Weekend Getaway: and Coping With Manic Panic Mode
By Patty L Fletcher – December 19 2015
Friday dawned unseasonably warm. I was unsure quite what to wear at first. I looked at and rejected several combinations of clothes before finally settling on jeans and a sweater. When I was dressed I began to put things in to my suit case. I checked and rechecked my list. Part of me felt I’d packed too much, but just when I felt I couldn’t possibly need one more thing I would think of something Campbell or I simply must have, and in it would go. I worried as I put the final things in place that Bobby was going to be upset with all I’d brought, but I simply felt I must have them. Ignoring the feeling I had packed too much I zipped the final items in. Just as I finished the van pulled in to the drive way to take us to Johnson City and the first leg of our journey began.
Campbell and I were to attend a Christmas party for the Northeast Tennessee disABILITY Resource Center, then we would meet Bobby at the hotel later. To say I was a bit excited and nervous would’ve been an understatement. Not only would I be going to my first, and probably only Christmas party of the season, but I was going to have a mini vacation with My Sweetie Pie, and I was more than thrilled.
However, we’d had a bit of a rough patch back in late October, early November and we’d not seen one another since then and so I was a bit scared too. I didn’t want to make any of my previous mistakes. The whole thing simply had me feeling completely over stimulated, and out of sorts. I know I’m not doing the description of what I felt justice. I was excited, and wanted this more than anything, and ready to call the whole thing off all at the same time.
Between my apprehension about attending a party and meeting up with Bobby after a bit of a rough patch that had been a kind of horrible yet awesome learning experience for the two of us I was almost in what I call, Manic Panic Mode. It can cause issue. I knew however, that if I gave in to my fear and stayed home I would regret it badly on many levels, and so rather than repeat previous behavior such as calling the whole thing off by making up an excuse I’d have to try and cover with another and another later, I simply took a moment to use coping skills to lessen the Manic Panic and went ‘Forward’ instead. I would in the end be way way! Glad I did.
I stood for a moment taking slow deep breaths and counting slowly from one to ten and back down to one. After a couple of repetitions I began to calm down.
When Campbell and I arrived at the center and I got us and our luggage out of the van, one of the workers from the center came out to meet us. This was to me a great gesture of kindness, and a great comfort. It went a long way toward soothing my nerves. She introduced herself and led us inside. She took my suit case from the driver who had assisted Campbell and me to the door and asked, “Would you like me to set this in the back during the party?” I readily agreed, and again was relieved that she had offered help. Once the others began to arrive I began to relax and soon we were all chatting and getting to know one another.
After a while, Tyler the manager there, brought in our food, and we shouted happily, “Let the party begin!” As the shouts of glee faded away I smiled to myself. I’d joined in that calamity of noise without thought. I couldn’t remember feeling so very much like I belonged in a crowd. Everyone here it seemed enjoyed being a bit excitable, and the feeling that it was alright was almost overwhelming. Being myself has been something I’ve had problems with for years. There are some who are simply put off by my ways, so to be participating like this after only having just arrived thirty minutes before, and feeling as if I were among friends again, was to me a great and awesome thing. There were sandwiches from Jimmy John’s Sandwich Shop, and other goodies designed to take out any awesome dieting I might have done this year.
Once the food was done we discovered we had cake. A Snowman Cake to be exact. It was so freshly made you could smell the icing when the lid was lifted so a picture could be taken. When that smell hit us, we declared cake must be eaten, so we beheaded the Snowman and simply began to munch out! While all this was going on I was enjoying something else I’d never gotten to before. I was posting party updates to my Facebook page via my iPhone, and that was yet another awesome and wondrous thing for me, and again I felt as if I truly belonged.
After a while the games began, and I was more than happy to see that they were games I could actually participate in. You’ve no idea of the parties I have attended where I could only watch. This being able to play with everyone else was a treat to be sure. I was surprised yet again, when a few were unsure of playing, and the staff went round and personally encouraged them saying things like, “Come on, you know you can do it.” And if someone said anything like, “Well, I don’t know?” or, “I am not sure about that?” They’d get a response such as, “Well, how can you know, if you don’t give it a shot? We don’t have to be perfect here.” My heart filled with such joy at that, I knew right then and there, this was a party that I’d write about because it was the very thing I was looking for. A place where there were no boundaries between disabled persons. No matter the disABILITY everyone was encouraged and included. For me, this was true bliss. It is absolutely the sort of thing I want to make happen for people such as myself all over the world.
If all I have described so far had been all there was to the party, I’d have been more than happy, but there was more.
One of the ladies assisting with the party came round and had each of us draw a number. Turned out that Tyler had gotten some great donations for door prizes from area businesses for the party and we were each going to draw a number, and when numbers were called the owner of that number would pick a pries. This was the neatest thing ever!
