Tuesday, July 12, 2016

No More Numbers Game

I've been raising guide dogs for a long time. Almost half of my life at this point. In 2005 I received my first puppy, so it's been 11 years out of the 25 I've been alive. When I went to college I had raised 5 pups and had to take a break for 2 years to finish my degree at a 4 year university.

In 2012 I found my way to Puppy Guides of Snohomish County and in December I was given puppy #6 to raise. Since then I've raised puppies 6,7,8,9, and 10 with Puppy Guides and have become a co-leader of the group.

I'm under no illusion that I'm the best puppy raiser ever. Or even that I'm an extraordinary handler. I have been fortunate to work with the most incredible and talented leader I know and she is able to read dogs and handle them with astounding success. All this is to set up my credentials so you know I've been around the block a little when I tell you: I HATE THE NUMBERS GAME.

Granted. I'm very proud of the fact that I've raised 10 puppies. However, in puppy raiser world it has somehow became ok to engage in puppy raiser shaming. Not direct shaming, but more bragging that makes someone else feel inadequate. No one would ever intentionally do it...raisers are generally some of the most caring, kind, selfless people I know. But I've started noticing comments from people on social media.
"starter puppies don't count"
"oh...well you're co-raising"
My favorite (and by "favorite" I mean I hate it) question is
"how many of your dogs have made it?"
What do you mean by that? If you mean how many have graduated as guides, I'd have to think about it. But here's my question.....why does it matter? With the exception of the people who are genuinely curious about statistics, the goal is to see if the question asker has had more "successful" dogs than the person they're asking. My answer to that question is "all of them!" Every single one of my puppies have become happy dogs. To me, that's success. You want to talk about how many guides I've had? Maybe to judge my raising abilities? I can tell you, you are definitely a better raiser than me based on the numbers. In the past 5 dogs I've had it all.

6. Vicente- co-raised, transferred to me, graduated, retired early, adopted by me
7. Handsome-fully raised by me, career changed before recall
8. Garnish-fully raised by me, recalled for breeder evals, selected as a breeder pending final tests, dropped from breeders due to family medical issue, put into training, put in class, pulled from class due to partner leaving early, career changed, now training with Dogs 4 Diabetics
9. Jalina-starter pup, planned transfer to a friend, transferred back to me, career changed before recall at 1 year old on the same day as Garnish's career change
10. Claudette-planned on being raised by just me, co-raised, transferred to co-raiser permanently

Wow look at that list of "failure". My one "success" retired early, and I can't seem to get a dog to recall! 2 transfers, 2 co-raises, 2 dropped in-home. If we play the numbers game, I should just stop raising now. But I don't play that game. As we've already established, I'm not the best puppy raiser ever. I hate baby puppies, I get frustrated with lack of progress, I feel overwhelmed a lot. You know what? Someone has to raise the career changes! And I have an empathy now that some raisers simply don't understand.

We have a couple of raisers in our club who have had a large percentage of their dogs become graduates. One of them has graduated both of her puppies, another has had a breeder and only one career change. That's great. I'm very happy for them! Part of their success is definitely due to handling ability. Most of it is just plain luck. Who you're assigned.

But we have other families who have never raised a graduate or who went a very very long time without one. I get it. When the raiser who has only had 1 graduate out of 7 dogs gets frustrated, I can feel her pain. When one of our pups gets dropped before recall, I get it because I, too, have walked that road. When an amazing dog goes back for breeder evals and is dropped due to a medical issue in the family--that isn't even her fault--I've lived that disappointment. In the rare occurrence that a dog goes into class and gets pulled from class before graduation, I know the rollercoaster of emotions they're going through. Perhaps the hardest thing is transferring a dog that you expected to keep for the full year. I know that it's not a bad thing! And it's not a failure on your part! It's the way to get a pup you love and care deeply about to reach her fullest potential. I've been there. I've had those emotions. I've walked those roads. And while I wish I could take the pain from all of my raisers, I know I can't. Instead I'll have to walk alongside them with the empathy that can only be given from someone who has been there, too. Those who have never experienced "failure" can never really understand what it's like. Their word of condolence are a valiant attempt to be supportive, but they just don't know what if feels like to be in your shoes.

