that is important enough for them to get their little penalty pads out.
If I may venture into somewhat controversial territory here (and I don't usually because I'm not in the slightest bit interested in debating the point), this is all down to the attitude that, as visually impaired people, we get all the time - we don't look like there's anything wrong with us because we're not in a wheelchair, on crutches, or obviously disabled in any way, so therefore there can't be. We look totally "normal" to the uninitiated and in our own homes and gardens, we can function in what appears to be - to the beaky - a perfectly normal way. The only thing that marks us out is the white stick, or the guide dog. And these people, being in such close proximity to us, get to see us in the garden without these things. I don't know of anyone who works their guide dog in their own back yard. So how can we need the stick or the dog - and thus "really be blind" - if we can put the bins out or hose down the dog run ?

What these idiots fail to grasp is - everything in our personal environment is controlled by us. We choose where things go, we choose how to do things, we choose where to walk. We know that if we put something in one place and walk away, we are very likely to find it exactly where we left it when we come back (unless it is our dirty pants, in which case some Labradoodle guide dog has probably run off with them. ;) ) We know where the hazards are and we avoid them as best we can, and accidents are at a minimum as a result - except for when I run over half bricks with the lawnmower which fly back and take a chunk out of my leg, which is not a good look. Where they fecking appear from I have no idea. They must teleport into the middle of the lawn or something. I imagine the neighbors must love it when that happens, it's better than You've been Maimed, I'm sorry Framed - and as I'm such a nice, accommodating blind bitch, I am sure to give them a loud display of my bestest and most inventive swears to go with the visual delights too.
Having only yourself to blame for an accident is not the same as it being some other ignorant and selfish bastard's fault. It's not exactly ok when I walk into a cupboard door because I left it open like a silly bint, or if I trip over a bag of potting compost that I moved and forgot - but at least it's my own stupid fault. I will learn not to do it again (usually).
When I bounce off the wing mirror of a car parked squeezed in front of my garden gate yet again despite totally adequate parking space in front of their own house, because some twat couldn't be bothered to point the car two feet to the right before turning in, it's not my fault. And I tend to get abit upset about it. When I can't figure out if I'm at the right point to turn off the path to meet my gate because there are four or five cars parked haphazardly in odd places (including blocking my driveway, which of course is ok by them as I don't have a car - why would I possibly want a clear driveway ?) which confuse me, I tend to get abit disgruntled. And this is not my fault either. When I meet a truck parked halfway over the path, and then have to inch along wondering where the wing mirror is in case it knocks my teeth out, I tend to get abit irate. And it's not my fault. And when the people who are supposed to prevent all this shit from happening - the police, or the traffic wardens (depending on where the buck is being passed today) don't see this as a worthwhile problem, because "anyone else" - read "anyone who wasn't disabled" - would not have a problem, I tend to get abit fucking annoyed.
Because I can mow my lawn and put my bins out, and I don't have a carer come in to hoover up or cook my meals, I therefore must be able to deal with everything else in the world too. 
So sometimes I understand why one of my great pet hates about the visually impaired community exists - the act of saying you are more helpless than you actually are. I imagine this occurs elsewhere amongst other disabled groups - but I only have experience of it amongst the VI. Ordinarily it does my head in. It seems to be some sort of pissing contest - "I'm blinder than you and need more help so ... nur nur ne nur nur." And then there is the flip side, "I'm blinder than you, but I can do this, which you can't". I couldn't give shit who was blinder than me, who can see more than me, who did what when and how, when the purpose of the admission is one-up-manship. But having lived around people who have the attitude that if you can do one thing that they perceive as something a blind person should not be able to do - for example, run a hoover or put a bin bag in the wheely bin - then you must be able to do all things ... now I understand why some VI people can't get off the pity pot. They've figured it's insurance against people who can't get their head around the idea that a fairly self sufficient disabled person might sometimes need the consideration of others. If you act helpless all the time even when you're not, you are doubtless going to get help when you really need it.

Such is society - in my neck of the woods - that doing your shit and getting on with it does not help you. It just gets you dismissed when you're in genuine difficulty. It gives selfish people an excuse to continue to act selfishly.

All that said, I absolutely can't bring myself to sit on that pity potty all day long. Perhaps it is because I don't get much support from anyone but my bf, and he's blind too. So, if we don't do it, by and large, it don't get done. But I think mainly it is because I get the idea that everyone is different, and everyone has their limitations, and I understand that my rights in the world as one person to do what I want to do should stop when my actions have a negative effect on someone else. The basic concept is consideration for others, something we are usually taught as children, and that we're all of different abilities.
So why is it so hard for these people to understand ?

So, although this is Blogging Against Disablism Day and I should be writing a positive post on how good it feels to be able to mow  - or at least make shorter by rearranging - the lawn despite not being able to see it, I'm afraid I can't do that. Today all I can say to my fellow dis'ers is hide ! - hide your achievements. That's right - that's what I said.
 Don't let the able feckers know you can do anything at all, ever. They won't respect you for it, they'll just use it as an excuse to act like nerks when you do need their consideration. Hide your light under a bushel. Or at least, don't mow your bushel down ... not when they're watching, anyhow.

p.s. I reserve the right to talk crap, too.