Category Archives: birdie

not much to say

i have been pretty quiet lately. i guess thats because life is just chugging along and each day i think about having MS a little bit less. i LOVE that! i love that there are whole days i don’t even talk about it. it is exhausting to be constantly on guard and vigilant in your mind trying to solve every what-if of having this stupid disease. instead, i have been putting my free time to good use. now that SF has warmed up a bit i have focused on solving tangible problems in my day to day life instead.

for instance, we live in a building that has a coin-op washer and dryer. this has long been an issue. we hate doing the laundry because its expensive, the dryer doesn’t actually get the clothes dry, and its a pain to schlep everything up and down the stairs. in fact, one night K slipped on the steps and fell. i guess that makes doing laundry a hazard as well. SO, we have been looking into portable washers and line drying our clothes.¬†if you have your own washer and dryer then you are blessed, but if you don’t you may understand what a HUGE improvement in our lives it would be to not pay $4.00 a load and have to use the washer that cat lady washes her litter covered floor mats in. i never thought i would talk so much about laundry!!

clothesline made from 3/4" wooden dowels cut to fit over bath tub

clothesline made from 3/4″ wooden dowels cut to fit over bath tub

bath tub clothesline in use

in use–holds a whole load of laundry and with the curtain pulled the laundry is out of sight ūüôā

the next project i have been busy with is our back yard. its tiny, its mostly covered in shade by the upper decks of the building and at this point its completely neglected. i scored some great reclaimed redwood on craigslist for free and have been busy building a 4’x9′ planter box. the planter box so far has cost us about $15, which is an amazing deal for that size. i also hung up my hammock in the yard that i bought in thailand 6 years ago. i love hammocks!

backyard before

our backyard now

planter bed mockup

planter bed mock up. can’t wait to have this done!

other than that, we did our first training ride about 10 days ago and it was really fun and exhausting. my body was twitching from exhaustion afterwards but it was reassuring to know that i could do it. we made it 11 miles before we stopped for beer and food. not bad. 11% on the first ride towards our goal of 100 miles!

so thats about all that is going on in my life right now, i should be studying for my board exams but i haven’t gotten very far. i was never very good at studying and now i just feel completely overwhelmed with the amount of material i’m supposed to know for this exam. sigh. i’d rather build a planter or go for a ride. guess i better suck it up though, can’t be a kid forever i guess.

sharkmouth

on a hike in the northbay looking happy and shark-mouthed and CUTE

also, just because she’s adorable, heres a pic of birds. she had her first day of bad rap pit ed class and she did pretty well. a bit scatter-brained but she’ll get it.

that’s all for now!

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canine polypharmacy

about a month ago, we hired a dog walker for birdie three days a week. she LOVES it. she comes home exhausted, happy, a little scratched up, and limping. sigh. we noticed after the first week she would have an intermittent limp after her walks. 2 weeks ago the dog walker began taking the dogs for off leash beach play. in a text she described our dog as a “maniac” on the beach.

with her friends at the beach

heh, thats our girl.by the end of the week the limp was undeniable. birds was reluctant to go on a morning walk with me. we took her in to the vet and the verdict is likely elbow and possible shoulder involvement on BOTH sides (right worse than left). ugh! for the record: dogs are NOT cheap. even free ones. the treatment? rest ie: no off leash play or strenuous walks for our extremely social and energetic girl. oh, and of course meds. she is on doggie advil for the next 10 days to get rid of that inflammation in her joints. its possible that she could have arthritis or a congenital dysplasia. noooooooooooo!!!!! i can hear the $$ signs swooshing in the wind as i type.

she was in so much pain she wouldn’t come out of her crate to greet us when we got home. ūüė¶

not to mention the fact that the last thing i want to know is that my dog is in pain all the time. boy can i relate to that! total suckage. she still is damn cute though. even when she takes up half of the bed and i wake up with her kicking me and snoring in my ear. 

as for me, i have been taking some supplements to help with fatigue. for awhile there i was feeling pretty frustrated with not only the inconsistency of my fatigue but just that simple activities seemed to bring it on. i am currently taking cordyceps capsules, 20 mgs of astaxanthin and a mystery dose of vitamin d (from the double blind clinical trial i am participating in) and it seems to be helping with endurance as well as brain fog. i seem to be able to remember information better which is helpful with my internship and all.

as for the lack of updates here, its hard to think after coming home from a full day of physical and mental work at my internship. i never seem to have enough time to fit it all in. one day i will learn to be the world class juggler i long to be.

