News, updates, and happenings with the Kragnes family: Phil, our Seeing Eye Dogs, and (me) Rebecca.

Archive for April, 2012

Birthday Eve lemonaide

I am officially 40. I wouldn’t have dreamed a 40th birthday would turn out like this.

Phil woke up muffling a curse, and I jerked awake. He suspected that his fistula )the thing in his arm doctors created from vessels used for dialysis) had clotted. We both felt and listened to the fistula, and when it’s working properly again, I’m going to feel and listen to it to know what it’s supposed to be like when working. Aside from Phil’s tremors, I could hear and feel nothing. His suspicions were confirmed, and he was admitted to the hospital. They now have some sort of machine to clean out the clots. After going through the cleaning machine, He underwent dialysis, and if everything goes according to plan, he’ll be released in the morning. We originally talked about some plans, but given the situation, I’m just not sure how he’s going to feel. Part of the plans included playing shut the box out on the deck, but it’s supposed to rain. Whatever happens, we’ll make the best of it.

People probably get tired of hearing me repeat again and again how fortunate we are to have the friends we do. A lot of our family members are far enough away they can do very little. One of Phil’s coworkers picked Garron up from the hospital, and he became the office dog in her cubical farm for the afternoon. Then she took him for a couple walks, and her daughter and a friend gave him plenty of exercise. I loved it because despite his normal pattern of hunger strike when Phil isn’t here, he ate all his dinner. He was also exhausted. That meant after the woman and her daughter left, I could do my own thing.

Having someone watch Garron meant I could go along with the plans originally created a little less than a week ago, but the best laid plans don’t always work. A couple of my good friends and I were going to go to this great Asian place in a suburb called
St. Louis Park appropriately named Wok in the Park. I have friends who own it and enjoy their food. After my usual appointment, I met my friends for coffee, and One surprised me with pieces of cake for all of us. White cake is my favorite, and it had marzipan, Bavarian Cream, and raspberry filling. The coffee shop was gracious enough to let us eat it there, though it was brought from a bakery. Then the trouble started. Our paratransit service is called Metro Mobility, and generally I can’t complain about their service. Tonight though, they ruined what we originally had in mind for my birthday celebration. We waited in the coffee shop assuming the driver would either come in and find us or ask the staff to make an announcement (as they had in the past at that shop. We later found out that at least some of the staff never saw a driver come in. So we were given a “no show”, and they left. One of my friends doesn’t get mad very often, but I think tonight he was as mad as I’d ever seen him. He told his story first to an agent and then to one of the higher-ups’ voice-mail boxes. He ended the voicemail with”thank you for ruining a birthday celebration.”

But wee didn’t let it ruin the celebration. Michael and I had told Catalina about this great happy hour menu at a restaurant across the street. it was quality food and very inexpensive. After canceling our return rides home from Wok in the Park,, we went over to Happy Hour. I had this spinach artichoke dip that was out of this world and lots of iced tea. We had so much fun at the coffee shop and happy hour, and I was treated to dinner. This left me enough cash to take a cab home. I got home a half hour earlier than scheduled, and I was so pleased that the woman who had Garron seemed to be enjoying his company. The daughter wants to walk him sometime. That will be good for him when Phil lands in the hospital — hopefully to have his next transplant.

Before all of this started, I was about ready to celebrate Phil not having to be in the hospital for a whole year, as he returned home April 28, 2011. We really hope this is just a blip on the screen, and we can return to our normally scheduled programming. It could be just a fluke, but if this happens again, they’ll have to start looking at causality and thinking about another point of access to use for dialysis. I played a few games of yotzee, and the boys are pretty much knocked out for the night. After proof reading this, I suppose I should think about going to bed myself.
Rebecca Kragnes and Zane (Black Labrador and Seeing Eye Dog)
E-Mail: rebeccak
Twitter: RebeccaKragnes

A “strange” day

Phil stayed home today, because a Metro Mobility screw-up only allowed him an hour of his three and a half hour dialysis run. He’d been feeling run-down the last couple of days, but had a conference and workshop to attend. When finished with breakfast, we both went to sleep, and I wish I’d woken up tomorrow.