Maybe I'd feel differently if my numbers looked better. But hey, I've learned a lot from my crazy puppies. Maybe #11 will teach me something new.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

The saga continues

I've gone back and read a lot of my posts. This is so cool. I love the chronicle of my life and what I actually felt...not just the face I put on for people.

Just a few notes on some of my life events. The Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting still haunts me. It's not something I think or talk about all the time, but every once in a while I remember. And then I wish I hadn't.

Handsome has his forever family. He was placed so quickly that they must have been waiting for him. Miss G's name is Garnish, and like I predicted, she's great. She is a ball of fire and teeth and will keep me on my toes. But I think she's pretty great.

I'm down 30 pounds since June. Currently weighing in at 173. I can't remember the last time I was in the 170's.

And there's this boy..........

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Only know you love him when you let him go

Today I'm going to get out of bed, make a breakfast shake, go for a run, clean my apartment, get a Christmas tree, straighten my hair, go to the chiropractor, take a nap, head into work, and keep living.

Yesterday I slept for hours in the middle of the day because after 15 months together, I sent my last guide dog puppy off to pursue his future. I drove 8 hours to Portland and back, and cried for 3 of them. There is no way to explain the feeling. I know he's "just a dog". I know he was destined to belong to someone else, and have known that since the day I got him. I poured my heart and soul into taking a goofy, crazy puppy and making him a well mannered dog that can behave appropriately in almost any situation. I failed at that task and he was dropped from the program because he simply couldn't do the right thing EVERY time like he needed to.

We spent about 3 weeks together just hanging out since he couldn't go out in public anymore. I watched him go from a dog who was trying so hard to a puppy that got to enjoy life. He could chase frisbees, run around in the snow, be distracted by dogs and it didn't matter. In those 3 weeks he turned into a cuddle bug...which is something he had never been for over a year. He got to just. be. And it was a beautiful thing.

I never said goodbye. I was too focused on getting out the door before I fell apart. I learned that 2 of his brothers were also at the kennels and they'll probably get to play together. I know they will love the crap out of him because he's just that kind of dog. And I'm sure he will be easy to place with a forever home.

My heart doesn't feel like it was torn apart. It feels more like there's been a hole cut out of the photo of my life. He hasn't broken my heart, he's added a piece to it. But I feel like there's just something missing. Last night I jumped in the shower and half expected to see him standing there when the water turned off. I still had the baby gate up, blocking the kitchen so he couldn't clean the floor for me. When I crawled into bed at 3pm after the drive, the stuffy toy he had shared with me last night was waiting for me, and I half expected to hear the soft padding of his feet coming in to lay down on his bed. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I didn't have to be quiet. There is no head staring at me from the edge of the bed, just waiting for me to say "good morning sunshine!" so he can eat breakfast.

This is the last time I will let myself cry. Life goes on, and as a puppy raiser I always know this day is coming. I'm intentionally skipping our next puppy club meeting (and spending the day with a police K9 team instead!) because I just can't take the sad looks from other raisers. This is what we DO. We love a puppy and give it away so that someone else's life will be better.

But I also know that my heart is big enough and strong enough to do it again. And it will. In 10 days. And she will be tiny and adorable. And will bark and whine all night. And she will pee all over my floor. And I will love her, too. And maybe, just maybe, this one will be someone's eyeballs.

I love you, Arturo, Lawrence, Pomona, Vortex, Janda, Vicente, and my precious precious Handsome boy. And I can't wait to meet you, Miss G.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Be still

I don't really even know where to start. On Wednesday, October 15 my dispatch center worked a spree shooting. One of our sgts was injured. The radio traffic was heartbreaking. Listening to a man who I love working with trying his very best to stay calm but yelling over the radio that he'd been shot will burn in my memory forever. Those are my guys. It's my job to be their lifeline, but I wasn't working so I couldn't be. It was a difficult thing to process. Hit on the reality of the job we do.