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my day in photos (and a few words)

today, birds and i visited bernal heights park. this place is really just a hilltop with a road (no cars allowed) that winds around it to the top. dogs are allowed to roam unleashed. birds LOVES this place (of course that means we do too).

Imageshe is a surprisingly adventurous dog, considering the first time i took K to meet her we went on a hiking trip and birds (then known as “little one”) HATED getting her paws wet in the river and needed to be carried over large boulders and the like.¬†but now she is fearless, and thinks humans move too darn slow.

she turned around as if to say “hurry up mom!”

the view from up here is pretty amazing– a panoramic view of the city in all directions. there is no bad view to be found here.

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birds taking it all in

birdie has grown by leaps and bounds since we have had her. she surprised us by loving the ocean, running full-on into the waves and chasing ball after ball into the water. and she surprised us again with her love of hiking. shes a great companion on the trail, even when it was pouring rain in big sur! today she surprised me again with her attempts to climb a tree. thats, right. i have a tree-climbing pit bull!

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its definitely not something she would do without plenty of motivation. i had climbed up the tree and was sitting on a branch. i guess that was enough to send her into velcro dog mode!¬†its hard to tell, but in this photo (below) she is perched on a thick branch below me.¬†that is the look of determination, wouldn’t you say?

she reminds me a bit of those headless dancing muppets in the movie the labyrinth here.

ah, the agony of defeat. after realizing her clunky, muscle bound body was no match for the tree, birds splayed out beneath me on the ground. i climbed the tree hoping for a view from high up or a comfy spot to read for a bit, and having found neither i climbed down from the tree. birds was so excited she ran around the top of the hill doing zoomies.

Imagethen i found a nice shady spot and read for awhile. birds found this agonizingly boring, especially because i leashed her and tied her to a protruding root in the ground so she could no longer wander or steal other dogs’ balls (note tennis ball near the edge of the cliff on the right hand side of the photo…).

she intermittently whined from the injustice of it all.¬†and gave me sad puppy dog eyes until i was ready to go…a whopping 30 minutes. i think i read 3 pages of my book (Lolita, if you are wondering).

on the way back, this is what she does. climbs up the side of the mountain, then runs down it. meanwhile, i enjoyed the view and the antics of my dog. from the pathway. i will admit to encouraging her to run up the hillside…

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on the way home, we stopped for tacos from¬†tacolicious¬†so, so good! birds didn’t partake in tacos, but she did get to sniff them. i think she would agree about thier deliciousness.

sadly, i had to stop taking pictures after this because my phone battery was nearly dead. all in all, it was a fun day. once home, i resolved to spend my free days taking more mini adventures such as this. i wonder what tomorrow will bring!

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support animal 101 part 2

welcome back to support animal 101, i trust you have all faithfully and thoroughly researched all aspects of caring for your future support animal and have a good understanding of the laws that pertain to support animals. i say good because, well, those documents are boring, long, and written for robots. which brings us to our next step in bringing home your support animal:

3. develop your plan of attack

when i was trying to get my support animal, i was reading department of justice documents that left my head spinning. while it was clear that i had a right to the keep an animal, i had no idea how to actually get the animal. i really needed some additional guidance from organizations who were more familiar with interpreting ADA law than i was. i reached out to a non-profit called Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) who also referred me to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to help this process.

reaching out was helpful because it helped me understand the laws a bit better, and it helped me develop the best strategy for my situation. these organizations may or may not be helpful to you (in fact, the person i contacted at PAWS was let go shortly thereafter due to budget cuts and they no longer have someone who is able to help with support animal issues) my point here is to reach out. start searching around for organizations who do advocacy for individuals with disabilities. send out emails asking for contacts. ask at your local shelter if they know the process.

