Update on Dembe

For this week’s blog post I thought I would give you an update on Dembe. For those of you who would like to see more of him, he has his own blog over at http://www.thedembediaries.com, where I publish what we have been up to over the previous week, with video’s and photographs.

Dembe was 10 months old on Monday (16th SEptember 2019). He now weighs 32kg and is 23 inches to the shoulder. I can’t sing his praises loudly enough, he is a simply adorable pup. He is so loving, sensitive, clever and just happy. I have never known such a happy dog whose tail only really stops wagging when he is asleep but he has also been known to wag it in his sleep as well.

We are training him to become my assistance dog, so we have been doing lots of training going into various different environments, so that he can cope with strange noises, people, smells etc. He becomes a different dog when his yellow vest goes . He knows he is there to work and is on his best behaviour. Like anyone though he has his good and bad days . His bad days though most people wouldn’t even notice, Jay and I are acutely aware.

We passed level one basic obedience training and handling back in July and we are now attending level 2/3 with him for the next few weeks. We all enjoy going to the class and being able to ask the trainer questions and for advice. Dembe loves seeing the other dogs and his time spent with Jay is creating a fantastic bond between them.  When I look back at how he was at the first training class in June to how he is now the transformation is magnificent. We have a dog that listens to instructions and walks beautifully to heel. In fact on a few occasions Jay has been asked by complete strangers for hints and tips on training. Which always makes us laugh.

He is a really sensitive soul, he hates thinking he has done anything wrong. If he accidently hurts me ( which all puppies do clonking you with their paws etc)  he panics and smothers me in kisses. He is such a very loving boy who likes to be touching you when he sleeps or sits next to you. He is a mummys boy but it is wonderful to see how excited he gets when Jay comes home or Jay goes to give him a cuddle.

He is very clever, it took me a matter of minutes to train him to remove my socks. He can retrieve various toys from his toy-box when you ask him to. If you say “where’s crocodile?” “find him” he runs to the toy box and will retrieve his favourite crocodile toy. He will do this with a few toys like piggy, doggy, baby bear, baby blankey and blue dinosaur. I have also had him retrieve his empty kong from upstairs. We were talking about this at dog training last night and apparently this shows he has an aptitude for searching or being a search dog. This isn’t something we have trained him to do. One day I asked him to get crocodile and he did it. I thought it was just a fluke so I asked him to do it again later and he did. I then waited for Jay to get home and showed him. The next day I asked him to find Piggy wig and he did. Now it is our party piece when we have visitors!

As he is 10 months old there are things we still need to work on, things that we have let slide that are now becoming an issue. He is very keen to be as close as possible when you are eating. Which is a bit of a nightmare on the rare occasions we have guests. We need to stop the sitting next to you attempting to get your head in your plate nonsense that is happening . The other thing that needs working on is his need to jump up at me when I am on my mobility scooter and I have come to a stop. However that needs Jay to keep him on a shorter lead and to stop him getting the ability to jump. That will be a huge challenge as he never will see that he influences or has control over what Dembe is doing. Despite doing all these hours of training so it can be a bit annoying at times when you are having the same conversation over and over again. 

One thing I am very sure of is I want a dog and not a robot. I love his character and I don’t want him to feel like he can’t be himself. 

It was very funny on Sunday as we were taking a trip around a supermarket. This one was laid out differently and had a huge precut cheese section at the end of the deli counter. There is nothing in the world that Dembe enjoys more than cheese. He will literally spin in circles if you get the cheese out of the fridge. So here he was confronted by his most favourite thing in the world at Dembe height and easy to access. I closed my eyes fearing we were going to have to pay for a huge block of cheese because he had sunk his teeth into them. He sniffed for ages, every piece of cheese got a sniff but he was very restrained and when Jay told him leave he did indeed leave it. That was a massive test in self control for him and I was so proud. 

But even prouder when my friend who was the duty manager told me the story about the guide dog that visited their store. When you think of Guide dogs for the blind you think of superbly trained dogs that would never be tempted by food whilst working. They are the dogs that are so well trained they put many other dogs to shame.

At the side of the fish counter in her store they have a freshly cooked pasty section. At dog height…how perfect. Beccy told us that as the owner of the guide dog was talking to the fishmonger, the guide dog took a sly lick of a pasty  at the front of the shelf. Then stared down the fishmonger who had watched him do it, in almost a dare to see if he would tell the owner. The fishmonger said the attitude from the guide dog was hilarious and he did indeed keep quiet! That really made us laugh and made him obsessively sniffing the cheese not such a big deal, I mean if guide dogs get a bad day!

Dembe makes us laugh on a daily basis. I didn’t know it was possible to love a dog as much as I love him. He likes walking around carrying stuff in his mouth and he walks around with his antler chew like pipe. When we first brought him home it was really hard, we were dealing with so many conflicting emotions initially it felt like I was just going through the motions. I didn’t feel that bond with him like I do now. I was constantly reminded that I didn’t know him like I knew Mollie, Frankie and Willow because I had known them years. It fueled my anxiety because I was constantly worrying that if there was something wrong with him I wouldn’t know or I would miss the subtle signs that I wouldn’t have done with them. Now however I feel like I know him more and we do have a wonderful bond. I know I love hima crazy amount whereas before I was always doubting myself that I did.

At times I wondered if we had done the right thing by getting him so soon after Frankie and Mollie passed away. But I credit him with getting Jay and I through that awful dark time. We wouldn’t be without him and he brings such joy to us both.

Everyone who meets him, falls in love with him and his gentle nature. In all the time we have had him I have never heard him growl. Bark yes, he likes to do that a lot. Which makes me laugh as everything I have read about Labradors says they seldom bark. Obviously Dembe didn’t get that memo! 

