Life with a service dog: Thoughts on Tracy

We have now had Tracy for eight weeks. Over these weeks, I have learned a lot about what it means to take care of a living thing. I have to think of Tracy’s needs before I do what I need or want. This means that when I get home and I need a drink, I must give Tracy water first because I know that she needs it. This is a major change for me because I never had to do that before. Taking care of her first also includes taking her potty. If she needs to go potty, I have to take her out no matter what I am doing. As annoying as this is, I know that it is necessary and that I need to do it for Tracy because I love her. I also have to get up and take Tracy out to exercise right away. I have to exercise for a minimum of thirty minutes, meaning that I will be walking three or more miles each day. I will have to go farther if I run or bike. It is annoying for me to have to do this every morning because I cannot skip any mornings, but Tracy needs me to do it, and the exercise is good for both of us.

One thing that I certainly know is, as much work as Tracy is, I am absolutely glad that I have her. We just did a training session with her in which we hid pistachios and a peanut individually in different things outside like a pile of rocks. She did great. I have learned that the training sessions are more for me to learn how to better work with Tracy than they are for Tracy to get better. Tracy is already very good. I am the one that needs to learn how to find nuts with her. We are both doing very well, and the training session was a success. I made the mistake of telling her to show me where the nut is before she had caught the scent, but I did not do it again and I learned that I have to wait for her behavior change before I tell her to show me. During the session, Tracy learned that she has to work for me outside. There were a few times that she got distracted, but she got right back to searching and did a great job overall. 🙂

Take me out to the ball game (or not)

I am so excited to get Trac-E. I am thinking of all of the ways she will make my life easier. I cannot wait to get her. I spoofed a song about my allergy as I got up and practiced one of my survival strategies. Cooking!!! I made homemade crepes for my family this morning. I spoofed “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” because I was thinking of a bag of Crackerjacks that I sold to a customer at the Troop 695 snack shack that my scout troop uses as a fundraiser. Here is the spoofed song. I hope that you enjoy it. 🙂

Take me out to the ball game.

Only if it’s nut free.

Don’t buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks

If you do I’ll never get back,

But I’ll root root root for the home team.

If they don’t win it’s a shame,

But it’s three, or two, even one nut I’m out of the old ball game!

Please see me

This was an assignment to write a poem for my English class. Here’s what I wrote:

Please See Me

The picky allergic kid who has no real allergies is not me.

The kid that could die from his food allergies is me.

I am not defined by my allergies.

I am the kid that loves to bike, swim, and run.

I am the kid that does not give up even though it would be easier.

I am the kid that loves music and reading.

When I was a child I started reading in preschool.

I was the child that loved soccer and came home with grass stains on my knees.

I was the child who created worlds, and then told stories about them.

I was the child that created the world of the stuck pipe.

I was the child that made the lions Freddie and Tanga to live in the stuck pipe.

I was the child that had three imaginary dogs named Moov, Tree, and Treefreefactous.

I was the child that had three airplane pilots named Sweatyabanga, Abouduadango, and Lazy Tom.

I was the child that tried to explode water in the back yard.

I was the child that played in a mud pit, and tried to build bricks for a house out of mud.

I was the child that learned to climb a tree to get over the fence.

My allergy is a real part of me and it is dangerous.

Please try to see me through my allergy.

Please see me.

The night before the Iron Man

Tonight is the night before I go on my Iron Man bike ride. Tonight, I am remembering how one of the scout leaders challenged all of the scouts to do the biking merit badge, when I was 11 years old. The merit badge consists of doing five 10 or more mile bike rides, two 25 or more mile bike rides, and one 50 or more mile bike ride. My dad thought that we could not do it. I decided to try, and I proved him wrong. Now I will ride thirty miles tomorrow, and I know that I can make it (even though I have my new dog trailer attached). I proved some important things to myself that year by earning the biking merit badge. I learned that I could handle pain. It hurt to go on the fifty mile bike ride, just like it will hurt when I bike tomorrow. I have learned, however, that the human body can handle pain for an extremely long time. You just have to decide in your head that you are not going to give up. What I look forward to when I bike is not the ride (although I enjoy that too 🙂 ), but it is when I get home and prove to myself that I could handle the pain and meet my goal. I saw an inspiring quote on the back of a tee-shirt recently, that I would encourage everyone to try to live by. I even try myself. The quote read, “Next time you want to give up, remember why you held on this long.”

Thanks to my scout leaders and friends and to everyone else who help me achieve my goals.

The False Security

Peanut free tables seem like they make everything alright at school lunches, but they actually make lunch much harder for me in the past. It is easy for a school to struggle over making a peanut free table safe. “No nuts” at my peanut free table became “no cross contaminated foods.” Then the school said “no bagged lunches.” Soon, I was sitting alone with no one to sit with, watching all the other kids talk and have fun. Now, instead of a peanut free table, I use wet wipes and wipe down the table. Then I can regulate what food comes to the table, instead of the school doing it for me. This is also safer, because I can verify that the table has been wiped down. With a peanut free table, the lunch ladies try to wipe the table down for you, but I do not know if they could have used a cross contaminated sponge. I also know that it is clean, because the lunch ladies are busy and sometimes forget to wipe down the table. If it is only a peanut free table for your lunch out of several lunch periods, that could be problem. I have been much more successful without a peanut free table.

