Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fun and Things (ft. Connie)

One of the most frustrating things about being chronically ill is that when you get "normal person" sick (read: flu, cold, cough, etc), it hits you so much harder. Battling with compromised immunity, not enough sleep, and ridiculously low energy, means that throw a cold into the mix and you've got a recipe for utter exhaustion. So I have spent the day in pajamas, alternating between doing University readings and watching American Horror Story, while cuddling with my cat and dog. Those who know me will know that I don't usually take days off even when I'm sick - I usually just push through and try to maintain the same level of activity as usual. But I'm trying a new strategy. I can't afford to get really sick these next few weeks as I have millions of deadlines and tasks to get done for grad school, so in the meantime I'm trying the "give myself 24 hours off" strategy to see if that will kick this cough and overall achy-ness to the curb.

Despite not feeling on top of my game right now, the past few weeks have been full of lots of exciting moments and excursions. I can't verbalise just how much happier and confident I feel leaving the house with Connie next to me. The freedom she gives me is amazing and I could never have imagined just how quickly she would change my life for the better. I was chatting with a friend the other day about the ways having a service dog has changed things. On the whole, it's been an amazing experience and I don't regret it for a single minute. In saying that, I don't think I could have known how much work it would be until Connie was living with me and mine. Small things, like having to carry dog treats or dog bags around with me, or not being able to study at my desk for 8 hours straight, as she needs to be taken out for bathroom breaks. These are the sorts of things I've "learnt on the job. And don't get me wrong - it's COMPLETELY worth it. But it's definitely been a learning experience. I definitely feel like we have a good routine now and we've settled into each other's lives really well.

Speaking of learning experiences, a few weeks ago I went away to Auckland with Connie and my Mum, to visit my Grandma, who lives in a retirement village up there. It was so awesome being able to introduce my Grandma to Connie - she'd seen lots of photos of her and we talk on the phone every day, so she'd heard HEAPS of stories, but it was great being able to introduce them in person. The joy on my Grandma's face made it so worth it. To get there, we flew. It was Connie's first time on a plane, and my first time flying with a dog. Air New Zealand were fantastic - so supportive and made the whole process super easy. We alerted them ahead of time that we were bringing an assistance dog with us (they have a special form you have to fill out the first time round that is then filed, so every time I book tickets with them, they know that Connie will be there too.) They gave us a free seat so that Connie had more room on the plane, and had us board early so that we had time to get settled. On our way to Auckland, Connie lay perfectly still during take off (we had been told that she may stand up.) I gave her a few treats to chew so that her ears wouldn't block and she seemed fine. About half way through the journey, as people were moving around the aisle she thought that maybe she'd like to join them, so tried to get up and go wandering. I managed to settle her down and she lay across my legs and rested her head on my Mum's foot. She stayed this way for the remainder of the journey, and let me tell you, as we walked off the plane, her tail was wagging and she had her "I did real good" face on! Our journey back to Wellington was really uneventful. She happily walked onto the plane, settled down, and slept for the whole flight. I was so proud of her <3 One thing I did learn about traveling with a service dog is it's really handy to check out dog parks before you head off. Thankfully, as we used to live in Auckland, Mum knew a few places we could take Connie for a run around, but we didn't have any wet-weather options, and it ended up raining every day we were there. Definitely one thing to remember to plain in advance next time I travel!

A few other exciting things we've done in the past couple of weeks:
  • Connie attended her first seminar classes at university. My lecturer was great and got me to introduce her during the first class, and also explain what the rules around service dogs are. I knew some of the students already but not all of them, so it was awesome getting the chance to explain outright how to treat Connie and means I'm much less worried about people trying to interact with Connie while she's working. She seems to be enjoying the class so far (and by enjoying, I mean she sleeps the whole time at my feet and doesn't seem to mind the noise of everyone talking and musical examples!)
  • On that note, shout out to the amazing New Zealand School of Music, who have been so accommodating of Connie and I. Everyone has been so amazing, so respectful of service dog etiquette, and so supportive. I wouldn't have gotten to my Master's without their support and their attitude since getting Connie has been awesome :)
  • Connie and our 19 year old cat Milly have decided that they'll be friends. Connie's pretty happy about that! She's been trying since day one to cuddle with Milly and in the past few weeks Milly has been getting up onto Connie's blanket on the couch and snuggling up. It's probably been brought on by the cold weather here in Wellington but it's great to see the cat becoming more comfortable around Connie.
  • The local newspaper featured a story on Connie and I, and my fundraiser for Assistance Dogs New Zealand. The response has been great. You can read the story here. On that note, I've got a few other media gigs lined up the next weeks! More details to come once things are finalised
  • Connie received her first wedding invitation! My cousin's getting married in Hamilton and the invitation was addressed to my family "and Connie." I was so stoked that she was mentioned :) While in Hamilton, I'm also going to be able to meet Connie's puppy-raising family!
August 3rd-August 9th is International Assistance Dogs Week (IADW.) As part of this week, Assistance Dogs New Zealand will be running their annual street appeal, which I'll be participating in here in Wellington. You can catch me and Connie at Chaffers New World in town on Saturday 9th, along with some other families and their assistance dogs. I'll also be at the Wellington City Market on Herd Street on Sunday 10th. It would be awesome to see some of you there :) There's fundraising happening all around the country so you can check out what's happening in your area on the ADNZ Facebook page

Connie's Auckland Adventures


  1. made my heart grow...thanks for sharing

  2. I am very fortunate in that my CRPS is only in my left foot and it hasn't spread and apart from being reliant on crutches for 80% of the time and in bare feet 100% of the time (one shoe and one bare foot just looks wrong!) life is pretty normal. The main frustraion is the "Are you STILL on crutches?" comemnst and having to expalin why I can't walk or wear shoes when I have no obvious injuries. Oh, and a Christchurch winter is bloody cold for bare feet!