He is also very good when I am poorly and he adjust his energy level accordingly. He did it when I was poorly with a chest and sinus infection about three weeks after we brought him home. He would sleep all day on my feet and only run around like a maniac when Jay came home for lunch and at the end of the day. If I am feeling crappy he will sleep beside me on the sofa having a cuddle. If I am feeling brighter he will want to play more and have more engagement with me. Again this isn’t something we have taught but this is something he has done instinctively, just like his Uncle Frankie.

I could go on and on about Dembe the wonder dog but I won’t bore your further with this quick update.

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Truth v Gossip

There is one thing that I have found since having several chronic health conditions that people simply do not understand and that is the fatigue levels that come with them. I know some people have created this fairy tale in their heads that either have withdrawn from society or that Mr Myasthenia Kid doesn’t let me out in the world. People stupidly believe this gossip rather than actually ask me. They are simply untrue, the reason I don’t go out very much is because I get so exhausted by doing very little outside the home.

At home I have an environment I can control. I have regular household sounds, lighting etc. All of which my body is used to. The minute any of that becomes too much I can go to bed, lie down, limit the light and sound. Out of the home I have zero control over the additional stimuli my body is bombarded with. Also these days I am using a scooter a lot of the time, the concentration levels involved in driving this even for a short period of 20 minutes, drains me. It makes it hard for me to manage a conversation and drive. The minute I don’t concentrate like when driving a car accidents can happen. I have almost gone off the sea wall down at the seafront because I was trying to talk and drive. It takes a lot out of me and unless you have to balance your activity and rest periods people just don’t understand it.

Since Sunday I have had an extraordinarily busy week, for me. For normal people this will probably sound like a leisurely few days. On Sunday we went to Pets at Home the big one so around 20 minutes in the car to get there. Then we went to Tesco to upgrade our phones which took about an hour. We had Dembe with us who behaved beautifully. There were lots of people in Tesco that I knew that haven’t seen me since I have lost 49lbs in weight and who also wanted to meet Dembe. So it was very busy. After the morning we had around 90 minutes sit down and then we went to visit friends with Dembe. It was lovely to see them both and Dembe really enjoyed his visit too. However by 6pm I was completely drained and was up in bed resting, before dropping off just after 8pm.

Many of you will be thinking how can that low level of activity wear you out? I wish I knew, my only explanation is the assault on all my senses just physically and mentally wears me out. The extra noise, people, lights, smells, physical activity of driving a mobility scooter. Being upright with my legs down and blood pooling, changes in temperature, all those things combined just zap any charge that was left in my batteries. On Monday it took me hours to get moving. I was fit for nothing until about 2pm, which is crazy. My body just felt like there were 15lb weights attached to each limb and my head, well I just couldn’t really focus on anything that demanded more than a limited amount of mental acuity. 

On Tuesday I felt a lot better as I had spend Monday recuperating, which again if you have never suffered from bone crushing levels of fatigue you would struggle to understand. We needed to take Dembe to the vets to be weighed and to get his worming tablets / flea / tick treatment. We were there around 20 minutes as we like to have a catch up with the staff as Dembe is very popular there. We then popped up to Tesco for a few items, we took Dembe with us to give him some more environmentalization training. We only needed three things but Dembe has such a huge fan club amongst the staff and customers that it took 40 minutes. I then spent as much of the afternoon as I could resting with my feet up as in the evening we had our first night back at our weekly dog training class.

Evenings are the absolute worst time for me to be out of the house. Purely because I go to bed every evening between 7pm – 8pm or earlier if it is a rubbish day. By then I struggle to hold myself upright, co-ordinate my movements and as I discovered last night I can also end up struggling to talk because my brain can’t channel the words to my mouth. Ending up with me looking like a fish out of water. I thought I would be ok, after all I did the dog training in the summer. But I don’t think I had been out as much during the day. The dog training lessons are intense. Even though I just sit there and let Jay do all the training. I can’t do the walking around or being up on my feet that much. 

I coped ok in June and July so it was really surprising ( and frustrating ) to me last night to get half an hour in and to start feeling really, really unwell. I don’t know about anyone else but I hate having to ask for help or potentially making a scene due to being ill. I have in the past been known to wait for everyone to leave the room before I have allowed myself to projectile vomit. Thankfully there was nothing for anyone to see, although I may have gone more pale than normal. I just suddenly had the internal organ sinking feeling, then felt I experienced some feelings of dissociation. I knew I was in the room but I didn’t feel I was part of it. Unless you have felt this it is a difficult feeling to explain. I can feel like this just before I faint and I knew that is what my body was preparing to do. As I was sat down I rapidly starting clenching my bum cheek and tensing my calves in an attempt to get the blood moving. The whole time I was absolutely terrified I was going to wake up surrounded by people having taken a nosedive from the chair.

The weird thing was I could see poor Dembe trying to alert Jay to what was happening as hit lay down on the floor and had his head turned to me. He was watching ensuring I was ok. When I spoke to Jay afterwards to let him know what had happened he said “why didn’t you get up and go to the car so you could lie down?” which is a reasonable enough question as normally I do have quite a bit of warning so I can avert a faint. I just said to him that I felt so bad I was terrified if I stood up that I would go down with a bang. He then said “well why didn’t you shout me?” the simple fact of the matter was I just didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to me.

 I really HATE the spotlight being on me, I hate it even more if it is because I am having a funny turn or have fainted. It is stupid I know but I just can’t, it makes me feel so very uncomfortable. Like I am causing a nuisance or being melodramatic. This probably goes back to various incidents at school and at work where I have been seriously unwell and been called a drama queen or that I was causing a scene. When I was younger I was never believed when I was sick, even when I have had major surgery, I had work colleagues say I was doing it for attention. How on earth you get a team of NHS surgeons to open you up from pubic bone to sternum just for fun I have no idea but apparently I can.

