Letter to PetSmart about the near deadly Femur Bone


(Read here for the full story if you haven’t read about our scary incident with a gifted bone recently.)

Dear PetSmart,
I have bought many things at your stores over the years, from equipment to COUNTLESS number of fish, gerbils, dog food and treats, etc. Recently, I was pleasantly surprised that you started carrying Natural Balance dog food as this is the dog food that my guide dog eats. I am blind and I depend on my guide dog to live independently and maintain the very active life I do. Therefore, since Natural Balance is the food that works for her, even though it is a little more expensive, I buy it for her because we only give her the best. PetSmart sells Natural Balance a few dollars cheaper than one of it’s competitors so that made me shop at PetSmart even more.

However, I recently almost lost my guide dog due to a PetSmart product and I am absolutely horrified that these products are on your shelf. When I thought that PetSmart only carried the best of the best and therefore was a safe place to shop for my guide, I realized that this isn’t always the case. A good trusted friend went to PetSmart and bought Makiko an $8 or $9 Dentley’s femur bone as a Christmas present. We had delayed Christmas with her family. She ate it on a Thursday night and by 2:15am, she was vomiting profusely. She continued to do this off and on all throughout the night and the following day, which led me to not be able to go to an important meeting and instead when my dog was not wanting to move, puking constantly, and very uncomfortable, I took her to the Vet who had us rush her to an Emergency Hospital, where she had a gastrotomy to remove all of the pieces of bone that had become stuck in her stomach and would perforate her intestines if they continued to try and pass. As a result, my guide had an incision about the length of her belly, wasn’t able to work for weeks due to the incision and medications she was on, and my life and her life have been significantly affected by this. I now know not to give her any femur bones as these are horrible for dogs, according to many articles and pretty much any veterinarian. So, why does PETSMART carry this item still? I just don’t understand. Pet owners trust PetSmart to carry safe items and this item is NOT safe. There are numerous stories online if this same thing and similar incidents happening. PLEASE take this item off your shelf.

Thank you,
Jessica Naert and Makiko (Working Guide Dog)

Speak up!


RP Truths #060 - If your'e standing there waiting for me and I'm not saying anything, I probably don't see you. Speak up.
RP Truths #060 – If your’e standing there waiting for me and I’m not saying anything, I probably don’t see you. Speak up.

This is something that I am probably hyper-aware of. I find it extremely awkward when people walk up to me and think that I know they are there, but really don’t.. so I try and watch out for them. But because I can’t see very well anymore, the way I imagine this looks is a long squinty stare as people approach me until I figure out who they are… and then if it’s who I am expecting, usually a loud “HEY!!!!” with a hug follows; however, if they aren’t who I was thinking they were, a casual smile and off into my phone I go.

Part of me has just felt like I should stop trying so hard. People know I’m blind, or at least low vision, so they need to step up their game and learn, right? That’s at least what part of my thinks but the other part of me knows that the majority of people I interact with on a daily basis have NO idea the extent of my vision loss, nor would they know how to react to it if they did. Maybe I should compromise and also use it as an educational moment? I’m still trying to figure out how I want to approach this.

Bottom line is: I don’t have peripheral vision people. None. I won’t see you unless you are directly in front of me. And if there is a lot of light behind you, I won’t be able to see you at all, or if you’re in a dark area, I won’t be able to see you at all. So just come say hey, prevent the awkwardness, and make it easier on all of us.

A Social Experiment (with Video)


Watch this video before you go further please.

Video description: A prankster named Johal puts on dark sunglasses and uses a mobility cane (not a cane for people with visual impairments) and confronts 4 people with a lottery ticket that has some sort of label saying “WINNER” on it. The first person he came across was while he was standing up against a wall. Someone, appearing middle to high class, walked past and Johal asked if it was a winner, stated that his Mom gave it to him and he was told it was a winner but just wanted to confirm it. He stated he was waiting for his mom to pick him up. The stranger looks at the ticket, and then immediately looks all around checking out his surroundings, and then just walks off. The second person he encounters is while walking and he passes another higher class individual, goes through the same routine. The other individual then states that it isn’t a winner and says that he’ll take care of throwing away the ticket, and then Johal states that he wants to take it back.. they go back and forth. Finally, he takes off his sunglasses and tells the man that he isn’t really blind. The man then drops it on the ground, yells “BULL****” and walks off very upset. Johal then asked two homeless people, the first a guy and then the second a woman. Both told him it was a big winner and Johal rewarded them with $10 for food for their honesty. The guy said he hadn’t ate anything since the day prior.

