Category Archives: Lucy

Dr. Opal

I awoke yesterday with a massive chest cold. (my mom would have said, “Tu as coucher les fesses a l’aire” -translation: “you slept bare-bummed”. Maybe so, but Christmas Eve with my sweetie was worth it. All through the wee hours last night, I coughed, railed and hacked gobs of… well, never mind. At six AM this morning  when Opal woke up, she jumped on my bed and proceeded to give me an intense  45 to 60 – second breathalyzer test. She stuck her shnozz next to my lips and carefully sniffed the odours  (not too pleasant, I imagine) emerging from my mouth. Then, she promptly lay down beside me, head hung over my legs,  until I could get up an hour later. Clearly Doctor Opal diagnosed something not very healthy and decided to cut me some slack. She continued to request samples of my halitosis throughout the day. She must have thought I was insane when I saddled her up and said, “Come on, puppet, we’re going to Sobey’s to buy some honey”. We got there and back with barely any commands being uttered and moving quite slow. I spent most of the remainder of the day wrapped in my authentic Hudson’s Bay wool ‘point blanket’ with Opal and Lucy both settling over me like poultices. Thanks girls. You really know how to take care of your mum. What better nursemaids can a gal have?

Talk To The Animals

I had an interesting chat with someone recently about the conversations she has with her cat. “Fluffy understands every word I say”, claimed my buddy. I politely commended her smart feline, but explained that while we all like to THINK that our animals understand human language as easily as fellow humans (and I’m not convinced humans understand it all that well either), this is really not the case. I don’t know much about cats and their ability to understand words. My cat, Lucy, seems to understand the emphasis I put into my words..”LUCY!! STOP EATING THAT ELECTRICAL CORD!!”, more than the actual words themselves, especially when the words are accompanied by the flinging of an object in her direction (like a sock, NOT a brick). Dogs seem have a larger capacity for words, sometimes hundreds. You can compare it to a very young child’s vocabulary. Much of a dog’s understanding is based on tone and inflection, as well as the facial and body language you display at the time you speak, and not so much syntax.  While talking to our animals endlessly about our angst and other stuff makes US feel connected, most of it is probably sounding like, “Blah, blah, blah” to them. Guide dogs learn words (verbal commands) to do their jobs. Every handler adds to their repertoire, based on need. I have added to Opal’s vocabulary. She can, for example, “find the garbage” (I draw out the word, ‘garbage’ and it comes out sounding  more like, “gahhbaage”. This is a necessary command for us, given our busy schedule, varied routes and the number of times she has a poop on the go.  I simply cannot be hauling poop bags into offices or other buildings all over HRM. The downside is, that garbage cans come in all types of shapes and sizes. Some have wrought iron cages around them, others are on poles (really hard to find). Even more challenging, is the similarity of appearance to recycle containers, composters, and even some newspaper boxes and public donation bins.  You can appreciate  the potential for a ‘mistaken deposit’. Dogs will  respond more to association with the word, than the word itself.  For example, if I say to Opal , ” We’re going to Sobeys”, EVERY time that we  enter  the same local Sobey’s store. then she will make the association. If I say the same thing at another of the Sobey’s store location, it will make no sense to her. Associations are quickly made in a dog’s mind. I feed Opal in the washroom at city hall every time I go to my regularly scheduled meeting there because of the time of day when the meeting takes place.  If I am unfortunate enough to be in City Hall for a different reason in the early morning, Opal has the expectation that we will  go to the washroom and she will  be fed, regardless of the time of day.

Lucy Responds to Opal

Like millions around the globe, Opal and I listened to live radio and Internet TV coverage of last night’s election. It was pretty late by the time Obama gave his speech, but I wasn’t about to miss it.  My family believed in exposing us to important events, even if it meant staying up late.  As a child, I had listened to JFK’s acceptance speech on TV with my family, then  watched raptly when his brother Robert spoke years later. The sight and sounds of  Martin Luther King Jr. still echo in my head. There’s nothing more electric (except, perhaps,  being there) than listening to live speeches from significant  figures at pivotal times in history, AND to the response of the crowds displaying their emotions.   I want to hear all of this at the moment it happened, not the day after, when the speaker’s  words  (in this case, historic) have been re-hashed, analyzed and commented on by the everyone and his uncle. The surreal, global fascination with this man and his promise of change caught my attention too. What truly inspired me yesterday was the record number of Americans who went out to vote and the the energy applied to ‘getting the vote out’.  This gives me a little hope that the American people have not given up trying. Is it wishful thinking for me to make comparisons to the energy and optimism of 60’s?

