On Black And White Thinking and Other Annoyances

When I state my opinions about some things if the audience knows I am autistic I sometimes am rebutted not by their own opinion but that my thoughts are the product of black and white thinking.

This baffles me on a few levels really. While I understand someone out there (well numerous someones) has characterized autistic thinking that way do they think we are incapable of seeing the views in between? Or for the sorts of things people go around having opinions about that some waving around between positions is even a good thing?

Here are some things I am black and white about –

You can’t kill people because they have a “horrific” label like autism

The group I call Voldemort Speaks needs to disband.

The world needs more acts of love and less talking about love

Honesty is the only policy.

Every human not only deserves dignity and respect but society needs to make sure they get it.

Most people are smarter than the experts think.

Speech is not the sum total of all communication.

Being able to speak does not say anything about other competencies.

Well that’s the short list. I could go on of course but I would enter the realm of my own life to a degree that would leave people a bit too baffled.

My main problem when I get dismissed by this method because labeling it black and white is a fast way to end the conversation is that just because someone thinks it is so, and even if it looks that way on any issue I care a lot about it is apparently so hard to make another case that we need to queue the oh poor her she can’t see other opinions.

I wish that were the case. I have had other opinions acted out on me. I have seen them acted out on others. Since they did harm I would think people need to be a little more shades of grey overall. Perhaps it is some terrible neurological affliction that the unlabeled masses have that they sway all over the place over fairly short spans of time. I don’t really know but I do know that being dismissed on things I think a lot about with any reference to my autism is frustrating beyond words.

Just like if there is a communication problem that involves me I am not always the problem. This one comes up a lot. Granted sometimes I cannot communicate by the usual methods. Sometimes I need break from those ways but when I do communicate very clearly about some issues I doubt it is my problem if someone spends 8 days trying to change my mind. Good luck with that would seem a bit flip I guess. But is it so radical a notion that having lived as me for 45 long years now I might just have a better sense of what is possible for me any given day than someone who has the joys of managing me as a case? I think yes but majority opinion says no. That I will never sway any of them to my position does make me wonder who exactly is more firmly entrenched in if not black and white thinking at least normative institutional thinking. I am the one with more labels than seems reasonable so of course I have no clue about what is good for me or what is possible. All health care and service provision seems to operate from this stance even though when I was a service provider I am pretty sure respecting the client took up a good chunk of the handbook and the attitudes questionnaire and screening essay questions.

There really is a right and a wrong for more things than humans tell themselves. Sometimes it can be fun to be a little bit “bad” of course and those sort of behavioural deviations from the straight and narrow as they call it are not a big concern. What concerns me are bigger moral issues.

I have written about lying before. People I think refuse to give me credit for being honest as in theory I would be a terrible liar. Yet I could have learned to tell the kind of social lies people tell if I believed that was a good route to go. I spent years actively resisting social scripts deemed useful and even enlisting converts to the whole living honestly.

At this stage in my life the only way it has backfired if you can call it that is people often seek my opinion who otherwise may not have. Rather tangentially related to my life people suddenly want to know things out of their confidence that I will tell the truth and other people will be nice when being nice won’t be helpful.

I do not consider it a bad thing that my integrity is not eroded by the accumulation of social lies and the slide into more ambitious ones. I don’t think it is a product of my autism as I have been lied to be autistic.

When forming opinions past the information gathering stage, which too many people seem to skip, I do consider the extremes of the issue and work out my stance sometimes over years. If someone then sums up my opinion as not worth entertaining because it is black and white then yes I will question this whole how useful is to socially engage thing.

I belong to a group that has been catastrophized to a degree I didn’t even think possible. People’s notions of autism when I was young were not that accurate but the kind of hate that is directed at the label now should really be considered criminally unacceptable. Many countries have laws against hate speech and yet it continues to go on. It inspires violence against autistics and when the worst case scenarios happen, that is when autistic people are killed society tends to champion the killer.

We could use a lot less grey here I think. Sometimes my autistic peers have a laugh at the whole society seems to have forgotten we are actually human but there is an underlying sadness in our games. Games that the experts also say we are incapable of but hey my opinion on anyone thinking they are an expert on matters pertaining to people other than themselves is not exactly high.

I try to live in a way that does good. Sometimes people are offended by it but I take the long view to that as occasionally in being offended it sparks off a thought process. I know I am not right about everything as that would be very obnoxious and like a good debate but on matters that boil down to the application of ethical values it is hard to see how firmness is a bad thing.

In matters less vital of course I slip and slide. If I applied my mind to making a position on everything I would run out of time for pretty well everything. The dog in my life knows my positions with regard to him that are thought out are I do not own him and he is not by being a dog entitled to less thought about his needs than I am by being human. He does milk these positions a bit much as he seems to think that means he can get away with just about anything but ours is a close relationship so of course there is give and take. I have told him that he should try and support himself but he plays the dog card there. It’s a work in progress.

Opinions on autism change and will always change. What cannot happen is for the masses to forget yes we are still people. We are still entitled to any right or protection normally given to people in our areas and so on. If someone wants to call those opinions black and white go for it. I will still hold them. Even when actions by the society around me make me pretty sure they forgot some of this I will keep underlining those positions.

If you want grey here’s grey. Currently most aspects of my life are pretty catastrophic. There is o denying that. That does not mean that I am though. There is a distinction. It is a source of hurt that some aspects of my life are artificially difficult. That is the means exist to ease some major stressors almost instantly but the powers that be or society at large doesn’t do it.

For 23 months and 1 day my life seems to have plotted how to break down in as many areas as possible. My body is it’s main co-conspirator but it was ever thus. Most people who know even half of how bad or plain weird or almost absurd it gets can’t quite wrap their minds about it but in all of this there are times of joy. Less than I might like but they exist.

I laughed doing my work in the wee hours of the morning. I laughed at a few other things. I also cried because life is not easy but it is a life. A human life. While a colleague did say I could be an AI the other day that wasn’t dehumanizing so much as a product of my distance from my place of work so while a few people have spoken to me no one has met me. We shared a good run of AI related jokes and I went to sleep.

Whatever happens one stress I do not need is the steady clamour of propaganda telling me how awful autism is. Telling me all sorts of lies. I will give them my life is hard but as they are about 18 percent of my current stress if they would just shut-up it would get slightly less so. As they feed too many opinions who knows how much of the rest might go away?

I have seen my blog mentioned in a few random places to support ideas I do not support. That is by granting yes I have a disability and yes my life is hard at times, even very hard somehow everything else I have said about my life doesn’t matter.