Helping Hands

My eight-year old cousin had a summer job. The job he chose was to walk dogs. On his flyer there was a spot that read, “All the money I get from walking your dog will go to my cousin who has a peanut and tree nut allergy. He is raising money for a service dog that smells nuts.” I thought it was really special that he would give me all his money that he got from walking people’s dogs all summer. He could have used it for himself and kept it, but instead he thought of me and wanted to give me the money or my service dog. When he gave it to me I almost started crying. In comparison to how much I finally need it was not a huge amount, but I could tell that he actually did not want to keep the money for himself. He wanted to give me the money so that I could have a service dog. That is why I think that it was just as good as giving me all the money that I need to buy the dog. He did not keep any for himself. He gave me all of the money he had earned. I don’t know if he is reading this or not, but I want to thank him anyway, because no one forced him to give me the money. It was all his own free will.  And it really matters that he gave his money to help me. Even small donations really make a big difference.

My Survival Strategies

I have survival strategies. Here is my list of the best ways to NOT have a reaction:

1.  I always do “the scan” when I walk into a room to make sure that everything is safe inside.

2.  Anytime I sit down to eat, I wipe down the table that I am going to sit at. I do the same thing on an airplane.

3.  Any time that I go to a party at someone else’s house, I eat before I go.

4.  I also keep an early bedtime and a clean house so that I keep my immune system healthy.

5.  I wear an epi-pen around my waist.

6.  I have emergency money in case I am with friends and they buy dinner at somewhere that is not safe. I can go and find a safe place for me to eat, or buy a coke.

7.  I am learning to cook from scratch.

8. I choose non peanutty sports. I swim, I bike, and I hike.

9. I read every label every time.

These strategies are important because they are ways for me to keep myself safe.

***These are all important, but the most important strategy is actually to learn to know that life is unfair, and say no to things that are not safe. Sometimes it is tempting to say, “Oh, it’s just once, and it’s only cross contaminated, it won’t hurt me.”  But the truth is, whatever it is, it will hurt me. With all of these strategies, I am prepared for whatever is thrown at me.

Trailer time

I got a Burley tail wagon dog trailer yesterday. I am really excited about it. I cannot wait to try it out. Of course, that is hard to do when you have strep throat. I will only be contagious for twenty-four hours though. I will go this weekend, but I don’t know if I can wait that long. I am also kind of worried about balancing. Maybe I will have to get a balance band! I hope that the trailer will not be too much harder to pull, though. I also hope that it is not too heavy. It would be hard to pull up hills. In fact, I will have to find out what happened to my gears last time I was on a hill or I might have to walk it up (not 🙂 )! Last time I tried to shift gears on a hill, it did not work very well. Now I am stuck on gear six, the hardest gear to pedal in. I will figure it out though. I will have to test out the trailer before I go on the Iron Man, so that I will know how much sooner I have to stop. I hope this works!

Life with a nut allergy

I am constantly worried about what I eat and touch because of my peanut allergy. It’s really hard to be around people who don’t understand what life is like because it is extremely hard to communicate how serious I have to take my allergy. Especially at thirteen years old, most people don’t want to believe that I know more than they do about any topic, and they think they’re right even about how to keep me safe around nuts. It’s even harder when a kid doesn’t understand because it makes me a target for bullying. It scares me when I am walking through class and I suddenly feel a finger on the back of my neck and hear the words, “Ha, ha, I just ate peanut butter.” They could actually have had something containing nuts and I don’t know if it is real or not.  I have to run to wash my neck off (which is extremely embarrassing). This happened to me in fourth grade.

Every time I walk up to a door, I get scared. I have no way of knowing what is on that door. I always have to drink out of a water bottle because I have reacted from a water fountain before. I often have to turn down treats at church and friends’ houses because they are not safe. I always hate when it is time to eat cake at birthday parties because I rarely get to eat it. I hate to say this, but I even know what it feels like to have a reaction so bad that I have to use an epi-pen. I almost had to use the epi-pen on Christmas Day. That made me mad.

I even know what the epi-pen feels like and I promise that it is not fun! Its needle is a little more than two centimeters long. It hurt so badly when it went into my leg that I could not stand up. Dad had to carry me to the hospital. In Italy, I reacted to one bite of pasta sauce that had ground cashew in it (the label was in Italian). The reaction was instant. I have also had an anaphylactic reaction from a doorknob or a water fountain.

When I go into anaphylaxis, it is scary because I can feel my throat closing off and I have horrible pains in my stomach; my skin is so itchy it feels like it is on fire. It is scary because I know those feelings mean that my body is shutting itself down. Those feelings are also scary because they mean I will have to spend the night in an uncomfortable hospital bed in constant worry that I might have a biphasic reaction. I might have to have a second epi-pen and a second shot in the rear end and then they might have to intibate me. That is where they put a tube down my throat so that I can keep breathing. My life is scary because I know that unknown things around me can send me into anaphylaxis.

[I posted more about living with an allergy here ]

The End Times

I had situations even today where the dog would have helped me. For example, in science class, we did a hand-shaking activity as a lab to show how diseases spread. It was certainly fun, but it could have been a problem for my allergy because of a possible residue reaction — even though it is probably not going to be a problem often. In church yesterday, we talked about the End Times. When we were in small groups, my mom asked how often I thought about the End Times. I said that I think about the End Times all the time because with my allergy, it could be at any given time for me. I have to constantly think about it. Every time I take a bite, I wonder: Is this the bite that will kill me?  Because it literally could. I also have to worry about surfaces. I know that if I touch something and then touch my face or mouth or even rub my eye, I could have a reaction. The dog smells peanut and tree nut residue, so it will be able to help with that worry. It might help with food, but probably not. I will have to still be extra careful because the reactions from food tend to be a lot more severe. I will have to keep reading labels, calling companies, and making my own home-made food (like the good looking home-made bread that is going in the oven 🙂 ). I will blog a lot more about these things later.