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Friday, April 13, 2012

Product Reveiw: Bold Lead Designs, Pt. 1, the experience

   A few weeks ago I published a blog lamenting my inability to move forward on several levels ("Getting Around", March 5). That was not a great place to be. Not only was I having car issues, but the severity of my vertigo had increased to an alarming degree causing me to fall on my butt a couple of times. I don't know how to fully express the horror of knowing you are going to fall, grabbing something you think will support you and having it slide out of your grip on the way down. My "safety line" failed.

   I have an awesome service dog. He knows how to warn me and he knows how to brace, but if the equipment fails there's not much that either of us can do. I have a tough enough time leaving the house sometimes. Knowing that there's public face-plant potential is not encouraging or conducive to me getting out and about. I haven't been hurt physically (unless you count the monumental bruise on my behind) but it's scary to have no control and embarrassing to have no control in a public venue. Having people rush over to ask me if I'm okay is sweet, but somehow makes it worse. In my ideal world, I go about my business efficiently and under the radar. Knowing I can fall at any moment takes away my dignity and my option of privacy. It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't been there, maybe; but if you have I know you know exactly what I mean.

   I didn't (and don't) have the time or resources to deal with being reminded that I am a "disabled" person. I have this life I need to be living, a book about to be published and things that I want to do, dammit. When I wrote that blog, I was feeling plopped right back into 'helpless' mode, and that is not at all a comfortable place to be. I've been a visitor, but I won't live there. At the same time, I noticed that more and more service dogs were sporting these fabulous, well-made and secure-looking harnesses. I thought to myself  "THAT is what I need, right there". I checked them out and learned they came from a company called Service Dog Designs (a specialty division of Bold Lead Designs ). Then I looked at the price, and though they were clearly worth every penny and then some, I sort of gave up the idea that I could have one. Like many in my position, I don't have a lot of money. And then I fell again.

   A friend described her experience with the harness, and I knew that it could be life-changing if only I could find a way. I know better than to give up, anyway. I went back to the site, printed off everything that was relevant to me, measured my dog and picked out all the options that would be perfect for us and then I did some brain-storming. While deep in the throes of mentally rearranging my finances (not easy considering the car trouble I was also experiencing) it occurred to me that I might want to call the company for some exact figures so I would know exactly what I was dealing with. At first I hesitated because some companies don't even want to hear your voice until you are ready to make a purchase. I don't want to be that person with no money who just wastes everybody's time speculating. That was the WRONG thing to believe.

   I spoke with Katrina, the company owner and harness-maker extraordinaire. I thought that it was pretty amazing that not only did she speak to me personally, but she was polite and understanding. She knew I didn't have the money, but walked me through the process of creating an invoice, offering helpful and knowledgeable suggestions every step of the way. She never gave me any indication that she might be in a hurry, or that she was wasting her time on somebody who didn't have any money anyway. Her focus remained on what my needs were, and the best way to make that happen. It was so amazing to me that I was actually discussing what I needed FIRST, and how to pay for it second, that I think I even cried a little. The idea that I could have what I needed, that falling could be a thing of the past, was kind of a moving experience. Katrina emailed me the invoice and some funding suggestions. I got excited. Here were options, and I was ready to advocate for myself. The amazing part? It WORKED.

  My harness is going to be shipped next week. If you had asked me in March if I have ever felt so hopeful about the possibilities for my future, I probably would have said "no" if I was answering honestly. Now I can get on with my life, and look forward to the things I have to look forward to! If you are a disabled person who is interested in this harness, don't just look at the cost and give up. Call Katrina, there IS a way. She is even willing to speak directly to potential funding sources. When it's an investment in yourself and your future, it's worth every penny.

This review is definitely going to have a part 2 when the harness arrives and we put it to good use. I normally would wait until after the product arrives to review it, but the experience with the company was so positive and helpful that I thought it was worthy of it's own review. I have no doubt that there are plenty of folks like me who's initial reaction was financially based, and I just wanted to try and help take that piece out of the decision making process. Define what you need, and then make it happen:-)


Monday, April 9, 2012

Product Review: H2O4K9 Water Bottle

25 oz Tree Frog Green
   As we look forward to warm weather (helloooo Mother Nature...warm weather please!) I thought it would be fun to do a few spring-related product reviews. As my friends know, I LOVE 'dog stuff', I've tried a lot of things and I'm kinda picky. On the downside, it means I have storage bins filled with 'not quite right' barely used things (can you say level one hoarder, anyone?), but it also means I may be uniquely qualified to give a raving review that also has some 'teeth'. My reviews can go beyond "it's pretty and I like it". If I like it, it's because it works the way it's supposed to or better, it's very durable, the company is probably socially responsible and it's pretty and I like it (but it stays pretty for more than a few weeks).