I studied psychology. I had to study the DSM for longer than anyone should have to I suspect so my notions of what can be said about any person’s autism and still have them fit diagnostic standards may be a bit rigid but it is a rigid format. I will never be someone who says my autism is only a good thing because if that were the case technically I would not have it. Currently since the issue that started my 23 month cruise with instability is most certainly a byproduct of autism, and some of my more major bodily malfunctions are not aided by it I can’t swing to that extreme.

I guess the only good function of Voldemort Speaks may be that it makes me a moderate. By saying I am autistic but I am human. My life matters to me. I should not have been prevented. I struggle but show me a person who doesn’t. I struggle harder than I need to so please society try harder to remove barriers and problems that don’t need to exist I am moderate in comparison. I know they view all those statements as radical but that is their problem.

It gets gritty in the trenches of being me. They are most certainly trenches right now but it is fun as well. Chanukah just brought me more days in a row of being dragged from my home than seemed fair but also laughter and latkes.

I suspect any day now that an accident I had and didn’t know about for too long and then couldn’t cope with what it takes to get it seen to will require surgery. So will several other things simmering away as I said earlier by body is my life’s main co-conspirator but while definitely lacking the capacity to deal with it today I either will or dealing with it will be thrust upon me.

In the meantime there is my dog, the internet, my work and tomorrow. I suspect all four of them will serve up a spectrum of delight and agony and everything in between collectively. I enjoy the dog, the internet and perversely my work so I guess tomorrow is the main suspect in the lineup for the gritty bits but not a lot of point of subtracting any happiness from today just because eventually a lot of unpleasant things will need to be dealt with.

Since I am being radical what with the liking my work and insisting that my life has value despite the indisputably hard parts would it be too radical to suggest that for the issues that matter most everyone try to be a bit more binary? There is a place at the table for dialogue but not propaganda I think. Attitudes are a potential thief of joy and the world needs more joy.

People often think my own attitude needs adjusting for some reason but it’s about right for the life I currently have. For some reason many people also regard me as a pessimist but on the things that need to change front I think I am pretty optimistic. While there has been no sign that society as a whole will suddenly see me as just part of society as a whole say the bits could improve for that to be normative behaviour.

In my city locals do this thing that people often ask about. When it started I was perplexed too. I had to defend it to several people when I was still thinking okay it is illogical but it seems to increase happiness phase with it. People on exiting the bus say thank you. Everyone does it unless they are distracted. It’s not rational behaviour in a way as of course the bus driver is paid for this exact thing but it makes the bus a better place. Which in a weird circular logic makes the bus driver (or the population at large) worth thanking.

So what if people could change normative behaviours about autism? Stop reflexively supporting Voldemort Speaks because of all that good they supposedly do. Stop believing my life is not valuable. Start doing something as radical as treating all people in ways that recognize their humanity?

I don’t really see how any other position makes sense of course but then again I have a “problem” with black and white thinking,

Well he's black and white some days.

Well he’s black and white some days.

Enough with Making Distinctions.

In the past weeks blogs everywhere have been exploding with critiques about the group I refer to as Voldemort Speaks. While it’s enjoyable to see more metaphorical allies take the field embedded in a disturbing number is the notion that one of the reasons what is being said about autism is wrong is that it is a spectrum disorder. Which it is but that doesn’t make it an ethical point.In the worst case scenarios some go on to say some people with autism lead productive lives.

I say worst case scenario because the group I don’t name is an offense to humanity. If I never wrote a single thing, or read, and if my diaper had to be changed and so on any portrayal of my life as a catastrophe, an affront, something to stop would be wrong. If I, improbably now wind up with a PhD someone pointing to me as a beacon of hope would actually be quite wrong. It isn’t usually thought of that way but it would be.

It may be an advantage of black and white thinking to see that. Every time someone refutes not only Voldemort Speaks position this way but other like minded groups, they are shoring up some disturbing notion that there is a line a human can draw at which point another human life no longer has value. I never did master the complex social skills that lead to procreation. I have though hunkered down wrapped around lives that most would view as pure misery, Wrapped around quite literally in one case as the level of uncontolled seizures that his body endured could break bones. He was at the limit of anti-convulsants that wouldn’t also kill him so there some person had to lie. He had to be held always for the same reason. He could not see, hear, speak or move in any non seizure related way. I hate to think what Voldemort speaks would say about him but thankfully he didn’t fall in their area of non-expertise.

His family, while capable of the humour that goes along with the notion that their son’s only activity was seizure activity, always treated him with such dignity and respect. They belonged to a culture where as the eldest son he had a status over his siblings and  they were affluent enough to purchase the trappings of a little prince for him. He was treated that way. His father would dress him in silk pyjamas and read to him as if he could hear (many years later when fMri’s came along it would be concluded he did indeed hear something against the expert opinion until that day) I had become as someone young, and strong, with experience with medically challenging children the last hope often of any rest from truly around the clock care. I saw lots of people in situations who if anyone could lay claim to the catastrophe vision of their kids lives those people could. Yet they didn’t. While that boy occupied and extreme so too did his family. The presumed competence well before anyone was urging people to. They did it naturally it seemed. They were worn out and tired and hoped for the sake of their other children to be able to close the door on their son’s room knowing someone quite literally had his back.

I don’t know what private demon’s they had fought to reach that state in the face of everyone telling them otherwise. His father asked me once if I had seen “My Left Foot”. I said I had. He went on to say it could be possible that trapped even more deeply inside his son there could be a genius. His father was a brilliant man. He and his wife could no doubt produce one and nurture one but the neurological reality for his child was even if that had been the case new destruction was being done constantly. The human brain is resilient but actual genius is a territory rather rigidly defined and while I had absolutely no argument with treating every human as if they may be one on principal as being preferable to defaulting in the opposite area the notion he could be and would never have the physical capacity to use even the most futuristic technology to express it was a horrifying one for me. Not clearly for his father so while I found it a scary notion I didn’t question why  he wanted to think that. It worked. It was his son and his view of his son and not mine to question even in the awkward position of someone point blank asking me if I agreed and being truthful to my bone I couldn’t really have an argument about it then beyond the nagging voice that wondered and if that wasn’t possible what then? As the movie was recent back then I suspect they would have been as steadfast but logical people tend to need a reason so my suspicion is they would have found another but I cannot know as I was not them. I would not presume to know what it was like to be them. I could only know what it was to care for their son. It was inspiring but not because he was rising above anything in inspiration terms. He is not much altered now from how I first met him beyond being older and now with hearing aids.

They were the most unquestionably, loving parents I had ever encountered. It no doubt helped them when staring down any expert that they were both well educated. I was troubled by the hint that some of what drove his father may have been the notion his boy could be a genius but it seemed unlikely that was anything other than a new motivation as he had asked if I had seen it not read it and they were clearly practiced in the art of presuming competence. They were the only family to ask I attempt to teach a second language to their child. I was used to having to defend wanting to teach the alphabet which didn’t seem like an option here as his hand could not be dragged though anything without caution.

