Tag Archives: Lucy

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.

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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.

Brand New Day

The best part of going to bed at night, is the assurance that I will wake up to a new day and a fresh start.  No matter how horrible a day has been,  I can start a new one with the feeling that the day before has been erased.  A clean slate, Tabula Rosa and all that.   I woke this morning singing ‘Brand New Day’. Van Morrison does a better job, I am certain, however I felt the urge, given the day I had yesterday.

Yesterday, I woke at 4 am to the unmistakable sound of Lucy (our cat) vomiting.  Sigh. I got up and took care of my little calico. This involved cleaning up, cooking brown rice to settle her stomach and giving her fresh water (in Opal’s dish,  of course).  The radio news really put a spin on my mood too. It seems that a man was stabbed and decapitated  in an unprovoked attack by a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus in Alberta.  It’s been a violent week in this world.  Unitarian Universalists in Tennessee were killed in their church by a shooter who did not approve of our UU ‘liberal views’.  I mourn with my fellow congregants.  In local news,  a  bus driver was attacked on her bus by a man who tried to sexually assault her.

I thought that work might reset my mood. It did not. My computer coughed up a cyber hairball and refused to operate. The arthritis in my hands, neck and spine seemed intolerable.  Step out, I thought. I saddled Opal and off we went.  I am in desperate need of orthotics and new shoes. I know this because of the shooting pain in my feet as I walk. No wonder I’ve been so cranky lately! Opal and I went to purchase a small birthday gift for my sister at the mall. In Basket Emporium, we stood near the counter and waited for assistance. A shopper came into the store and exclaimed, “You’re beautiful!”.  Her comment was meant for Opal, of course.  I replied, “thanks, but I have a sweetie”.  She  did not seem to appreciate my humour.  It’s all about the dog some days. I just happen to be the woman attached to the end of Opal’s harness.  I hobbled home and prayed for the day to end. Mercifully, it did.

So, when I woke this morning, the promise of a better day was intoxicating and induced me to sing. I tried “A New Day has Begun”  (from Cats), but I could not recall the lyrics and it brought Celine Dion to mind, which is deffinitly not the way to start anyone’s day. I chose Van’s tune…”Brand New Day”.

Like Cats and Dogs

I have had dogs and cats in my life since I was a child… but never both species at the same time.  That would all change when I decided to get a Guide dog in 2005. My cat, Little Lucy, did not seem to know or care what I was going on about when I broke the news to her. I had seven months or so to ‘plan’ before I left for Ontario (to attend the Guide dog training) before the big convergence of dog and cat.  More accurately, I had seven months to fret and worry about the imminent demise of my cat. Sometimes, I varied my paranoid ideology with visions of a big dog being clawed into bloody submission by Lucy. I had no hard and fast research to back up my notion that there would be trouble; just the usual stereotypical references to ‘fighting like cats and dogs’ that I had been exposed to. My friends, family members, neighbours, and the trainers at Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind were patient with me as I asked probing questions and tenaciously sought advice like a dog with a meaty bone. They pointed out the obvious; Lucy would be ‘upset’ for a while.  Then there were things that launched me into a frenzy of home-preparedness activity; chiefly, the installation of a device (rope, hook and eye) on the bathroom door. This would, in theory, leave enough of an opening to allow Lucy to enter the bathroom and access her food, but very cleverly, keep out the dog I was to come home with. I had dismissed one brainiac’s idea of cutting a cat hole in my door… I was responsible for damages to the flat if we moved. I jigged the device without difficulty. It was the LENGTH of the rope that nearly launched a United Nations summit. I had no idea what size dog I would be coming home with, but I did not think it would be too small a dog. Yet, my nephew insisted I shorten the rope and limit the access space every time he came over to visit and passed comment on my ‘rig’. By the time I was done, I felt certain that a Miniature Schnauzer could not squeeze into my bathroom. There was more. I spent an entire 24 hour period trying to coax Lucy to pee in her new litter box. Again, after much consultation, it seemed advisable to up-grade to the covered type of box. I  recall sitting outside the new,  deluxe model with Lucy in the middle of the night, waving treats and begging her to ‘try it’. She would burst, I thought, feeling helpless as I listened to her cry in frustration.  Once I figured out that the ‘door’ (flap on the litter-box) was scaring her, I removed it and resumed my plea. Her success overwhelmed me. I felt like a mum whose kid has finally been potty-trained. She was showered with praise and love.   It was not easy to leave Lucy with my friend, Alice for a month while I was in Manotick.  Something odd happened when I boarded the flight to Ottawa…I  almost completely put thoughts of Lucy out of my mind. That was a good thing, because Guide dog training is very demanding. It was not until Opal and I were on the return flight to Halifax, that I really gave much thought to Lucy again.  Opal and I had a few days alone before Lucy was due back home. I did not give her much thought during those few days either. Opal and I were shattered. It was all we could do to eat, sleep, groom, and relieve ourselves. It’s a little hazy now, but when Lucy arrived home with Alice in the carrier (and her van full of ‘stuff’ –litter-box, dishes, grooming tools, bed, condo, body pillow, food etc),  she bolted for the bookcase as she first set eyes on Opal’s gigantic black head. There was some minor screeching.  I turned to Alice and said, “That went pretty well, don’t you think?”. In the days to come, Opal and Lucy would eventually learn about each other. That’s what animals do. They sort each other out. Opal (hopeless optimist that she is) longed to play with the ‘new kid’. That would take a while… 18 months actually. Now, two years later, Lucy is quite fond of Opal. Lucy knows that she is smaller and physically vulnerable, yet she also knows that she is in charge (though I’M in charge of both of them). Lucy will only drink out of Opal’s dish. She likes to drag off Opal’s bones and toys to the blanket which she also appropriated from Opal, but will share sometimes. They sniff one another to no end (mostly at each other’s ends aka butts). When one is not feeling well, the other is very concerned. Opal tore her dew claw 18 months ago and had it removed. Her foot was bandaged and she was all drugged up when we finally returned home from the vet. This was Lucy’s shining moment. She came over to Opal, licked her bandaged paw and purred, as though saying, “Wow, what happened to you? Can I help?” Opal licked Lucy’s head in appreciation and we all fell asleep on the floor together, huddled in solidarity. So, if you are worried about bringing a cat or dog into a home where one already resides, my wise advice is; be prepared, be observant, be patient, and when they are merged, let them sort one another out!