I got lunch for myself while Phil slept some more on the couch. before I woke up, he’d been sitting outside on the deck for an hour or so and had the boys with him. I didn’t know that, so I let them out. Garron loves the back yard anyway, and Zane will do anything for a couple of kibble.

After some work on the computer, I decided I was going to get serious about doing a couple of sets of minutes which had been put off for way too long. I showered, and Zane and I went out on the porch. First, I quickly discovered one of the files was wrong. That meant coming back in and downloading the right one to my card. While on the porch, I discovered that having the note taker on my lap wasn’t comfy. Phil suggested getting a tray table from downstairs, which I thought was a brilliant idea until I tried to put it together and adjust it to the right height. I got it together, but sometimes even the best verbal direction isn’t good enough for this mechanically uninclined woman. Now the sun was warming the porch and there was a nice breeze. Phil went to take a shower, and my note taker braille display started flipping back and forth between “auto keyboard updating and “failed”. I tried every conceivable kind of reset I knew and quickly took it inside to plug it in. When it still wasn’t working after 20 minutes, I called the company tech support. I thought I recognized the voice on the other end of the phone, but was so upset I really didn’t care who it was as long as I got help. This woman suggested all the things I’d tried. She said she’d need to escalate it to a higher level of tech support and offered me a ticket number. Again, I was upset, so I asked her if it could be sent in an e-mail, since I had no working note taker. She said I’d hear something tomorrow or the next day, I hung up, and I cried so hard for the next 15 minutes that my eyes were still very red an hour later when my reader showed up. If I had to send the unit in, it would be the third one in a month. My first was exhibiting the same behavior even plugged in. The second had a Braille cell with two dots which were not coming up independently. And now this! I called one of my best girlfriends who had talked me down from feeling awful just yesterday about something else. Then Phil came out, and I repeated the story. I went in and checked on the unit several times throughout the evening, and this last time, it started working properly again. So I’ll talk to the second tech support person tomorrow, and we’ll see if it gets to be sent back to the company.

But wait. There’s more! The woman I talked to on the phone turned out to be someone I didn’t know well but highly respected. The subject line of her e-mail was “can you send the following e-mail?”. After informing me of the ticket number, she thanked her colleague for forwarding the message. Then it said, “If she knows its me she might use my e-mail address in the future. Shes a little strange.

” I was more than a little shocked and hurt, although I guess I’m glad to know how she really feels about me. Her colleague probably should have cut and pasted the e-mail leaving the unprofessional, editorial comments out, but what’s done is done.

I’m no stranger to writing things in e-mail and on Twitter which have come back to bite me in the rear. Just a couple weeks ago, I flippantly asked a guy who works at an Apple Store about when the new IPhones would come out. I wasn’t thinking of the consequences, but his friends really jumped down my throat saying his answering something like that would get him fired. I’ve called someone late at night when I had an emergency, and that didn’t go over very well either, so ironically, I am pretty sensitive to *not using personal contact info for any professional purpose. I wrote her with my word that I wouldn’t do that, and I told her that the comment about me being strange felt insulting. I hope she’s embarrassed, because she should be.

I’ve actually respected people who weren’t afraid to be who they were and who have been called strange. In another irony, my parents raised me to be as “normal” as possible. They didn’t want anyone thinking of me as strange. I can’t help but feel a little paranoid about if others think I’m strange. I guess if they do, there’s nothing I can do about it, but it’s probably one of the last words I’d want used to describe me. So the jokes are now centered around the Doors’ song “People are Strange”. When Phil couldn’t find something I didn’t realize I had moved, I said that was strange. I caught myself and said that it shouldn’t surprise me since I am strange.