They explained they had noticed their son was his most relaxed during his bath so during that time if I could work on 20 key words from their native language that was likely the best time. I was dumbfounded really. He had at the time no receptive facility at all let alone an expressive one. Years later with a lot of amplification some sound was getting in. I didn’t even work with him by then as he was too much of a challenge for my arthritic body early on even though I very much wanted to. My longest term client remarked to me having somehow remembered that I had worked with him as that had been at a time, when no one thought she herself was taking much in, that he could hear now. I asked her for details which she couldn’t really provide. She said well he has hearing aids now and sometimes he smiles when you talk to him. They like all the chocking risk students ate together so she knew this and was willing enough to talk to him although until that year it had seemed an exercise in futility. His bath had been the only thing to previously get a smile out of him so this was news indeed.

The catastrophe model of disability would have both the client who provided me with an update and the boy she described essentially as only burdens. That one did learn to talk, read, and write and use the computer in no way says to me that her life has more value than his. That I can talk most of the time if I talk at all does not make me better, that I can express my thoughts does not devalue the lives of those who cannot.

Both these children met ethical criteria for being euthanized at birth. They never called it that though. They always said that they would be kept warm and clean until nature took it’s course. That they would be hungry and thirsty never seemed to bother people. The client who was by far my highest achiever had a father who wanted this for her. As far as I know his position on it never changed. He had declared when her mother said no that should she survive he would never spend a dime on her care. Oddly enough this very position made him quite motivated to make respite care easier to access and funded. He was loving in many ways, devoted, but stubborn on the whole should she ever have lived concept.

I couldn’t grasp this either. Not because at the time his view point was first articulated she seemed necessarily likely to “amount to much”. I suppose to some degree my failure to grasp it may have come from having been another devalued life but not entirely. She was my first respite client and the author of my future years with children quite a bit more severely challenged than she was. She was also my last, despite a desire by the agency that employed me to cough up kids and adults more suited to my physical needs recently.

I never encountered any who were not human. That seems obvious but clearly not or why would anyone seek to lay out criteria by which they could simply be left to die of thirst or the consequences of treatable medical issues? Right now somewhere on the planet people who meet the dubious criteria of being high risk for having a child with autism are being urged to abort sons. They ignore the science that would suggest that very high risk group has as much as a one in two chance of having an autistic daughter. That anyone would think it was anything but an exercise in pseudoscience to tout this as screening for autism when it is nothing other than selecting based on gender will no doubt fall apart in the court of law in a few years when someone files a wrongful life suit. I use risk only because that is how it is described. Not that I agree with the terminology.

Wrongful life. I am told I could get some compensation from the producers of a pharmaceutical my mother took to ensure I was not miscarried. I could get more than most I am even told but to do so I would have to say I fall into a category of people who never should have been created. That the deficits linked to this medicine one of which is fairly central to who I am mean I should not have lived at all.

Since I snuck into the world seeming like a miracle as no one thought I had survived what looked like a full miscarriage made my parents so happy for not very long. I was escorted home gift wrapped in pink. My father had told the neighbours if a pink flag went up to come for a party but if a blue flag did I was a son. My brothers are typical or at least fairly typical. The lack of celebration for a son was not due to any fear about what that might mean but simply they had tried for a daughter. My mother wanted a daughter an unhealthy amount no doubt. She had visions for me like I suppose all mother’s do that I would never meet. She was worse than most about hiding that but did improve with time. A long time. A life time but effort is valuable.

My mother was more prone to believe what people thought about people like me which at the dawning of the 70s was not much better and in no way more accurate than the current catastrophic narrative. Having read I was incapable of loving her I may not have seemed worth much investment. It did to be sure make my own journey with what love means considerably longer.  While evidence of my developmental delay can indeed be found in my pediatric chart so unpalatble was everything that went with having autism that I learned after her death my mother who had never uttered the word had told some people in recent years I had Asperger’s. For her that was progress and no doubt she viewed that as less grim despite every bit of science saying in people like myself there is no identifiable difference within diagnosed populations. Even if there was so what?  They have changed what they call me 5 times now in my life if we count the flirtation with notions of residue.  How would you like to be summed up as that? It seems a word usually used in unflattering ways but to be residually autistic was supposed to be great. That there was no actual thing didn’t seem to bother people or dawn on them. It was a brief experiment. That annoying people like me back skid into the more obvious variety pretty constantly even if they could read and had periods where they seemed almost undetectble from peers must have been annoying.

Back sliding is really the terminology they used as if being normal is some fixed point. As if enjoying yourself in a meaningful way were a return to something less desirable. Yeah so what. I stare at my dolls and stack my coins. If you want to extract a lack of imagination or play skills from that question your own competence. I said this in much more academic terms in a review on the literature on wheel spinning (I would have looked at play more widely but such a staggering amount of time has been spent trying to work out how to teach kids to push a car rather than spin their wheels it would not have been possible to get an A plus if I ignored the vast quantities of research there. )

I would never have taken it up with my mother how there was no better, and that to grow up knowing you had somehow failed by simply being given a label was an actual burden not the hyperbolic variety. A child even one who people doubt their ability not only to recognize emotion but to have them, is not oblivious to the pain they seem to cause their mother. That’s the problem really as much of the pain is purely imaginary. I could in fact love her. I do love her. She has died but despite being labelled in scathing ways by many she was the only mother I can have. I have had other, healthier maternal figures who did model unconditional love for me but she bore me and lived with the pain of a constant anxiety about my well-being. That much of the initial confusion about what I could and couldn’t learn was founded on ever changing notions doesn’t undo the harm those notions taking root causes.

Like any mother she did her best. Like any mother she was subject to notions of what goes with what people think about her kid. It’s definitional for mothers. Not that they go blindly along with it but that they do care. That my brother could handle a full table service before the age of 3 was also something that mattered to her. He had to as his was a more elegant time and place.

Having autism has more often than not been too hard for me. The most successful thing I did this week was a mad dash into a store to buy the three items I could get without risking coming so undone someone thought something needed to be done about me. A real risk as I was not capable of meeting any social convention beyond sticking my debit card in the machine and hammering out my pin before fleeing. I am not so oblivious as to not notice in my peripheral vision that makes people uncomfortable. I no longer care as their social discomfort at having to see me is nothing akin to needing to go there. My doctor had urged when trying to be useful to me that if crossing the street and entering the store was too much I could go to Subway (a sandwich place) and get enough for three meals at a reasonable price and safer. He too is not oblivious to having to dispatch me almost without useful support, week after week. His concern when laying out the whole so you will cross the street, enter the store, get a, b, and c, pay, leave and go home plan was evident and he faltered and offered up the alternative. I said in the kind of comment often taken for humour that for the kind of heroic effort entering anywhere was going to be I was not coming away with three meals worth of food.

