Note: I wrote about this article about my NDIS application towards the end of 2021 while Silkie was in foster care and I worried the pandemic might delay her arrival. It’s been a hot minute. Further installments coming soon.
2021 has been yet another year of incredible stress when, at times, I thought I was going to break beyond repair. At other times my partner and I rejoiced, dancing with glee. It’s been quite the roller coaster. And now I’m counting down the days until my NDIS-funded seeing eye dog, Silkie, arrives on 25 January*. (I previously said 24 January but Vision Australia shifted the date yesterday.)
* Silkie actually arrived much earlier because everyone worried about the pandemic causing problems but we’ll get to that in a later installment.
Those who follow me on social media know bullies online mobbed me because good free publicity is never good enough. And in the real world my strata manager and the owners corporation executive committee bully me too; it seems they want me to move house. It’s been horrendous.
However, hubby and I are taking it one issue at a time. Some fights are best left and other fights are worth fighting. This home is in pretty much the ideal location for me. We couldn’t afford anything better, so this is one fight we’re determined, like Sheridan on Babylon 5, to finish. And we’re slowly gaining ground. Our goal at the end is for them to leave us the fuck alone and not mess with us in future. We don’t need them to like us, we need peace. Slowly we’re getting there.
Our energies divided between work, bullies and everything else is why I let Dark Matter Zine slide a bit this year. But next year will be better and DMZ will arise from the ashes of our conflict to fly again. Or some such metaphor.
Also I selected the CripLit Keys winners for 2021 early in the year but, paralyzed by trauma, didn’t create the actual awards. So 2022 will, hopefully, see some catchup. I really want to follow through.
Meanwhile, I must tell you about our new furbabies. They bring so much joy and our impending new arrival has me so excited that I completely lost track of Christmas looming e’er nigh until hubby said Christmas is Saturday after next. WTF? I was counting down to Silkie’s arrival, not to Christmas!
I have RSI from using a mobility cane to avoid accidents so now I have accidents to avoid using my mobility cane. The RSI has improved substantially: a couple of years ago I struggled to lift a cup to drink when using both hands. Now I’m pretty close to normal as long as I don’t use my cane. It’s the “whipping motion” – or that’s how my physio described it – that caused the RSI. That side to side motion of the cane caused the injury. That and walking for 10km at a time while using the cane. Hell, when I was living in Melbourne, I even went jogging while doing Zombies, Run! 5k, while using my cane. Sensible? Perhaps not. Ah well, the follies of youth. (You’re as young as you feel )
Between the RSI, wanting to return to conferences and festivals interstate alone and in unfamiliar areas, I need a seeing eye dog.
So in late 2020 I contacted Vision Australia to talk puppehs. They put me in their “machine”, their process to get an assessment for a seeing eye dog. At the same time they suggested I apply for the NDIS.
The NDIS is the National Disability Insurance Scheme (not really insurance) for people in Australia. I’d never applied before because this was a relatively recent development and I’d previously been somewhat skeptical about its usefulness to me.
But with a seeing eye dog as a possible outcome, there was no holding me back. I applied.
I had to get reports from my GP, optometrist, ophthalmologist and physiotherapist. That was easy. My physio was particularly supportive because RSI.
Then I submitted the forms.
Then it got tricky
This NDIS system is a bit weird and complex with layers and money going to private enterprise instead of being run by the public service as it once would have been.
So, the NDIA (National Disability Insurance … Association? Or something) allocated my case to a private company that does assessments and – amazingly and with absolutely no conflict of interest (sarcasm font) – provides services.
“You need a carer”
My first phone call with this agency ended with me in tears because this woman said she would provide a personal carer and absolutely refused to listen to me. At the end she said she could tell I was upset.
Me: No! Really?! I’m just sobbing my heart out here and feeling threatened.
So she said she’d leave it for now and phone back later to organize my personal carer.
Shit got real
Hubby made phone calls.
(Backstory: people don’t usually mess with hubby. When they do, they rarely do it twice. He’s ASSERTIVE. And, as an executive level ICT consultant, he has the personality and authority that goes with that position and career path. The first few times I heard the boy I married talking like that, I was stunned. Who is this man I married?!)
We learnt that the NDIA would not allocate my case to a different company. It sounds like companies get an area allocated to their franchise, a bit like Jim’s Mowing. Although I could be wrong.
Anyway they refused to re-allocated me to a different company but they organized a senior person to contact me. And hubby was there for all phone calls. We worked with the new guy and he worked with us.
In October I submitted my application for the NDIS that included funding a seeing eye dog assessment by Vision Australia.
A couple of weeks later at most, the NDIA phoned, we discussed my case and my history, including a lifetime of being disabled and what school was like as a kid. Mum receiving the handicapped child’s allowance for me probably didn’t hurt either.
In under a month my NDIS application was approved.
Bloody pandemic slows everything down
I had the impression that, even though my NDIS application was approved by very early November, Vision Australia probably would have conducted my seeing eye dog assessment quite quickly but PANDEMIC.
