This lovely lady is Sherry. She and my Sean were in a year long relationship when he ended his life. This picture is from his funeral on July 10, 2016. Today, August 6, 2016, she was remembered in her own memorial service. Sherry ended her life on Sean’s grave August 2, 2016, leaving a 7 year old son with no parents after making me promise her I’d be here for her son and her mom “in case anything happens”.
There’s nothing left inside for me. I don’t know how to begin to express feelings about this. Except a lot of anger for her deciding her son “would be fine” without her. I don’t know how to do anything but stare at the wall. I have 4 unfinished blog posts. Many half-finished watercolors. I’m just filled with nothing and pain. Nothing and despair. Nothing and panic. Nothing and tears and nothing. How am I to be here for a child when I’m not here for myself. Everytime I close my eyes I’m waiting for the next person to quit. I don’t blame anyone. I don’t want to keep going either. I feel obligated to post, but don’t want to depress everyone. This is all I’ve got to share though. Nothing.
I sent Simba out to the country 2 days ago so he could get some exercise with his sire, khan and sister, Athena. This morning, the family called to say Simba had cut his paw, slicing his radial artery. A few stitches later and he was okay, though if the lady had not been forced home to change her clothes, he could’ve easily bled out. Every time I have that thought I cringe and die a bit inside. He is too closely tied to Sean and we only lost him 3 weeks ago. Sean’s sons that were here with me when we heard of Simba’s injury were panicking too. Makai told me he couldn’t lose Simba after losing daddy. Exactly how I feel about it!
Puppy Nala was sent to friends when Simba returned. She is relentless about playing and far too rough for a hurt Simba. Simba has been able to make it outside to potty and kept his food down. We will have to make sure he takes it easy for a few days before the dressing comes off.
All of this brought me back to yesterday’s post about expenses and reminded me how vital his health is to me now. And how expensive it will be. Time to do pet insurance before anything else happens! I was also very pleased with his treatment of the veterinarian and the vet tech. He was sweet and compliant and never showed a tooth or growled. That is wonderful information for me. Further proof of his sweet nature and excellent temperament. The further down this road I go, the more anxious I’m getting about the huge responsibility. That said, I’ve always felt that Simba was worth something special and if I can do this, both our lives will be richer.
Part 3 in this journey (there’s going to be a lot more in this story) is about expense. I said in my last post that I’d be looking for Simba to do his AKC Canine Good Citizen Certification. This is basically a series of easy tests to prove the dog is well behaved in public with both animals and people they don’t know. The only Oklahoma AKC club link on the AKC site doesn’t work, so of course, I Googled the evaluators in okc and ended up at my favorite training center, K9 University, home of Angel “the dog whisperer”. No surprise here! Angel’s training facility is first rate (they do police, military, drug, etc) and they can do the test $150.00 for a successful test. Ok. That’s like 15% of my disability income. But I can get it together. I am also going to want a vest for him. It’s not legally necessary but because he’s a Rottweiler and will be seen as a threat I might get him a pink one with fluffy bunnies on it! Then again, my son might haunt me for that! Hehehe… yeah the first issue was not to use one of these scam sites that sells service dog tags and fake registrations with vests. I found 2 I liked. One actually quotes ADA law instead of promising you can take your dog with you “everywhere”. Their vests were all handmade to order in the USA which is a bonus. (I am not against imports but I am against us not owning our own country so yeah, I’ll happily buy American) All their vests start about $60.00 US plus another maybe $30.00 for the appropriate patches another $15.00 for the extra large size not to mention the various accoutrements required to make it work. I will also need to buy some sort of mobility harness which I also found a US Company that hand makes leather harnesses for Mobility dogs starting at about $400.00. Now I’m well on my way to a grand in expenses and I haven’t started to figure out his food budget and I won’t skimp. He will also need hip and joint tests to prove his health. Now, I could breed him but that goes against everything in my shelter volunteering ass. I cannot do that for money. Growth I’ll wait for but not this.
Other financial considerations, pet insurance, joint supplements vaccinations, heartworm, flea, tick and mosquito treatments, cutting and I’m just getting started. Some of these financial obligations are the same no matter where I get the dog, some are going to be on me if I choose Simba.
This is a huge decision that will require work, research and money aplenty to make it a reality. And keeping with a reality based approach, reality is we have to teach him stay before I need to worry about all this! Stay tuned for the next episode of SIMBA, MOBILITY DOG!