This was hard. This is the sort of difficulty though that could be remedied with resources that do not seek to change me beyond making things less stressful and healthier for me. A single hour a day of someone who was actually allowed to help me shop or go shopping for me would be life altering. The only way to get that right now is to enter a program that would entail a change of doctor. He mistakenly thinks I have an abandonment issue rather than a change one. Pretty sure I do know the difference and  I do honestly think he is right to think he is more useful in his usual area of expertise. He just has the misfortune of being the only hired help person to not have changed in the past 20 month so to me changing him out at a time I can’t even be counted on to do something so routine as crossing a street and entering a store seems like asking for new complications.

I’m an adult. Most people with autism are. When I read notions of not being able to house autistic children becoming adults from my slummy place it’s hard to understand where people are coming from. I am not cute. I am downright rude at times if a person opposes me in a fundamental way. I have needed to be. I am not all that sorry as it has been a useful skill.

Like every adult I was a child but unlike every adult sometimes people still do treat me like one. Sometimes it is needed. I was not bothered by my doctor taking more pains with my plan for the immediate future as someone could come along and question his competence if I had managed to die in pursuit of bread and milk and bananas. I was happy to see some sign he recognized this would be hard as sometimes I feel like I say things are hard and he says I know but nothing changes. This at least laid out some of the trickier bits. Acknowledged that the bigger store might be well beyond me. It was since two days later I consider myself to be recovering from that. It had to be done though.

No doubt someone is wondering how the heck can I say all I do here and not be able to do something “easy”. What’s easy is always in flux. Usually hanging out with my dog and computer are the easiest things of all. I actually had a home supporter worker (I get 100 minutes in theory a week)  asked if I had eaten today which in 18 months of having them this time, no one ever had. Her time was up but she asked and asked if she could make me something. Technically without having bathed me anything I couldn’t make for myself she is not allowed to do. Strange and arbitrary but true. I am also in theory supposed to help her but while that was always emotionally exhausting now that it is also physically so I get a pass on that one. Since my beloved dog is a safety hazard, and must remain in another room at all times merely because he is a dog (imagine if a dog could have autism. Oh the never ending supply of untruths they could rain down on his tiny head) and I am not willing to subject him to the torment of having me out of his sight bathing even when it was needed is not going to happen. I fell a scary amount of times a few months ago because my little safety hazard needs to see me but he is my primary support I almost said person…  He is my constant and devoted companion. In a world that looks at me strangely,  views hospitalizing me when I get sick enough from totally avoidable stressors as somehow more the done thing than say providing more and much cheaper support, my dog is the most useful support I have. Don’t tell my doctor but my nagging abandonment issue is based on Shadow’s furry life span issue not any human being coming or going especially those the government pays. I tell him he could have done better for his human. I secretly do doubt that though as I sometimes also joke if not for the spiritual and logistical issues with being reincarnated as my dog that’s what I would be in my next life.

The problem is like for every human I know of 100 percent for sure this is likely the only life I have. It is because of that sacred. My casemanager was a bit flumoxed when trying to bring visions of eternal damnation into play should I think of killing myself when I said oh technically Jews are a bit vague on the afterlife and there was no such thing as eternal damanation for us. She seized on G-d as if thrown a  lifeline despite her professed lack of belief.  I had to explain well yes of course belief in G-d was fundamental but not this weird one you couldn’t fight with about things. That by definition a Jew struggles with G-d so in theory I didn’t need to submit to some other person’s version as G-d as the struggle is the point. Yes we have a few rules. All of which can be broken to save a life. There is no added exemption clause for a life like mine. I am here so my life is sacred period. No buts.

Without my faith and it’s community I may have killed myself or died from contemptible neglect of society to my needs. Sadly they use the fact my faith community so strongly helped me when it was most needed to actually further excuse any assiseance that I am technically allowed in policies that are enshrined in law.

My life, however hard, is not just as a spiritual matter worth saving but as an ethical one. As is every life. On a purely spiritual level life or the worth of a life is simply not ours to decide.  On an ethical one that works for me too actually. Any slide from a position that all of humankind is equal and equally deserving of the things that sustain life if not one that people subscribe to as part of their spiritual journey, is it too much to hope some of them appreciate the danger they put themselves and others in when they depart from that point?

Returning to autism. The fact that some do become taxpayers is not the reason we say to Voldemort Speaks that no  you may not catastrophize our condition and rob us of our humanity. Please no one ever think I am more deserving of not having my humanity ripped from me than someone lying on a mat in a developing country who never says a word. If you wish to oppose this group please do so but don’t grasp at things that by your having reached for them devalues people.

The Supports We Don’t Expect

416111_3028021694076_399525806_oI live an odd life. Odder now in many ways than decades ago. When I was younger and having problems everyone agreed I lacked informal supports. True enough as a young adult with difficulty making friends who had the ones she did have move away or die or in a few instances say we didn’t have anything in common anymore that was true. During the years when I spent a lot of time dysfunctional in one way or the other the only kind of people you could meet were people who to put it bluntly might not make it. Many of my friends killed themselves. I became afraid to make new ones with good reason.

Then I spent a long time where I was still not exactly a model of functionality but I was free of serious depression. I worked at my job, played in a band and had some hobbies on the computer. I gamed a lot and over time not just gaming but the support of games became part of how I spent my time.  Things were very stable for over a dozen years. Perhaps a bit on the hermity side if you are one of those people who only counts people who you meet in the flesh as friends but the nice constant state was what I needed to do well.

Of course in life change is inevitable. I don’t deal well with positive change truthfully. I found that out a very hard way but negative change is certainly a rough one and so I find myself 18 months into it still teetering along. It feels much like walking a tight rope I guess in that it doesn’t seem like very much could dislodge the narrow grasp I have on leading the life I have.

Still one thing I know about myself is that it isn’t helpful to have huge amounts of time with nothing to fill them so when I got out of hospital I was eager to go to work. This work is one of the supports you don’t expect. Years ago I started to volunteer for a game because it was very like a game I had worked on as a professional when I found out the hard way positive change is hard. I wanted to keep up my skills as I anticipated continued physical decline would mean that I might need to seriously look at working in a field that had begun at a hobby, briefly promised to be very lucrative and then fell apart and was then going to be a hobby again.

I accepted what I think a lot of people might have had a harder time with (the loss of what would have been a substantial monthly income) much better than I accepted losing my place. People wonder why. I think the answer is obvious enough. The chance, however positive to earn big bucks was a big change. It falling apart ultimately meant nothing changed. It seems sad to me when I try to look at it as if I were not myself but that is why I think it took far less time for me to just settle back into my routine and part of that routine when it wasn’t too painful included being pragmatic about how to keep up my skills.