First, it was a little strange that he was using a mobility cane. And even though it wasn’t the right kind of cane, he could have at least done a little research into how to use a cane.. a little odd but regardless, it worked, people believed that he was blind.

Second, I could yet I couldn’t believe that. As a person with a visual impairment, that is something that we worry about from time to time, that we are going to get taken advantage of. There is a certain amount of trust that we have to have in some people in our community that we don’t really know. As I continue to lose more vision, I can see this becoming more of a concern for me. I still couldn’t believe how blatantly dishonest these people were, and GREEDY! Karma definitely would have come back to bite them. On the other hand, I can believe this.. I have been treated pretty bad due to my disability and there are a lot of crooked people out there. Just seeing this video was a little alarming though.

What are your thoughts?

Sunglasses


RP TRUTHS 070: I don't wear these sunglasses to make a fashion statement.

If you read my last blog, you know that I find a lot of these “RP Truths” to be very relevant and I can relate to them a lot. This RP Truth is particularly relevant to something I was thinking about and noticed today.

You will almost always catch me with sunglasses on my head. This is for many reasons. 1) I never know what kind of light situation I’m going to be in and these can sometimes prevent a lot of headaches caused by lights. 2) I have a pair of prescription sunglasses that can help me see certain things in very certain situations. 3) I don’t like having hair in my face and I’m very self-conscious about my hair so when I wear these, it makes me relax a little bit.. and 4) I feel a little more ‘legit” with them.

Now.. let me explain.

I am becoming increasingly more sensitive to different light situations. If it is fluorescent lighting or really bright, my eyes will easily become much more fatigued and I will often get a headache. If it is do dark, I will not be able to see anything at all. So, how I fix this is I have the normal lighting and then if it starts to bother me, I usually will put on my sunglasses (yes even indoors) and go about my day. However, most of the time this is just when I am by myself in my apartment, office, etc.

My nice pair of sunglasses is prescription so if I need to try and see something with a bit more clarity, I can put these on for a moment. However, wearing them for too long also makes my eyes fatigue and I don’t get that much benefit from prescriptions anymore, unfortunately.

My hair has always been something I have been self conscious about. Nobody really taught me how to do my hair and for most of my life, I really didn’t care. But now I’m getting to the point where I do care, and it’s frustrating that I don’t really have a lot of strengths in this area. I’m continuing to learn though and have been to a really good hair stylist who taught me a few things. But since I’ve gone most of my life without doing these things, it’s an adjustment building time into my schedule and routine to take the time to do these things. However, when I wear my sunglasses on top of my head and it pulls my hair back, it looks a lot better to me and helps me to feel more relaxed and “put together.”

Finally, I still struggle with the fact that I don’t “look” blind and that I have so much trouble because of this stereotype of what blind should look like. I’ve written a few things about this (including something for The Mighty) and plan to do another blog this month about it, but because I can make eye contact with one another, use my phone regularly, etc., people do not assume that I am really blind, even though I ALWAYS have my guide dog with me. So, sometimes it makes me feel a little more “legit” or makes me wonder if people will give me a little less hassle and a little more help if they see the sunglasses on the top of my head.

I almost never wear sunglasses on my eyes when out in public, they are almost always on my head. Sometimes I want to when the light is bad, but I just don’t.. it doesn’t feel right for some reason wearing sunglasses all of the time. However, I do know that a lot of people who are blind do wear sunglasses whenever they go out for various reasons, including deformities or visible differences in their eyes, extreme light sensitivity, etc. This has been something that I have started looking into recently- why do so many people who are blind wear sunglasses all of the time? As a blind person myself, there isn’t a rule book that comes to you that tells you how to do things or why other people with visual impairments do things one way. Part of me thinks that a lot of these people with visual impairments who wear sunglasses most of the time also do it so they don’t get so many questions. And I get that.