Accepting the responsibility for training a service dog is even more intense than I thought. Once I had decided to train Simba as my Mobility dog. I began to look into what certifications were required for my state and the United States. I wanted to know what types of trainings were required to be certified as a service animal. To my shock and dismay, I found there are absolutely no regulations or laws regarding what a service dog must be trained to do in order to be called a service or assistance dog. Apparently, there are many sites out there that pretend or fraudulently sell service dog kits, service dog certifications, service dog collars, tags, registry or vests. When I looked into it, I found that none of these things are technically illegal but they give a false impression that the dog has been evaluated by some government agency, or have met some sort of criteria. The criteria is money! Under The Americans with Disabilities Act a service animal must perform some task or job that assists the disabled person. This is the only requirement necessary to call an animal a service animal. Any business may sell these items but it means nothing (except you’re out some cash.). They’ve absolutely no authority in the registration or certification of service animals as there is no such authority. The best you can do is to check and see if the agency you are using for a service animal is registered with Assistance Dogs International. If it isn’t, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the training that your assistance dog will receive there is no good. Having one registered with ADI (Assistance Dogs International) is no promise of good training. And since I know many of you out there are thinking, my Fido can learn something then I can take him everywhere! Let me be clear, you must have a legitimate disability and needing emotional support alone from your dog isn’t considered service. The dog must DO something.
Next I want to address another concern. What about breed bans for Rottweilers, Pitbulls or other negatively stereotyped breeds. These bans do NOT affect service animals. A city or municipality can’t ban a service dog based solely on breed. That said, the dog must be under the handlers’ control at all times. So, I can decide how best to train Simba, but it’s also my responsibility to control his behavior. Hmmmm.I’ve got to get some good advice now on how best to proceed. My biggest fear is doing something that will negatively impact the legitimate service dog community. I’m starting to realize the breadth of this undertaking. I’m going to get Simba’s AKC Good Citizen Certification first so any breed issues with behavior are addressed up front. I’ve gotten some great advice from several blogs. One is Al Brittain, the Dog Chief. Another is called Actually Service Dogs. This blog is going to be an on going story of my journey with Simba. Come back and see what’s next for us!
This is Simba, he is a German Rottweiler, here at 5 weeks. He came from a litter of 10 and being the only male he was given a small dot on the head to differentiate him from the girls.
At six weeks this boy never looked back. Just look at those paws! I knew he’d be a beast!
I spent the first month with him with my hands and fingers in his mouth. I prefer to get the nibbling out of the way before they can swallow you whole! Simba learned quickly and now at one year he is so gentle you can barely feel him take your arm. Simba was Sean’s puppy and he had to take him while he was renovating the house he would live in. That meant I got to keep Simba with me and begin basic training for the first 4 months. I knew he was exceptional from the start. Even then, I secretly wished for a dog like him for my mobility dog.
At 4 months Sean’s family moved to the house in the country and Simba lived in dog heaven for awhile. Strong, caring owner and 4 boys to play with, Simba reveled in the freedom to run down the block to where his dad lives and play. His sire, Khan, is just 2 years older than Simba and has plenty of go left in him.
Simba brings his toys up on the bed so I can play tug of war with him. Front paws on bed, back paws on the floor. Love this dog!
When Sean died on July 4th, 2016, Simba was nearly killed by police for protecting his body. He was so fierce that friends who knew him were afraid. Since Sean’s death, Simba has been back with me. He’s not the same and it took me about 2 weeks to figure out he’s been waiting for Sean to come and take him home. He’s been visiting his dad for the kind of rough play only big dogs can handle. But I was still faced with how to help him.
I was told a story about a Rottweiler who was ex-military. When his handler died he was adopted by an older man who wasn’t active. The dog steadily declined until the man took him to a handler/ trainer and was told he could easily adapt but needed a job to be happy. The man trained the dog to retrieve his paper in the morning then sat waiting as the man read each page. When finished he would place each page on the floor and the dog would take it and throw it away. The dog then returned and waited for the next page. Apparently this was enough of a job for the Rottweiler who settled in happily thereafter.
This story just clicked in my head and I realized I had the perfect solution. Since I have still not had an initial interview with the service dog agency, I started asking questions and after the funeral one of Sean’s friends in Colorado, who is a handler, offered to do Simba’s initial service dog training. He has a pure pitbull at home who will love Simba. I believe sending Simba to Colorado will change his scenery and routine enough that he’ll adjust and be much happier.
I haven’t yet spoken to the service dog agency but all involved feel they will accept him more easily if he has already finished his basic training. This may be a “hand of God” outcome I never could have expected. I am hoping there will be shared healing all around.