However pragmatic I was being when I applied to work on the first Gameforge game I would work on as a volunteer it was the start of a big support you don’t expect. Since I had a lot of experience I climbed the ranks pretty fast to the highest non-paid position and had the things I was used to in terms of people to supervise and so  on. What I also had was the start of friendships which have grown over the years.

The person I worked for first I still do work for although with might be more accurate even though she is my boss she is very skilled in always making sure he administration team feels it is a collobaration and for the kind of game we currently work on and the community we are it has to be. The person who has the charge of the English speaking community normally  is the head of the game so the admins work stretches a bit more and that has been fine.

I told the person who I have worked with all these years that it is odd that I consider her one of my closest friends despite never having met. That can happen when you work side by side for years on various things I guess. She is just one of many people either on my  current teams or who I have worked with at one point or even some of our players who are a not expected source of support.

At this point I do some paid work on another game and almost immediately after that started my days changed. One might be tempted to question if this was from overwork but that wouldn’t be it. Although in a nightmare of scheduling my first day of work coincided with my first day of Hebrew class. In theory we could have to use French, German or English in or work and then to march off to Hebrew class seemed a bit much. In practice we so seldom get to the bottom of the English work I rarely get to help out anywhere else. It’s also only a theory that we only work in three languages as our players speak every language that can be spoken and can break the rules in any of them. I can recognize an insult against someone’s mother at 30 paces at this point no matter what language you put it in which I suspect isn’t a very transferable skill.

My “real” boss in the sense he is in charge of the project I get paid actual money to work on was claiming pretty fast that he knew I would work well with one of my other big unexpected sources of support which was he hired me which was part of why he did. I gather when your boss makes any claim you should agree but I really wasn’t expecting for the shape of my day to change so completely by this part time job.

I am grateful to have a job I can do right now from my bed. Knee operations take forever to make a full recovery from and this being my third one I knew better than to even think I would be at my desk any time soon. I am more grateful still though to work with people who are genuinely nice and caring.  Just as I am about to go to bed most days I yak with my collegue in Germany so he knows things that came up that might need watching and so on. I always imagined if I was in an office situation I would have to make a special effort not to be too task oriented because I had worked out from tv that people talk about a lot of not work stuff at work. Turns out I can shoot the breeze just fine in text. We do both of course but even on days when we have mainly talked about work somehow I feel better for the contact somehow.

I often also check to see if any of the team I supervise are up and at ’em so I can pass on anything they might need to know or if they have been “slack and idle” as we used to say in cadets remind them about my imaginary whip etc… I suppose a serious downside of supervising people scattered all over the globe is it is a bit harder to get them properly afraid of your whip. Seriously I since many of the volunteers are young adults some of whom hope to be in gaming as a career others with time to kill I like to think I can pass on some useful skills. Lately I have seen some of the people I had as volunteers enter paid positions in our company so I suppose I can take some credit.  I had one team member who had had their interview a week before they interviewed for a job in real life that mine had been so tough the real one had been so easy although they asked a lot of the same stuff he got the job without a problem.  These sorts of things do something that can be hard when mostly you are seen in terms of what you can’t do. They remind you that you do indeed do some things very well. Well enough to teach others how to do it and to supervise them. That can be something you can easily forget when multiple disabilities have you on the sidelines of life a lot of the time.

While we are covering online supports there is of course blogs. I am new to blogs. I was always more of an IRC and an email person and when IRC especially started to lose people to blogs I felt sad but not motivated to blog. It is odd as I always wanted to write when I was young but sharing a very personal story with the world is not easy. Yet there is support here. In the comments mainly but you get to know some people more deeply. The other day my phone rang as someone had been concerned enough to call . A person I have known for well under a year but whom I admire.  Sadly I found out the phone rang after the fact.  I had had my phone off for the Jewish New Year and then for Shabbat and after three days with it off the odds of my finding it and turning it on for Sunday seemed low. I am not a huge phone person but if I had managed to miss it in the comments that people cared I can replay the message.

We spend a lot of time worrying about the lack of formal supports and their limited duration. Fretting that without some we can’t do it and I actually still believe that is probably true for how many things we have going on with us right now but it feels odd in a way because for so many years of my life there was nothing but formal supports. I mentioned all the online supports as I think to many they are less obvious but I have a very global informal support system. I think I get some support from every continent except Antarctica. It may be small and it may sometimes not even look like support but it counts.  Some is huge and when people doubt the validity of those relationships I get cranky.

I think the tendancy to dismiss online supports is they look too much like what an autistic adult might spend “too much” time doing. That is typing away at their computers. Years ago when I had time to play games rather than support them some of my friends were people in those games. I knew as much about their life as I would if they lived next door and we met for coffee often. The slaying of giant “bosses” (for those who don’t game bosses have the most loot and loot is a nice thing) as we got to know each other no doubt made it easier for me to be social and nearly inevitably because with the slaying of bosses comes the dreaded use of some kind of speech needed communication I would have to explain my autism (if it didn’t come up before then) and I don’t recall, unlike real life, a single person ever being a jerk about it.

An offline support that one might leave out of supports we don’t expect has been my congregation. Generally speaking society expects various congregations to help their members with the things that come their way but in my experience how much a group meets that expectation varies a lot. When I came though the door for the first time at my local Jewish Community Centre for services things were still going okay for me. They quickly wouldn’t be and had I never made it through those doors I would have been in a much worse mess.

When my life and my living situation and everything fell totally apart a year and a half ago they took care of every detail. I was just to concentrate on getting well and leave everything to them. Since for the first month I couldn’t get out of bed even if I wanted to I didn’t have a choice but I wasn’t used to it either.

Every previous time in hospital I had been “that patient”. Nurses know the ones. They get no visitors or so few they wind up on the nursing staff radar. You inherit second hand flower boquets and days of tv when other people go home and so on. Last spring my room was so overrun with visitors I more feared that they would get thrown out for being rowdy than the pity I had become pretty used to from the staff. This year the timing was more awkward but I was still well looked after. Food arrives on my doorstep,  people have gotten organized about cooking for me. This year cooking is a special concern because I have lost enough weight for it to be concerning. I had a lot to lose but there is something to sterotypes and you will never convince the friends in my congregation I am not one cracker away from death’s door. It’s been something I have had to adjust to having this level of support in real life. Going to a service or a dinner and knowing when people ask how I am they really do want to know and if they don’t care for the answer they will likely set out to do something about it.

I have played in a band for close to 25 years. It is part of the non-profit, The Friends of Music Society, and as causes go it is a good one. I guess that is why in the seasons when other bands did sniff around for percussionists I stick around. I am also on the board so in a way I expect it now not to be so much support as more work. Still we had our first rehearsal the other night. I am in no shape to be there to be honest. Given I cannot bend my left leg we had known for half a year that there would be no hi-hat at some point but stamina wise it was a bit much for me that first night too.