To my absolute surprise and delight my number: 2 was called out first! I couldn’t believe it. I’d seen a prize I very much wanted, but had only dared to hope for. As I made my way to the front with Campbell leading the way, I began to feel a bit strange. I said, “I feel weird picking, you pick.” One of the workers said encouragingly, “No! You pick! We did it this way so everyone could choose what they want.” I asked, “Well, what if two want the same?” She answered with a smile in her voice, “Well? That’s how come we drew numbers, so it would be fair, first picked, first to pick.” I laughed, and said, “Kind of like first come first served.” So I did pick, and I am happy to report I got a $30 gift card from Applebee’s, and I am going to enjoy it soon.
After all the games and prizes were done, we all sat round chatting, taking pictures, and enjoying each other’s company. Then as is normally the case, someone asked if they could pet Campbell. I readily agreed, since up until this very moment Campbell had been the absolute picture of behavior. He had obeyed me perfectly and without any sign of disobedience during the party at all. I knelt there in the floor, and let the one who had asked pet. Soon there were several hands petting Campbell at once, and he rolled on to his side, and stretched out so as to better accommodate them.
As we sat chatting and petting Campbell someone said, “He is one of the very best behaved service dogs I have ever seen. I have worked with several clients with service animals, some from the same place as him and haven’t seen one quite that well behaved around all the coming and going. Not to mention the food.” I smiled, but inwardly I cringed. This was a double edged sword for me. First off, I pride myself in making darn sure that Campbell misbehaves in public as little as is possible. I know that he will do it, and he has more than once done so, and on a few occasions very badly, but for the most part I am very proud to say that Campbell’s behavior is spot on. Problem with that is this. Some get angry with me when I say why he is for the most part a very well behaved dog. I took a breath and said, “Well there are a couple of really great reasons why Campbell behaves so well much of the time, but let me add he doesn’t always do so.” Everyone laughed, and I continued, “The main reason that Campbell behaves as he does is simply because I make him want to do it. I make his working time as enjoyable as I can. I praise him enthusiastically when he deserves it, I don’t just give him a pat on the head or a limp “”Atta Boy…” and go on my way. When he does good he is absolutely for sure I am proud of him. Secondly when he does wrong he knows very well I am disappointed, and that he will not be allowed to repeat whatever that behavior was. If he does repeat after a stern corrective warning, there are consequences. They range from something as small as a round of sit, down and rest, obedience which is designed to bring his focus back to me and what it is I want from him, to a firm handed leash correction with one or both hands depending on what he did to bring such an action about. It can get worse, but I’ve only delivered one high collar correction in the entire four and a half years I’ve had him.” Someone asked what I meant by a high collar correction, and I explained what that was. I continued, “Some have called me too rigid. Even those who have worked multiple dogs from The Seeing Eye, those who have had training of an older school version than did I and there are some who say I spend too much time with him on obedience drills every day, then there are those who claim I put too much emotion in him. I say to all that, Poop! I have an awesome dog, and it is because I do all those things and then some, and the reason I do is because that’s what I was taught, and I know they were trained the same way. So for me, there is just no reason that he shouldn’t behave, and for me no matter the dog, and where it comes from, a reason for any dog that is supposed to be trained to behave in the public to misbehave, and if they do their owner handler ought to be able to bring that behavior under control quickly and without much if any interruption to what is going on around them. If that makes me too rigid then I guess I am.” Tyler spoke up then and said, “I think Campbell’s behavior simply reflects on his owner.”
“I will take some credit. Yeah The Seeing Eye did a great job getting him trained and me ready to take him home with me and have him as a guide, but it was and is my job to make darn sure it stays that way. I’ve messed up some other things where my Seeing Eye experience is concerned, and I have paid for that, and am working on correcting it, but my guide dog work, and our team is spot on and I couldn’t be more pleased.” Someone off on the other side of the room spoke up and said, “Wasn’t that the goal?” I sighed with relief that someone else besides me thought that and said, “Yes.”
I smiled as I stood from the floor and said, “OK Campbell enough let’s get up and let folks be on their way.”
People were beginning to make their way home, and after a bit of chatting at the door and then my taking Campbell out for a park time break, we who were left sat chatting a bit. After the first of the year, I am to help them install their JFW Talking Screen Reading Software to one of their computers, and we were discussing details.
As we talked the conversation went back round to the party we’d all just enjoyed. I said, “I have to really commend you on a job well done with those prizes. It is truly refreshing to see someone who takes such things seriously. I used to have the most trouble ever getting the powers that were at my old job to make sure of prizes.” Tyler and I talked a bit about fundraising, and what different things we could do to raise money for their organization. The staff all agreed with me when I said, “In my opinion a little money coming in steadily is better than no money coming in at all.” We were discussing small fundraisers we could have that would possibly be ongoing that we could have, that would help to fund larger fundraisers which would benefit even more. It was exciting and very refreshing to be doing such things as this again. Even though my work for them would be volunteer, it was of no matter to me. Being around this atmosphere again after so long was awesome to me.
