Our Magical Night with PAALS!!

We Went! We Saw! We Conquered!!

Revised (minor) @ 9:30am edt 4/27/09

We drove to Columbia SC on Thursday. I won’t go into all the craziness of packing. Suffice it to say – After all the packing, stacking, getting two of our adorable teen-aged grandsons to take the stuff down to the car and load it up . . . I left my dress and the Ol’ Curmudgeon’s suit at home, hanging in a hanging bag on the back of the bedroom door – where we found them when we returned. {{SIGH}} So the Ol’ Curmudgeon went to the ceremonies (semi-formal optional) in Friday casual. I, fortunately, had a simple black slacks and a black top with white over-embroidered scalloped neckline and sleeves and flowers. One of the volunteers said she wished she could pull “something” out of her suitcase that looked as nice. As I pointed out to the Ol’ Curmudgeon, I looked like a giant blackberry with a string around it, instead of looking like a giant blueberry with a string around it! LOLOL!

4pm KennelCare, Inc.
We napped most of the day on Friday, then gathered up Emmy and went to KennelCare. What was going on there? A giant Meet-Up with all her old doggie friends and the new puppies! There are 6 puppies in the program at the moment – and we met them. Emmy was sooo good. She met her old friends, did some doggie dancing around and sniffing of those parts we humans get embarrassed about, and generally had a wonderful time. Then all the old friends went to different corners of the room, and one by one the puppies were brought in to meet the older doggies. I can’t remember all their names. There was Katie – a little “mini-me” of Emmy! Black and with so many of the same characteristics it was uncanny! There was Caspar – a big blonde boy! He’s going to be a super-start. And he probably will top out about 80# or so when he’s grown. He’s gorgeous! Spirit was the youngest and smallest. She was a black lab, but “fuzzier” than most. So cute. She tilted her head from one side to the other so cute and made you just want to go hug her! The others, Jill and the other, were all just as cute, but were not quite as memorable to me as Katie, Spirit and Caspar. Goodness! Mostly, the doggies played with their Gentle Leaders on to reduce excitement and nipping. The doggies had a wonderful time!

The people at KennelCare were wonderful to us! Thanks to them for letting us use their “doggie daycare” playroom!

5:45pm Left KennelCare and went for a light supper. Please understand that we usually eat supper at 5pm and are on our way to beddy-bye by 8:30pm. This evening was a very late one for us. So we wandered around Columbia until we encountered Two Notch Rd, which we knew about. Went to Arby’s and got their smallest sandwich and some iced tea (milk for the Ol’ Curmudgeon).

Then back to the hotel to change into decent clothes. The Ol’ Curmudgeon looked so nice in his yellow shirt and navy pants and navy suspenders! As I said earlier, I looked like a giant blackberry with a string around my middle (my fannypack with doggie treats, poop bags, etc). We took a couple of wrong turns, but arrived at the graduation site only 10 minutes late! Thank goodness we weren’t the last to get there!

7:00 pm Graduation Ceremony, Windermere Country Club
Oh my! There was a little slide show for each of us graduating. They were set to music, and Emmy’s song was “I’ll be Your Hands and Feet.” It was a real tearjerker. There were slides of Emmy as a little pup learning to pick up items, carry things, get things. Aubrey’s was “Best Friend,” and I’ve forgotten what Yeat’s song was. Shame on me! Steph, if you would leave a comment with that song???

Erin and her family came up to talk about how Aubrey has helped their son who has Autism. Even their son spoke a few words! That was very hard for him to do, and shows how far he has come since getting Aubrey. Aubrey helps him get up, and helps him get dressed by getting his socks for him. When S. has a “meltdown,” Aubrey drapes herself over his lap and helps him feel “grounded.” This is very important for people with Autism.

Steph and Yeats went up second, and talked about facility dogs and how they help people who have strokes, brain and spine injuries, and other things that require physical therapy. Yeats has been instrumental in helping her treat patients. People have started getting up, moving their arms and legs in wider arcs, walking in the parallel bars. Yeats carries clipboards to the desk and does other things within his facility. Now, Steph is working at a senior living facility, and Yeats is helping the patients there, too.