I don’t know why I don’t expect there to be support there. The support is largely in the familiar people, and the familiar routines.  The other way it is supportive is similar to how when I work I can see the skills I have. The same thing happens at band. With my leg being in a brace people were popping up to arrange things for me and expressing more concern but the rest of the time we were playing and I wasn’t getting a lot of leeway on missed triplets either. I made a pathetic plea for some sympathy as I had opted out of a measure of them thinking I might throw-up if I moved enough to do them but we went back to the beginning of that section all the same. I suspect as long as you have a pulse you won’t get much leeway out of our conductor and that is always how I have liked it. It has made me a better drummer and when we go out and play for the elderly or the public or for group homes it is a positive identification to have versus everything else I might spend some of the week being musician makes a nice break and it wouldn’t be an honest break if it didn’t go with expectations on the part of the conductor.

There are more but I should have been asleep hours ago if I am ever going to reset my sleep schedule. Oh hold on there is one I can’t not mention and that would of course be my dog. He again doesn’t fall in the category of support you don’t expect because you expect a dog to be a support but he is the most spectacular dog in the history of dogs. He had his fifth birthday on Sunday and there really are no words for how much he means to me. When things looked very grim for finding housing that accomadated both of us I did contemplate homelessness.  I am too physically badly off for anyone to let me entertain that notion for more than a half a second. It is however a measure of what he means. I think he goes well beyond what I expected when a month after my previous dog I went to pick up an entirely different dog.  He should have been a female from an entirely different litter and my fate was sealed as soon as I said I better just play with him for a moment or two or I would always wonder. Sorry to that dog that was to be but you should have gotten Shadow to show you some tips in all those weeks you had getting old enough to go to a home.

It’s almost a cliche how much a dog can help I guess and so yes people do expect it but much like congregations I guess there is individual variation. I have never met a dog I didn’t like but Shadow is supportive and important beyond any expectation.

I don’t know what will come. I can make some guesses about some of my issues. Some of the guesses are not good. I don’t know if we will get appropriate support in the appropriate time frame. The odds are against it. Things at time look pretty grim but I do have work I enjoy, colleagues I enjoy, friends both of the online only variety and the in person kind, enough granola bars and ensure to support a couple of city blocks through an earthquake or two, some recreation (not enough according to my sister-in-law) and the best dog in the entire world. So while the darkness and the pain and the fear can be all consuming I have marveled at these other aspects of my life. They don’t erase a lot of what is not going that well but no one can. There’s just so much going on some of which just needs to be dealt with and some of which well I have no idea and those are the things that scare me the most.

Overall the outcome is certainly far from known and that is a source of stress but that’s really the way it always is. It is just most of the time things are set up better to hide this fact from us. For people who were very worried or scared for me I wish I had some great comforting thing to say but I don’t know how things will go. I hoped given we know the formal side of support is going to be a battle and it’s a battle that has historically cost me a lot listing the less formal, sometimes totally unexpected kinds of support would help. Now it is time to help my dog who is currently asleep next to his teddybear on the floor because he gained weight this summer and gave up trying to get back up here into bed and try to sleep myself.

Just a Dog

During the days after finding out about my mother’s death and actually being able to get to my family I had one source of comfort. The same source of comfort and support that can nearly always be found within a few centimetres of me: my dog, Shadow.

Years ago when I was still in university and doing very well with the academic part but having some anxiety during the busy time between classes my doctor wanted to get me an actual Autism Dog. The notion of such a thing was still new to him and he thought it would be enourmously beneficial and given I don’t really react typically to any medication but do love animals it seemed logical to him.

I was still in my phase of if I try hard enough I can be normal though or at least so closely approximate normal – especially at school, that I wasn’t keen. I did desperately want a dog and didn’t live in a place where I could have one for several more years but between wanting to look normal and thinking that for me any dog would likely do whereas for the types of kids (and they were always kids) being featured in stories about them they did indeed need a highly trained dog so it could go to school and so on.

It would be years before I got a dog. I was never entirely pet-less even if my lease said I was. I had gerbils, and a mouse and when I moved somewhere where I could have a dog but hadn’t accumulated the money for a dog, rats. I wanted to be sure when I finally got a dog I could pay for emergency expenses so long after I could afford to either buy or adopt a dog I was still saving.

Eventually I got a dog. A friend in Alberta, I had met on a channel for support for autism (primarily parents on that channel) found one in the paper and I had a sleepover when I went to visit my family and the dog clearly chose me. She was a good dog but we had been lied to about some of her life history it seems and there were numerous health issues. She was however so devoted to me I often worried about the next dog. How would the next dog ever compare?

The impact of that first dog was dramatic and immediate though. Whereas before I was often hospitalized for depressions that the powers that be had deemed untreatable due to my autism, and actually offered a cingulotomy as my only hope (a cingulotomy in case people wonder is in some ways more horrifying than a lobotomy). Post dog I was never hospitalized again for that. (Well until my no good. very bad year)  There may be a few contaminating factors in the data there but the dog played a huge role without a doubt.

When my dog, Tiny was her name, died I knew I could not be without a dog. I was torn between feeling there was an appropriate mourning period where a new puppy might feel like a replacement and the cold, hard knowledge that without a dog my life would head steeply downhill. I could feel it heading that way when in my pain of losing her I had no dog to reach for.

Slightly less than a month after Tiny died I got Shadow. Not wanting to be saddled with an unknown history I unapologetically got a puppy. Countless semi-anonymous people felt they could take me to task on getting a puppy when so many dogs are abandoned but I said that after having gone through some avoidable things with Tiny I wanted any errors made with my new dog to be created by me, and known by me. So if he didn’t get care he should have had, or wound up with severe separation anxiety or whatever those would be problems that had their origin in my care of him and I would then live with them. Sorry any unmet rescue dogs I never considered but this was my health at stake which I had to place at least equal to yours I am afraid, and so a brand, spanking new puppy, with a nice health record of both him and his parents it was. It wasn’t the politically correct thing I suppose but I am seldom in danger of doing that anyway.

Shadow’s name is a source of embarrassment to me. I had had gerbils named after mythical figures and rats named after physicists. A teeny, tiny entirely pathetic runt of a mouse I bought during a moment of extreme crisis (my suicide prevention mouse) I had dubbed Sergei Brun Mussen Von Federovsky in homage both to hockey and a linguistic game my maternal grandfather used to play.

With Tiny I had an excuse. She came with a name and was old enough a change would be hard. I would inevitably on being asked her name follow up with the fact I didn’t name her. I did name Shadow.