Thankfully my funny turn went after 10 minutes but it left me feeling seriously drained. I spent the entire journey home yawning non stop which is always a sign that my blood pressure has dropped. I was in bed by 8pm and asleep by 9pm.

Today ( Wednesday ) I am seriously pooped but like I always say I’d rather be knackered due to going out and having fun or just living a normal life than being this wiped out from doing nothing. Again it has taken me all morning to get going. I have been up since 7am and it is only now at 13.30 that I am starting to feel human and that I can do anything that needs any mental clarity. On days like this I have to take advantage of any window of opportunity when I feel well enough physically and mentally to be able to get up and crack on with something I want to do.

Obviously having the Weimaraners did curtail my activities outside the house. It was too expensive to get dog sitters in all the time and there are only so many times you can ask friends to do it for you. They were too destructive to leave by themselves, so in the end it just became easier to not go out or just one of us go, than stress out about finding someone to stay with them. Our friends have been fabulous, Imogen looked after them so much in 2015 when I had my CSF leak. If it hadn’t been for her I wouldn’t have been able to attend half the appointments I did. She also looked after them when we went to the Emma Bridgewater factory for the day which was a 14 hour (plus) stint . My friend Sharon also did us a massive favour when she stayed with them so that Jay could appear on Sewing Quarter TV. Both Ellie and Heather have stepped up too and looked after them, along with Tracey, Sarah and so many others over the years. But even with that massive pool of helpers it wasn’t fair to continually ask them to look after them. So our outside activities took a back seat, plus a lot of the time I just wasn’t well enough.

Now we have Dembe and we are training him to be my assistance dog it means the whole world has opened up to me again. It is really weird after having 12 years of not really going anywhere but the hospital, the doctors surgery or the dentist. Those visits also wiped me out. We are so used to being home we are having to force ourselves to go out. Which is another reason why we are doing all the training with Dembe as it means at least once a week I will leave the house and also that he will be a well behaved assistance dog whom we can take everywhere with us. But I will always have to pace my activities. I will never be well enough to go out all day, every day of the week. I just don’t have the stamina or physical reserves to be able to cope with that. And that is fine with me. I do quite like my own company and being able to do the things I want to do. I guess I am saying I like a balance.

So when someone tells you that someone is a recluse or that they aren’t allowed to go out. Have a good long think about that person’s circumstances. Think about if they have a chronic health condition, suffered a bereavement all manner of things that could be the cause of them not being outside in the world as much as you think they should. Don’t take the easy option and accept the gossip no matter how credible the source because it is just that their take on what they “think” is happening. Which doesn’t make it the truth.

Empathy

When I wrote last week’s blog post Rainbow Bridge  I never expected in a million years the response that it received. It wasn’t just me hubby had people coming up to him in work, telling him that they couldn’t read it without shedding a tear or that it said what they felt but had never been able to express it. I had followers on Instagram contacting me about their recent losses and long ago losses too. On Facebook it was the same, with many people contacting me or leaving a comment. . It was emotionally hard as I am very empathetic, so when people start to get tearful when they are talking to me, it makes me cry too. But when I wrote the post I was half expecting it to stir up a lot of emotions because I had been in such a mess as I wrote it. I have to be honest I never did a final check on the post to look for errors, mainly because I found it so upsetting to read, it was real and raw. I haven’t even gone back to look at it now to refresh my memory before writing this one. I just can’t do it, I have already been in tears today twice over the dogs. It is always just bubbling away under the surface for me at the moment, although to look at me or to see any of my social media posts you would never know.

I am so touched that something I have written has moved so many people. I thank each and everyone of you who commented or messaged me. It was very hard last Thursday as I had no idea how it would be received. I had no clue if people would think I was wallowing, being self indulgent or a drama queen. That people would think that I should pull myself together and get on with the rest of my life. I promise you I am not self indulgent, wallowing or being a drama queen. I just write about life and my experiences. I try to give a voice to those feelings that we push down and don’t let anyone else see. I take a chance that people won’t reject me or ridicule me because I try to talk about things that many would rather brush under the carpet. Although there have been several articles regarding the death of a pet in National newspapers it is still treated with some degree of disbelief by those who have never had an animal / pet in their lives. 

The whole point of my post was for you – whoever you are, know that it is ok to feel whatever you are feeling, to express your grief ( and it is your’s and no one else’s) anyway that you like. That these feelings are totally normal. You are not weird, you aren’t wallowing in your grief, you aren’t an attention seeker and you are certainly not being a drama queen. You are hurting and it will take time to process all that emotion. Hell I am only 8 months on and there are days where I can barely keep it together. Days where all I do is cry. Days when I feel guilty when I know rationally I have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I just wanted you to know you aren’t going mad, I honestly thought at times I was losing it. All of those feelings, even the uncontrollable rage that even surprises you when you roar, is totally normal. It is the beast called grief and it doesn’t have to be something that you go through alone.

As I touched on in my blog post even when you have suffered from a significant bereavement such as a partner / child / sibling / parent / friend, people who haven’t been through that kind of grief can’t begin to imagine the enormity of the feelings of loss and pain. They may see you red faced, tear stained and see your grief but that is soon forgotten because it has no direct impact on their lives. The next time they see you, taking the kids to school, going to work, getting the shopping – all things you have to do despite the pain and grief they assume you are “better”. They don’t understand that grief goes on forever. They seem to think that grief has a timeline and by a certain amount of time say 6-12 months maybe sooner if they are real dicks, you “should” be “over” it. How do you explain that there is no getting over it? You are just getting through each day the best you can. There will be good days, bad days and the worst kind of days.  Life will probably never be the same again. But there will never be or has there ever been for anyone who is grieving a time when they are over it. Getting Over It has to be the most grotesque phrase ever. Followed by Time is a great healer. There is no healing from grief, you carry that pain forever.