As I began to gather my own things in preparation to go I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could get my AmeriCorps Vista-ship with them, and serve the two remaining years I have left?” The thought stuck, and although it was time for me to start focusing on how to get from the disABILITY Resource Center to Bobby I couldn’t help but let my mind drift to what an awesome opportunity might be right in front of me. I cautioned myself to not get moving too fast, but there was a part of me that wanted it right now. I took a couple of deep cleansing breaths and shifted gears.
Soon it was time for me to go and meet Bobby. He and I had been texting back and forth for a while, and had finally decided it was time for me to meet him at the hotel. There had been a bit of confusion upon his arrival there, as it turned out the hotel we’d booked a room at wasn’t the hotel that was there. That is to say it had changed names, and they’d not honored Bobby’s reservation, even though it was the same hotel, and the company had been in the process of changing hands. He had had to repay for another room, and wait until it was ready. To say he was dissatisfied would’ve been an understatement as well, but he didn’t let it ruin his attitude in fact he said, “If that’s the worst thing that happens this weekend, we’ll be ok.” That’s my Bobby, always looking at the bright side. It’s one of the things I enjoy the most about him.
The next thing to do was to get a ride. I’d first thought I had this taken care of, but as it turned out there was a bit of confusion about it, and so I decided to simply get a cab. Well, the first company I called told me that they had a wait time of a ridiculous two hours. I hung up with them and called a few others that were listed. I never got hold of a single one of them. After a bit of chat between myself and a staff member there named Lisa we decided she could give me a ride over to the hotel if I could wait for her a little bit. Bobby had no objection, and decided to get a bite of lunch and scope out the area around the hotel a bit while he waited for me. Soon Lisa and I were pulling in to the hotel parking lot, and Campbell was trying to trample me to get out and to Bobby. I laughed as I exited the car and Bobby took my hand. “I think the boy missed you” I said. Bobby and I hugged hello and everything seemed to simply fit back in to place. Soon we were settled in to the room, unpacking and getting things set up. After a while we began to plan the weekend, and spent some real time catching up together.
The next day, Saturday was even warmer than the day before had been, and after a light breakfast, and coffee, Bobby and I were off for the day.
I have to tell you though, the light breakfast and coffee, was not easy to get as one might imagine would be the case in a hotel that offers coffee and free breakfast. First off, no coffee pot in the room. That is a huge No! No! in my world, and as it turns out in Bobby’s world too. So Bobby went down to the lobby a bit before five in the morning and they informed him they wouldn’t be making coffee until seven that morning. I was aggravated to say the least, and posted as much to my Facebook page. Bobby, needing his morning coffee every bit as badly as did I decided to walk to the McDonalds to get coffee, and while he was there, he picked up some breakfast for us as well.
Once we were out for the day, things began to smooth out wonderfully. We were able to walk safely to the mall there in Johnson City, and Campbell and I got to show our skill at a couple of busy intersections along the way. It was awesome! Seeing that he and I could still do these things as well if not better than ever even though we didn’t do them often, went a whole long way toward making me feel better about myself.
When we got to the mall we wondered around for a while just relearning where things were. First off we got lost in Belk’s. We couldn’t find the entrance in to the mall. Finally we found our way and were out in the big middle of it. Once we made it to the main floor of the mall, we hit the crowds. Campbell’s work was spot on, and Bobby did an awesome job of assisting us when we needed it. Campbell allowed me to keep up with him with no trouble and to say I was happy and proud would’ve been putting it way too mildly! After a while we made our way to the food court and got a Pals fix for Bobby. Since I can never get enough Pals, it was no problem for me to eat there. While we were there a child and their mother were chatting across the way from us. I could here the mother explaining, “That’s a Seeing Eye Dog, he’s working.” I turned toward them and said, “Would you like to pet?” The child came shyly forward, and Campbell was way happy to give kisses and receive pets. Soon they were gone, and Bobby was back from his smoke.
As we made our way through the crowded mall, I truly began to enjoy myself. I loved hearing folks say things like, “Wow! Look at that dog! How neat! Look how he takes her through all these crowds.” I could hear these snatches of conversations as I passed people along our way. All too soon we were needing a break. Even though Campbell’s work was beautiful after a while the crowds and noise was a bit much. So we made our way back outside, and back to the hotel. We were due a break and wanted to talk about where would be best to go and take pictures of me and Campbell. Bobby thought it a great idea to have pictures and video to go on my Facebook page and here on my blog.