Oh how I didn’t want his name to be Shadow. He’s black of course although he would be no less Shadow like in another colour. It’s the 6th most popular dog’s name in our municipality among registered dogs and indeed there were no less than 4 on our block (granted it was a large block but still…) He was simply unquestionably my Shadow from the first moment.

I didn’t go to get him the day I wound up with him. I had my eye on a female in another litter. My father had told me that females always make better pets and that combined with alert and active dogs were probably smarter was about all the information I made my decision with in the end. I had read some stuff on the web but it didn’t differentiate that much from what my father said, so it seemed like a female it would be.

My dear friend, Jim, who has since died drove me with his wife. His wife, Shirley had been against my getting a dog in the first place. Atypically for her quite verbally against it as her reasoning was I could barely look after myself how could I look after a dog. She admitted she had been wrong within a week of my getting Tiny as she happened to drive by me walking Tiny and had never seen me look so happy in the entire time she had known me. A convert to the notion that a dog was necessary she was keen to be a part of the process.

I noticed Shadow immediately. Of the puppies only he was at all alert. It could be the rest were sleepy because they had just eaten or whatever but Shadow watched my every move. As I dutifully studied the dog I had intended to purchase my eyes kept going back to him. I explained my dilemma to Jim and Shirley but they had not been what you call dog people and had no advice beyond thinking it was me who had to live with the decision so I had to make it.

I asked to spend some time with Shadow thinking I could get him out of my system, after finding no one had expressed any intent to buy him. His sister’s had been hotter commodities and although all but one was still there they were all spoken for. (Maybe everyone had fathers who taught them that a female makes a better pet) Not that his sisters were at all tempting. They were as sleepy and as disinterested in me as my intended dog and her litter-mates.

I took Shadow out of eyesight of the other dogs which is ridiculous as the puppy I had come in for couldn’t know the grand betrayal in the making. I held him. I sensed my plan to get him out of my system or to discover something disappointing about him was not going to work. I set him down and he was adorable as he promptly scrambled to try to position himself on my shoe. I thought, it can’t be he actually knows how this works and if I am able to walk away from him he will never see me and I wasn’t vain enough really to think in the grand scheme of things that should matter too much but to Shadow it seemed to.

The inevitable followed of course. It feels odd to me to buy a dog as I don’t look at myself as owning a dog but being in a partnership. (Shadow has written somewhat extensively on this in his own blog – okay he gets some help with the typing and translating from dog but still http://www.dogster.com/dogs/914607) He was paid for since my feelings about ownership don’t enter into the need for a transaction. We went and got some things that would be  uniquely his and not passed down from Tiny and then took him home.

I had never had a puppy of my own to train. We had dogs always growing up but my father looked after that and the last dog that had been more mine than the family dog was one that I had walked after school for her whole life, as her people were in busy professions but came to me fully trained. Even overly trained for the life she wound up having. But Shadow and I both proved pretty trainable.

The first night he was home I slept with him in my hand. He wanted to be with me and was having none of this crate business and even though I had read umpteen books on why crate training is the greatest thing since… well who knows what but I am a single human. There is no greater feeling in the world than a dog snuggled by your side. (Or in Shadow’s case often on top of my bladder but still somehow that works out) I was terrified I would crush him, but clearly couldn’t put him down so I slept in the most awkward position of all time- my hand holding him but stretched what I judged to be a safe distance from my huge self. I woke to find him on my heart as I always roll onto my back at some point and that was his place after that while he was small.

Somewhere along the line the more reluctant members of my family came to accept that I actually needed a dog with me had. Even my father who sometimes had tried to convince someone to convince me to leave my dog behind gave in by the time Shadow came around. He had a cat he loves and the perception of the cat being upset about the dog is a little warped by that love. Their first time together after that cat had drawn quite copious amounts of blood from my then 3 and a half month old puppy it took a feat of extreme will not to explode at all the expressions of sympathy for the cat. Anyway said cat can take care of himself and usually when I visit without the chaos of the rest of the clan, the cat is over it fairly fast. The cat hates me with a passion as I have never been found without a dog with me but we reached a state of detente.

This year in the eyes of some Shadow got promoted. Getting him certified as a service dog had been something my new psychiatrist had been keen on. I could see the practicality of it as we were having some problems finding housing but I had qualms about some of the requirements. Again Shadow has covered those in his own blog so I won’t repeat myself – or rather him.

That he is a support animal is without question. Despite 2012 being the year when my record absence from hospital was broken as I tell him what went on was beyond the ability of any dog to fix. I couldn’t cope in a completely predictable autistic way with the major change of having to leave my home of many years. The degree to which I couldn’t cope was a surprise and the fact I am still not over it also a surprise but given the number of very learned humans who also have not been much help in this time my inability to cope was not his fault.

He isn’t officially certified as anything yet beyond being certified as an emotional support dog on one airline. There has been some feet dragging on my part as a service dog is the more logical designation for my conditions and would grant him more privileges typically (although laws in our province are almost non-existent) but I have some ethical qualms with some of what would be required of him. Ultimately I suspect we will still go that route as I have been told that they do take the disability into account so the area that caused me the most concern was the requirement that a dog not greet someone without permission as it’s useful for me that he does and his friendliness is a fundamental part of him. One doesn’t tamper with the fundamental parts of a being in my ethical system so training him to seek permission from a human who would be slow to realize there was even someone who needed greeting and the attendant lack of social interaction that would go with that seemed unthinkably cruel to him.

Shadow isn’t just friendly. He is comically friendly. When he was a puppy and we were in Calgary for a funeral, a business man in full oil patch attire drove past us, backed up, parked his car and sat down in his very nice suit and simply played with him. He said almost nothing to me beyond enquiring about the breed so I have never been able to come up with a reason why that happened. Something more than the extreme cuteness of my dog surely but I can only wonder. Some days I suppose one just needs a dog urgently enough to break with societal norms in a city full of them. Who knows?  A commuting bicyclist did the same here although that’s slightly more typical for what the rest of Canada calls “la la land”, than Alberta.

When my friend had found Tiny for me she expressed a hope that having a dog  would make me talk to people. Tiny though was content with me as her universe so I was able to walk her at 1 am with no visible harm to her. I knew immediately that Shadow would need to be walked in daylight hours when there were people about and this was no small thing for me. I often find the daytime too bright, we lived in an area near a park so thankfully it was seldom also too noisy but if I am not doing well daytime is overwhelming. Add in the fact that suddenly neighbours I had had for ten years without them noticing me were it seemed, pouring out of their houses to say hi to Shadow it was all a bit hard. Hard but no doubt good for me.

I am pragmatic. I really struggled with those early months of his intense popularity in our area. I had read though that in a natural disaster people who know their neighbours have higher survival rates and better outcomes and as insane as that may seem as a way to rationalize what I went through to have Shadow’s social needs met at the end of every walk when I slumped at my computer to do comforting computer stuff that’s what I told myself as I started at my stockpile of earthquake water.

