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Ode To A Dog

I came across this poem in a book I have been reading (Vegan’s Daily Companion by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau) and it really resonated with me. I thought I would share it, and hope this is allowed.

“Inscription on the Monument of a Newfoundland Dog”

by Lord Byron

When some proud son of man returns to earth,

Unknown to glory, but upheld by birth,

The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,

And storied urns record who rests below;

When all is done, upon the tomb is seen,

Not what he was, but what he should have been:

But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend,

The first to welcome, foremost to defend,

Whose honest heart is still his master’s own,

Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,

Unhonour’d falls, unnoticed all his worth,

Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth:

While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,

And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,

Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power,

Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,

Degraded mass of animated dust!

Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,

Thy smiles hypocrisy, thy words deceit!

By nature vile, ennobled but by name,

Each kindred brute might bid thee blush

disgust, for shame.

Ye! who perchance behold this simple urn,

Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn:

To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise,

I never knew but one, and here he lies.

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Autism: Morbid Humour

Most of the time I guess I would agree that I don’t have the best sense of humour. I don’t ‘get’ jokes; I hardly even like them. I am too anxious or depressed most of the time to be anything other than serious; the world scares and hurts me. Every once in a while however, I get this uncontrollable urge to laugh in what might not be the most appropriate of circumstance.

Like the other day when I went to get my license renewed.

“Are you an organ donor,” the person asked, “Would you like to sign up for that?”

“Yes,” I told her, and suddenly got flooded with many thoughts about this. Not so much that I wanted to die in an accident or anything, but if something happens to me, and my husband has me cremated (his family does that, mine doesn’t) at least parts of me might still be around for… Okay, I am not sure about cremation, though I did have my dog and my son’s cat… done.

I have buried so many of my pets – rabbits, guinea pigs, and a couple of cats – here in my yard. Not only did I feel I was running out of room, but… it kind of traps me to this property. It really is the only hesitation I have at thoughts of moving. Kind of morbid, really. Cremating makes it… easier, somehow – as anywhere we go, they could come too.

Not that I exactly believe they are tied to their bodies or their box or… the thing is, I really don’t know what happens to animals when they die. That lack of knowledge has been painful for me. The problem with cremation, though, is that DNA is destroyed, and… I think a lot about these things. I probably shouldn’t. I am sure it can’t be healthy. Still I do.

So if I was cremated, and I was an organ donor, parts of me might not be cremated – and therefore when the resurrection came, there might still be something to resurrect. So I signed.

Of course, while I was signing, that is what I was thinking of: “What if the resurrection comes and my ‘parts’ are made suddenly into a ‘new me’ standing outside of the person.” I pictured this and had to fight really hard not to start laughing hysterically in front of this complete stranger – who would not understand.

But as I was fighting laughter, it turned to sadness as I realized the tragedy of this – the person who had my ‘parts’ would probably need those parts to survive, and what would happen to them if they were suddenly removed?

I wonder if the worker perceived any of these struggles in my mind as I was signing the card, and thought there might be something not quite right with me. I kind of wonder if she might have been right with that perception.

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Autism: Please, Not Again!

So we did go camping. I had a lot of anxiety over this through the year as I couldn’t figure out a way (that I could afford) to keep ‘my girls’ safe during the trip – and to keep others safe from them. It isn’t that they are aggressive dogs, but they are defensive, and that often looks the same; for Clara especially.

Clara is my baby. She loves to cuddle. She loves to be held. She curls up in the crook of my arm like a newborn baby as I walk, or rock, or talk to her. She is tiny. She is cute. And maybe, people think, this is why she doesn’t behave well with ‘others’ around. Yet for as long as I have had her, I have never allowed her to jump at people, nip at people, behave in negative ways. She does get in trouble for such things – and she is smart enough to know what I mean; I can see it in her eyes. But she still does it, so I warn people away.

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Clara not wanting to leave ‘bed’ to visit while camping.  July 2017

Clara doesn’t like different. She doesn’t like new. It took me three weeks, and many liver treats to fully win her over. Thirteen months since we got her, my husband still hasn’t made it that far. He can give her treats. He can hold her leash while she is wearing it, maybe. He can be in the same room. He can even talk to her. But that is about as far as it goes. My son doesn’t even get that much. We are happy if she doesn’t bark at him when he comes up the stairs.

Clara is ‘my girl,’ and she has decided that as far as people are concerned, I am enough for her.

Maybe she wasn’t socialized well when she was young (she was nearly 3 years old when I got her, and came from a house with many other dogs.) Maybe something happened before I got her that frightened her (they did try to adopt her to another home before mine, but took her back after 10 days for she wouldn’t come out of the corner where she was hiding.)