The Ol’ Curmudgeon and I went up together for my 2 minutes of fame at the graduation. I spoke very briefly, but remembered to point out that across the US only 750 service dogs were placed each year, while there were at least 1500 to 2000 KNOWN people waiting. Some of the people aren’t even on the counted waiting lists because they weren’t yet on the lists – they were below that level! So the actual number of people needing and waiting for service dog placement probably was twice to three times the known numbers! Then I told the gathering how humbled and yet proud I am at the same time to have been the recipient of a service dog from PAALS’ first class. I told them I was able to go to the grocery alone – with Emmy. No fears of dropping cane, dropping items. She can pick them up for me! Throughout the evening, I spoke to a number of people and told them about some of the very important things Emmy has done for me.

7:30 pm Fundraising Event Drinks Served and Silent Auction Opens
The Ol’ Curmudgeon had built a couple of “dog-proof cat-boxes,” and one of them was entered into the auction. We told the people that the minimum bid must be $250 – and if other folks wanted one, the cost would be $250 each. The difference between what the supplies cost and the price we set, would be donated to PAALS. These structures are quite complicated, and take a good bit of time to build them. The material costs are high – about 50% of the price we set. We don’t charge for labor.

8:00 pm Dinner Served
It was a lovely buffet with lots of seafood, and some other things. I didn’t visit the buffet because trying to handle me and handle Emmy around a buffet full of great smells is a little much for my hands. So the Ol’ Curmudgeon went up to get food for us. I had some wine and was quite mellow.

8:30 pm Entertainment (Master Of Ceremonies & Magician- Bill Grimsley)

9:00 pm Silent Auction Closes & Live Auction Begins (provided by Holiday Auctions)
Actually, these two events were reversed. The Silent Auction closed at 9pm, but we were running a bit late, so the Live Auction began immediately, with the entertainment pushed to the end of the auction. WOW! The donations to the auction were incredible! So were the bids! At the end, Jen and Shari got on the little stage with Akira and Charlie. When Akira comes into heat again, Charlie will be mated to her. The cost for each litter is $2500. So bids went up for paying for the litter. One bid after another, pieces of bid at various levels, bids for bags of food, bids for vet care, bids for toys, bids for leashes, bids for bedding – all in all, enough bids were received to pay not only for this litter, but the next 2, also!! YEAAA!

I can’t begin to add up all the bids, and I have no idea how much was received via the Silent Auction. But I do believe the evening was a success, fund-raising-wise.

Bill Grimsley (the magician) was great. The Ol’ Curmudgeon takes great joy in watching really good sleight of hand, and smiled and chuckled OUT LOUD throughout the performance! A great success. I was so happy to see him like this! I believe it was just what he needed.

Of course we stayed up late. Really late! Didn’t get to the motel until nearly midnight, and didn’t get to bed until after 1am! Needless to say, we slept in – really late (for us)! I staggered up about 7:45am, got coffee, put out pills, and Mr. Grumpy growled at me. I encouraged him to go ahead and take his meds.

He took them, then went back to sleep for a couple more hours. We left about 10am, stopped for gas, stopped for breakfast at a Waffle House down the road (I LUV their pecan waffles), and drove straight on home. We stopped for gas at our favorite station about 4 miles from home. The Ol’ Curmudgeon went for gas while I went to the grocery. By that time, Emmy was nearly hysterical with fatigue and wanting to be HOME! She behaved very well at the grocery, but I can “read” her. She just wasn’t happy. Went to the car and she leapt into the FRONT seat – she’s never done that before! I managed to get her OFF, then she leapt into the backseat before I could get her seatbelt harness on her. I had to get her OFF again, and then put the harness on her, then get her to JUMP again. Actually, that last part was the easy part. She kept shifting from foot to foot. I could hardly get the harness on her.

When we got home, I called the two teen grandsons from next door to help us unload the car. After we got the groceries in the refrigerator, we kind of napped in our chairs for a bit. Finally, we had supper about 6:30pm. Yep, we were still “off schedule.” I reckon it will take us 2-3 more days before we are settled back in our skins.

Emmy first headed for the back yard and afterward finally collapsed on her “place” in the living room. She roused long enough to eat and visit the back yard again, then went back to sleep. Have I shared with you that she SNORES??? And she also “whuffs” in her sleep! So funny!

So we spent the night with the Ol’ Curmudgeon mumbling in his sleep, and with Emmy snoring and whuffing in her sleep, and me trying to stay asleep with all that going on. Believe it or not, I did sleep. Hard! And woke up around 7am to Emmy licking my hand and wanting to go OUT – NOW!!

We made it up – drank coffee (uummm! My own coffee is soooo good!) and had our soft-boiled eggs with toast and a little grilled hog jowl. The Ol’ Curmudgeon ate ALL of his hog jowl – didn’t even give me the rinds like he usually does.