Today I was extremely tired. I was in pain, had taken medication, had a drink, and went to eat and then to the grocery store. My eyes were extremely light sensitive today and I just didn’t feel like dealing with all of the questions or stares. So on thew ay into the grocery store, I did put on my sunglasses. It felt a little awkward at first, but then it became pretty natural and peaceful. Within minutes of walking in the store (my boyfriend was a little behind getting a cart), several employees came up to me asking if I needed help. NEVER ONCE have they come up to me asking if I needed help when I didn’t wear sunglasses. People were a lot more willing to get out of our way, they didn’t jump in between Steven and I, they didn’t shove, etc. It was a completely different experience – just because I was wearing sunglasses and therefore they couldn’t see my eyes, and I fit more closely their perception of what “blind people look like.” This was so fascinating to me.

So back to the RP Truth, I don’t wear sunglasses (on my head or on my eyes) as a fashion statement. My sunglasses are actually very helpful.

DD – Degenerative Depression


In October 2012, I was declared legally blind. Since then, I’ve had about two “periods” where I notice my vision is getting worse. Now, it’s hard to really tell when my vision got worse. My vision could be getting worse as I notice it, or it could have gotten worse previously and I could just be noticing now that I can’t see like I did before. That’s the tricky thing about RP. Also, the way RP and the brain works is the brain fills in the “missing pieces.”

This was once explained to me in the early stages of me losing my vision by a good friend, Misty, who also had RP. She explained it when talking about driving. We could be driving along and where we don’t see, our brain fills in with something, but of course not what is actually there… so where our brain thinks is just an empty road, could really be a kid walking across the street. We don’t see this kid walking across the street because of our vision loss and we hit them and seriously hurt them, or worse. This was one of stories and reasons as to why I voluntarily surrendered my license after I lost a good chunk of vision. I could never live with the fact of hurting or killing a child.

But anyway, back to the original point, the brain fills in the missing pieces for us and so sometimes it’s hard to tell if/when you’re losing vision. However, my vision has degenerated to the point where I can’t read conventional print anymore, can’t use some electronics with small print, can’t distinguish a lot of faces anymore unless I really know the person, etc. I’m becoming REALLY blind, and I was already pretty blind.

It’s hard to explain the “levels of blindness” to someone, especially if you already identify as blind but then you get REALLY blind. Over the past many months, I have experienced significant struggles. When I started this job a year ago, I could read case file labels, the scanner/copier, the phone Caller ID, etc. I can no longer do that. These “simple” tasks are making my job a LOT harder because I am not able to do them. So, I reached out to my previous Vocational Rehabilitation counselor who wasn’t able/willing to really help me at the time. So then I just let it be.

However then I really started to continue to struggle with simple tasks. I was still able to do my overall job because I found ways to accommodate and get the job done.. so nobody really noticed. But I knew things could be easier and I knew things had to change. My boss is also super amazing and I felt she deserved to know that I was losing vision. She also has a good friend who has RP and is totally blind due to it, so I knew she would understand. My boss reached out to a manager in the Division for Blind Services (the other division of the agency I work for) and asked for guidance. We are now starting to talk and figure out ways that could accommodate me, but part of that is opening a new case and receiving vocational rehabilitation services myself. Part of me is pretty excited about that – I can receive independent living training to help learn how to cook, etc with my current level of vision. I can still cook but things are getting harder like – telling when a chicken is fully cooked. Because they do this job daily and a lot of the counselors are blind themselves, they can also teach me tricks on how to do this job without much vision and they can help me prepare for work and life as my vision degenerates.

