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Doggie doggie doggie...

It's time. I am finally, unequivocally ready to have a dog in my life again. The title of this post is from a memory of a story about my niecely, FiG, in her car seat one evening, chanting those words like she was calling all puppies in the neighborhood to her.

At the moment, though, my canine contemplations are not about pets. I am not allowed any in my rented home (which in all other ways is perfect for my right now) and my commute makes that seem like a less-than ideal situation anyway. Instead, I am obsessing about service animals; diabetes assist/alert dogs, in particular.

a fabulous, if hot, meet-up with the Johnsons and Molly & Dixie (thanks to Tabitha for taking the photo, but I wish she was in it too!)

A few weeks ago, Scott organized a meet-up with his family, Molly & Dixie, me & T3. All the t3s in attendance drifted around the park, playing on the equipment or an iPad, scouting shade to save us from the intense heat. T3 even took Dixie for a short walk. Scott, Molly and I chatted for about 4-hours non-stop. We talked a lot about living with the bigD. Molly talked about her upcoming Quetico trip. I asked mostly practical questions about living with a canine partner. Dixie kept an eye (nose?) on us and made sure Scott took care of a low before it even arrived and had us all check a few "extra" times. I came away from that meeting still on my fence with a long list of pros and a few heavy cons. Molly did make me think that a lot of the partnership is adaptable to the person's life. For example, if foreign travel is part of it, the dog partner might learn to take a 1-2 week vacation now and then.

Today, I went for a tour of Can Do Canines. I think they do some amazing work. I love that they use rescue and shelter animals as much as possible. But they use the term "brittle diabetic" in a lot of their literature and talks. For starters, the term feels 1960's vintage to me, not current appropriate language. I think it conjures an image of frailty in my mind that I do not associate with the T1s I know, hypo unaware or not. I should probably just get over it and move on to what they do and whether it's a good fit for me. They focus their training on smell - specifically of breath, and all the literature talks about the dogs catching lows (which is really important). I know Dixie alerts for highs as well so I wonder if they are missing a part of the training or if out of range alerts for both ends of the spectrum develop as the pair works and lives together. I do wonder if I'd be deemed eligible/worthy of a d.a. dog from Can Do Canines. I've never (so far, knock on wood) required EMT help or even glucagon from a friend or loved one. I've had scary, lonely lows. I no longer feel every low. I am working hard to lower my A1c which will likely increase the hypo unawareness. But will someone not living with bigD think my efforts and fears are worthy of matching me with a dog?

I've been distracting you from the deeper questions I'm struggling with, the things that keep me from just filling out an application and finding out if I qualify. Here goes my first attempt to put these feelings into words....

First up is that having a vest-wearing super-dog by my side all. the. time. may demand that I become a full-time diabetes advocate. If not full-time, then certainly it will push me into a spotlight of sorts more often than I'm used to and not only when I choose to step onto my soap box. I've been living with bigD for almost 20 years. The first 10 of which I chose carefully who and how much I told. When I started pumping (and chose Animas in part because it was the least obviously medical-looking), I started talking more. I found myself more and more willing to explain what I was up against. But, I have always had the option to tuck the pump in a less accessible spot and allow the rest of the world to remain ignorant of even the name of the incessantly demanding disease with which I live. Most days, I think I could handle strangers' curiosity with grace. But there are days when I know one well-meaning "what's wrong with you?" or odd "are you almost blind?" as I sit behind the wheel of Mr. Hooper (thanks, Molly for that story) would make me want to scream. I really question whether this introvert is ready to be that "out."

My second big item on the cons list is a more internal struggle with identity. With a service dog of any type, comes the "disability" label. (For the record, I did not pin that label to Molly at any time in my mind so this fear might be unfair to the world around me, but my demons are having fun with it so it's a real one for me.) At no time since September 18, 1990 have I ever considered myself disabled. There are things not worth (to me) the effort to plan for - deep sea SCUBA, for instance, but I have never thought that there was anything bigD would completely prevent me from doing if I really wanted to. There are things I might have to fight harder for than someone with a fully-functioning pancreas, but I do not feel physically unable to do anything because of my immune system malfunction. I am a big fan of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I know, in the back of my head, that if I run into discrimination because of bigD, the ADA is there to back me up in a (legal) fight. But until I need that, I prefer, for my mental well-being, not to consider myself disabled. Will a dog who brings me that tag also bring so much emotional support that I won't mind it?

I'm no closer to a decision about this than I was a few months ago. The pros seem huge, but until I come to some peace with the cons, I don't know if any number of them could outweigh the negatives. But then, there was this chocolate lab named Juno at Can Do Canines this morning. She locked eyes with me through a window and... then we had to keep walking on the tour.

Need me for anything? You can find me sitting on this fence awhile longer. I'm looking forward to losing patience with myself and jumping off on one side or the other (I'd put my money on dog, if I were you).

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