Lucy came up on the bed to listen with us. She seemed fascinated…not with the speeches, but with her ‘sister’, Opal’s smell. Actually, she probably was noticing the LACK of smell. Opal had her bath yesterday. She is a fuzzy, clean dog. Lucy was so mesmerized by Opal’s new scent that she curled up around Opal, and actually straddled her for a while. I told  both of them that they should be listening. Instead, they licked one another and then went to sleep. Eventually, after Obama’s speech,  I would go to bed too, aware of how tired I would be in the morning, but grateful that I had been up and around to witness another important moment in time.

Help Me! I’m Being Gassed!

People sometimes say that dogs smell bad. They even say I smell funky once in a while,  but no one has ever experienced a smell (BIG STINK) like I have. Lucy the cat  gasses me and mum whenever she poops in the litter box. It’s absolutely toxic! That feline is polluted. Mum sings “Smelly Cat” (from Phoebe Buffet’s rendition on Friends….the most current pop TV reference she can muster ’cause mum gave the TV away) and sounds like she MEANS it…like she shares my pain. Do you think Lucy ate a really old, dead gopher?  Are her insides rotting out?  Is she just doing it for attention? Or because she doesn’t get to go outside like me? Is she working on a secret weapon for a third world country that can’t afford a real bomb? If anyone knows why Lucy’s trips to the litter box smell so bad, please write to mum. She doesn’t want to get up in the middle of the night to scoop the box anymore.

Message to Opal and Lucy (our cat)

Now hear this Opal and  Lucy! When mum goes into the bathroom and shuts the door, it means I want PRIVACY!  I can not escape out a secret passageway. Trust me, I am not  doing anything particularly interesting.  Poking the door with your noses to see what’s going on, is NOT necessary. Lucy, I promise not to eat your food while I’m in there. I know you will not die of starvation while I am taking a bath. I’ll be in there 15 minutes tops.  There is no party going on and there is no one else with me. I do not require assistance from either of you. I am not in danger of drowning or flushing myself down the toilet. Thank you for your co operation.

Mothers of Invention Invent Magic Carpet Ride

It’s the weekend, so cut me some slack on the double pop-culture reference, eh?

In early May, I tediously cleaned my 8′ X 10′ area rug, rolled it up and stowed that puppy away in the closet. It was getting warm and the thought of vacuuming the beast during the hazy days of summer was overwhelming. I sweat buckets when I hoover, so adding summer temps to the task was not an option.  Besides, my vacuum cleaner had been gasping and sputtering along for weeks. I feared its spontaneous expiration in a blaze of dog hair and a puff of smoke if I overworked it any more than necessary.

The weather has shifted in Nova Scotia…towards fall. That means crisp, cool air, the sweet smell of decaying leaves and the promise of winter to come.  I decided to haul the rug back to its place in the lounge, but not before cleaning our digs tippy-top to bottom.  The girls were curious when I lugged the large tube of rolled up carpet to the room where we eat, play and entertain. I’m convinced that they had completely forgotten that we ever had it in our home, so when I lay it out, it was all new to Lucy and Opal.  They sniffed (mostly Opal sniffed) and walked end to end and corner to corner over the checkerboard pattern. Suddenly, their brains set off simultaneous light bulbs. WARNING!  This is the double pop-culture reference! Necessity is indeed the mother of invention (Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention produced ‘Freak Out’ in 1966, one of the first ‘concept rock’ albums ever.  Oddly, I recall the pillow on the floor that I was sitting on while I ate Twinkies with my cup of Jasmine tea…the dim lighting, incense, shag rug…the 12 members of the urban commune I was visiting…hmm, I can’t seem to recall any lyrics to the Zappa and Mothers music that was playing in the room.)

Opal threw herself on her back on the rug and got some intense back and muzzle scratching going for a full ten minutes. Lucy realized that she had discovered the world’s biggest scratching pad. She dug her many, many claws into it (she’s a double-toed calico).   It was for them, a magic carpet ride (Magic Carpet Ride was released by Steppenwolf in 1968…sadly, I don’t recall those lyrics either. Like many of the free-spirited types or that era,  I retained only bits about the 60’s experience…we ingested, puffed and imbibed way too many substances. Thank god, some of us grew up and retained brain cells).

My perk with the rug? My music sounds better with the sound damping effect created by the rug.  I can listen to my tunes (not Zappa or Steppenwolf these days) and enjoy  the richer sound that comes out of my stereo.  Now, all I need to do is buy that monster shop vac at Canadian Tire to help me keep the girl’s magic carpet relatively clean.