Whatever the reason, she doesn’t allow people close to her.

“She might nip,” I tell them. (Please give her space.) So far she hasn’t hurt anyone. She has scared and surprised many when she suddenly lunged at them. I don’t know that she would hurt anyone – but I also am not convinced she wouldn’t. So… please stay away.

I love my girl. She is comforting, and caring, and loving, and absolutely the one I needed to help me through and past – even if I didn’t know that when she first came to me. But she is a one person dog – and (much like myself) it will take more than your confidence that you are ‘good with dogs’ to gain her trust. In fact, nice as you probably are, it is unlikely she will ever give that trust to you.

Molly is much more laid back. Much calmer. But it is rare that Clara will give the chance to get close to her. So Molly likely wouldn’t nip – but Clara would do it for her. Best to leave her alone, too. We are her ‘pack’ I suppose, and she would quite possibly give her life to defend us (all 6.5 lbs of her.)

But she is cute – and that cuteness is almost an overwhelming temptation for dog loving children who don’t understand that not all dogs can be won over by kindness.

Such was the case with my niece’s 4 year old daughter who was up camping the same time we were. We all warned her, but she had no fear. She knew that she wouldn’t hurt ‘anyone,’ and was convinced that she would be able to get Clara to see that. After all, she was able to sit and pet Molly while my husband held Clara’s leash out of reach.

Alas, such was not to be the case.

I was sitting on a camp chair. Clara was on the ground resting. Her leash was wrapped around the arm of the chair to shorten it (there were a lot of people up at the time) and I was holding the end, also wrapped around my hand. The girl came from behind us. We didn’t know she was coming until she was there – but Clara was aware. She barked, and jumped at her before I could pull her back.

Away the girl left, in tears and badly frightened.

I took my girls, and left too; I needed alone time. Perhaps they didn’t see the tears I cried that day, or feel the fear in my heart. Perhaps they didn’t know how badly triggered I was in that moment, or how afraid of what would be done to ‘my girl.’ Perhaps they thought I didn’t care… Or maybe they saw all of it. Maybe they knew what it reminded me of. Maybe they saw me then, too – for that happened only feet away that time so long ago – and yet not long at all.

I talked with her father later that day.

“Has Clara ever nipped you,” he asked me.

“Once when I first got her,” I answered, “but so far it has just been scary, and she hasn’t hurt anyone. I don’t know if…”

“She didn’t hurt her,” he said. “She was just scared.”

But had we been there with another person – the one who was there that other time – the one who… but I can’t talk about that now. Had she been there… had it been her child… it wouldn’t have mattered that Clara “just scared her,” she would have had my dog put down.

My children stolen. My ‘baby’ murdered. I don’t think I could bare it again. I don’t think I could live – no, not even live – through such pain again.

Not again.

 

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Autism: 365 Days

The day… I was aware of it. Of course I knew it was coming, only… I expected the sadness. I expected missing him. I expected that I would think of him a lot, and wish he was here, and wish he never died.

But he did die.

And as the one year anniversary of that date quickly came upon me, I did feel sad. I did think of him a lot. I did miss him. I always do.

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What surprised me was the panic. The irritation. The feeling of being completely overwhelmed and powerless in this life.

I don’t know why it surprised me. These emotions are nowhere near abnormal for me, but…

May of 2017 was a good month. A really good month. Better than any I have probably had. I had energy. I was (mostly) calm. I was content. I was happy.

As June 8 approached, I expected to cry a lot. Instead I shook. My mom is still here. I am thankful she is still here. But I haven’t been visiting well. It has been hard to talk. When I am so anxious, I retreat inside myself. Inside my head it is so loud, that I forget the sound doesn’t carry forward into ‘real’ life.

I have been so quiet, and I feel bad. “It is a hard day,” I explained to her (even before the day arrived.) She acknowledged the words, and we remained mostly in silence.

And then we reached the day before. I was washing the breakfast dishes, and she came in to talk to me. Her words were ‘off.’ She seemed ‘off.’ She sat down on the dining chair and I kept looking back.

“Are you okay?” I asked her.

“Just dizzy,” she answered – but her words were slurred. Slow. Like she was answering from a dream. Not like her.

The panic grew, but I couldn’t figure out what to do.

So I asked again, “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Just feeling really dizzy,” she answered. Still ‘off.’ Still ‘slow.’ Still not like her.

I finished the dishes, and left her there to deal with her dizziness. I shouldn’t have left her, and worried about leaving her – but I really had to go to the washroom, and couldn’t wait.

While I was in there, there was a huge crash, and my dog started barking excitedly. I thought maybe my mom had tried to get to her bedroom, and had knocked over the baby gate leaning on the wall in the hall. That happens often.

