Travels (with dog)

I just got back from a wonderful first “real” vacation-with-service dog. Not that I expected anything different, but Cassius was wonderful and (nearly) perfect.

We went to my favorite West Coast hotel, the Hotel Del Coronado. It’s helpful to go somewhere where you are very familiar with for a first major vacation, just because it takes the unknown away from the humans and let me both relax and work on giving Cassius a good experience.

Besides the fact that I really think Cassius missed his big bed (!) he took everything in stride. He enjoyed (human) sunbathing/doggie sleeping, was mildly confused when I went into the pool without him, and rather offended when I left him with my mom to go to yoga class. And don’t get me started on the look on his face when I went down to the water with him…

We had no access issues whatsoever, although I think we attracted nearly every toddler in the resort. Apparently the “get” command is exciting… there was an audible gasp in the airport baggage line when he picked up my glass case on command!

Our flights were both good, we were lucky to pre-board on Southwest and get bulkhead.

Although I have been away on a few short trips (Carmel-By-The-Sea, Ashland twice)… this trip felt like a nice milestone to reach with Cassius.




Some Heavy Thoughts & Inspired Actions

I have lots of both right now.

My grandmother died last night. Completely expected, but still at the same time hard.

Had a wonderful final visit with her, where she got to meet the dog and he gave her some of the love that only something with four legs, a wagging tail and big soulful eyes can give. I will treasure hat.


Death always makes me think of life, of trying to live and to make an impact on the world. I try to do it to the bestow my ability, try not to become encumbered by my own self-doubts and issues.

Considering things, I think I do a pretty damn good job of working for the causes I believe in.

Lots of the work I do (all the social media and web work for the Moebius Syndrome Foundation) is quite frankly done alone and without much response. We keep gaining followers, so I think I’m doing something right!

Because lots of my volunteer work is done remotely, I’m loving my involvement with CCI and being able to do in-person volunteer stuff! Later this month, I’m walking in the DogFest Walk ‘n Roll in Santa Rosa. Thanks to my amazing family and friends I’ve already reached my fundraising goal, which I’m really proud of. I would have had more in “my” account, but my dad accidentally (and hysterically) donated to himself!!)

But of course that doesn’t matter. What matters is more awareness, more contributions, more involvement from these events. I can’t wait to share my experiences with the amazing community I’m honored to be a part of through my partnership with my amazing dog.


Video: Therapy Dog Welcome in Oncology Department

Love this video, and the concept of facility dogs! All my various therapies and appointments would have been so much more bearable with a facility dog there. I may whine incessantly about Kaiser sometimes (amazing specialists for my disorder, but such a bureaucracy!) but I’m glad they embrace therapy dogs. Animals truly are the best medicine.

Graduation (6 months ago!)

It’s hard to imagine that graduation was really 6 months ago.  Feels like both yesterday and forever ago.  I wasn’t completely assured that I actually knew what I was doing after a total of 10 days with Cassius (who now responds to Cashie as well, hope he doesn’t find it silly or unmanly!).  But despite my complete lack of confidence in knowing what in the world I was doing responsible for this living being with a perpetually wagging tail, we’ve done pretty darn well.

We’ve found our favorite walking trails, the pond where sometimes we find ducks or geese, the house down the street with the friendly cat and unfriendly dog, the groomer down the street who is super-fun, and more dog beds than he probably knows what to do with.

He is extremely adaptable, he loves going out and doing things as much as he loves hanging out and doing nothing. He’s a big fan of going shopping, mostly because he usually gets fussed over and told what a good boy he is.

He thinks doing events with the local CCI chapter is super-fun, mostly because he’s rather biased and thinks Labs and Golden Retrievers are much more fun than any other kind of dog.

He is obsessed with his (fortunately) indestructible lobster, Stewie, and has not managed to destroy him in 2 months.  On the other hand, he managed to destroy a Kong Wubba in 30 minutes flat today.  Silly gentle guy with an insatiable need to chew (Goughnuts are also fun, although they don’t squeak).

He thinks traveling anywhere is fun, mostly because he can be a lapdog in the back seat.  He wishes I would let him sleep on the bed, and makes very sad doggie faces at me when he doesn’t… but forgets that I have a track record of accidentally kicking him in my sleep (sorry Cashie!) 

He regularly barks is in his sleep, where he does these absolutely adorable sleep-woofs.  He obviously has an active dream life.

I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months and beyond hold for me, Cassius, and us as a team.

I can’t wait to go to graduation tomorrow, and really take it all in for the first time without being completely and utterly nervous.  Then I can’t wait to watch Cashie run and romp in the doggie playground, until he gets pooped and plops himself on my feet for a rest.

I think these pictures sum the graduation experience up.



Pre-Match Day: “Assistance dogs meet their new owners”

“Assistance Dogs Meet Their New Owners”

(Lovely, but how did they get around the information/media/social media embargo? We weren’t allowed to divulge names until at least Monday of the 2nd week, if not later! Guess NER isn’t as hardcore about it as NWR!)

Our Pre-Match was 6 months ago!

Our Pre-Match was 6 months ago!

I’ll save the long post for next week… but today marks 6 months since pre-match day! Hard to believe. I really didn’t know what direction they were going to go with me dog-wise: on Tuesday of Team Training I walked both Cassius and a sweet little black lab female named Nancy (who was placed in May as a facility dog), as well as another dog once (Fame, who actually ended up being COC’ed during/after Team Training for cataracts). I figured both Cassius and Nancy were likely contenders… but I couldn’t get over Nancy’s name. Natalie and Nancy… a recipe for confusion! And while I know you can call your dog anything, it just seemed a little rotten to change their name!) But Nancy walked a little fast and Cassius was all about the cuddling and hanging out in release, so I had a good idea and was not totally surprised.