Friday, October 24 I worked the wee hours of the morning on Marysville Police radio. At 0600 I signed the day shift cars into service. I joked around with a couple of them, we talked about the weather, and I signed in the school resource officer of Marysville Pilchuck High School. Someone called out sick and I almost offered to stay over, but I was exhausted and just decided to go home. I left telling the next dispatcher that I hadn't heard a peep from them in 25 minutes. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

About 6 hours later I woke up to a Facebook message from an out of town friend: "I really hope that wasn't you guys...but if it was, I'm really sorry." Immediately, I jumped on Facebook and was inundated with posts about a high school shooting. In Marysville. I just worked there. Everything was fine. Quiet, even. When I was signing people in, this teenager was getting ready to go to school and kill his friends.

The best description I've heard is it was a "senseless waste of life". I can't even wrap my head around the whole thing. I don't know how I feel, or how I'm supposed to feel. I'm sad that it happened. It's cool to see the community response. I guess it's such a big deal because it's a school where kids are supposed to feel safe. But really, any life that is stolen away is tragic. Is it because we see kids as helpless or innocent? Because this isn't "supposed" to happen? I guess all these questions are coming up because of what happened next.

Friday, October 24 at about 11:30pm, a man was murdered in Lynnwood. I dispatched a 5 hour long manhunt. We don't know the circumstances but it happened on my radio. The next day I checked the news and there were 6 articles about the school shooting and 3 paragraphs about the fact that the sheriff's office was looking for the suspect in a homicide. If I'm being honest, I'm a little upset that this missing suspect was given 3 paragraphs while there were experts and friends and officials and goodness knows who else all talking about the shooting. Where the suspect was already dead.

Thankfully someone was paying attention to those 3 paragraphs and we caught the suspect on that one, too.

Tonight we had a massive storm with an overflow of people calling for trees down or things catching on fire.

I can't get a break. I love my job but I'm exhausted. I'm tired. I need a good day. What I want is to get an attaboy because this job sucks the life out of you every day. What I NEED is to find a way to lean on Jesus for strength. I don't honestly know how to trust Jesus and give my pain to Jesus because I don't know what I'm feeling. I'm a fortress and don't need help. When I did reach out, the person I looked to let me down.

Find rest my soul, in Christ alone, know his power, in quietness and trust...When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm, Father you are king over the flood, I will be still and know you are God.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Blood, sweat, and tears

About 3 months ago I got tired of looking at myself in the mirror and hating what I see. I mean, I was tired of it about 8 months ago, but mid-June I decided to do something about it.

Since starting at the center, I've packed on a lot of weight. Sitting for 8-12 hours, living alone, being busy, and not liking to cook all results in fast food, watching movies, and using the puppy as an excuse for not working out. (Since I can't take him on a run, and I don't want to leave him home alone, I just can't go.) I would avoid mirrors at all costs, and scales repulsed me. When I was driving I could feel my sides and stomach jiggling when I went over bumpy roads and the seatbelt developed an uncomfortable snug-ness across my waist. I would change my outfit 3 or 4 times before leaving the house, looking for the one that didn't make me look heavy. Pictures were always taken from a certain angle so you couldn't see my double chin. But you could see it anyway. People talked about setting me up on dates with their friends, but that thought made me queasy because who would look twice at a girl like me?

So when summer hit and my excuse of "everyone weighs more during the winter because your body is saving weight in case you need to hibernate" disappeared, I decided to make the change. To figure out how much I'm supposed to eat, actually eat fresh food, and not eat out unless necessary. I found an app that takes into account your height/weight, activity level, and age and gives you a calorie amount per day. Then you log everything you eat and it magically tells you if you're over-eating or not. I have it set at a number of calories that should mean I lose a pound per week.