But part of me is really not ready for this. Dealing with all of this with my boss and other blindness professionals made it all the more real for me, that I really am losing my vision. I had essentially gone through the grieving process before and I had reached a level of peace with my vision loss. I am not at peace yet with my level of vision loss now. It really is like going through the grieving process all over again. The night after I had this talk with a VR Counselor for people with visual impairments, I was a complete wreck. I honestly can’t think of a time where I was more emotion and unstable than that night, other than when my Dad passed away. I tried to reach Steven, he wasn’t available. I tried to reach my best friend, she didn’t respond. I tried to reach my guy best friend, he was too tired and going to sleep and I didn’t want to bother him. I tried to reach my good coworker friend, she didn’t respond. I know none of them were trying to ignore me, etc., but I seriously felt the most alone I have probably ever felt. I laid down on my floor and cried and cried and cried for literally hours. I also started to have a really bad shoulder/back pain during that day and that pain was getting excruciating too, which led me to more tears. I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get myself together that night. I was very very low. I tried taking a bath for the first time in my new apartment and figured out the drain didn’t hold water in.. it was just a nightmare altogether. Makiko was super comforting though and kept coming to lay on me and keep me company. She had no idea what was going on.

I’m strong, and I can do this. But that doesn’t mean I’m not having my days of being depressed and stressed as I figure out this new stage of my vision loss. I’m ready to rock it, but still coping with it too.

ADA Violation (aka ONE OF THE SCARIEST EXPERIENCES EVER) – Uber


I was debating whether to share this story later this week or tonight, but I think I just have to get this off my chest. I had a very scary experience in an Uber vehicle today. 

Now, please realize I have taken the appropriate steps before posting this. I contacted Uber and filed a complaint with the DOJ.

I requested an Uber ride from my place of employment to a place of business- my veterinary center. First of all, the driver took an extended period of time to arrive. I texted the driver using the Uber app to inform him that I was visually impaired and had a service dog. I do this for several reasons. 1) To let them know I have limited vision and to alert me when they pull up. Even if I think it’s the right car, I won’t get in until they have made contact of some sort, because I HAVE gotten In the wrong car before. It was embarrassing more than anything but can also be a safety thing. 2) I like to give them a little warning that I have a service dog so they aren’t completely freaked out. Now some handlers say this is leaving me open to more trouble and discrimination but I have actually had a lot of luck with this method.

So, when I texted and didn’t hear back, I also called multiple times, with no response. I later texted to see if he was having trouble finding me, with no response. I eventually reached him via phone, and he told me he was “here,” but when going outside I learned that he really wasn’t. I helped him find me. We get in the car, and he says “hi,” and that was about it. Soon after we pull off, he starts getting very irate and raised his voice/started yelling about how he doesn’t allow pets in his vehicle. I calmly explained that my guide, who was marked, was a guide dog as I was visually impaired. He said “are you really blind?” to which I explained that I am legally blind but can see a little. He then started telling me that I was going to have to pay for his car to be cleaned. He started talking about how fleas are hard to get out of a car, but my dog doesn’t have fleas, nor was she itching. She was just sitting quietly on the floor of the backseat. My guide did not do any damage whatsoever. She didn’t even touch a seat. He said he didn’t care, there were NO dogs were allowed in his car. I explained state and federal law (Americans with disabilities act) and he said he didn’t care, he would never transport us again or any service dog. I was nice but firm. Later he said he was allergic but it sounded like he was just making it up. He kept harassing me and I told him I would report it to Uber and the DOJ and he said that it was his right to not allow me in the future and say that he never is allowing service animals. I am so frustrated because while doing this he took a very long route, got lost multiple times, etc and then questioned my disability and why I need a service dog, which is also illegal. I felt very threatened and scared and discriminated against. At one point the driver did say he was disabled himself, and he had a red handicap placard hanging on his mirror.

We got to the vet safe and sound. While Makiko was in the back getting her staples out, I wrote feedback to Uber. I them requested another Uber and had one of my favorite drivers, Andrea, come. I told her what happened and she was in just as much disbelief as me. She said Makiko hasn’t done as much as left a HAIR in her car. While I am glad she hasn’t found any tracing of Makiko, she is shedding pretty bad right now so I’m sure there were some hairs. 🙂

When I got home, I was still pretty shaken up so we relaxed for a bit and then Uber called. Due to their privacy policy, they can’t tell me what happens with the driver but did tell me that most times the driver gets suspended while the investigation is pending and if they are found to really be in violation, they are removed from the app. One of my friends coincidentally had this driver last week and he was pretty nutty with her too. 

