At long last I’ve found my way back to the Dark Side.
A lot has changed in my life in the past three weeks. My employment, my writing projects, my work with Greta, all of that has experienced a sort ofSpring Cleaning, as it were. Most of it has been for the better, and even that which makes me anxious and a little sad will inevitably be the best course. Discomfort does not mean disaster, after all.
I hope to get back to writing more reflective, expositional, and narrative content in the coming weeks, and this Friday we’ll be getting back to Flashbacks. But today I’d like to just catch you up on some things.
This month I’m participating in Camp NaNo, April 2022. This is an event that supports NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is an internet challenge to aspiring authors wherein we all commit to trying to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. Camp Nano, which takes place twice a year (April and July) is a little less structured. You set your own goal, be it writing or editing.
This April I’m working on a Christian urban fantasy drama titled Modern Magic.
Set in Huntsville, Alabama, where magic is a natural force used by humans throughout history, a knightly soccer mom is thrust onto the throne of an international magitech company. When Maeryn Hasekura turns company resources toward fighting addiction, she’ll end up fighting those whose profits depend on the suffering of drug users. But the cartels aren’t the only powers threatening the lives of Maryn and her family.
Maeryn believed God wanted her to serve her community as well as her family, but when He seems to be thwarting each of her dreams in turn she must find a way to trust him through the very real physical dangers of her new job, and through the spiritual landmines that just might turn out to be stepping stones.
My Camp Nano goal is to complete the outline and write at least 10,000 words. I’ve already finished the outline, though of course no outline survives first contact with the rough draft. I deliberately set a low goal, though, because I have a lot of plans for my current break between jobs, and I like stacking easy wins together to launch bigger projects off of.
Greta and I met with Kim, our lovely doggy therapist, a couple of weeks ago to assess Greta’s current progress, health, and to make a plan for moving forward. I am slightly less optimistic now than I have been in my Previous posts on the subject, but no less committed to giving her rehabilitation 100% of my effort.
Greta is almost 8 years old. There’s some Disagreement on whether this makes her old or middle-aged, but she also has a hip condition, a bad shoulder, and went through a year of severe digestive and skin issues that vastly depleted her reserves of health. She still plays hard and loves a good long walk, but Kim is concerned that Greta won’t hold up physically to the intensity of training required to get her back into true guiding form.
I walk Greta once or twice a day, usually about a mile at a moderate pace. Sometimes I substitute time on the treadmill or more therapeutic exercises if the weather’s bad, I’m worn out and/or overstimulated, or other factors. When We meet with Kim we often work 2-3 miles in a session. Kim is proposing a regular regimen somewhere halfway between a training lesson and our regular routine, and in more Triggering situations.
So, we’ve agreed to try out this routine for a month. Weekly trainings with lots of extra work in more triggering environments in between sessions. If Greta can handle it, if she doesn’t show signs of growing fatigue and pain, then it is still possible for her to re-enter the workforce. But if not, then I can say she will well and truly have earned her retirement.
The hardest part was hearing Kim’s overall evaluation of Greta’s progress, comparing the “before” and “after” pictures of her behavior with the Year of Health Issues in between. While Greta’s guide work is still phenomenal in terms of navigation, avoidances, and obstacle communication, her behavioral issues are just so much more entrenched than they were.
To put it in human terms, a counseling client who has mild chronic anxiety goes through eighteen months of intense medical issues and comes out more anxious because now the world seems even more unstable than before. Greta watched me leave her behind every time I left the house during that period, and she was in pain. Working all of that stress out of her will take time and energy, and unfortunately with her age both are in shorter supply than any of us would like.
No matter how much Greta wants to do the work – and believe me, she does want to – she just might not be able to. She still points at her harness whenever I open the closet where it hangs, and she stands so tall and confidently with it strapped around her chest and girth. She still gives me little kisses when I bend over to adjust the straps. But my readers with disabilities, chronic illnesses and chronic pain know all too well that desire to do a thing and having the energy to accomplish it don’t always come hand in hand.
So, what does retirement look like for a service dog?
Well, that depends on a lot of factors. Different trainers and training schools have different rules about ownership, and these rules of ownership dictate a dog’s future career and retirement. I don’t know about all the options and arrangements out there, so I’ll just write about what I know.