And so we are HOME! We enjoyed our trip, but we are very, VERY happy to be HOME again! The “Magical Night with PAALS” was well worth the trip to Columbia, but we are VERY happy to be HOME-SWEET-HOME!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andreas
    Apr 27, 2009 @ 05:17:57

    Sounds like you had a very productive week (and weekend).

    I know I’m going to have to do something for Mom soon, in the way of a PAALS dog. She fell the other night because her meds were blocking signals to her legs to “WALK” and ended up on the floor.

    The bad thing about it is that she was mumbling on the floor like someone who had just had a stroke, so she ended up in the hospital via ambulance.

    Lucky for her, I was here, sleeping in my recliner, where I could hear her if she called out for me. (And she wonders why I sleep with all my clothes on… DUH!)

    Needless to say, if I’m not here, there’s going to be a problem if she has an emergency again and she can’t reach a phone.

    I wanted to get her on one of those monitoring systems that she can wear around her neck, but she won’t have anything to do with it.

    So, my next thought was getting her a PAALS dog… just in case.

    She’s getting weak in the legs and can’t always make it up and down the steps, and this summer, I’m building a wheelchair ramp on the front porch.

    Sad to say; the house is not built for a wheelchair (as we found out when dad was alive), so I’ll eventually do some major structural remodeling to the house.

    In the meantime, if she had a service dog… that might help. I guess I would have to interview with PAALs about it.

    I’m a light sleeper, so I still wake up when things go “bump” in the night.


  2. turtlemom3
    Apr 27, 2009 @ 10:03:09

    My dear, I strongly suggest you not only check out PAALS, but other service dog organizations closer to you. PAALS is pretty much dedicated to the population of SC. I, in GA, was blessed to receive Emmy, even though not a citizen of SC.

    With your mother, sit down and list all the ways a service dog might help her: picking up dropped items, bracing her when she needs to get up or when she gets off balance when walking, putting items in the washing machine, removing them, pulling laundry basket from laundry area to bedroom, etc. List all the other ways your mother needs help – things a dog may or may not be able to assist her.

    Think about it – how well does the possibility of a dog help? Do you need a small dog, a medium-sized dog or a large dog? Do you really need a dog from a service organization, or are the actions you need things you can train yourself? It’s very complicated, training your own service dog. I can direct you to some books to help, and you may be able to find a trainer near you – not necessarily a service dog trainer, but a good basic dog trainer. Should use “clicker” training techniques.

    Good breeds: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Great Danes. Many times a “mutt” will do well, also. It depends on how amenable the dog is to the training. Organizations may have 1/3 – 1/2 of a very expensive litter that are unsuitable to service and have to “change careers.” If you wanted to train your own, you might have to go through 4 or 5 before you found the one that is a candidate for mobility service as opposed to hearing service, or autism service, or therapy service, or facility service.

    Keep in mind, also, that a service dog must at all times be very clean. No doggie odor, no doggie breath. Well groomed – no shagginess (except a Doodle or a Newfie). Dog must be one that pays attention to it’s person – no “distractability. ”

    While a service dog may very well be the thing your mother needs, remember that with so many people waiting for the dogs, your mother may not be accepted because of her age. While it may seem to be discriminatory, think about it – Is it reasonable to put a dog with 2 solid years of training (about $40,000 worth), with a person who might well die in less than 5 years of the dog’s service? After as little as 1 year, the do may not be able to bond to another person, so that dog would be “lost” to service and would become a pet many years before it should.

    If you train your own, remember: spay/neuter at an early age. If the dog is the size of a Lab or larger, have the stomach tacked to the side of the chest (gastropexy) to reduce the chance of bloat and volvulus. This can be done at the time of spay for a bitch, or at any time for a dog.

    Lots more to consider – daily training, daily hygiene, etc. Are you really ready for a service dog? As prepared as we were, all the grooming, etc was very new to us. And the taking out to the yard 3-6 times a day, measuring food to ensure no weight issues, and the traning sessions 2-4 times a day (minimum) – all this was the reality we had to adapt to.

    So, although I really believe in service dogs, and I KNOW how helpful they can be, I encourage you to think – hard – about it and investigate thoroughly, before you embark on this course.


  3. Suzanne
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 14:48:46

    Oh, my, you really had such a good time! Your description had me a bit teary in places. I can’t believe that the Ol’ Curmudgeon actually smiled and chuckled OUT LOUD!! I’m so glad for that. 🙂


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