I got back to her as quick as I could, and found her on the kitchen floor, covered in spilled cappuccino. She was just starting to get up, and seemed highly disoriented. Our guess was that she had fainted – a mix of Gravol and Valerian she had taken during the night before seemed not a good mix for her. It was the first time she had taken the two together, and only the second time she had taken the Valerian at all.

Maybe that was it. She didn’t want to go to the hospital to be checked out. Instead she rested, and I worried for the day.

364 days. Three hundred sixty four days before, my Gryff also started falling over in the morning. I also looked at him in concern that morning. He fell, and I rushed him into the vet (well… I rushed, they left him waiting in the waiting room for his appointment, though they could see he was in obvious distress.)

He fell. I worried. He died anyway.

A year later, my mom fell. I worried…

Am I sad? Extremely. I absolutely did not want to lose my dog. Who does?

A year later, I was reminded once again how quickly everything could change – and that sadness grew to panic that has been with me ever since.

 

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Autism: My Sharp Cat

My son and I spent most of the morning, and part of the afternoon trying to cut Finn’s nails. They have to be done – but we have had no luck in convincing her of that.

I got Finn 5 years and 5 days ago. She was brought home to fill a hole left in my life after my 16 year old cat, Chiku, died. Finn was advertised `free to good home` on Craigslist. My husband and I went to pick her up at night, at the house with the wagon wheel out front. It wasn’t difficult to find.

She lived with a couple that seemed really nice. They had had her since she was a kitten, and at that point she was 5 or 6 years old. The couple was getting transferred out of town for work, and they bought into a strata with a huge book (52 pages, I think they said) of rules. They had already bought the place when they found that pets weren’t allowed, and so they had to give her up.

The couple lived in a nice home with nice leather furniture. Within that home, Finn (called Muffin at the time) was allowed to sit on one specific chair, and no other furniture. She had a large plush blanket with a picture of a horse on it, which she had claimed shortly after arriving in their home. The horse blanket came with her.

When we brought her home, Finn was understandably nervous. Upon getting her out of her crate, she ran down the hallway to one of our bedrooms, and hid inside. I brought her horse blanket, crate, food, water, and litter box into the room for her while she settled. It was a year before she came out of that room, which ever since has been known as `Finn’s Room.` An entire year!

Finn

During that year, my son and I would try to visit Finn in her room. For a while I had my computer in there, and Finn would tolerate me sitting at my computer, while she sat on `her` bed. If I got too close, or tried to pet her, she was really fast, and would lash out. She was kind of like a shark – sharp, dangerous, unpredictable… Siamese.

It took me by surprise the first several times she actually ventured out of that room. She decided it was time to come and visit, and would walk down the hallway to the kitchen to visit while we were in making or getting supper. It was not only surprising, but also quite scary, for she would still lash out if we got too close – though she would permit, and actually encourage, several seconds of petting.

Shortly after our second anniversary with her, she started to visit more, and even spent some time outside on our back deck that summer. She would weave between our legs while we were in the kitchen, purring all the while – but we still had to watch closely, or she would swat at or bite our feet if we were there a moment too long (or she got slightly too excited.)

By the third year she was coming out into the living room, and at three and a half years I brought `her` chair into the living room, where she relocated herself. I am glad that she moved with her chair, though it wasn’t quite expected – she had a bed in the room, and I was bringing the chair out to have more places for people to sit when they visited; but this way Finn spends way more time with us, and that has to be a good thing.

Five years later, I can quietly sit by Finn and pet her for a short time without her attacking me. She loves to get attention, and will loudly purr while I am playing with her, or petting her. I still have to watch very closely as in a moment she will go from purring to swatting – and she is very quick, and very sharp.

Only since I haven’t been able to get close to her enough to cut her nails (or even get her into a crate to take her to the vet) her nails are now very sharp. So sharp that she has been cutting herself scratching her belly, and her neck, and her eye… so somehow, I have to cut her nails.

I am guessing we will have to invest in full body armour to succeed at this task… hawking gloves perhaps?

My son and I spent most of our morning trying to cut her nails. I got one cut, and the very tip of another. Obviously we weren’t too successful. I wish I could make her understand that we are trying to do this to protect her from herself – but that might take another 5 years.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2017 in Experiences of an Autistic

 

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Autism: If I Were Well

It had been a really rough week. Hard to believe two weeks had past since we lost my son’s nearly nineteen year old cat. The pain was raw, and everything bothered me. I get like that when things hurt; my already sensitive nerves are overwhelmed by every little thing.