I had people contacting me about dogs they had lost thirty years ago during their childhood that they still mourned for.  Others told me about their recent losses that they just couldn’t process or that in the proceeding days before my blog post it had hit them, after thinking that they could keep going and carry on as normal. I was quite honest when I spoke to them and told them Jay and I have very little memory of January and February this year.

 We know we got Dembe, we know he was tiny but ask us to recall anything significant like where we took him on his first walk. What the date of his first walk was, his first bark, his first growl all the stuff we would normally remember and we draw a blank. It’s not because we didn’t care about it, purely our brains were overloaded processing what had happened when we lost Frankie and Mollie within 7 days of each other. I am so glad that I started the Dembe Diaries blog and his diary that I base the blog on, so that in years to come I can look back and see all those things in black and white that my brain was unable to absorb at the time.

 I do remember Jay barely spoke in the first 4-5 days after it happened. It was quite stressful as I went into list mode, trying to control everything because my anxiety spiked. His anxiety spiked because I was making so many demands on him all the time and obviously he needed to have some control in his life too. It was very difficult trying to get him motivated to help me sort the house out ready for Dembe’s arrival. Especially as we couldn’t stand being in the house as it was just full of reminders of how empty it was. We did cry together and we did talk about our babies, all of our babies. But the pain and grief was hard because although it has happened to both of you (or all of you) it is also an individual thing that no one can make better or take away from you. People grieve in different ways. Just because Jay wasn’t breaking down in tears every 5 minutes like I was didn’t mean he wasn’t hurting or struggling to cope. You only had to take a look at him, ashen faced, tired and so very quiet, grief and pain was written all over him. For a few days I was worried that he was going to drop down dead from a heart attack or stroke he looked so ill.  

Grief is weird one minute you can feel like you are doing ok and the next minute it feels like the world is imploding. There is no rhyme or reason to it, you are carried on its current and it takes you wherever it pleases. There is no control of it, it controls you initially, even denying you sleep when it wants to. Both Jay and I suffered from terrible insomnia in the 7 days after Mollie and Frankies passing. We would find ourselves downstairs in the middle of the night watching crap on the TV whilst eating chocolate biscuits and drinking sugary tea in the hope we would just pass out from a sugar overdose. I remember one day within about 20 minutes of each other we both left the electric shower on, when we left the bathroom, returning to it a few minutes later, neither of us could work out why we had left it running. We had no recollection of leaving the bathroom.  Life really was being lived on autopilot, all we could do was keep putting one foot in front of the other and get through another day.

I want to tell you that things do get better, the grief becomes less overwhelming.  I feel like I am finally starting to live life again instead of just simply going through the motions. I am not saying that in 8 months you will also be feeling better, it could be less time it could be substantially more time. But there will come a time when you let a breathe out and know that you are starting to be you again.

Up until about a week ago the last time I listened to music and enjoyed it was 29th December 2018. That was the day that Frankie passed away and I had been listening to my Sinead O’connor LP. I didn’t play any music for a couple of weeks. After that time had passed, I tried but I found the noise too much and overwhelming. I had no emotional connection to the music. I would rather be in silence or have the TV on low in the background.  For the last two weeks I have played music non-stop. I have sung at the top of my voice and quite possibly scared the neighbours. I have found the joy in music again. I haven’t played my Sinead O’Connor LP, I think that one will take some time. I may not play it again for several years, I’m not setting myself a target, I will let it happen, I won’t force it. One day I will sing something from the album and it will be like an ear worm that won’t die until I play it. At the moment anything from that LP makes me sad.

We have also started planning things for the future. We have booked  a short break in the UK next year and we will be taking Dembe with us. It is very exciting. This will be the first time since 2006 that Jay and I have had any sort of holiday. It is only 3 nights away but it will do us all some good just to get out of the house and away from the day to day. I am nervous as hell as I have become a real homebody since becoming ill. Other than stays in hospital I haven’t been away from the house in 13 years. It is hilarious to me that I am getting a bit anxious thinking about it when Jay and I have travelled to Sri Lanka, USA (Florida), Antigua, Paris, Menorca and various places all over the UK for weddings / christenings. I know that we can do it, it is just my world has been so very small over the last 13 odd years.

So please be kind to yourself, wherever you are in your journey with grief. Everyone does grief differently, there is no one size fits all. What works for you may not work for anyone else.  Remember living life does not mean that you have forgotten those who are no longer with us. At some point things will get easier, you will reach a new normal. It is not a journey you have to do alone. If more of us start talking about grief and how it affects us we will educate those who have never experienced it and maybe create a little more empathy. The world could really do with more empathy at the moment.

Rainbow Bridge

I have  called this blog post Rainbow Bridge as all pet owners will know what I am talking about and can make the immediate decision whether or not to read this post. If you decide to skip it, I understand . I can’t even read the poem Rainbow Bridge without breaking down and turning into a snotty, red faced, tear stained mess. So if you decide from the outset that this post probably isn’t for you, I get it. I will just reassure you that I will not be talking about Frankie or Mollie’s passing at the start of this year. That shit is just too raw still to deal with and I would prefer to spend the remainder of the day functional rather than being the snotty, red faced, tear stained mess I know I will become.

 
The blog post is called Rainbow Bridge because I want to talk to you about the very real depth of grief losing a pet, any pet can cause you. A grief that you can feel embarrassed about because you didn’t know it was possible for your heart to physically hurt so much and you not keel over and die. A grief and depth of feeling that unless you have lived the experience you can not begin to even comprehend what the other person is going through. And a grief that you feel you have to hide from the world as grieving over an animal is still seen as self indulgent, selfish, weak, being melodramatic. A depth of feeling that is so strong that it even takes you by surprise.
 