Rebecca Kragnes and Zane (Black Labrador and Seeing Eye Dog)
E-Mail: rebeccak
Twitter: RebeccaKragnes

a first on the bus

Phil and I are routine bus riders, and we’ve seen a lot when it comes to people’s reactions to our Seeing Eye dogs. Most reactions are positive, and we’ve had more than a few negative too. There have been people who won’t go past us, others who cry and scream, and a few with baby strollers, walkers and wheel chairs who either almost or do run over the dogs, They don’t communicate with us about needing more space to get through the aisle. I’ve had a lady stomp on my foot in what felt like heels, after I put it in front of my dogs paws to protect her. She was so upset that she — a black woman — had to fold her stroller, while I — a white woman — had my dog who “got to” lie down. Then she made various disparaging remarks about me and my dog for the rest of the trip. These experiences with my dog in the aisle have taught me to get a wheelchair sseat for longer trips to keep conflict to a minimum.

Another time a driver let me and my dog off the bus for an emergency relieving and waited for us despite my encouragement to continue the route, I would have caught the next bus. The driver chose to wait. There were a few caustic comments about having to wait for a dumb dog to go to the bathroom.

Easter Sunday on the way home from a restaurant, Phil and I experienced something for the first time. Phil and his German Shepherd Garron got on before me and my Black Lab Zane. We find it’s easier when they enter first, because they are faster movers. I gave Phil time to scan his card listening for the beep before Zane and I climbed the stairs.

for a few moments I was busy getting my card scanned, so I trust Phils memory. A lady asked him to keep his dog away from her, and he obliged. The lady was roughly across the aisle from Phil and Garron, and Garron is a pretty long dog. Phil remembers feeling him turn around and sit down. And apparently in that quick motion, Garron must have sniffed her leg. As I was settling in the front seat beside Phil with Zane at my feet, I heard the lady call out and tell the driver that “his dog practically attacked me”. My first reaction was incredulity. If Garron attacked her, wouldn’t she be crying or screaming. I’ve never seen Garron attack anyone, and her voice had such a flat affect that I knew something must be wrong with her mentally.

My second reaction was, “uh-oh! It’s her word against his. How’s this going to go down.

Phil’s first reaction was to call that statement “bullshit”. He and a couple of other passengers simultaneously said that perhaps the dog sniffed her. She stuck to her story though. As we continued a ride, Phil and I began conversing with other passengers about the dogs. They told us they were big animal lovers and not to worry about what just happened. I generally leave Garron alone in harness, but I put my face down near his, so he could show what a teddy bear he was by licking it.

, the woman was due to get off the bus, and we were met by a transit officer. We heard the woman quietly talking to the officer and the driver at the front saying something about the dog touching her leg. Phil went to the front of the bus to join the conversation. He was understandably angry and tried to tell his side of the story using more colorful language. Phil told me later that the woman never backed up, so there didn’t seem to be any fear. Other passengers were starting to get unhappy about being held up from arriving at their places for Easter plans. Finally either the driver or the officer said that since there were no injuries, the woman should get off the bus. Phil went back to his seat, and I heard the officer’s voice as he passed us and the dogs to the back of the bus just before we started moving again.

I had to wonder if the officer was testing the dogs’ reactions to him going by., and of course they stayed still.

We never know how we’re going to react in a situation like this. I shamefully admit that some of the incidents I highlighted at the beginning of this piece made me cry. Sometimes I wish I was more like Phil and could just get mad and not let anyone say these kinds of things without a fight. One advantage to getting mad and moving on is that one doesn’t simmer, as I tend to do. But as I lived through this experience and reflected later, I wondered what reaction might be best. I gently chided Phil about the swearing and asked whether swearing and physically going up front helped the situation. With the unhappy passengers, I thought perhaps it might just be adding to the drama. Phil’s perspective is that he wasn’t going to let anyone tell lies about his dog without defending the dog and himself. . Perhaps it helped get this woman off the bus and from continuing her complaining while we all waited. We’ll never really know.

I do know how hard it is to remain calm while others are making disparaging remarks about my dog. It’s a difficult relationship to explain to those who haven’t experienced it. The best I can do is that part of the gratitude for all that my dogs do is to be their protector. In Phil’s case he is their defender.

Still, life goes on. There have been plenty of jokes this week about Garron the vicious attacked dog.

Rebecca Kragnes and Zane (Black Labrador and Seeing Eye Dogs)
E-Mail: rebeccak
Twitter: RebeccaKragnes

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