I spent the day before steaming with anger and frustration over things that I was unable to express. Communication is hard at the best of times – and this was not the best of times. It isn’t that such things only bother me when things are hard, but that the irritation I am able to suppress and redirect when I am well (knowing that I am very sensitive about such things, so it really isn’t the fault of other people) wants to come out in an explosion when my functioning is low.

The struggle didn’t get shared, however. I am getting better at holding it in until I can find some way to solve it, or express it better. Since my ability to express myself still isn’t close to the level where others can accept what I am saying (or even understand my point) I often find myself holding so much in that I am at the edge of being overwhelmed nearly all the time. The tiniest things can throw me over… even then I rarely explode, but do spend a lot of time alone and in tears as a result.

Though the plans had already been made, I still woke up that morning full of frustration over the things that had bothered me the day before – again, more because I couldn’t figure out a way to solve or communicate the issue than that it was actually the fault of another that I was feeling that way.

The plans had been made with my son, however, and were really important to him. We were to go downtown for a few necessary supplies, and then head out to the local SPCA with the hopes of adopting a cat.

I guess he learned that from me, and I in turn learned it from the loss of my Chiku. I got Chiku a week before my son was born, and she died a week before she turned 16. In the part of my life that I remembered, I had her longer than anyone at that point, and the loss hit me hard. They always do. I was determined that I would not get another cat as the pain was too much. That is the year I ended up adding three new cats to my home!

Then when I lost Gryff last summer, I knew I needed another dog. The pain was intense, and I could hardly even get up when Clara was given to me 15 days later. It hurt, but I knew she was necessary. So when my son lost China, the first week the pain was too much, but he knew that he would need another cat. He learned that from me.

I didn’t think it would be so hard to find a cat at the SPCA (there were 5 he was very interested in from the ages of 2years to 13years old – all were gone before we could even think about getting there) and I didn’t think it would be so easy to adopt a cat from the SPCA.

On the Friday afternoon, six kittens had been posted on their site, and three were gone right away. The three left were brothers, and all three had the personality my son was looking for – so we got there on Saturday half an hour before they opened, and waited in the car.

My husband came with us for all of this, and though in my mind he spent most of his time in the background, the very fact that he was there helped to calm me. He does that – especially when I am out.

In the main room were four kittens, two of them already spoken for. They were really cute – 10 weeks old, and very energetic and curious. My son and I spent quite a while playing with them before asking to see the other kittens we had come for.

We were taken to another room where we were greeted with meows from a small orange kitten. The two orange ones were also spoken for. My son walked over to a cage that was open, and a black and white kitten came straight to him. “He is usually very shy,” the worker said, “this is very unusual.” My son and that kitten spent the rest of our visit together, while I played with his brother, and pet some older cats in the room.

Obviously he is the one we decided to bring home – a six month old tuxedo named “Rocky Road.” (My son changed the name to Nicholas.)

And you know? Despite the pain, and the grief, and the frustration, and all the negative emotions and struggles I was feeling leading up to that moment, I really enjoyed spending that hour at the SPCA playing with those cats. And I thought, “I would love to volunteer here… if I were well.”

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Autism: Inappropriate Response

My husband brought home China’s ashes last Friday. He handed me a paper bag, like a gift bag. “What is this?” I asked him. “China’s ashes,” he replied – but he let my dogs out when he came in and I had to go out and get them (they don’t go out alone.)

I carried the bag down the stairs, and was suddenly overcome with a desire to laugh. “What is wrong with me?” I asked myself as I stood outside of my son’s living room door holding a bag, containing a box, holding what was left of my son’s best friend – and trying to suppress a smile.

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Finally under control, I walked through the door and handed him the bag. He took out the box, and I took out the envelope, and read the “Certificate of Private Cremation.” “I never got this with Gryff,” I said – even though he had been privately cremated, too.

As I looked at the box, it suddenly became real that she was gone… in a box, a tiny box, and as with Gryff it didn’t make sense that one who filled so much of our lives could just be gone; all we are left with is a tiny box.

It didn’t make sense, but it did make it real – and that inappropriate urge to laugh was drowned in a downpour of pain. And the pain was overwhelming, but it would not come out – so I searched for a sad movie to watch, and I watched sad music videos on YouTube, and I cried: for I loved China for so long. I loved her so much, and I never wanted her to go – and that first week where I cried some, but laughed too much, has not made sense. China is gone – and it should hurt.

For the entire weekend between that moment and now, I have been in pain. It is right that it hurts. It all hurt this weekend – the loss of China, and Gryff, and my grandma, and my grandpa, and my cousin, and… the list grows, and the pain builds, and it should be that way. It should be. For this pain is the cost of loving them so very much – and I would pay it again to love like that again (but please, don’t let it be soon.)

 

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