We are in this country ( the UK ) crap at dealing with other people’s grief, even when they have lost a child or a partner. We seem to assume that once a person returns to work or starts doing normal things again that they are ok. Many people seem to think that there is a set period of time that a person should grieve for and after that time has passed, all that emotion and sadness should just turn off. If they don’t you are seen to be wallowing or attention seeking. A lot of people just don’t seem to understand that grief is not a linear journey and that it never ends. You will always be dealing with your grief one way or another. Time is not a great healer, there is no healing for grief, there is a just getting used to it. What initially in the first days, weeks and months seems all encompassing does slowly reduce in size but it never leaves us. It is something we carry always.
 
Those of you that aren’t pet owners may be surprised to read that it is exactly the same for those who have lost a pet. I really hate using a the term pet as I feel like it diminishes their status. But until someone comes up with a better word, I will have to use the one that is universally understood. Most people these days understand that our pets are more than just “pets” they are much loved members of the family within their own rights. Which is why it cut me to the core when somebody recently clumsily said to me ” You were so lucky to get Dembe when you did to replace…” she stopped herself continuing with this statement as I think she realised how awful what she had said sounded. 
 
There is no replacing a beloved cat, dog, guinea pig, hamster or horse. The same as you can’t replace a mother, a father, a child, a friend. Each one of those like our pets are unique. So why people use the dreaded replace word I have no idea. I’m glad it was said recently to me rather than just after it had happened because I don’t think I would have been able to control myself. I may have got physically violent because it was just so insensitive. Now because there is a little bit of distance from the event and I am not caught up in the overwhelming emotion of it, I can understand that it was clumsy and not ever meant the way it sounded. Why do I know that? This person has recently lost her mother and father in the space of a couple of years. She knows there is no replacement for them, she is also a dog owner and knows they can’t be replaced either. Had she said this in January I wouldn’t have been so forgiving.
 
When I found myself in the position of losing Frankie and Mollie within 7 days, having lost Willow 55 weeks earlier, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to carry on without them. The pain, the grief was just so overwhelming. The house had already felt strange after Frankie passed and then when Mollie was no longer here, it seemed so cold and empty. I missed the feel of their fur, the warmth of their bodies, the noise their paws made on the laminate floor. The pools of water Frankie liked to dribble all over the floor after having a drink. The barking, the farting, picking up the poo, the bonio (dog biscuit) crumbs. Everything that had meant being a dog owner for the last 15 years had just been suddenly snatched away with no warning. Everything seemed so bleak and miserable. You will never know how much you will crave a cuddle with a dog ( or any pet ) until you suddenly are no longer able to do it. 
 
That was the hardest thing to cope with in the days that followed their passing, that I couldn’t stroke a dog, be licked, have a tail wag. Jay and I spent every minute that we could out of the house because being in the house just magnified our loss. We were lucky in the respect that a week after Mollie passed away we brought home Dembe. I dread to think what life would have been like without him. I know some people will think that far too quick and that they don’t feel that they could take on another dog / animal whilst they are still mourning their loss. Everyone is different and there are no rights or wrongs in this situation. Had there not been any puppies available we would have had to wait, it is just the way things happened. We felt at the time and still do that it was written in the stars. The breeders had the same surname as the breeders of Mollie and Travis. Dembe’s mum was called Willow, it all seemed like it was just meant to be.
 
Did having Dembe stop the grief? Of course not. In some ways it complicated things because initially I was terrified that Dembe was going to die. My anxiety went up through the roof. It had been a very long time since we had a puppy in the house and it all seemed very alien to us. So whilst trying to come to terms with losing my babies – which they will always be to me no matter how old they were, I had a new baby to deal with. It some ways it was also good for us, we threw ourselves into socialisation and getting lots of experiences under his belt. That meant we had to leave the house and see people. We invited lots of friends over to get them involved. I don’t think for us any time would have been the right time to bring a puppy into the house. Our lives had revolved around our Weimaraners and this was such a massive change to our life, it will probably take us years to get used to it or our heads around it.
 
What did surprise me was the way the people seemed to think once we had Dembe that the grief would just suddenly disappear – as in the replacement theory. There were good surprises as well, people that I had only ever known on facebook sent flowers, cards, gifts. We had so many messages from people. Even though at the time it was hard to read them, not because there was anything wrong with them but just because they were so kind and thoughtful. I heard that Jay’s boss broke the news to his colleagues at work and a couple of them burst into tears because on the previous Saturday the poor man had also had to tell them that Frankie had passed away. No one could quite believe that life could be so cruel. I still don’t believe it but I am happy that Frankie and his mum / best mate are together again.
 
Initially I felt like we had to hide the fact that we had been looking at puppies and we had visited Dembe, paid the deposit two days after Mollie had passed away. It wasn’t because we didn’t love her, I have been crying on and off as I have been writing this. It is because Jay and I are realists, we knew the dogs couldn’t go on forever. Mollie was 14 and quite deaf, Frankie was losing the use of his back legs, had arthritis in his hips and spine, he hadn’t been able to wag his tail for months and was a huge 41kg, 12 year old dog. He had lived far longer than anyone had expected. Even before we lost Willow in 2017 we had been discussing when we got a dog in the future what breed it would be and what his name would be. We had always said we would have a boy, due to the fact both girls had spay induced incontinence after being spayed as emergencies. We said a Labrador as Mollie had always had a thing for black Labs, she adored them. We never knew why but if she met a black lab on a walk her face would light up and she would play bow. The Weims were as much part of our decision making process as we were, as we wanted their blessing. I know none of them would have wanted us to live our lives without a dog.
 