In addition to that, I've been doing my very best to be active. Walk the dog, go hike, run on the treadmill, heck--do pushups and situps! Just. do.SOMETHING. This week I started the Piyo workout program. It's been kicking my butt. I haven't been able to walk all week.

But the long and short of it is that I've lost 12 pounds since I started caring. When I started I was 202 pounds. It's hard to even write that. Granted, I'm nowhere near happy at 190, but it's progress. Painful, slow, exhausting progress.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

In my shoes

There has been a lot of media attention surrounding the public safety fields in the past few months. Excessive force, officer involved shootings, rude 911 calltakers, the list goes on and on. Somehow I manage to keep my personal opinion off Facebook, but it's driving me crazy.

Have you ever heard the saying "you can't judge a man till you walk a mile in his shoes"? This is the best way to describe my opinion on these topics. I will be the first to say that yes, there are bad cops and bad dispatchers. There are people in this line of work who are racist like there are employees at Microsoft, Target, Starbucks, and the DMV who are racist. I don't condone racism or straight up pointless rudeness. So if we can set aside those incidents (which are far fewer than the media would like you to think) we have the rest of the incidents.

The most recent trend is that any time a white cop shoots a black kid, the media goes ballistic. Has anyone besides me seen the officer's side of this most recent one? How the kid charged the officer multiple times? So I'm an officer sitting in my patrol car, roll up on guys who match suspect descriptions from a robbery, try to contact them and they start fighting me. Call me crazy, but I'm going home to my family at the end of the shift. The officer sustained multiple injuries consistent with someone defending himself, and eyewitness reports collaborate that version of the story. Why is it that the officer who was protecting himself is the bad guy? Cause the guy he shot was black? Answer me this: if the suspect was white would everyone be complaining? How about if the officer was a black female? The double standard is ridiculous.

As a dispatcher, I work with police officers 5 days a week, 8-12 hours per day. I'd count some of my officers as friends. Some of them have added me on Facebook. Some of them I've ridden in the patrol car with. I have first hand knowledge about what police officers are like. I can't stand a few of them, but most of them are good men and women. I salute them for the job they do. For the drunk/clinically insane people they contact every. freaking. day. and DON'T beat up. For the endless string of absolutely ridiculous requests that they field and deal with, for the most part politely. For working up to 20 hours at a time, fully expecting at any second they could be fighting for their lives. For the ability to not only manage the citizens, but also deal with us on the radio. Let me tell you how many domestic violence victims have seen their abusers go to jail because of the police. How about we put the burglary where a K9 track and good police work ended up in an arrest on the news and talk about it for more than 5 seconds?

Ok, now on to something I really care about. The 911 calls. I don't care how much you hate your job, unless you work in emergency services of some kind you have ZERO right to judge a calltaker's work. 

Picture this: you wake up in the morning, make waffles, get your kids dressed, take them for a walk with the dog (who still wants to chase all the birds..grrr), your daughter complains because she wants a popsicle and you won't let her till after lunch. After packing lunches you load the kids into the car and take them to daycare. You get to work, clock in, say hi to the co-worker you haven't seen because they were on vacation, put your headset on, ask your neighbor about how the recipe they posted on Facebook turned out, your phone rings and all you hear is screaming. It's a cell phone (of course) so the only location you have is within 500 meters of where the call is at, so you repeatedly tell the caller "I need the address" which is always followed by "well, I don't know the address, damnit! Can't you just ping my phone?!?" Since you're working on a recorded line you politely explain that you don't have the ability to do that and try your best to get some kind of info so that you can get this person the help they need. You get as much info as you can and hang up. Your phone rings again and you speak with a woman whose cat is stuck in the tree. While you feel terrible for the lady because you love animals, you have to advise her that in your jurisdiction, the fire department doesn't respond for that--she needs to call a tree topping service. "Are you f$56*¡ telling me they won't come out?" Unfortunately yes. They hang up on you. You get a few minutes to finish your conversion about that recipe and the phone rings. A lady had her car broken into. The call is short, sweet, to the point and you thank her for calling as you disconnect. Now you are getting a call about a fight in progress. "The suspect is a white male. Actually a Hispanic male, but I have no idea what he's wearing." Officers happen to be nearby and get there in great time. It's not really a fight, just a group of teens horseplaying. As soon as you hang up, the phone starts ringing again, this time with a report of a "suspicious male who doesn't belong"....because he doesn't look "right".  You have 2 minutes to run to the bathroom because you drank too much coffee and sit back down to a report of the rape of a 4 year old. Then a prank call from 2 kids who just laugh and hang up. And you're only an hour into your 8 hour shift.