In the second half of this story I will tell of our adventures getting those pictures and videos made.
Until then, this is Patty and Campbell saying, “May Harmony find you, and Blessid Be!”
Once Bobby, Campbell, and I had rested a bit, we got back out and about.
Both Bobby, and I had at one time lived in Johnson City, and so we were already a bit familiar with the area. Some things had changed though, and it was neat to ride the bus and see some of the town. Thanks to their talking GPS system on the bus announcing addresses and locations as we passed them even I could keep up with where we were. I said to Bobby as we rode, “How soon I hope our KATS (Kingsport Area Transit) gets these. It will go a long way toward teaching me more about my town.”
Soon we were down town, and ready to get out and walk. Bobby wanted to find good spots to take photos of me and Campbell. After a while we found some good spots, and stopped from time to time to take a shot or two. Soon Campbell understood this was about him, and was actually posing for pictures when we were ready to take them. At one time during our outing, I came upon this little retaining wall, Bobby thought this a very good place for a picture so we stopped to take a few. While we were there, I decided to have him take one of Campbell standing on the wall itself. I told Bobby of my thoughts and he said, “I bet he won’t get up there.” “Sure he will. He’ll do anything I ask of him.” True to my word, Campbell hopped right up on to that wall, but Bobby said he looked at me as if to say, “OK Mom this is a bit odd. You normally want me to avoid such.”
He obeyed me though and he did pose quite nicely for the picture once he got the idea that’s what we wanted.
Soon it was time for the bus again, and we made our way back to the hotel. On the walk back to the room from the bus stop, Bobby and I encountered a tight spot, and Campbell had to find a way through without running me in to either side. He did it though, and we decided that would make a great video so I walked back and redid it. Campbell complied without one flinch or mistake, and soon we had a nice video clip to go along with the pictures we had taken. We’d gotten another video of my coming down the side walk along side Mount Cassel Drive, but not nearly as good as this one of our going through an obstacle. Bobby still maintains that I should find someone here in my town to take pictures of us together. He says if we could be captured without our knowing just when and in areas we were very familiar in, the pictures would be awesome, and he thinks would increase hits to my site. I don’t know if this is so or not, but sense he seems to have a great head for business I’m going to pursue it further.
This is yet another thing I enjoy about my Bobby. He is interested in what I do. Even though a lot of it is just not his thing, he gets involved with it for me. This is something Donnie never did unless there were direct benefits to him. Bobby and I had a fabulous time walking around taking pictures, laughing and talking, and simply spending time together. We didn’t need a bunch of fancy places to go. We didn’t need anything special of a material nature, we simply had fun being together, just Bobby, Campbell, and me. It seemed to me that even though Bobby himself is more of a private person that he was having a great time helping me to be more out in the public than ever before.
When I mentioned that I wanted to find someone to take pictures of the three of us together he said simply, “That is a great idea too.” That to me was and is priceless. When I asked Bobby about it that night after we were back at the hotel he simply put his arm around me and said, “If it makes you happy it makes me happy. Because making you happy is something I enjoy.”
That is still so very new to me. Bobby and I are turning in to the very best of friends, and our caring for one another is growing. We aren’t quite there yet on all levels to take our relationship quite to the status of a couple, but we’re close. To me, it’s all semantics anyhow, it’s like anything else, it is what it is, and what you call it is only your point of reference.
The rest of the weekend was just awesome. On Sunday morning we got up fairly early, and soon were out and about again. We walked up to Target to look for a cord for my computer, and after not finding any went in search of more places to take pictures of me and Campbell together. While we were out walking that morning once again Campbell showed his awesomeness. We were walking alongside a busy street, the traffic was incredibly heavy and loud. We were walking along when suddenly a car or truck back fired and made a loud couple of BANGS! I jumped and a small noise escaped me before I realized it was only a car, Bobby turned to look as well. Campbell? Well, he Kept right on going, and when I’d hesitated to turn and see what was what, he’d tugged at me as if to say, “Leave it! Mom! Aint your business!” Bobby and I noted it right away and I praised my pup.
All too soon the weekend was coming to a close, and Bobby and I were saying our good-byes. My nephew Aaron had come to pick us up. He was going to drive Bobby to the bus station, and me back to Kingsport. I was sad to see the weekend end, but at the same time was tired, and ready to go home and unwind.
I knew I’d want to write about this, and although another weekend is quickly approaching, I am just now getting it done. Funny thing about that? I’m getting ready to travel again. Campbell and I are off to Knoxville, and so you can expect yet another story of our adventures soon.
Like always, until next time, this is Patty and Campbell, and Bob Cat too saying, May harmony find you, and Blessid Be.