I saw a Meme not long ago that said Dogs fill your life with many happy days and the one worst day of your life. It is pretty true, although the worst day is the worst day when you have to say goodbye, the not so worst days follow, where you have to face life without them and hope that Rainbow Bridge is true and that one day you will all be together again.
 
In Loving memory of 
Travis Morris
Mollie Morris
Willow Morris
Frankie Morris
 
Not a day goes by that I don’t mourn your loss. Not a day goes by when I don’t talk about at least one of you to Dembe. You would have loved him so much.
 
Travis
Mollie
Willow
Frankie
 
Everyone thinks they have the best dog ever,  none of them are wrong.
 
Dembe

I am a survivor

Well I am still not feeling the blog. I don’t know what’s going on but I am really finding it hard to come up with stuff to write about. I am spending 7 days waiting for inspiration to strike and it just isn’t happening. By Tuesday each week I am in a bit of a panic, I like to try and write on a Tuesday if Jay goes out running errands. If not I will wait until Wednesday morning but I don’t like leaving it until Wednesday as I always panic if I have a migraine or something and no blog post is produced.

At the moment the days are just merging into one. I haven’t seen any of my friends for over a month although I keep in regular contact with some of them. I have come to realise over the last 8 months that some of the people that I thought for there for me, disappeared when Frankie and Mollie passed away.  I understand that everyone has their own lives and families, with their own shit to deal with but it has been a very isolating experience. Some people have made a supreme effort to be present and other well not so much. It’s ok as I have a long memory and will be sure to return the favour when the shit hits the fan in their lives. I didn’t expect to be visited constantly but the occasional text message would have been nice, especially when they know my situation of living alone and Jay working.

Thankfully though I am pretty self sufficient, whilst dealing with my grief, I was juggling a new puppy and attempting to find time to sew / embroider. It hasn’t been easy but Dembe and I have found a new routine that works for us. He is pretty good at entertaining himself whilst I am busy sewing. He always positions himself in a location where he can keep an eye on me and ensure he knows if I have moved. He likes one of three places, the bed by the washing machine, the sofa that looks into the kitchen or out under the gazebo on the bench surrounded by all the cushions. I can’t believe my luck that he doesn’t get bored and then start destroying things. When I have finished sewing he knows that is our time and I will ensure I spend the time playing with him, doing training or just cuddles depending on his energy levels. I have been blessed with a pup that is so very well behaved and so very loving. His favourite spot for sleeping is right beside me on the sofa. This is him right now as I am writing this post.

My life has totally changed this year, I have re-assessed a lot of relationships. I have made the decision that I won’t swim an ocean for people who wouldn’t jump a puddle for me. I have decided that instead of worrying about what everyone is thinking or saying about me behind my back and believe me you’d be surprised the shit I hear being spoken about me by people who should know better, that I shall just carry on living my life and enjoying myself. The best revenge on those sad twats is to enjoy yourself and plaster it all over social media. It totally then fucks up all the fairy tales that they have been telling people for years.

I am also getting out of the house a lot more, this does have to be limited and planned for. I haven’t suddenly magically got better, it is just with one dog things are a lot easier. Especially as Dembe is such a friendly dog and on the whole pretty well behaved, although we have now hit the teenage years and recall seems to be a take it or leave it thing! Fatigue still grinds me down. I like using my energy for things for things that make me happy. So using my mobility scooter on Woodbury Common and getting out with Jay and Dembe has been unbelievably healing and grounding. 

It has been the one thing I have missed most since I got sick. The wheelchair trike although brilliant is an absolute ballache to transport. The wheelchair is fixed framed so that would take up the whole boot and then I would have to juggle the trike attachment with me in the front of the car. Not exactly safe. Then I piled on a load of weight when I developed my CSF leak and was virtually bed bound for a year, then in 2017 and 2018 we suffered a number of bereavements and I tend to self medicate with gin, chocolate and junk food / takeaways. I was 5 stone over the optimum user weight for the trike. So anytime I did try to use it the battery drained in minutes. I’ve been too embarrassed to say that because I allowed myself to get fat as fuck, I haven’t been able to use it. Hopefully now I am back losing weight ( it’s taken me until the last month to feel like I can actually do it) and I am back to 3 stone down, ideally at least another 3 to go so I will be massively under the optimum user weight. The trike will be used in the future as it is more suited to the rough and rugged environment of the common.

I do love my mobility scooter though and it has given me back my independence. It is easily taken apart to it can fit in the back of the car. It makes life so much easier if I need to go to the doctors or the hospital for appointments.

Over the 2 months I have got back into sewing and actually enjoyed it rather than feel I am going through the motions. From January until June I made a bloody good show of pretending I was ok, ensuring I used my embroidery machine every week and appeared to be enjoying myself. At points I felt like I was dying inside. I felt like a shell of the person I was. I didn’t feel I could voice the pain I was in. I know others struggle with grief especially when it is over an animal and not a human being.  Like I said earlier it has been one of the most isolating experiences of my life. There just felt like there was no one there. I do wonder if there had been someone their if I would have still felt so isolated.

I do have a tendency when things are tough to disappear into myself and attempt to shut out the world. I still kept on posting on social media, I still kept the creative things going but in all honesty I was going through the motions. It is only now that I can watch anything remotely sentimental without breaking down immediately. I only now feel like me. I feel like I have been on some weird journey where at points I lost myself. It is true what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger because in January / February this year I honestly thought the pain would kill me or I wished it would.

So I skillfully went off on a tangent there, I am enjoying sewing again and being creative rather than having to force myself to do it in the hope at some point the joy would come back. I am still working on my scrap busting quilt sew along. I found out yesterday that it is between a double (bed) and king size (bed) size, so it definitely is the largest one I have ever worked on. I made the back panel for it yesterday.