in my case (and i can only speak for myself as different cities and states are going to have different laws) the process went something like this:

  1. signed note from the doctor stating the medical need for my animal
  2. acquire the animal
  3. complete all necessary city ordinance laws for vaccinations and spay/neuter
  4. present qualifying documents to the city shelter and pay a fee for assistance animal tags
  5. notify landlord of support animal and intent to bring home

i would bet that while you may not do things in the exact order that i did, you will still end up doing roughly the same steps. let’s go through each one:

1. doctor’s note

this note is a prescription for your support animal. it should state a clear need for the animal as a necessary part of your treatment. it should state exactly what the animal does to treat your disability, and this disability should be stated in a way that shows it interferes with a major life function. when (not if! positive thinking, folks) you get it signed have the doctor print it on their letterhead.

asking my doctor was a HUGE source of anxiety for me. i was really scared of hearing no and i was already feeling so down because of my diagnosis, i knew i would take hearing no pretty hard. so i went ahead and wrote the note myself. i knew from past experiences with doctors and filling out forms and writing letters that they don’t like doing it. and besides, i had the most at stake here. it wasn’t a huge concern of theirs to write a compelling note. so i drafted up a letter for my neurologist and presented it to her. she read it over, thanked me for writing it and signed it. my heart was literally pounding out of my chest and i had already planned out my rebuttal before even getting to her office, and within 30 seconds the moment i had literally built up for months in my head was over and i had my note.

here’s mine:

Dear ___________,

M has been under my care for Multiple Sclerosis since her diagnosis in September 2011. This condition has produced disability in terms of walking tolerance and fatigue. For these symptoms, M derives a great deal of comfort and support from her dog, Birdie. M has cared for Birdie for six months and is extremely bonded to her.

It is my professional opinion that the ability for M to continue caring for her dog is an important aspect in maintaining her health and well being. Birdie provides M with service and assistance directly related to her disability in the form of encouraging gentle daily exercise which ameliorates fatigue, and helps maintain her current walking tolerance to avoid future decline from de-conditioning.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me at:

Sincerely,

Dr. ___________, M.D.

it is not required to state your medical condition, but if you are willing to disclose, then i think it can help give the reader perspective–they may know someone who has the same illness that you do and having the ability to empathize with your struggles will make your letter more compelling and persuasive.

2. acquiring the animal

at this point, you should be familiar with ADA law and know what type of animal you would like to have as your support animal. if you are trying to adopt a shelter pet as your support animal you may have to speak with your landlord first to get permission for the animal to come home. most shelters (but not all) will require contact with your landlord to see if pets are allowed at your home. this is another reason why volunteering at the shelter might be beneficial. it allows you a chance to make personal relationships with the very people who could be adopting your support animal to you. while it may not be possible to adopt an animal to you until they speak with your landlord, if you have one in mind they might work with you on getting the animal home. or they may become your allies if you are having problems with your landlord.

you’ll notice that we acquired the animal and got all of the necessary paperwork, vaccinations, tags, etc. done *before* we brought her home. in our case, we had friends close by who were willing to look after her while we got everything sorted out. this took us about 5 days. we did it this way because we wanted to do everything up front and knew there was no way we could hide a 50lb pit bull until all of our to-do boxes had been checked off.

3. City ordinances for your support animal 

where i live vaccinations and spay/neuter are required, and in order to keep birdie as my support animal i was required to prove that these things happened. i had to bring supporting paperwork to the animal shelter. i also filled out some documents and showed the letter from my neurologist to get her assistance dog tags. check with your city animal shelter to see what they require for this.

