Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Long Cali Update

It's time for a more detailed update on what Cali and I are actually doing these days. There is so much to say that it's hard to figure out where to start, so I'll just begin by talking about the visit Cali and I had with Claudia's little Egyptian Arab mare, Exie.

Beth, who boards Exie for Claudia, was gracious enough to spend the entire evening with us. Cali got to meet Beth's horses. It was starting to rain when we arrived, so Beth had stalled all the horses. Cali was free to greet each of the big horses without my interference and angst about whether or not she'd be kicked by an annoyed horse.

She decided to check each horse out and went to them, touched noses, squealed, and struck at the half-doors with her front hooves. I'd never heard her squeal like that and was duly surprised. Everyone laughed because it was obvious she was telling the bigger horses that she was the boss mare. It was interesting because she elicited a lot of attention from the others. The brood mare, Kelsea, sniffed at her and nickered the way a mare will when she's talking to a foal. The yearling and two-year-old geldings both just wanted to see what was what, I think. Noah, the two-year-old, was particularly intrigued with Cali, though that might simply have been because she was fascinated with him. She kept running back and forth on the carpeted barn floor, slipping a bit, but still running. The doors were closed, and she had the run of the barn. There was even timothy hay out, which she nibbled at every so often, but what engaged her most was the horses, especially Noah. She'd trot off away from him, come to me, get clicked and treated, then trot back to Noah, whereupon, she'd squeal at him, then make noises she doesn't usually make, and finally, leave Noah to return to me.

Later, she met Exie, a wonderful little Arab mare, a mare with such a spirit. Cali and Exie DID NOT like each other at all. Cali tolerated Exie and didn't approach her too closely. Exie pinned her ears and tried to go after Cali. Of course, she was held back, but it was interesting to see the dynamics between the horses. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous because even though Exie is a small horse, she's not a mini, and I couldn't help wondering what might happen. Not that I worry or anything!

When the rain let up a bit, we took Cali out to a fenced-in dog run. There, Cali galloped like a racehorse, something I've never had the pleasure of witnessing at home, as she just doesn't have enough room. Oh, the sound of her little feet running, and her squeals and snorts of happiness as she ran around just made my week! I wish someone had had a working camera! More, I wish I could have seen her running, happy, doing what a horse should always be able to do. Oh, I wish I could give her that freedom every day.

Before we'd gone to Beth's to see Exie, we had stopped at a tack store, just because, and I had a blast looking at everything. Of course, there were things to buy for Cali, things she actually needed but were fun to buy anyway. When we were looking at all the grooming supplies, Cali kept picking up brushes and giving them to me. I laughed but wasn't surprised because she does this at home when I'm grooming her. Even if I set a brush down on the floor because my hands are full, she will show the brush to me and pick it up. It was cute to see her picking up the brushes. Otherwise, she did an awesome job guiding in the store. She's always very sure of where she should lead me, and if she's following someone, she is quite serious about it. I love having her guide because it's so obvious that she enjoys it.

On our way home after our eventful day, Cali was so worn out that when I touched her nose, her little lips didn't even move as they normally do, checking just in case I'm passing her a treat. In fact, she was so exhausted that several times, she nearly fell over when the car turned! It took us both a few days to recover from that adventure.

Work, Work, and well, more WORK!

At work, Cali has been doing a terrific job. She knows our routine there, knows when it's time for a potty break, and anticipates many things, such as when I'm going to stop and chitchat with another coworker. She stands quietly and doesn't interact much with my coworkers, except for Adria. She likes Adria because Adria works with us all day and Cali knows that when I ask her to find Adria, she'll get a treat. Also, Adria sometimes takes us to the bank, and while Cali isn't thrilled about the car ride, she is always game, following Adria in the store and the bank. But otherwise, Cali doesn't do much interacting with everyone else.

Sometimes, not surprisingly, Cali gets bored and fidgety at work. She wants to DO something! And so, we go for a walk at lunch. It's the work that Cali loves; she'll show me everything around us, and I get a clearer picture of what is around the office building where I work. She loves to climb the steps of the bank next door. It's closed now, so no one really cares that my horse and I go up the steps, down the ramp, and back again so often. I like doing this because it gives Cali some practice on steps. These aren't even steps, so I have to work at getting her to step up each one. Up is easy; down, not so much. When we're going down, I have to help her stop at each one because she'd prefer to run down the last two. The last step is very shallow, so she sometimes tries to skip it altogether, but with practice, she's learning to stop at each one. How smart and trusting of me she is!

To Pee, or Not to Pee

Now, pottying at work is another challenge altogether. I've been having issues with that. Well actually it's Cali with the potty issues, and I probably compound them.

Cali and I have a great routine at home. I can get her to potty whenever I ask. She'll pee and poop within a few minutes. That's perfect because it means that in the morning, she goes just before nine and doesn't need to pee or poop until one thirty at the earliest. Perfect, because that's during my break. If she doesn't go at half past one, I give her another chance an hour later. By then, she usually really does produce.

So, we had this perfect system going. It was just fabulous, and I was feeling like I knew what I was doing. Then, along came the well-meaning farrier. Instead of keeping Cali's feet sharp, he trimmed them so that the edges were rounded. And this is where I should have stepped in. But I didn't because I didn't touch her feet until after he'd left, and even then, I didn't realize what would happen.

The next day, Cali went to pee, stretching out like she usually does, and then, she just stopped trying. Her tail would go up, and I would think, "Now she'll go," but she didn't. Cali would give me the signal that she needed to go. Her tail would swish vigorously, and out we'd go, but she wouldn't pee. As soon as we entered the building, she'd stretch and try to pee. I had no idea what was going on. My horse had suddenly changed on me. She was being a brat! Why couldn't she just do what she was supposed to?

By the end of that frustrating day, I was so upset that I just didn't know what to do. I went home and thought about it for a while, but nothing came to mind. I was unable to figure out why my horse suddenly wouldn't pee outside. She pooped at work but wouldn't pee. Why?

At home, Cali behaved normally. She peed and pooped when I asked and got her reward, so I was even more mystified. What had changed?

And then, the next day, she again gave me the signal that she needed out; again, I took her out, and again, she stretched, her tail went up, and nothing! Inside we'd go, and she'd pee in her bag. Thank God, I had the foresight to put it on her when I saw she wasn't peeing outside! Otherwise, well, I'd be doing a whole lot of scrubbing!

Finally, that day, it dawned on me what was happening. Cali was stretching, and I could hear her hooves spreading a bit as she did so. Then I'd hear that same sound, only just a bit sharper, and Cali would get out of potty position. What was happening was simple: She was slipping on the concrete where she stands to pee. The farrier had trimmed her feet so that they were too rounded for her to stand in potty position on concrete. She finally decided not to try any more, but by that time, I'd figured out the problem.

Getting the farrier out was another matter, though. He wasn't able to come out for more than a week. Meanwhile, I found a patch of dirt close to Cali's normal potty spot, and after I showed her how to stand with her hind feet in that spot, she went for me! What a relief. It was hard work getting her to understand what I wanted because she didn't want to try to pee outside any more, but finally, she started peeing outside again.

The farrier came by again and trimmed her feet the way I wanted. He wasn't thrilled about it, but I explained that this was the way Cali's feet need to be done. He did what I asked, though he still disagreed.

It took a few days to get Cali to understand that her feet were trimmed the way she needed and that she didn't have to stand in the dirt patch any more. Now, she tries to stand in the dirt patch, which is perfectly fine because she understands that she doesn't have to.

A happy ending to the potty story? Well, not quite yet. Yesterday, some city workers came by and pulled all the weeds around Cali's potty spot and tore down an old, rotting step that Cali used to point out to me. Not that significant, in my opinion, but to Cali, it's a cold spot now. The workers even swept the dirt patch so well that they took off a thick layer of dirt. now, the dirt patch is more of a depression.

So Cali isn't certain she should potty there any more. I can feel her head turning a bit when I ask her to go, and she is nervous about the whole idea of peeing in that spot, even though I put shavings down.

So, the drama continues. I'm not sure how things will go tomorrow, but I'm hoping Cali gets the idea that pottying there is fine now. I let her sniff around and see that everything else is basically the same, but I can tell she's still not convinced.

Let Her Guide!

I found out something interesting—about Cali or myself, I'm not quite sure, but interesting, nevertheless. Cali does a better job at guiding when I'm in an unfamiliar place, possibly because I actually let her guide as opposed to second-guessing what she's doing. For instance, if I think the curb should be coming up soon, I slowdown, and so does she. I stop sometimes, and she does, too, because I do, not because there's anything to stop at. Or, I'm a bit off on my calculation as to where we are and I ask her to find the door. She stops at something, and I'm just so in tune with her that I say, "Find the door." Now, we're already at the door, and if I'd been paying attention or trusting her more, I'd have known this. I reach out, and lo and behold! She's taken me where I want to go. I just didn't do my part.

Sometimes Adria chastises me for this. She tells me that Cali is doing her job and that I need to listen to what she's saying. And she's right.

This was brought home to me a week ago when I went somewhere new, alone except for Cali. It was a high school, and I was there because I serve on the Dearborn Commission on Disability Concerns, and we were doing a show on Disability Awareness Day.

;of course, everyone was enamored with Cali, even before they saw her guide work. People focus so much on how pretty she is. I know she's a gorgeous little horse, but that isn't so important to me. What I found most endearing about her that evening was that she did a phenomenal, and I mean flawless, job of guiding. I actually let her guide, truly guide in a strange place with no one I knew around to give directions or support and she was amazing. She took me around a parked car, and then continued toward the door I'd asked her to find. Now, I knew generally where the door was, but I wasn't too positive about what we were doing. Dolores had told me not to ask her to find the door if she wasn't within about ten or fifteen feet of it, but I asked anyway because I wasn't sure exactly how far away the door was. And she found it. She walked right in, and when I was given directions to the studio, she did an impeccable job at taking me there. Not once did she bump me into a camera or a chair, or miss a terrain change from carpet to polished tile floor.

Cali did have a bit of a problem walking on the slippery tiles, but I helped her by walking slowly and encouraging her.

I took her out to potty before taping was supposed to start, and though she didn't go, she tried for me, which was surprising because it was near some enticing grass, and kids kept riding by, asking questions, making comments, and generally being kids. They were good about not coming up to her, as I asked that we be left alone, but Cali still watched everything. Despite that, she tried to do what I asked. The one thing I have to say about Cali is that she always tries to do what she thinks I want.

We went back in just in time for taping. Cali took me to the steps that led up to where we were supposed to tape. She didn't mind going up because the steps and the small stage area were carpeted. We taped, and she did a good job standing quietly by, though she got fidgety after about half an hour. I knew it was because she needed to go out, but at that point, I couldn't stop and take her out, so I hoped she'd wait until we were done. And she did.

When taping was over, Cali took me to the top of the steps leading down, and then she stopped. I explained to the host that she was unsure of how to get down because of the slick tiles. I had thought this would be an issue. One of the cameramen brought over a floor mat, and as soon as he set it down, Cali walked down the steps without any hesitation at all. Now, that's what I call a smart horse!

We waited for the bus then, and it took longer than I'd anticipated. I let Cali have a little grass but had to cut her snack time short because I was getting eaten by the mosquitoes.

We went inside and stood by the door. Cali did an excellent job of just standing there, even though we waited for a long time.

At one point, cops with police dogs came into the building. Apparently, they do some of their training in the high school. One of the dogs whined and growled at Cali, and the officer reprimanded her, but Cali stood perfectly still, just watching. She didn't turn to kick or try to run. That's my girl.

I Think I Can

The Little Engine That Could is a story I heard over and over as a child, and though I knew what the moral was, it didn't truly have meaning for me until Cali came into my life. She has taught me that believing in yourself really is what enables you to do things. Cali will try anything if she thinks it's possible for her. Even if I'm skeptical, she still tries. And she is the one who makes the decision. I can cajole, plead, and even bribe, but until she decides that she's going to do something, it won't happen.

An excellent example of this is riding in cars. Dolores did an awesome job of teaching Cali to get into cars, SUV's, buses, vans, etc. When she was here with Cali, my little horse got in and rode with no trouble. But Cali had to learn that she can ride in all those vehicles with me as well.

One day, I asked Adria to take me somewhere, and she graciously agreed. Getting Cali into her car, though, proved more difficult than either of us had anticipated. We took her to the car at the beginning of my lunch break. Cali stood by the car door, sniffing, checking out the car, and refusing to get in. I was so frustrated that I decided to give up. This just wasn't going to work! I knew it. Only Dolores had the ability to get Cali into a Ford Taurus. Who was I kidding? My horse wasn't going to be able to ride in mid-sized cars.

And so, I stopped asking Cali to get in. Instead, I just sat there, not speaking to her at all, telling myself that there were other solutions, that I shouldn't get upset. This just wasn't supposed to happen for us.

And suddenly, without any warning, Cali jumped into the car! I was so thrilled that I didn't even mind when Adria drove around the block and Cali stepped on me as we were making our turns! She was in, my horse! She had made the decision and just gotten in all on her own.

The story is pretty similar regarding SUV's. At first, Cali didn't think she could jump. I hadn't been keeping that skill up with her because frankly, there aren't too many people in my life who have SUV's, and even fewer who are willing to let Cali get into theirs. So I was expecting some issues getting Cali in. Therefore, I gave us plenty of time before we were supposed to leave so that neither of us would be stressed out.

Again, I had to wait until Cali made the decision. It took some time, but she finally decided to jump in. Only one problem arose, and it was again my doing.

We were getting ready to go home that same day, and I was expecting that Cali would need plenty of time to remind herself that she could jump into the SUV. I know, Dolores, I underestimated my horse. I asked Cali to jump, and without hesitation, she did. In fact, it was so fast that I hadn't had enough time to unwrap the mint I had in my hand. Of course, Cali didn't care about the wrapper. The mint was partially unwrapped, and she took the whole thing. I panicked because I didn't want her swallowing the wrapper. Without thinking about it, I shoved my fingers into her mouth and pulled. It took a few seconds, but I was able to pull the wrapper out of her mouth. Up until then, I'd never had my fingers in a horse's mouth! Good thing Cali doesn’t bite!

Now, when I ask Cali to get into an SUV, it takes her a moment. Sometimes she backs away for a minute, but then she comes right up to the SUV and jumps in. It's her decision that makes the difference. I can only ask, and she lets me know what she can do. She shows me that I am the one who makes things possible. Life holds so many possibilities. It is up to us to remember that we can.

I should be going to bed now, as I have work in the morning, but I'm too worried to sleep. Both of my grandmothers are in the hospital. One of them is at the end of her life, the doctors say. The other is afraid of the test results she'll be getting soon. I can't help but wonder what possibilities or impossibilities they lived by. Did they decide to take chances? I don't know. I never asked, and maybe I'll never get to now. Did they, like me, hope for more and fight for more? Did they find their Cali? One of my grandmothers might be able to answer this question. The other probably never will. I think about this now and remind myself that there's so much out there for us, but we have to take those chances and find those possibilities.

I know that the DOJ might change the definition of a service animal so as to exclude Cali and other minis and well-trained service animals. Theoretically, it's possible. Certainly, it's something I dread. At first, I thought I shouldn't love Cali because she could be taken from me. It might happen. I can't say. What I do know for sure, though, is that I can't not love her, can't not look for all the possibilities. Anything might happen, and it's up to me to see that I make it all count. Cali is my reminder of all the possibilities. The DOJ might tell me I can't have her. Someday, they might make that horrible decision, but if that happens, I will remind them of possibilities, and one of those possibilities is that I can and will keep Cali. I can and will keep this precious reminder of hope and happiness and meaning in life.

I left Cali for the night a few minutes ago. Because I came home late, I fed her later than usual, but she didn't seem to mind. Instead, she wanted to be with me, wanted me to play with her. Even after I gave her her hay, she came over to me and wanted to play. "We'll play tomorrow," I told her. "Goodnight, sweetie. I love you lots." And I do.

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