   When I think of warm weather I automatically think of time spent at the park, at the beach or long walks with my best bud, Murphy. When I saw how quickly the heat could effect him, I thought it best to start bringing water along for him. I tried several different products, a couple of them including plastic water bottles with little trays, but I found two things wrong with most of the things I tried: 1) they were too small and 2) they were too wimpy and didn't last. I'm not someone who's just going to use something once in awhile and gently place it in a purse when I'm done. I don't have a dog who takes delicate sips. When we are out and about in beach or hike mode, Murphy and I are tough on our gear. After a few failed tries of other products, I did a dedicated online search and found these guys: H2O4K9

   I was PSYCHED. I have a stainless steel bottle that I use for myself and LOVE (Sigg). I am really anti-plastic water-bottle and I have had my Sigg bottle for years. Finding one for my dog...well, that just made perfect sense to me. The bottles were a great size (since I purchased mine, they've added a smaller size for small dogs too), came in a lot a great colors, and had a unique cap that allowed the dog to drink directly from it. No need to carry a bowl, to flip out some little tray-gizmo that's eventually going to just break off in my hand, no awkward ANYTHING. Just a bottle and cap. At $14.99+shipping, it seemed reasonable enough and I thought it was worth a try. I was looking at the bottles on the site and trying to imagine how I would carry it when I saw that they make slings too. Well, I ordered a bottle in Treefrog Green (the color just made me happy), a sling in black, and waited for them to arrive.

   When I opened the box (service was excellent and fast) I was immediately struck by the quality of both items. I was a little concerned that my 100 pound dog wouldn't 'get' how to drink out of the cap, but it was certainly the best designed 'unit' I have seen and I felt very confident about the durability. I was really happy with the color and found the sling/bottle combination very user-friendly and simple. As it turned out, my concerns were unfounded and my dog had no trouble at all drinking from the specially designed cap. The design makes almost an oval 'bowl' that allows plenty of space for even a large dog to get in there and get his gulp on. I strongly encourage anyone looking for a new water bottle to visit their site in order to fully appreciate all the great features. They even have videos!

   It's been a couple of years since I bought the bottle and sling, and I am STILL pleased with both. I use them all the time and they are a standard part of our outdoor 'ensemble'. I even pack them in my suitcase when we travel. The bottle means my dog always has access to the same fresh, filtered water that I drink on a walk, and helps him to keep cooler for longer on a hot day.

I HIGHLY recommend H2O4K9 products. The quality is excellent, the design is durable and user-friendly, they look really good for a long time, the price is reasonable and hey, NO plastic bottles and no bowl to carry!

Friday, April 6, 2012


   I will admit that I can have a really hard time being flexible. Part of the problem is that the few things that I do have a strong opinion about aren't just arbitrary. I am an over-thinky person with time, curiosity, a love of books and a fast internet connection. I don't peruse, I dive in head first and look at all sides and options, and then I take my time and form an opinion with the mental equivalent of all cards on the table and facing up. I will refer again to raw-feeding my dog, because it's a perfect of example. I resisted the idea (it required thought, after all, and what I believed at the time to be risk. And let's not forget the inconvenience of traveling with a raw-fed dog.) and I initially began my research with the intention of convincing myself that a good quality dog food was the best option. I wanted to validate the viewpoint that I held firmly at the time.

   After two years, I reluctantly came to an entirely different conclusion. Maybe raw feeding isn't some kind of magic bullet. Maybe it doesn't even prevent cancer; I don't know. It doesn't really matter. There is now nothing on this Earth that could ever convince me, based on two years of tenacious research (and now three years of seeing the results), that a steady diet of processed kibble will ever come close to being as healthy as a species-appropriate and varied raw diet, balanced over time. Maybe I could have saved myself a lot of time and trouble if I used my common sense instead: Dogs will hunt to feed themselves, and dogs don't cook. Nope, too simple. I have to complicate the hell out of everything, blow it up to enormous proportions, put it under a microscope...well, you get the idea. The point is, it may have taken two years but I was flexible about trying the raw diet.