Staff were coming from MELBOURNE to Canberra so they had to wait for borders to be open then make a wild dash here to catch up on Canberra people before borders closed again. (It’s been like that in Australia for at least a year and a half.)
So they came in February. Meanwhile, we acquired KITTIES.
Hubby is a cat person. I’m both a cat person and a dog person. What can I say? It’s rare for dogs to take a dislike to me. Instead they usually seem to want pats. Even if they’re complete strangers and waiting at a café for their human to get their caffeine fix.
After Smokey died at the end of 2018 we mourned for a while. (Who am I kidding? We both still miss her.) Then we started talking about getting another cat. Note the singular. A. Cat.
Do you have any idea how much in demand cats are during the pandemic? Any rescue that didn’t need injections for health reasons raced out the door as soon as they were available. Seriously, I felt like we’d need to be in the car before the shelter said they were there!
Oh, and I needed a cat that was going to be ok with living with a dog. Because seeing eye dog. So that’s a problem.
I talked to staff at a few rescue places but no one was particularly interested in helping.
Then Canberra Pet Rescue said “well, we have (cough) a couple of kittens BUT THEY NEED TO GO TO THE SAME HOME”. Major emphasis on MUST STAY TOGETHER. They didn’t guarantee perfect health but did guarantee no need for me to give injections. So I didn’t have to worry about potentially injecting MYSELF instead of the cat.
I considered it. Two cats. I wasn’t sure but I asked about their history with dogs.
The then-current foster home sent photos of two gorgeous ginger scraps of fur, one standing fearlessly on a great dane’s foot. I think I was sold right then.
Hubby didn’t want TWO cats and a dog but when he saw the photos he was like “we’ll go and meet them”. Which meant he was really at least half way there already.
Aurora and Meteor
Their names were Aurora and Meteor, named by a sponsor. I pretty much felt that, with Dark Matter Zine, they were meant to be. Aurora was nearly 2kg and Meteor was just over 2kg when we met them. They’d been rescued sick and, although they’d recovered, Canberra Pet Rescue made it clear they were still concerned about their weight.
These teeny scraps were in a small room with their litter tray (phew, even with an air filter it stank) and a couch they hid under.
Apparently they were pretty scared of people but the foster carer bribed them with treats to emerge. Aurora was still too scared to be petted.
We said we’d take them but had to get approval from Amanda, who runs the rescue organization. Also we raced to buy food, a carrier and all the other necessities.
When we stood to leave, I pulled my backpack onto my back. Then I SCREAMED. Meteor jumped up to attack the backpack strap that is supposed to go around my waist, which was swinging loose. In his excitement, he was now hanging from my jeans with his claws digging into the soft fleshy part of my leg just below my cheek (buttock). OW!
I was horrified that I scared Meteor. And I worried that the foster carer wouldn’t approve us after me screaming. She was worried that we wouldn’t want them. Apparently rehoming TWO kittens was really tricky, especially as it doubled the fee to the shelter.
That evening we returned to pick them up and bring them home.
Poor scared kitties
They were terrified of us and their new home. We set them up so their cat tray, food and everything was clustered together pretty closely in the middle of the living room between the couch and the dining table. We figured after their tiny room that would be best.
Amazingly the pair have never had an accident here, not even when I’ve moved their tray (twice). After a number of days I moved it into the downstairs toilet then, just before the Seeing Eye Dog assessors visited, I moved it upstairs so the assessors could use the downstairs toilet without having to edge around the tray.
Have I made a mistake?
Sunday night, the day Aurora and Meteor arrived, was pretty quiet really. We tried to make friends and didn’t feel we were getting anywhere much. We’ve never had so much difficulty bonding with cats!
Then, for the next FOUR DAYS, Aurora seemed absolutely hyperactive. She was bouncing around the place, wreaking havoc with EVERYTHING. And just staying in the living room. They didn’t venture up the stairs for at least a week or two.
Meteor tried to sleep and Aurora would wake him up. She’d micro nap, like for a minute or two LITERALLY, then be up, hassling Meteor, making a mess, getting into stuff…
After four days of this I was seriously wondering if I’d made a mistake. This was more exhausting than having children!
But on the fifth day, Friday, and then again on Saturday, the two kittens slept nearly all day.
I realized the apparent hyperactivity was a stress reaction to the move, a reaction from which they needed to recover.
We started to build a relationship with the kitties but it felt slow, a struggle we weren’t prepared for. In hindsight I realize that having to earn their trust meant breakthroughs felt more significant.
The kitties always loved shoelaces, especially if they were attached to shoes. Even so, the day Seeing Eye Dogs assessors visited, it seemed unfair that the kitties were drawn to them and attacked their shoes. We’d had to earn that degree of trust but we didn’t smell of dog, which may have helped.
This is an incredibly long blog post so I’ll talk about the seeing eye dog assessment in my next post and, hopefully, also cover my SECOND NDIS application that paid for Silkie’s raising and training.