Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sending a sister off to college and losing a very special cat

This post is VERY overdue. I took my final and my brain did its usual "are we done?" meltdown which happens at the end of every quarter and then I started trying to deal with everything I had put off during the quarter.

Then I grappled with what to post at all due to the very sad and unexpected death of of a great cat named Frankie (who I had photographed specifically for this post before I knew he was actually very sick). Frankie will be featured at the end of this post.

Here we go...

Saturday, August 20th I loaded up the dogs and all their related gear to spend the day at my parents house and to "help" my college bound sister pack.

What really happened was I watched Jersey Shore for the first time.

And I made other people deal with my dogs.

Both dogs love the yard. Rusty I have to follow tightly because there are many places he can fall pretty significantly and he staggers and has no rear-end drive. I have no doubt that in his mind he is on some great adventure. Days at my parents are extra tramadol days - by the end he will hardly walk.

With Nim I just stand back and pray he eventually stops running. He finds the obstacles and terrain changes in the yard very stimulating. Anyone who came to the house was thrown into the yard for him to find.

Nim holds a huge torch for this friend of college-bound sister. Occasionally I would have to interrupt my Jersey Shore watching to get him to quit nibbling on her hair or kicking her or trying to get in her lap, but he really was smitten.

After about 4+ hours of getting in the way of packing, running into rooms in which he doesn't belong, stealing toys, training on all the friends and family I could get my hands on, and professing his undying devotion to above friend Nim finally slept. It was a glorious moment for all of us.

Rusty has to hang out on the porch in-between his yard time. He has mixed feelings about this. He actually loves the porch, but he also wants to know what he is missing in the house.

He spends a lot of time either watching inside or laying on the pillow and taking in the surroundings.

And now to talk about a very elegant cat named Frankie. Frankie sadly had to be euthanized about 5 days after these photos were taken because of tumors in his body.

During packing day none of us would have guessed he was sick. He was curious, engaged, and social as usual. He knew there were people in and out and a large dog afoot and he just wanted to be a part of it.

Frankie was one of those large personality cats you definitely don't forget. He took everything in stride. He tolerated Nim about the same way he tolerated Odin - on his terms. He also really fit in the piano/sewing room. It was kind of funny; it just really suited him. It was a great place for a cat like Frankie to retire. Frankie's death was a big shock and he is already sorely missed.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Amazing Race to Understand Autism

Today my sister and I participated in a very well done and well intentioned eagle scout project. The young man speaking is Justin McOmber and his eagle scout project comes from his dedication and compassion for his older brother with autism, Gregory.

Web site: The Amazing Race to Understand Autism

Justin told a great story about his brother and their family trip to Hawaii. He quoted lyrics from a song from the Disney cartoon "Hercules" (a song that Gregory really loves):

I have often dreamed
Of a far-off place
Where a hero's welcome
Will be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer
When they see my face
And a voice keeps saying
This is where I'm meant to be

In Justin's story, this is a song his father sang to help get his brother Gregory through a part in Hawaii he wasn't comfortable with. Justin lives with autism. His speech reflected a deeper understanding then I probably ever got after years of volunteer work with autism.

The race was a series of 13 educational stations. Originally we thought the soon to be college student would be our go-to cell phone call person, but never underestimate your mom. She knows the area really well and is outstanding at trivia. We had to rapid call her repeatedly in the beginning. She was even able to understand me despite my giggling and moaning because I ate a vegan donut not realizing I had to run up a hill very first thing. We did not run. The donut said no.

In this station we picked one of Gregory's learning folders so he could sign the word for us. He is in the photo (thank you to his dad for permission to post this photo). If Gregory was overwhelmed he could pull his blanket over himself.

In this photo we are touching cow eyeballs. This was an interesting station. If I understood correctly it was to understand what it is like to get stuck in a repetitive "ick" factor. A person with autism might repeatedly touch the eyeball to produce the physical and emotional response. (Designed to help understand "stimming").

The shoe tying station. Seriously hard.

This was a fabulous station to experience diminished physical coordination. In my case it was accompanied by frustration with another shoe (not shown) and I didn't want to keep trying because it was so ridiculously hard and then I was laughing at myself for getting so frustrated with it.

The wheelchair. I was supposed to only "guide" so she wouldn't go in the pond. I think this station thought we were a little odd because we were having too much fun. And thankfully I was listening otherwise my sister would have pushed me all around the lake rather than turning around at the cones - which in retrospect would have been fun for me.

Followed by a tandem bike in which I didn't peddle because I was concentrating on steering with my hands and my sister was going too fast until it started up a hill.

OK. The basketball station was awesome. That herd of volunteers was creating over stimulation while attempting to focus on one task.

The irony being I couldn't make the basket even if they weren't all there.

Sign language for race. :)

Truly a great experience. I don't participate in races; but this one felt like something really special. The fellow racers were all great sports and very kind to one another. I saw a lot of teenager and younger participants which I was really happy to see. They will be a better equipped generation than mine is for understand autism and the challenges and gifts that come with it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fun photos and videos

Leela and Nim are super tight buddies. He probably puts up with her even better than Odin did and frequently she is all he has to socialize with. Occasionally I will think I need to step in and separate then when they are playing too hard (given the 70 to 10 pound ratio) but she glares at me just as much as he does.

Nim and I did our first Rally Obedience fun match. We entered as novice and were not judged (that I knew of). I believe that when you come on the course with a ton of training aids like me you probably can't really qualify for competition. :) You can see I have my clicker, treats, gentle leader and I am talking like crazy (and yes, the video is sideways):

That was our second run and definitely our best one of the day.

And now for the team I want us to someday be (although we can never be this cute):


I want Nim to flip his finishes that fast. We have much to work on. The doberman in the video is age 7 according to the video so I will cut Nim some slack for now.

Just in time for the upcoming fall we finally got warm weather. Leela and Emile letting their buddas hang out for cooling: