Fan Pier, Boston

Disability Life

It Rained Today

It rained today. I like rain. Most people I know dread an overcast rainy day. I’ve given some thought throughout today as to why I like overcast days. It’s not something I’ve experienced my whole life. When I was younger, I often saw rain interfering with fun activities in my life.

Two reasons came to mind today. The first is a memory. The second is a bit more complex.

Just prior to my accident in 2001 that left me a quadriplegic, I spent six months living and working in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I rented a flat about a mile away from the office. I walked to and from work every day. And every day I found the sidewalks wet. Dry pavement on my way to work was a rarity.

I had two CDs that I would alternate from week to week and listen to on my way to work. After a month, I started judging my pace based on where a song would start and where I was on my walk. I found walking to and from work, and everywhere else, in Belfast extremely pleasurable.

Nowadays, every once in a while I experience a dream that relives that walk. Come morning, I wake with quite a bit of nostalgia. I believe I associate rain and overcast days with my time in Belfast.

For the second reason, I think it has something to do with how much time I spend indoors compared to when I was an able-bodied person. Most of my activities don’t revolve around the outdoors so rain can’t spoil the fun.

When it rains everyone tries to avoid going outside. Perhaps, in an odd way, I feel more included with the rest of the world. Not because I avoid going outside, but because outside doesn’t represent the able-bodied activities of my youth anymore.

When it rains people don’t play outside. They don’t shoot hoops. They don’t kick the soccer ball around. They don’t rollerblade. They don’t bike.


Dogs Are Not People

Every one of my family members, including my wife, approaches their relationships with dogs from a human perspective. They treat these animals as if they are people. They command them as if they are people. And they blame the dog when the message gets lost in translation. Dogs are not people.

When I was 23 I submitted an application for a service dog. I was accepted and after six months of waiting I got a phone call from National Education for Assistance Dog Services (more commonly known as NEADS) letting me know that they had a possible match.

Dexter was his name. He was a golden retriever with the personality that rivaled my own. He had one deficit. He had a habit of hesitating before acting on a command. My mom told the instructor that I did the same thing with my chores my entire life. It was a match made in heaven.

Dexter was obedient. To harness this obedience, I spent a little over a week learning how to command him effectively from his trainer. I started to realize that dogs are not people. The way in which I was taught to interact with him was not human. It was structured. Consistency was my friend and his. Humans are not consistent. We are rarely structured.

I’ve learned that treating a dog as a person introduces chaos. Dogs don’t like chaos. They want a leader and not all dogs are destined to be leaders themselves. Not all humans are capable of leading either. Dogs want a relationship with their human that guides them through life.

Don’t bring chaos into your dog’s life. If you do, I reckon the dog will bring chaos into your life.