Saturday, June 23, 2018

Moving target

A few weeks ago Chris Goodier and I submitted what we hoped would be the final manuscript of JOURNEYS WITH WORKING DOGS to the University of Illinois Press. We had hoped there wouldn't be any more work to do on it before the copy editors had their way with it.

Sadly, we'll have to alter a small passage in the book because this week Delta Airlines "upgraded" its service dog policy—and the other airlines tend to follow in lockstep. No "pit bull like" dogs allowed, Delta has declared, even as trained service dogs.

Of course the service dog industry is up in arms about this edict, because pit bulls—and dogs that look like them—have made excellent service dogs, and banning an entire breed and type is, the industry says, unfair and unrealistic.

Many service dogs are rescue animals—and pit bulls are the most common dogs to be found in shelters. There are a great many pitties and pittie-types working already for people with disabilities, especially those who must deal with PTSD.

What's more, the U.S. Department of Transportation is presently working on revamping the Air Carrier Access Act with considerable input from the service dog industry and may issue new rules at the end of the summer. One strong possibility is making the ACAA service dog rules identical with those of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which forbids breed discrimination.

Chris and I do not take sides in the book about the breed issue (although I personally love pitties, having had Hogan, a half-Lab, half-pit bull, who was a fine pet and companion).

But we have to wait until the entire drama plays out before we can fix that passage in the book. Our "final final final" deadline isn't until October 1, so we have time.

Writing a travel book is a sweaty exercise of keeping one's eye on a moving target.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

I've been busy

It has been a while—a long while—since I posted to this blog. For good reasons:

1. Putting the finishing touches on JOURNEYS WITH WORKING DOGS; NEGOTIATING SERVICE ANIMALS ACROSS NORTH AMERICA. There was a lot to do once the basic manuscript was done—gathering interview and photo releases from all the service dog partners Chris Goodier and I interviewed for our book, making sure copyrights were clear, and the like. We’re on track for the University of Illinois Press to publish the book next spring.

2. Getting the macular degeneration in my right eye stabilized. I found a wizard retina specialist who knew exactly what to do, and his treatments seem to have not only slowed the spread of the condition but also might just possibly have halted it. Too early to tell, but I have high hopes. My vision in that eye, corrected with glasses, is still 20/20.

What’s more, his eyeball injection technique is the least painful of all the retina specialists I’ve been to. Postinjection irritation is the least, too.

Nobody, however, seems to like the joke I concocted out of the experience. Those shots in the eyeball are of Avastin, a drug originally formulated to treat rectal cancer. Every time I have a shot, I say, everybody looks like an asshole. Nobody laughs. I don’t know why. I think it’s brilliant.

3. Having some major reconstruction of my lower spine. On May 3 a veteran spinal surgeon agreed with me that even though I was not yet in agonizing pain, I was getting there, and at 77 was still healthy enough to recover well from surgery. If I waited until the pain was unbearable at age 84 or 85, I might be too old to have the surgery. And so in a nine-hour operation on May 3 the surgeon fused together vertebrae L2, L3, L4, L5 and S1 (the sacrum). I’m now recovering well with outpatient physical therapy and although I’ll never be able to touch my toes again, I can look forward to a decade (maybe more) without a great deal of lower back pain. The trick will be to keep my trunk and upper back strong and limber so that the disk at L1-L2 stays healthy.

Soon I hope the surgeon will release me to drive again so we can head north to Ontonagon for the rest of the summer. (June 22: He did! And now I have to practice for the written and road DMV tests.)