Don’t Sit On the Cat! and Other Advice For Blind People

People ask me all sorts of questions about how I manage to do this,  that and the other thing. Here’s a sample: “How do you cook without burning yourself?”   “How do you know when your period has started?”   “How do you know if the lights are on or off?”  “Do you ever step/sit on the cat?”  “How do you know if the food in your ‘fridge is still good?”   “How do you know what bus to get on?” Sigh.  Frankly, I worry about the people that ask these questions. For their benefit, and that of those people with vision loss out there who haven’t quite ‘got it together’ yet, here are a few more tips.  Cooking is fun for me. Sure, it is a bit of a different process. I do not attempt to multi-task when cooking for safety reasons. It is one thing for a sighted person to roam away from a stove-top full of pots to make a phone call or balance their check book, but I like to stick with the task at hand. It is safer to be by the stove and avoid potential a disaster…like setting the kitchen ablaze and ruining dinner in the process. I use larger pots and pans than sighted people might.  This helps avoid overflow when things boil. I use fewer pots, preferring to make many recipes that can be made with one or two pots instead. I prepare ingredients beforehand so that they are ready to add when I need them. My experience as a chef comes in handy some days. I cook effortlessly for the most part. I seem to have an internal guidance system which helps me time things right; set water to boil in huge pot, chop garlic and vegies while waiting, cook pasta (keep lid off and metal spoon to stick in pot  handy to prevent ‘pasta eruptus’ on the stove), drain pasta (into large colander IN sink), put pot back on burner (no need to wash it), add olive oil and garlic (inhale deeply), add vegies in order of ‘cookability’.  OK, I just invented a word, so sue me. I refer to the vegies that take longer to cook, like carrots, celery, turnip… then  stir the cast iron pot (prevents any sticking and cooks evenly), add other vegies (like green beans, zucchini and tomatoes), add spices and minimal vegetable stock.  I  let it simmer for a while. When that’s cooked, I put the multigrain pasta into the mix and stir it up. Voila! I have a big honking pot of tasty, healthy pasta and vegies without need for fuss and 5 hours at the stove. I listen to my talking book or radio while I cook and clean up as I go. If I drop food on the floor,  two things happen; I immediately say “Leave It!” for Opal’s benefit, and then pick it up and toss. Some people find that long oven mitts helpful to avoid burns. I don’t bother, but then I have years of experience. You can buy them through assistive aids sites (like Maxi Aids.com). If I am chopping and need to set down my knife, I slip the blade under the cutting board, so when I come to look for it, there will be no gashed fingers to deal with. I also NEVER put knives or glass items in the sink. These are set aside or washed and put away immediately (Hey! I take blood thinners  and don’t want to spend my day at the ER).  About the funky food in the fridge (FFF). I keep a close ‘eye’ on the contents of my fridge, checking and using items regularly. Like with all my ‘stuff’, I keep items in assigned places in the fridge. I label containers of leftovers with a date, though normally, they are eaten within a couple of days or frozen for future use. When in doubt, I enlist someone with sight to scope out the quality of food (usually around the same time they look at my clothing for stains). 

Our cat, little Lucy is a chatty cat most of the time. That’s very helpful for us both. She learned very quickly when she came to live with me, that I can’t see her, and she needs to STAY OUT OF MY WAY!!  Once in a while, she goes incognito and silent (sheesh). You can put a bell on your pet’s collar. I always check the seat which my big butt is about to occupy. This is a good habit for blind people to get into. That way, you avoid sitting on your cat, dog, hairbrush, basket, aunt Mim etc. 

Independent living for a blind person is good and admirable. However, my wise advice? Don’t be an idiot! If you NEED help, ASK for it. Don’t waste your time and elevate your frustration level by worrying about stuff. If you are lost, listen for footsteps and ask the person attached to the legs where you are, or if they can get you  to a point you are familiar with. If you don’ know which bus has pulled up or when to get off it,  ask. If you need to find a washroom anywhere or want a clerk to find something in a store for you…ASK.   Ask with a strong voice, not like a timid mouse. Ask politely but with conviction. It’s OK. 

Lights on or off? check the switches routinely. Or, if you’re feeling wealthy, you can buy a talking light detector. And knowing if your period has arrived? Mercifully, I’m menopausal, but I do remember a time when I used my nose efficiently to detect the distinct odour of blood.