(After spending a lot of time researching, I realized how much I don’t know. Stay tuned for part 2, which will focus on the AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES Act and laws regarding service animals)
I can’t. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I can’t write. I can’t read, or listen to books. I can’t listen to music, can’t play or sing. My art is gone, I can’t draw, paint or color. The only time I function is when I’m supporting the kids or friends and family. As soon as the door closes the life leaves with them. Nothing left here but fear and uncertainty. He was buried one week ago and it was the longest week. I think I’m losing time. What is the point of going on if all you do is take up space, time and resources. I had ways to show Sean my appreciation. I have nothing to offer anyone to make up for the cost in time, effort, and pay for labor. Every time I worry about what will happen I feel guilty for thinking of myself and the fear gets worse. How the hell do I care about taking medication on time when I can’t think or concentrate longer than a few seconds. I was 3 hours late feeding the dogs because I forgot! I’m so OCD about the animals schedule this is not a good sign. All 4 boys are being separated in one case, by a state, and another by hate. Everything he held important has dissolved because he…so, I just can’t.
I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to say goodbye to the most important person in my life. Sean is not my biological son. He came to live with me at age 15 years. I accepted him and 5 friends when they had nowhere to go. Only Sean expressed gratitude, only Sean came around to help me as my health failed. He’s been my primary caregiver for the past 5 years. He was my landscaper, Hvac repairman, car mechanic, ride to the doctor, plumber, painter and anything else I needed. He dropped by almost daily even though he was so busy he barely slept. If I was sick he stopped in multiple times a day. He gave me grandchildren to care for and love. None of that comes close to the loss of a friend and confidante. Sean was one of the finest people I’ve ever known and for some reason he loved me like a mother. My mind is the hamster wheel and I just can’t stop losing him again and again. I know why but I don’t understand quitting because my Sean never ever quit. I know he thought it would protect his kids, but I know they wouldn’t care why, they just want daddy back. I worry most about his 2 non biological sons. These 2 boys never, before Sean, had any male role models and now their futures are unsure. I seem to be one of a few who understand what these 2 boys lost. I saw him tonight and I almost wish I hadn’t gone. He wouldn’t want the boys to see him this way but they are having an open casket. I’m not sure I even want to go and say goodbye for the last time. Are you there Sean? Come back so I can kick your ass for leaving us all. I am getting up everyday for your children and believe me, I don’t want to but I won’t abandon them. I will wait and say goodbye to you tomorrow, but you will live on in my heart, as my child, forever. Forever.
I could never have imagined that my story would interest anyone but me and perhaps my family. About a month ago I submitted 2 patterns for assessment by Linda Farmer at tanglepatterns.com (you’ll find the link in my menu). When submitting a pattern, Linda asks for you to write a blurb about yourself in case they decide to publish your patterns. I’d like to say they published my patterns but it can take time for that to happen. Linda emailed me back and asked to use my story on her site and yesterday I saw a mail from her saying they’d published my story. The wonderful responses and heartfelt messages have really been a balm today as I prepare for my Sean’s funeral tomorrow. I’ve been deeply moved by the outpouring of support for me and my family and I’m more grateful than I can express. Here’s the story link if anyone is interested.
My Sean, left 4 boys behind ages 6, 7, and 2 aged 8. Because of the circumstances of his death his life insurance will not pay, so I’ve established a gofundme account to try and provide for college if that’s what they want. The fund will be administered by a third party and my only function will be to deposit money in the account. I’ve started by donating $10.00 per boy. His community came together beautifully to help raise his burial costs so my intent is not to beg for more but to make this fund available for friends and family as time goes on. Donations are greatly appreciated as we have so many for which to provide.
Tomorrow, July 11, 2016, it will be one week since the death of my son Sean. This week has been full of calls, texts, visits and family trying to come together. Words cannot describe the emotional and physical exhaustion or the physical pain involved in being up and walking so much this week. It’s also so hard to be the emotional support for so many others when all I want to do is cry myself to sleep every night. Having his children around is both a balm and a heartache. As I have been overwhelmed with the number of people deeply affected by his death I keep asking myself why this beautiful man gave up and didn’t fight. I know this is a question I’ll never be able to answer which just makes it all harder.
This quotation was something I received at an interpreting convention (sign language). I was going through old boxes I re-read it and remembered why I’d saved it. When I let Sean read it, he immediately wanted a copy. A friend made it into a poster and he took 3 copies. He hung one up in his shop at work and read it to his crew and new hires because this is one of the most important lessons you can learn in life. I believe this wholeheartedly and so did Sean. Read and think or not, the choice is yours. (I may have just channeled yoda)
Our single greatest gift is the freedom to choose our attitude.
Your Attitude is more important than knowledge, education, background, wealth, position, talent or appearance.
It is even more powerful than what other people think, or say or do.
It will make or break a team…a company …a person…a relationship…a home.
I am convinced that life is 5% what happens to me and 95% how I choose to look and react to it.
And so it is with you! Your attitude is your choice!
Ellen A. Miller
If you can wrap your mind around this you’ll be way ahead in life. Choose to be positive!
This is the concept to which I’m clinging. What will you choose?