4. notify landlord of support animal and intent to bring home

ok, this is a big one. i’ll tell you what we did. first, when my partner and i were looking for a place, we searched for one with a landlord we liked. we figured that in general this was a good strategy to ensure that our living situation was pleasant, regardless of the support animal. but we were also keeping in mind that a support animal was in the works for us when looking for a place.

once we were in our place we used a variety of tactics to make the transition smooth. we waited a few months so that our landlord could get to know us before we asked for the support animal. in order to build a good relationship with our new landlord we made sure to pay our rent on time every month, and in general did our best to be friendly, easy to manage tenants. if your building has noise ordinances, follow them. don’t be the squeaky wheel. and if you have an opportunity to say “good afternoon” to another tenant in the building or your landlord, always take it. you really want to build personal relationships with those in your building and with your landlord. trust me, not everyone will be understanding or welcoming of your animal. the best way to keep things harmonious is to build those personal relationships before your support animal comes home.

the people at PAWS recommended offering our landlord a deposit but we chose not to do this. just to be clear, legally you do not owe any extra money for keeping a support animal, nor do you have to wait like we did to get one (in fact, the advocate at PAWS alluded to the fact that ADA law covers having an animal even without the dr’s prescription or tag). however, many landlords are resistant to the animal being there and strong arming yourself into a support animal probably won’t be conducive to a happy living arrangement. you don’t want to be at odds with your landlord or the other tenants over your animal.

we started by contacting our landlord by phone and letting him know that we had a prescription for a support animal and planned to bring her home. we scanned all of her paperwork and her pet resume along with a photo and emailed it to him. at that point, i think it would have been hard for him to turn us down.

offering a deposit is one way to help reassure them that you will keep your apartment in good condition. since we were planning to bring home a pit bull, we opted for renters insurance, which insures us in case our dog does the unthinkable and bites someone. our renters insurance company wrote a letter stating that we as well as our dog were covered under this policy. again, while this is NOT required to get renter’s insurance its a wise investment for anyone renting and it went a long way in smoothing things over with our landlord.

one thing i wish we would have done but didn’t is to notify the tenants that birdie was coming. we live in a four-unit building and everyone in the building loves our dog (and so does the landlord)¬†except¬†for one. we have recieved notes on our door, complaints to our landlord, and general difficulties with this person over our dog. i can’t help but wonder if we had taken the time to personally let each tenant know about her arrival if our relationship with this tenant would be better.

¬†so there you have it folks, our process on getting a support animal. i hope it takes some of the mystery out of the process for you. and just for some motivation, here is another adorable picture of birdie. you know, just in case you haven’t seen enough of them lately.

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support animal 101 part 1

i had been hearing about support animals long before i was diagnosed, so naturally i decided after learning of my MS, i was ready to get my very own. i scoured the internet trying to find information on how to go about the process and i found nothing that laid out step-by-step how to get a support animal.

having gone through it, i would like to pass on what i learned so that others out there who are like me, wringing thier hands in anxiety wanting a support animal so badly but not sure how to start can learn and develop the cajones to go through with this. its easier than you think!

when thinking about what guidelines would have been helpful to me, this is what i came up with:

1. Know and understand the laws

you have to start with doing your research. know what having a support animal means for you and those around you. know when your landlord can say no or ask your animal to leave. it is vital that you have a clear picture of what is and is not legal for you to do. support animals are very different than service animals. while the two are often lumped together when discussing ADA law, you can get into very big trouble for misrepresenting your animal.

support animals are protected by ADA law for individuals who have a psychiatric or physical limitation that interferes with a major life function. and this ADA law only allows you to keep your animal on your home premises with you.¬†it does NOT allow you to take your dog to a restaurant or into the grocery store, or in general let you bring your dog out to public places that an animal would normally not be allowed to enter.¬†ADA law also governs what types of animals you are allowed to keep as a support animal and these differ from what is allowed for a service animal, and you should familiarize yourself with these distinctions. which brings me to my next point…

2. research the animal you are interested in getting

this point is really no different for a person getting a support animal than it is for any other person looking to bring an animal into their lives. you MUST do the research. know your personal limits. if you have mobility or endurance difficulties, then getting a rambunctious lab puppy that requires 2 hour walks and daily trips to the dog park is probably not the best choice. your support animal will still require care and upkeep. are you sure you can provide it?