And in case you have forgotten what the front looks like

This morning I sorted out the wadding ( what you call batting in the USA ) which needed sewn together. I also made some plastic templates  to draw around as I have decided to tray something totally different with the quilting. It has taken me a few days of mulling it over to come to my plans. I have drawn it out so I have something to refer to. I now just need to have Jay clear the floor space in the lounge so that I can put my quilt sandwich together quilt back + wadding / batting + quilt top. I use temporary basting spray to hold it together but as it is so large I will also be pinning it. This ensures that the fabric stays nice and flat so it doesn’t shift and give you puckers. I also managed to sort out the binding yesterday. So it is all ready to be quilted shortly. I will be quite glad when it is finished now as I hate half done projects hanging around. I am really ready to now get myself into new projects and stretch my skills.

Anyway I started with no clue where this post was going and have managed to ramble on forever!

Dembe has changed locations

He likes it so he knows exactly where I am in the house at all times.

I think this year I have learnt, a lot and we are only in August. My heart has hurt more than I ever thought possible without keeling over and dying. I have learnt in the depths of grief you are still able to love unconditionally and you must never feel guilty for that. I have also learnt that the majority of people run away from grief and think that is acceptable behaviour. Despite all this I have come back stronger, love another dog more than I ever thought possible but when you have this gorgeous mutt in your life how could you not?

And yes he is holding my thumb in his mouth!

This is the year that nearly broke me, the year that changed everything and has just proved to me I am a survivor.

A hard week health-wise

The last week has been really hard health wise. I haven’t been the sickest I have ever been but I have certainly been sicker than I have for a while. There is no “reason” that I can identify for this other than perhaps the decline in my health that I have been waiting for since we lost Mollie and Frankie. Stress, emotional upset and change can all upset my chronic health conditions and it seems everything wanted to bubble to the surface last week. I did just power on through which now I am wondering if that was the right thing because I am having more and more MG like symptoms this week – shortness of breath, limb weakness etc sorry I should have said my idiopathic hemifacial spasm the latest bullshit diagnosis for my Ptosis, totally ignoring all the other issues.

If I am honest there is only one symptom that has me terrified and that is when I will suddenly and for no reason lose the ability to take a deep breath. No matter how hard I try to suck the air in my chest fails to move. I end up taking a series of short breaths to minimise the panic that rises in me. I have an elephant sat on my chest who is refusing to budge and I know that if I went to hospital my breathing would be ignored and I would be labelled with a mental health condition rather than the fact that there is something going on at the neuromuscular junction which has been proved time and time again with the ice-pack test. Apparently for the latest neurologist I have seen for these symptoms back in 2017 I believe, it is just a placebo effect. Words fail me.

Sunday freaked me out a bit as well. I wasn’t feeling great when I got up and knew there were a couple of jobs that I had to do, then I could sit around and rest for the remainder of the day. Once those jobs were completed I noticed my legs had become exceptionally heavy, like there were lead weights attached. I could walk but it was very slow and shuffling because lifting my feet was taking a supreme effort. I attempted to climb the stairs but that was impossible. I may as well have been sat at base camp for Mount Everest without oxygen, as those stairs were impossible. After attempting three I came back down on my bum and then wondered how the hell I was going to stand up again. Thank god for Mr Myasthenia Kid being home and with it happening on a Sunday. He could help me to my feet and get me to the sofa, plus organise my medication. 

You see I get to take Mestinon / Pyridostigmine Bromide for my PoTs symptoms. I usually dose as follows 7am 60mg, 11am 30mg, 3pm 30mg or 60mg depending on how I am feeling and then 30mg at 7pm. I have to be careful with Mestinon by body is extremely sensitive to it. Too much and I can be twitching all over but mainly my face and it can trigger terrible stomach cramps. It takes a lot for me to take another 60mg during the day but at both 11am and 3pm I ended up taking the full dose because without it my legs wouldn’t work. My legs not working is not a PoTs symptom, it isn’t an EDS symptom either. There is no medical explanation for this symptom, other than the fact the medical profession believe its all in my head. Which is why when my breathing gets difficult I panic. This medical condition that appears so much like MG / Neuromuscular junction disease will be ignored and it could end up killing me. I am lucky, my symptoms are mild but I have bouts like this especially when the weather gets warmer where my body fails to cope. I worry one day I will be so ill that the doctors refusal to think outside the box will mean that I will be killed by medical negligence and that is a fucking scary thought.

I mean if there is nothing wrong with my breathing……why have I had home oxygen since 2009? In the current economic climate of ongoing austerity since 2010 why if I don’t need support for breathing on occasion why has this precious money wasting resource not been taken from me? Home Oxygen can’t be cheap,  I have an oxygen concentrator a machine that pulls oxygen from the air and then feeds it down a nasal cannula at a purer form. In case of power cuts I also have to have a huge oxygen canister in the house, I have to notify the local fire-brigade and I am classed as a vulnerable service user by the people who maintain the power grid. The canister also impacts my home insurance cost. If I didn’t need it I would get rid of it, not only are the canister and oxygen concentrator ugly they are taking up valuable space in my small home. So in an age of cuts to all services who is covering their arse by allowing me to keep my home oxygen? 

Home Oxygen won’t save me if I end up in a full blown Myasthenic crisis. This is where the muscles around the lungs and the diaphragm become paralysed and can’t move so you can’t get the air in as when you attempt to breath nothing happens. In this situation you need to be in hospital on C-pap or Bi-pap or in the worst case scenario put into an induced coma whilst they ventilate you – sticking a tube down your throat and breathing for you ( intubation ).  Today as I am writing this the elephant has returned, breathing is hard. I took my mestinon at 7.30am already my right eye is starting to droop, its seems I may have to take my next dose earlier.

