Friday, October 29, 2010

Service Dogs for the Chemically Sensitive

This is an interesting thought. One that came to me in the middle of the night. In fact, it came to me after a horrifying and sudden life threatening episode that left me shaking, crying and terrified...

That particular evening I was sprawled in my favorite chair. Through with the day. Nothing else that I had to do, just counting time 'till I could retire. It just so happened that Ron had a boat drape that needed mending. The drape itself was several years old. It was vinyl and polyester. All those years should be more than enough time to outgas a drape, or so we thought. In fact, he'd had it in the living room last year, mending the seam next to the zipper. Last year it wasn't a major problem.

I didn't think it was a problem this year, until about the time he finished the mend. I suddenly realized that my throat felt like it had been worked over with a cheese grater. Ron took the drape out at that time, so when I got up to go to bed, I dosed up on extra meds (nutraceuticals) and figured I'd be up in the night with a sore throat and a headache. I staggered off to bed with that weighted down feeling that TIs get at the onset of exposure. (the one that feels like your coming down with the flu.)

Before I could crawl into bed I showered, (to remove VOCs from my skin, so they wouldn't continue to absorb, or to volatize off me and I'd continue to inhale them)  then sauna-ed, to sweat out any that had absorbed, and showered again to remove the sweated out toxins. By the time I managed to flop into the bed, Ron was already fast asleep. I felt pretty good at that point. I figured I'd gotten the better of that exposure. Maybe I'd finally worked out an effective response. ~That's the elusive rainbow that we chase.~

I remember I was dreaming. It wasn't an alarming dream. In the dream, I had just received an email. Then that was it. Instantly I was awake and struggling to rise up. My throat had snapped shut, like it was glued closed. I couldn't draw a breath. It felt the same way it feels when someone sneaks up behind you when you're snorkeling and puts their thumb over the top of your snorkel. I couldn't draw in. I couldn't make any sound. Ron was sleeping away next to me, and I couldn't call out.

So I started to hit him, pounding on his shoulder. He didn't wake up. He just moaned a little in his sleep so I whaled on him again. It wasn't 'till the third round that he roused enough to talk to me. But I still couldn't talk. I was over there, in the dark, going, "hck, hck, hck," thrashing around, trying to make choking signs. This wasn't really bright. I mean, it's pitch dark in our room. But what can I say. One doesn't think clearly when one is suffocating. Some how, or maybe no how, during all that thrashing a little air was pushed out. My airway became unglued and I could draw in a labored, wheezing breath. My windpipe felt like brittle paper. It actually crackled. Ron went down and got me a glass of water. What else could we do. I'll be honest, I cried in terror for about half an hour. I could barely breathe for an hour. Neither of us was sleeping. We were both worried it would happen again. Sometime near morning I finally drifted off to sleep.

Lying there in the dark, and not knowing if your next breath is going to be your last, going to sleep is an act of faith. Faith doesn't come easy. It's one thing to say you have faith, when you live a "safe" life. It's another thing entirely to test your face in the teeth of adversity. "Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep..." There's a lot more meaning to that when there is a very real possibility that you could be standing in front of HIM, in the space of just a few seconds.

And at the same time, I can't settle. I can't help it. My mind churns while I'm lying there, trying to gather the tattered shreds of my courage and summon enough faith from the depths of my soul, to try to sleep. I think about all the things I still want to do. The things I don't want to miss... I try to think myself out of my problems. Sometimes there's no solution. This one time I had an intriguing thought.

I had recently seen a PBS special on service dogs that alerted people of impending seizures. They also trained dogs, to detect allergen's for kids that had severe reactions. (Dr. Smith says I had anaphylactic shock) Too bad they didn't have Dogs for the Toxically Injured, that alert to the presence of toxins so we could avoid them, or like the seizure dogs, when a persons was crashing. Ryan's dog Jesse, gets real clingy when I "go down." If I had a service dog, sleeping next to me, he could wake me up before the nasty crash and I could take more meds, to prevent the worst of the symptoms.  Maybe they have 'em. The service dogs, I mean. It was on that note that I finally went off to sleep.

It was also an idea that wouldn't leave me alone, when I woke the next day. No, my symptoms weren't just gone. (It felt like I had a stone on my chest. My windpipe felt raw. All the cliche terms of lethargy applied.) But while I drug myself around, getting up, doing protocols, taking care of chores, the idea kept niggling. I brought it up to Ron, and he actually thought that it wasn't a bad idea. So I went on the web and rooted around.

It took me three days to find a trainer, but they weren't in my area, that could train dogs for chemical sensitivity.  Then on Dr. day, I stopped at the fragrance free pet store and the cashier gave me a card for a local trainer. She's actually certified in all kinds of dog training. That was one hurdle. Then I cold called her and began the negotiations involved in introducing a normal person to the idea of my disability and working with me. She didn't run away, and she didn't seem too intimidated.

She told me she like to work with "good clay.' And gave me the names of a couple of breeder's websites. Now here's the amazing part. The breed she prefers to work with for service dogs are hunting poodles.  This is amazing because it was one of the dreams I'd had to let go of when I became disabled. I'd always wanted a standard poodle. When I discovered they had hunting poodles, I was hooked. Then I became disabled...  Now, full circle. Maybe I'm going to get a hunting poodle.

On that note, I'm going to bed. Obviously I've had an exposure today. I looked back over my earlier blog and not only did I have some atrocious spelling errors, but I sounded really witchy. All pretty good indications of toxic exposures. That and it's 11:30 p.m. and I'm still wound.

Sorry about the witchy part guys. But from time to time, you are going to see the anger, beneath the resignation.... Good night.

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