Friday April 4th, 2014 – I returned to the world of full blown dystonia due to an infection. No biggie? Been on antibiotics for 7 weeks and for the inquisitives that means you take pills that make you sick but (Hopefully) kill the infection. Returning to this world (condition) also requires revisiting dystonia meds. This is the tricky part because these meds will help, but to maintain their effectiveness the dosage must be increased slightly over the time period involved. Side effects are complicated yet amusing depending on your seriousness thermometer (As you may have guessed – my level of seriousness is that of a first year toddler on Christmas). No short term memory, No Driving, lethargy (Enemy), high levels of emotional outbursts (Lots of crying for no reason), Zombie like behavior (No comment) but despite these side effects – I have to use my Dog and reintroduce him to Service Dog Duties and after a 4 year hiatus this has been challenging, rewarding and the discovery of Service Dog Humor.
I use Hutch for balance, falls (He can help me up) and when dystonia really attacks – He has a rare gift of feeling this and making sure I’m safe. How? you ask – by licking my face when I can’t open my eyes and bent over in pain, by placing his huge head on my lap and looking at me as if to say “Yo Pop, I’m here don’t worry”. He is trained, certified and really good.
When I conduct open gyms with my girls basketball team, He’s there right by my side. For those of you who know Hutch, he’s the Brad Pitt of dogs so you can only imagine when my girls see him, they want to pet, hug and just eat him up. They cannot. His vest says, “Please ask to pet” which is the protocol for all service dogs. However, after practice, I will take his vest off and let him enjoy their attention. The funny stuff occurs when I’m teaching on the court, I normally put Hutch in a down position (Meaning=He’s lying down off the court but always able to see me. If he thinks I’m in pain or senses something He will start to yelp and crawl slowly towards me. The girls obviously think this is hilarious but He really should just lie there and watch. The discovery and one of the great gifts of having dystonia is to constantly search for ways to avoid pain, postures that you cannot control and different ways to get through the day. My discovery was: ok, He thinks I need him so I take his leash wrap it around my neck with enough slack that He can comfortably stay on my left side and follow me as if an extension of my left arm. It works. He walks through drills, teaching on court, and is even more effective without distracting practice.
So I have this somewhat important meeting with my supervisors at the high school where I coach Basketball. I get a ride with my Mother in Law (Remember no driving). Hutch and I walk through the parking lot 7:40AM and are met aggressively by an over zealous security guard. Yelling “Is that a service dog? I’m holding his harness, with one eye open and head down, answer “Yes He is”. I continue to walk to the front door. The security guard says, “Can you provide verification”. Now it becomes funny. As I try to paint a vivid picture of this encounter – Here’s a 6’2 guy resembling a thin Quasi Moto (spell check), one eye closed, in clearly visible pain and walking with a 116lb white Lab wearing a service dog vest and harness. I normally don’t carry his service dog card because I have never had to produce it but for some odd gut intuition I brought his Official Service Dog Badge which has his picture and verification. We were both welcomed and allowed to enter the building. It’s close to rush hour and the beginning of the school day so lots of activity. I’m required to sign in which I can barely see the sign in sheet. We are then required to put on visitor stickers. Yes, We as in Hutch and I are required to wear visitor stickers. I put my visitor sticker on. By this time Hutch is lying on the floor in a “down” position. Several teachers and students approach me and ask if they can pet my dog. I oblige because he’s already lying down and thought he deserved some Love. While this was taking place, the security guard was trying to put a visitor sticker on Hutch’s vest. The sticker won’t stay and after several attempts Hutch is now sprawled out, belly exposed and soaking up the attention from several people. The security guard was determined to follow protocol but to no avail – the visitor’s sticker would not adhere to the vest. Petting continued, I couldn’t stop laughing at the persistence of the guard and Hutch sensed the humor that continued for several minutes. Eventually, the guard gave up and we received permission to go on our way. Finding humor through dystonia does exist.