As I mentioned in This post The Seeing Eye gives full ownership, and thus decision-making authority, to its graduates. I own Greta outright, so I get to decide what happens to her when she eventually retires. Though Greta is my second guide, she will (hopefully later rather than sooner) be the first one I retire because my first dog died of cancer at age 6.
Blindfluencer Rhianna wrote beautifully Here on the Dark Side about how she retired her first guide, Cricket.
Greta will, regardless of when she retires, simply become a beloved family pet. My husband and I have agreed that she’ll still get the finest doggy healthcare, all the exercise she could possibly want, and so long as she can handle it physically I’ll keep working her around my neighborhood to keep her mentally active and happy. Honestly, her life won’t change much from what it has been in the past eighteen months.
I have a lot of fears and worries surrounding this issue. But in an effort to live out Elizabeth George’s exegesis of Philippians 4:8, to focus on what I know to be true and real, I will not write about those yet because Greta’s retirement is not yet real. It may be real in a month, or six months, or two years. But today it is not, and so I put my mental energy toward developing a training schedule instead of Rehearsing all my post-retirement worries.
I’ve not written a lot about my work because counseling involves a high degree of confidentiality. But there’s a big part of counseling as an employment that has nothing to do with client work. Counseling involves labor practices, business taxes, human resource issues, management and leadership, office supplies, facilities, employee development…it’s a business like, in many ways, any other.
I have left my current job, working as an employee of a small private practice. Most private practices work by contract rather than employment, but I had found myself at one of the few who did issue w2’s instead of 10-99’s. And, well, now I’m unemployed. Sort of. I still have a microscopic income as an author and freelance copy-writer, but at the moment I’m not offering counseling services. I hope to do so again soon.
At a job interview this weekend the interviewer never once asked me how I’d compensate for my disability. In fact, the only time it came up was when she suggested it brought a lot of unique strengths and qualities to the table. It was almost as if she’d read my Guest post in advance of our conversation – or, that she didn’t need to because she already shared my opinion on counselors with disabilities.
I’ve worked at a state-run university, in state government, at NASA and the DoD, and several non-profits, and at each interview, including interviews for jobs I didn’t get, I’ve always encountered this gently doubting tone of voice asking me “are you sure you’ll be able to make it work? I mean, with the transportation? Will you need any extra help with anything? I’m sure we can find ways to make it easier for you to…”
I’m told that many non-disabled people are asked about transportation in job interviews, so I choose not to focus on that as much, but when the lines are delivered with such soothing tones, as if mentioning my inability might make me burst into tears or shock me into realizing I’m not as capable as I thought I was 10 seconds ago I have a hard time not holding that against people.
But the woman I spoke with this weekend displayed such a basic assumption of competence on my part that I fairly bounced for the rest of the day. It lent the interview a more optimistic, potential-filled atmosphere that encouraged me to imagine working for an employer who really believed in me and wanted me, not just my skills, at her disposal.
“But Anneliese, why did you leave your other job? Are you hinting that there are salacious details of discrimination involved?”
Nope, you don’t get that story. Mostly because it’s not much of a story. I left because it wasn’t the right place for me, and unlike most of my disabled peers I am privileged enough to join the Great Resignation in search of bigger and better things.
“What about your other discrimination case that you hinted at in This update post?”
Sorry to disappoint again, but that story isn’t finished yet so I can’t tell it, either. While I believe in challenging unjust systems, sharing my story to inspire and empower other people with disabilities, and the value of righteousness over reputation, I also believe strongly in discretion, and I have seen firsthand how careless words can scatter to unexpectedly powerful places across the internet.
I believe in solving problems between the principals of the matter as often as possible. While the court of public opinion can be useful, it is a tool with limited uses, and right now it won’t serve me or the counseling industry as a whole regarding this matter.
“So, if you’re not going to tell us anything interesting, why bring it up?”
Honestly, just because I felt like getting up on my soap box about discretion and the internet. Thank you for coming to my TEDTalk!
I know, ethics aren’t as exciting as gossip. I feel your pain, I love a good drama. That’s why I write them in fiction. Real life drama has real life consequences outside of my control. But in a story, like This one, or Modern Magic, I can contain the fallout and maximize its dramatic potential for reader enjoyment. So, keep an eye out for excerpts and artwork from that.
Dear reader (I hope you hear that in Lady Whistledown’s voice), your favorite blindfluencer is so glad to be back writing to you again. She asks that you exercise a creative hobby today, be it writing, art, Minecraft construction, woodcraft, or any number of other delightful pastimes.