If you had told me before Team Training started that I would end up with a big male dog I would have probably laughed. Didn’t seem very practical – I totally pictured myself with some tiny dainty little thing. And as much as I love Cassius… tiny and dainty are two things the guy will never be. But CCI tells you to abandon your preconceptions… and I believe them. Who knew the best dog for me is big (weighs more than half what I do! that used to be my barometer point for “too big!”), slobbery goofball of a lap dog?

I wish everyone involved in the Team Training this time around – from puppy raisers waiting to see if their dogs have been placed to students waiting for their assignments (I had the weirdest dreams the night before placement – including one that involved receiving two dogs!) to instructors trying to figure this all out – all the best. It’s challenging and exhausting and stressful… but so, so rewarding.

Channeling the dog

My dog knows how to relax.

He likes to sleep. A lot. And not the cat-napping kind of sleep I’m accustomed to… he is more a snaring, sleep-barking kind of guy. He wakes up with the most deliriously contented with life expression, ready for his next adventure (even if that only involves choosing where to nap next).

No one told me of my dog’s enduring love affair with his crate, and I was actually a little alarmed when he first crated himself for a nap(really, he can’t hate me already?!) But I was soon reassured that his desire to just hang out in his crate is something he’s done since puppyhood.

He has his routine now: at night he alternates between his dog bed in my bedroom and the crate around the corner. I think he likes both equally. We get up and hang out a bit, and while he waits for 7 am (Breakfast time!)… he self-crates. I don’t know if he thinks he can best control his poor hungry tummy from there or what, but he hangs out there until he knows it’s time to (finally!) eat. Same with after walks, he self-crates when he needs a good nice long nap!

Since I’m probably the human equivalent of a high-strung, high-drive retriever, it’s probably good that my dog is the opposite. He shows me the value of sometimes just hanging out and resting and recharging… something we all need to remember!


Getting cultured

Went to San Francisco last night to see Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin at City Arts & Lectures. Really interesting and inspiring… and made me want to do something. Not sure what, but just made me remember how important and crucial so many issues still are.  It’s so easy to get enveloped in your own personal (melo)drama that you lose sight of the bigger picture.

City Arts moved to this gorgeous theater near Hayes Valley (though unfortunately not close enough to squeeze in a little shopping/browsing!). It was recently restored and is absolutely beautiful.


Yesterday was also the first time I ventured onto BART with Cassius.  I’ve taken BART around the Bay Area all my life and am super-comfortable with it… but adding a dog adds a completely different level of stress!  Some of the CCI trainers said that some dogs may be a little unnerved by the sound, and even recommended going beforehand to let them get used to it.  Somehow, that didn’t happen (oops!).  So we arrived about 10 minutes before our train was supposed to arrive, found our elevator (no small feat, one of my disability studies professors in grad school said that all the elevators at BART stations are in weird places because they originally forgot to add them in the plans!), and headed up to the elevated platform.

Cassius did superbly waiting for the train, even though the freeway noise is loud and this was a totally different environment.  Luckily our train arrived and we found a seat, going against commute traffic is good sometimes!


Cassius did great on the loud, bumpy BART train, especially going through the Trans Bay Tube–which somehow felt even louder than usual!  I could tell he wasn’t completely happy with this arrangement but was totally obliging and calm.  The train home was a bit better for him as it was carpeted, poor guy kept sliding around as he lay there in the first train without carpeting!

We finally got to San Francisco (it only takes 25 minutes to get there, but it definitely seemed like longer last night!) and eventually figured out how to get out of the platform area without taking the elevator (too stinky!)-thankfully there are stairs.

Found the theater and found our seats.  We had two aisle seats, and luckily we were the last ones to arrive so it was easy to get situated:


Cassius was great during the show (about an hour and a half, with no intermission). A few times he woke up, looked up at me, I gave him a scratch behind the ears, and he went off to sleep, contented.  He did let out one vocal yawn, but I’m not sure anyone else heard it. I hope.

Headed back to BART, dodging sketchy-looking street dogs along the way, and caught a train as soon as we made it onto the platform. I was relieved as there was another dog who I didn’t quite trust down by the tracks, and I was worried for Cassius’s sake about waiting near it.

The ride home was sleepy and uneventful, and I think Cassius was so relieved to arrive back home!


Not that I had any doubt that Cassius would be rock solid in the culture and public transportation realms, but I’m happy we’ve crossed this milestone together! I love the arts and San Francisco, so I foresee lots of trips like this in our future together.

An Animal-Filled Weekend

So this past weekend was fun and animal-filled.

Friday I had a great riding lesson on Cowboy, a 20-year-old Paint gelding I’ve ridden on and off for a few years. So happy I have the opportunity to ride him again, he’s in a great mental and physical place and is just content with life right now (yes, I’m anthropomorphizing). After having a dog with me all the time since February, I now unconsciously give the horses dog commands… But then again, my dog now responds to “clucks” so I guess it’s even!

Saturday I gave Cassius the opportunity to play in my aunt’s back yard, and it was great to see him have so much fun! He romped around and played a few minutes of fetch and a bunch of rolling around in the grass. Now that I saw how much he enjoyed that, I will try take him there periodically.

On Sunday, I helped with the CCI booth at Animals on Broadway, a huge dog event at a local shopping mall. It was nice to finally meet a bunch of people (and puppies!) from my chapter, as well as a few other graduates. Cassius did perfectly, I think he enjoys anything that involves meeting other well-behaved dogs and having people tell him he’s a good boy.






Next weekend I’m off to Ashland, Oregon to visit family. Strangely enough, Cassius has actually been there before (without me, obviously). I’m excited for our first non-CCI event, and to have Cassius meet the rest of my family.