ADA law does not make your support animal untouchable. if you are a careless caretaker there are grounds for your support animal to be asked to leave the premises. in order to keep your landlord from invoking his/her rights within the law, you must make sure that your physical or psychological conditions do not prevent you from providing appropriate care for the animal that you would like to have. the best way to do this is to really understand what your animal requires for care. research, research, research!

additionally, before you bring an animal home, it might be wise especially if you are a first time owner to get firsthand experience with caring for animals. a good way to do this is to volunteer at a shelter. shelters take in the full spectrum of companion animals from chickens and guinea pigs to dogs and cats so you will get to see a full range of breeds and temperaments to find out what works best for you, and maybe even find your support animal in the process!

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in summary, your first responsibility is to be a good caretaker of your animal. the best start to this is to understand the needs of your animal. research what the animal you are considering requires and know if you have the ability and the resources to provide the care they need. this is true for all people looking to care for an animal, but this is of even greater importance for someone looking to get a support animal. having a support animal is not a get out of jail free card. it does not excuse us from being responsible with our animals nor make us above the law, it in fact makes us more accountable to the people around us.

trust me, there will be people who will think you are playing the system. and there will be others who dislike the fact that you have a support animal and will do everything in thier power to ruin it for you. without a thorough understanding of how the laws protect you and your animal, you run into the possibility of making a mistake that can lead to your support animal being asked to leave the premises.

so do your research while you wait for part 2 ūüôā

and in the meantime here is yet another picture of my adorable support animal to help motivate you


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so thankful

i have been reading off and on about dog DNA testing today. we have often wondered what birdie’s true genetic make up is. while we are quite sure that there is at least *some* pit bull in there, it seems that there is good reason to doubt that we can accurately determine her mix (or lack thereof) based soley on her looks. when i began entertaining the idea of getting a support animal, it seemed that there were so many possibilities as far as which dog breed i could get. should it be a pure-bred and adorable french bulldog? should i go though a rescue? the SPCA? get a mutt?

i have always favored the bully breeds and i have wanted one for as long as i can remember. but i wondered if living in a small apartment, working, and commuting an hour each way for grad school was too busy of a schedule to make a fair life for a pit bull. i mean, they are big. they are terriers. and they need to expend ENERGY. the last thing i needed was to come home and find my couch eviscerated by an overly bored dog.

so even though my mom had an incredibly sweet and gorgeous red-nosed pitty girl in her backyard, i hesitated on the idea of a pit bull. as you can see, from the posts in the blog, i clearly talked myself into her. i can say that it was not a decision without risks. i was so nervous we wouldn’t be able to make it work. for a time, we weren’t even sure if it would happen.

in late january, she was stolen out of my mom’s backyard and was gone for just about 3 weeks. we were so disappointed and sad over losing her. we truly didn’t think we would ever see her again. but we did. it was literally a spur of the moment decision to bring her home when we did. and the whole experience was quite serindipitous. since then, things have been rocky at times but now we all seem to be settling in nicely.

i’ve had a lot of time to think about where she was during those three weeks and also how getting a support animal went down for me. i could have chosen just about any dog from the shelter, gone to breeder, or found one through craigslist. but i’m so thankful for our pitty girl. not only is she a great dog, i also feel like i was in a unique position with my illness to secure forever a home where she was safe (never stolen again!) and loved for a very deserving dog.

rescues screen potential homes for thier dogs very caerfully, and even shelters with limited budgets do what they can to prevent dogs from coming back but times are tough. plenty of people who thought they were in a position to offer a dog a forever home are losing thier homes, or trying to find a place in a rental market that in general is not pet-friendly, especially not when it comes to bully breeds. consequently, good dogs especially pit bull type dogs are ending up homeless.

since she is my support animal, she has a legal right to stay with me in just about any living situation. at least in that sense, i don’t have to worry if i am foreclosed on and cannot find pet-friendly housing. in these times, that is about as secure of a situation as a dog or thier person could hope for. in a way, it felt like this was an opportunity for me to do some real good for at least one pit bull out there who needed a home. if you are in a position as i was–looking for a support animal, get a pit bull! they will be so thankful.

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