Put that on repeat for 40 hours a week. You're dealing with the highest stress moments off people's lives. You get cussed out in a day more than the average person will in a month. And out of the thousands upon thousands of calls you take in a year, maybe 5 will ever give you credit for gathering the info/keeping them calm/sending the appropriate response (which is usually not what the caller thinks it should be.) The amount of ridiculous and bogus calls you take far outweighs the number of legit calls....we're talking 50:1. 

The only people who understand what it's like is the other people you work with. If you don't have the luxury of working days (only 1/3 of our center staff does) you are constantly telling people "sorry, I'd love to come over....or to your kid's birthday party....or to the football game...or to the club meeting but I have to work nights.and weekends.and holidays." You don't want to burden your friends and family with the weight that rests on your shoulders, because you want to keep them clear of the world you see every day.

I remember the outrage over the calltaker who didn't seem overly concerned when the missing girl called 911 and said she'd been missing and gave her location. Did you know I've talked to Jesus on the phone? And people who kindly explained to me how Yoplait is chocolate with a man and a woman. We say "ok", enter the call, and let the police take it from there. It's not my job to counsel you, make you feel good about yourself, or always say "yes" to every demand. My job is to gather the pertinent info in the quickest manner and give it accurately to my units.

Wow that was a lot. It just drives me bonkers. Work my job for even a DAY and your opinions of the garbage the media shows will change drastically. The End.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Rebel Status

I am a rebel. I got a tattoo.

When you grow up in a very conservative home like mine, you learn very early on that tattoos are the devil's ink. There's no good reason to mark up your body. The Bible says no alterations. What if the man you want to marry doesn't approve of them. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but you'd regret it. It's impulsive  and people get it to show gang affiliation.

So when I was in high school, I used sharpie to write things to remember from youth group lessons on my wrist/arm. Usually one-word things like "idols" or "joyful". I can't tell you when, but at some point I started writing the word "love" in script on my ankle. When I began my Police Explorer career, I had to be careful about where I wrote things because any ink had to be covered by my uniform. I wanted to go into law enforcement and the same rule applies to most law enforcement agencies. So I kept writing that word "love" on my ankle. For 5 years.

All through college I was poor and wasn't 100% sure that I wanted it tattooed. But I wrote it by hand every time I came out of the shower. As I started working a real job I kept writing it and began thinking of a tattoo, but I wanted to wait till I had the last piece of the puzzle--a man. Until one of my co-workers said that is a terrible idea. Don't get a tattoo for a person. Get it because you want it. I decided I was tired of it coming off in the shower, and the next day got it done. 

It comes straight from 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not rude, is not self seeking, it keeps no record if wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth.

It is for my friends who have walked with me, and at times carried me, through my life.

It is for my family who is always there.

It is for my guide dog family--the people AND the puppies who I've poured my heart into. 

It's for my future man who I might not yet know, but who I pray for and know that God has all picked out for me.

It's a symbol that I'm a grown up now. I'm not my parents' robot. I can think, decide, and act for myself. That I can make a choice based on what I want and don't have to live by their rules.

It's a reminder every minute of every day how much God loves me and how He wants me to love people.

And it's a great conversation starter.

So yes, mom and dad, I have a tattoo. And I still love Jesus. And I'm thrilled that I finally have it done.