I’ll try and upload the map later of our route You can see the pretty little circle he went in. Trying to figure out how much I want to pursue this from here. I’m getting tired of this mess. 

Dating Disabled


Dating as a person with a disability can be quite tough. There are many dating sites out there for people with disabilities to help them date. Unfortunately, there are also some sites out there that are just gross too and prey on people with disabilities. Some people are big fans of using dating sites as a person with a disability. I have had several friends (with or without disabilities) that have had a huge success with them. However, I just don’t think they are for me. I am too paranoid (Thanks Mom and Dad :)) to use a dating site because really, I don’t know who is at the other end. I also am visually impaired and feel as such, I could be in danger’s way even more. I have a good friend though who is completely blind and uses dating sites and just meets up in a public place and often times for the initial meeting, she has a sighted friend with her. Thought that was pretty cool. Have you ever googled “Disabled dating?” If you do, you will see all the different sites for this population. But again, this isn’t for me.

And luckily, I haven’t ever felt the need to use one. Most everybody who knows me knows I have been dating the same guy S for many years. We started dating in high school, dated awhile, then broke up when I was moving away and it just wasn’t a good time for us to date, then we got back together and dated for about 4 more years, and then broke up for 6 months, and are now back together again. He is a sweetie and actually what inspired me to write this particular post. However, in those times that S and I were broken up, I did meet a few other people.. and I was amazed at how nobody really cared that I was visually impaired. They graciously picked me up and we went out. No biggie.

S has always been so gracious too. We knew OF each other when I was in 8th grade and he was in 7th, which was when I was diagnosed with my disease. However, we didn’t really get to know each other until high school. He is the only close friend in my life now though that I can say has known me since I was diagnosed. In 8th grade, I really didn’t care at all about this diagnosis. I just knew I would pass out a lot when I went from dark to light or light to dark situations – it was my body panicking because my eyes weren’t functioning properly. But other than that I really didn’t care. I started to really care, I would guess, during 11th grade or so. S knew me through all of this, which is pretty neat and special to me.

S has never once complained about the additional responsibilities he has due to dating me, someone with a disability. He always picks me up, without any complaints, and is just so gracious about it all. After doing this for over 5 years and him seeing me go through a lot of transitions with my sight, I finally asked him the other day, “Do you care that you’re dating someone who is blind?” I had asked him this awhile back and he said no but we really didn’t get into it. This time we did. He said he didn’t care at all, the only thing was that me not being able to drive was sometimes an inconvenience. Now, you may be thinking “why would he say that?” And at first, it was a bit of a shock to me too. But really when you think about it, not having your partner be able to drive IS an inconvenience, whether it is due to a disability or not. He went on to say how it would be cool for me to sometimes come pick him up in a “bada** car, because I KNOW you would have a bada**” car. (I like fancy cars.) And I agree with him.. I share in that sentiment. It would be cool for me too to just drive to his house sometime and surprise him. But I can’t. And that’s okay with me, and luckily that’s okay with him too. But it’s just a bit inconvenient. 🙂

I appreciated his honesty. I wanted to know how he really felt about dating someone with a visual impairment, and he was so honest. We do get looks all the time.. especially now that I have a guide dog. People talk to him, rather than talking to me (which is funny because if you know me, you know I usually make the decisions and talk the most – so he just always goes “ask her” anyway). I don’t notice a lot of things, S has to point them out to me. I occasionally knock things over, spill things, etc. I get really close to some menus, he has to read things out to me.. There are just a lot of obvious differences. But what one of my best friends (again who is blind) told me many years ago which has really helped is that you find ways that you can help your partner or make up for what they do for you. S and I have gotten this figured out and it really does help on both ends. I can help him with some things on a routine basis that he isn’t strong at and he can help me. It works.

Dating can be tricky and emotional, with or without a disability. I am very blessed that I have had many good experiences with dating and have found a wonderful partner in crime. I love him and Makiko loves him… it is perfection. However, I do recognize that dating can be tough for people with disabilities.. and sometimes it is tough on me because I do feel bad that he has to always drive or do this and that.. but again, it really helps that I am so independent and there are many things that I can help him with. We’re a team. 🙂