   Even so, am I a hard-ass about raw feeding? Only in my own household. I think that what people feed their dogs is entirely up to them and everyone has the right to do it their own way. Raw isn't for everybody, and dogs with compromised immune systems probably shouldn't be eating raw meat. I have a vegetarian friend who can't even listen to my dog eating his dinner (she can't watch) without throwing up in her mouth a little. Raw may not be the right diet for her to be feeding either;-) Sure, there are certainly reasons "why not". And really, what other people feed their dogs is none of my damned business, anyway.

   Even so, there are people in the world who feel the need to impose their views and opinions on everybody around them, and feel entirely justified in doing so because they are just so right that they might as well be the "right" queen of "right-ville", and because they assume everybody else is just lazy and/or stupid unless they are doing it 'right'. I've run into a "Barn Bitch" or two with this mind set, and it's usually somebody with just a little bit of knowledge, not a ton of experience, and a bad attitude. They treat people like crap, suck up to the barn owners and won't acknowledge that others largely ignore them or poke fun of them. Lacking self control around irritating people, I'm usually the one getting into it with them. Ugh. I really need to work on not getting 'hooked' by these folks. The truth is, ask ten horse or dog people the same question, and you'll get ten answers. The only one that is wrong is generally the one that thinks they are the only one that is right. That is something it took me a very long time to learn.

   I'm not saying don't have an opinion, 86 that belief system and god forbid you actually have a method. Nope, not at all. I think it's great when something consistently works, when success has a formula. All I'm saying is that nothing works 100% of the time, especially when you are dealing with living beings. That is just reality. When something just doesn't work, the difference between success and failure is the ability to see beyond the narrow confines of currently held beliefs, and being willing to consider other points of view.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Nightmares and Rewrites

   As I have mentioned, I recently finished writing a book. It stretched my gnat-like attention span to its limits, and had an...interesting...effect on my psyche. It's a true story about a haunted house. It's funny, whenever I talk about the subject, the first question people ask me is "How do you know it's true?" I know it's true because I lived it. It was a terrifying experience in the moment, and at certain points while writing out the story I could feel the same weight pushing on me again. All of those fearful sensations that I had forgotten long ago came back with a ferocity that I couldn't have anticipated. There was this strange, oddly resigned sense of 'disconnect', an inability to access my thoughts and emotions, that just kind of settled on me when I was writing. I know that very few reading this will understand, but those who experienced life in that house with me know exactly what I'm talking about. I felt, in many ways, that I had to relive the experience of being trapped in that house. When I wrote the last page I did so with enormous relief.

   Of course finishing a rough manuscript is only the beginning. A dear friend of mine did a fierce but awesome edit on my project. It was great to have her objective (and educated) perspective. She cut out all the crap, and fixed my grammar among other things. I don't exactly butcher the English language, but I often have a blatant disregard for correct punctuation and consistency in all forms. I don't butcher English maybe, but I certainly give it a good beat down. I gave the story a run-through her way, and found myself getting excited about the project again.

   Oddly enough, I'm not having nightmares about the rewrites. I might even be enjoying them to an inappropriate degree. This really is the easy part. Except I'm back in the house again, and it still terrifies me. I'm happy enough during waking hours, looking at the book from a safe distance, fixing what needs to be fixed. It's at night that I'm having a tough time. As cool as my conscious mind seems to be with the whole thing, my subconscious is most definitely not. I keep having nightmares, and all of them with the same theme:

   I am standing in the house, not wanting to be there and not knowing how I got there. The pervasive feeling is one of utter horror and despair. I'm afraid to move, but I know I need to get out because things are already starting to happen around me. All the doors are gone. 

   Dining room chairs slide across hardwood floors with nothing to propel them, light bulbs explode in their sconces. Shadows slide along the walls and I can hear the familiar disembodied growl behind me and the phone ringing in the distance. As always, it's cold. A door appears but I have to pass by the stone wall to reach it. I know there's no good there. I brave it anyway and run for all I'm worth. As always in dreams, I can't seem to move fast enough. I reach the door, and with great effort I leap through just as I feel a sharp 'something' grab at the back of my shirt...

   I woke up screaming again this morning. Silently, thank God. I haven't had nights like these in a long time. Almost fifteen years, to be exact. I won't give up though. No Way. I can't help but think that writing this, that seeing it through to completion, is the only way to put it to rest once and for all.