The Myasthenic like symptoms are the worst thing I currently deal with and I am lucky they are mild the rest of the time. Last week was like a smorgasbord of every medical condition I have. My PoTs symptoms were crazy – heat induced despite me upping the salt tablets ( to 8 a day ) there  were multiple episodes of pre sycope ( near fainting). I had vertigo luckily I caught that attack very early so I only had to endure the room spinning for an hour but it leaves me tired and feeling out of sorts. I had a migraine on Friday one of the worst I have had in months. It was actually the first migraine I have had since January 14th ( my last one was the Monday after Dembe came home with us). My Tinnitus has been so loud it has been difficult to hear the TV and radio. I have felt constantly exhausted .

Then there was the joint pain and my right shoulder continually fighting to escape it’s socket. To be honest I have only scratched the surface of what I have dealt with over the last 7 days. I really don’t like to say much most of the time because I don’t want to be accused of moaning but if I stay silent about it people think that you aren’t as sick as you claim you are. You just can’t win, you’re an attention seeker if you say something and a liar when you don’t. It drives me nuts. I stay silent because to be honest it is easier that way. I don’t want Jay aka Mr Myasthenia Kid worrying about me when he is at work, I don’t want lots of platitudes on social media. It isn’t because I think they are false it makes me feel like I am drawing attention to myself and trying to play the sympathy card and that’s just not me. 

It’s been really hard this week being a puppy mum, I love Dembe dearly, I wouldn’t be without him but it is hard work trying to keep him occupied whilst using as little energy as possible. On the whole he is brilliantly behaved but like it is with kids there are days when he can be a little bugger and whilst amusing, it can be frustrating, especially when you aren’t feeling well. He is just a puppy though at a little over 6 months old and over time he will calm down. I guess I was so used to Mollie, Frankie and Willow being older and more sedate this has come as a real shock. Jay does loads, he gets up and does his breakfast, he does all the walking and he comes home everyday for lunch to give me a little break and check I am ok. I take my hat off to those of you who are chronically sick and have children, I don’t know how you do it.

It has been a hard week health-wise, I just hope things start to settled down very soon.

Time for a change

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time you will have noticed this week that on both platforms, Blogger and WordPress that my blog sites have had a makeover. 

The reason behind the change was two-fold, firstly it was just time for a change and secondly it was time to move forward. Both platforms used photo’s of Frankie as part of the blog. My Myasthenia kid page had a photo of Mollie and Frankie from the summer as its banner. Every time I went on the page it was a very real reminder of everything we have lost and the grief I feel. The time both Frankie and Mollie have been gone can still be counted in weeks, I still feel very sad most days. When you are with your dogs like I was 24/7 for the last 11 years they become a massive part of your life. It was like losing two members of my family, the family I have made with Jay. Still having them on the Facebook Myasthenia kid page and as a huge part of both blog platforms felt wrong. Although I will mourn them forever it was time to move forward and the new chapter of our life is now with Dembe our yellow Labrador. Not featuring him when he is a major part of my life felt disloyal to him. So hence the change.

I’ve known since the day we lost them both that the day would come that I felt strong enough to update the look of my blogs and Facebook page. I needed there to have been enough time passed that I wouldn’t feel guilty for changing things. It still took an awful lot to change the banner of my Facebook page associated with this blog. I wondered if people would think it was too soon or that I didn’t care about Mollie and Frankie. No one has said anything and deep down I knew they wouldn’t but you are still very conscious of how things may look to other people. 

The blogs were a spontaneous decision on Saturday night, when Jay was working late. I hadn’t like the look of blogger for ages and I needed to change the banner of the WordPress sites. I had taken a lovely photograph of some tree’s a couple of weeks ago and thought it would make a nice banner / background. I love Woodbury Common it has strong emotional ties for me. Every dog we have ever owned has been walked there, it was where I would go to forget the stress of everyday life before I became too sick to walk the dogs. To have that represented on the blog and it being my photograph gives me a sense of pride.

I also needed to change my Google Avatar. The photo had been a black and white one of me and Frankie. It is one of those things where every time I saw the photo I would hold my breath and wait for the pain in my heart to start. I have now changed it over to a lovely photo of Dembe. I wanted to start to look forward as I have been feeling a lot better of late. More like me and not totally bogged down in my grief. 

It has taken time for me to accept that I am allowed to look to the future and how our life with Dembe will be. Being an only dog he is even more the focus of my attention. He must some days wish that I would shut up as I talk to him constantly. He is the thing ( along with Jay ) that has got me through these last few months, who has forced me to get out of bed, to socialise when all I wanted to do was go to bed and just not have to deal with the world. Although it has been really hard on occasion I have made it through 100% of my worst days and that is an achievement.

The final thing I changed was my profile photo on my social media accounts. For a year possibly more it had been a close up photograph of Frankie’s nose. People always ask me about it as it was a cute photo but when you have just lost a faithful companion it can be really difficult emotionally to talk about it and people assume that he is still with us. I then have to say that he isn’t and that compounds the hurt. So I have changed this over to a photo of Dembe because when I speak about him I don’t feel sad. 

It took longer than I thought it would to change all the stuff. Whilst updating all my social media accounts I realised some of them were out of date and they still talked about Mollie and Frankie. So it was sad updating them but I do need to do this. I will never forget them they were a massive part of my life. They the three of them saved me when I was grieving for Travis our first Weimaraner and then when I became sick. I don’t know if I would still be here without their love and affection. Dembe has done the same shown me that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that it is ok to be sad as long as it doesn’t dominate every waking hour. 

So I hope you like what I have done to the blogs etc I think you will agree it was time for a change.

Dembe aged 24 weeks