When I was in hospital my nephew would bring Shadow in. It was actually the nurses there who were among the most vocal that he should be certified as they had just had a dog stay for some time and felt it benefited everyone. I certainly missed him mightily as it was our only separation of longer than 2 days. I worried he would be a piner like Tiny and not eat but he was apparently loving the wild, student lifestyle with my nephew and having the attention of who knows how many university students who had left some beloved dog at home heaped on him but still I know I am number one in his brain.

In these days of intense grief, Shadow has upped his protectiveness to extreme levels. He had his bed beside my desk and would sometimes drag it even further to be warmer or less likely to have paper dropped on him. His bed wound up fully under my desk almost immediately after hearing the still unfathomable news.  I didn’t even see him move it just noticed that when I sat down the sensation of dog head landing on my foot was now part of the process.

He came with me, “home” to see my mother’s cold, cold body. Well he couldn’t go to the actual funeral home but was on her bed waiting for me when I returned. The airline we fly with had just changed their policy about service and support dogs so years of paying for him to fly were going to end. He’s more essential than anything else that travels with me and now they were apparently willing to accept the word of a person qualified to say I had a DSM diagnosis (heck I collect them so that’s no problem) . For their purposes he needed nothing else. The only hitch was they needed it 48 hours in advance. Which was of course impossible. They opted to waive his fare going out as a pet and have him come home as an emotional support dog. That would be the promotion some people refer to.

Only of course he hasn’t been promoted. Nothing at all has changed about my dear Shadow. There is no rank higher than my dog in our shared universe. That society might acknowledge his importance to my health and well-being is great but that’s society. It’s practical to jump through their hoops as on a small pension and the little extra I am able to earn legally because  it’s not easy to shell out for his fare and so on but he’s doing what he has done since he was 8 weeks old.

He’s very good at it. Back before the news while he still regarded me as needing more watching than I had in some time (it has as I say been a very bad 15 months) he was willing to have his eyes off me for a few minutes at a time. We have a very small space now and he must have realized I can’t actually escape without him noticing as his practices have changed a bit.

Right now he is back to the comical levels of surveillance he had when he was a puppy. We had a walk in shower at out last place. So reluctant was he to have me out of his sight back then that he would follow me into the shower despite it only taking a second at that size for him to be soaking wet. He would eventually settle for sticking his head around the curtain and then for lying down and complaining loudly about my being in such a dangerous device but that was slow progress.

We have a bathtub here. It’s a deep one and Shadow is not a fan as if I slide all the way down to soak my aching joints I am not visible at all from where he sits. Up come his paws and head on the ledge of the tub. I know it’s anthropomorphizing him to imagine he looks a little annoyed at having to check but I do imagine that. Today he seemed to feel the need to check so often I eventually felt guilty and climbed from the tub far sooner than my arthritis wanted me to. Still he is right to suspect in my pain and misery I need close watching. Nothing would actually happen in the tub but he can, I know, feel the pain and it’s that pain he is checking on. He must also feel the slight lifting of the pain as his paws and head come into view as annoyed as I imagine he looks it is also a bit comical and does give some relief.

I don’t really understand non-dog people because the love of a dog is like nothing else on earth. I can’t quite wrap my head around not knowing that or at least not taking it on faith enough to try it.

Back when I had Tiny who was so devoted to me people would marvel I would dismiss her devotion a bit as being a product of what I increasingly suspected was a more troubled background than I had been told. I knew she loved me but I thought that love was artificially enhanced in contrast to what she had known before. That I was good to her there is no doubt but still I tended to think I was just a huge improvement so her dedication to me made a sort of sense not due to my own qualities but in contrast to what she had known.

Shadow has changed my mind. When people remark on his attentiveness I tell them that I inspire devotion in dogs. Dogs by nature want to be devoted but mine seem to go that extra mile so people do remark. I have realized it isn’t every human or indeed the majority of humans who thinks of their relationship with their dog as a partnership to the extent I do. I’ve joked if I believed in reincarnation and aside from the practical limitation I would come back as my dog.

When I first got Tiny and would describe myself as Tiny’s human when booking an appointment people would sometimes laugh. The years went on and some municipalities started to adapt language for dog by-laws that was free of the term owner. I had nothing whatsoever to do with that but was simply using language the way I always do. That is I use the words that are true. Owner is not a true word for the type of relationship I have with the dogs I have loved.

While one can buy a dog and due to a dog’s forgiving nature even the most horrible human can possess it’s heart to a degree that makes me want to weep at times, I don’t believe you can own one. If you are lucky you can have one that recognizes that you are the human he or she was meant to have and tried as hard as Shadow did to prove it.

My heart is as fully his as his is mine. Since I am not being blessed with the ignorance of his mortality that he is perhaps more so, as having lost dogs it’s hard not to look at even a young one without looking ahead to that terrible day.

Still in the moment we have each other and much of the time that is all we are certain of. It seems unlikely that I will ever have the kind of relationships with humans I sometimes long for but don’t mistake this love of and by a dog as a poor substitute for that. It’s a deep and loving bond free from the complications and hurts that humans sometimes inflict on one another. I am not qualified to say it is a better relationship but I do know it is not inherently a poorer one.

Like the husband I will likely never have he is not perfect. He’s part Pekingese so he snores like a 400 pound truck-driver sometimes with that squashed in nose of his. There’s that aforementioned tendency to find the most comfortable part of my body to creep up onto in the night to be my bladder and I left out the part (although again he discusses it in his own blog) where he has a war with my reading material.

Right now I can’t really look after myself. I am losing alarming amounts of weight because of that and all sorts of regarded as essential things are not happening. Shadow however is looked after. On my worst days he has to advocate for himself a bit and I feel terrible guilt if his water dish is empty but so central is he to my universe that his care comes above my own and I do think that love has been defined that way by more than one poet or sage throughout time.

I titled this blog Just a Dog because it’s a phrase I hear so often, often preceded by “Don’t be silly,”. I feel sorry for people who can say, “just a dog”. There is no just about it. To not have been loved by a dog enough to know that just and dog don’t go together as it does them dishonour to so diminish their importance is a very sad thing. A sadder thing I think, (although the world again views this differently) than my condition. It probably breaks some fundamental neurotypical societal rule for me to feel sorry for those inclined to buy puzzle ribbons and turn facebook blue and all that meaningless politically correct “see how much I care about autism” nonsense and still say just and dog in the same sentence. So sorry any regular, well-meaning but insight impaired neurotypicals that read this. I mean no offense. This is just my truth about my dog and why he is neither promotable nor diminishable by any adjective.

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