Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Spirit, Shadow--our cat, and I spent a quiet and joyful Christmas together. We celebrated Spirit's second birthday by watching Marley & Me. It opened in theaters last Christmas on his first birthday. The author and owned dubbed Marley as "the world's worst dog." I could identify, for the first six months I had Spirit I was totally overwhelmed by this giant, uncontrollable dog. He is still very much a puppy, but he is better trained this year.

In honor of all I have learned in training Andre and Spirit as service dogs, I have started a new blog on dog training, . I hope to provide support to all dog owners and encouragement to those training their dogs to be service dogs. Please come and leave your thoughts and suggestions.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Dancing has certainly made a come back. As a kid, I loved all the musicals---West Side Story, South Pacific, Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, etc. As musicals faded away, dance was revived by a television show called Fame. Now we have Ellen, who dances at the start of her show,Dancing with the Stars, and So You Think You Can Dance. Oh, yes, there's also America's Got Talent. Don't you wanna dance?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I get a lot junk mail and scam business opportunities, but today I got this from one of those guys always trying to sell me something. I find it a greater value then anything he tries to sell. It speaks to the topic of face value vs. inner value--something we all need a reminder of from time to time, especially when we see or meet someone who "appears" different. Please read below.

Having a teenage daughter brings with it
some HUGE opportunities to grow!

Of course she's easily caught up in all
the drama and materialism that teenage
girls go through so I have TONS of work
to do to counter act the poison of that

In doing my best to articulate a very
important message to her I though that
we all could stand a friendly reminder
of this...

It's not what you have, what you wear,
what you drive, where you live, or what
brand of shoes you have on that define
who you are.

It's your morals, your ethics, what's
in your heart, your values, your standards
and your magic moments in life that
define who you are.

We place so much value on stuff and image
as a society that it's easy to forget
that image and stuff isn't what really
matters when it comes down to the bottom

So I asked her to remember a magic moment
in her life.

A special time with her sister...

A hearty laugh with a friend...

A time a cute boy noticed her beauty...

A time she overcame her own limits and
performed beyond what she thought she

And I had her anchor that memory in her

Then I took a hundred dollar bill and
had her look at it right before I lit
it on fire!

Of course she was shocked!

I watched her face as it burned and the
desperation was growing as the money was
shrinking and disappearing in the flame.

Then when it was gone, I taught her the

I pulled out another hundred dollar bill
and said, "See how easy that can be

Can you replace any of those magic moments in
your life?

Of course she said no.

Then I asked her if she would trade that
hundred for any experience in her life,
good or bad, that helped define her.

Again the answer was no.

And to finish it off...

I asked who the coolest and most popular
girl in school was.

The girl that everyone wanted to be and
that all the boys chased.

And who least popular girl was that no
one ever talked to.

Then I said strip both of them down and
take away all the hair spray, make up,
clothes, shoes, purses, and all the stuff
that accessorize those 2 girls, wrap them
in a white sheet and stand them up against
a white wall...

How would you determine which of those
girls you wanted to be friends with?

The answer...

By what's inside of them, not what's on them.

I understand that "image" is important to
all of us to some degree but when it takes
over your ability to see the people behind
the image you've lost touch with humanity.

Love yourself and who you are, not what you
have and everything you have will be that
much better...

Never let anything other than your own
standards define who you are!

Mike and Jeff

P.S. I don't have extra hundreds laying around
to burn to teach lessons. A little slight of hand
goes a long way. Let's just say I found a great
use for Monopoly money! ;-)
BANABU Development Systems

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The California Department of Developmental Services Consumer Advisory Committee (CAC) has developed Feeling Safe, Being Safe (FSBS), an emergency preparedness program to assist individuals with developmental disabilities in creating their own disaster plans using accessible FSBS tools. Several CAC members, self advocates, and many Area Board and Regional Center volunteer advocates have become certified FSBS trainers. All trainings are co-conducted by certified trainers. Paul Mansell, San Diego Regional Center’s Consumer Specialist, and Linda Thompson, People First of California’s Project Coordinator, have partnered with Area Board XIII to bring this unique, specialized training to individuals of San Diego and Imperial Valley Counties.

This FSBS train-the-trainer was developed for agencies, providers, and others who want to teach individuals and family members how to use the FSBS materials. We are asking interested community-based providers to host a training to ensure more individuals have access to the FSBS materials and will be better prepared in the event of an emergency.

The goal of the CAC is to assure all persons with developmental disabilities in California have effective emergency plans that work for them and for those assisting them. We encourage you to host a training and invite neighboring providers to attend. The two-hour training is hands-on and interactive. For a modest fee of $50 and mileage (0.37/mile), all participants will be provided FSBS materials, which include a personalized workbook, magnet, and a DVD that demonstrates how to complete the workbook, magnet, and put together a home emergency kit. Upon completion of the training, each participant will receive FSBS materials to provide support to 25 individuals and/or family members so they may also learn to use the FSBS emergency preparedness tools. To preview the worksheet and a video on the materials and how they are used, go to

To schedule a training, call Linda at 760-945-7663.

Friday, April 24, 2009

My cute little puppy is now 16 months old and close to being full grown. It was a rough year. As he turned into a horse of a dog, I became his favorite chew. I don't mean playful puppy bites. I mean broken skin, bloody arm, constant scabs, and torn clothes. Many times my neighbors came running to my screams to rescue me from my large, overpowering puppy. I went through many trainers--none worth mentioning. Time and time again I was told by each trainer to get rid of the dog when each trainer failed to solve the problem. I just wrote them off as bad trainers. After all, where would Victoria Stilwell (Animal Planet) be if all she did was tell people to get rid of their dog. As she says, any dog can be trained. When they brought her show to LA and had a cast call, I applied, but I was outside the travel radius. However, through her shows, I learned to identify my dog's fear, which leads to aggression, and address it and extinguish it. I also resorted to using an electronic collar, which Victoria does not approve of, but only 2 shocks established me as the leader. Believe me, it was the last resort. As a person in a wheelchair, Spirit had come to understand he could overpower me. I had to convince him otherwise. I haven't been bit since August, 2008.

I bought Spirit to be my service dog. The first training program did not work out. After a lot of research, I finally found Aleita Downer of Cape-Able Canines in La Mesa, CA. After all the bad trainers, I finally found a capeable and experienced one who is knowledgeable on training service dogs.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It has been so long since I have been here. I picked up my Goldendoodle in Kansas City, MO, on 2/24/08 and my entire life changed that day. First Southwest would not allow me back on the airplane with my puppy. Even though I had papers showing he was registered in a "service dog" program, I was informed service dogs in training were not permitted on Southwest. I had to find a doctor to write a note claiming my puppy was an "emotional support" dog. I had a carrier, but when we put the 8 week old puppy in it, he went ballistic. Then it was required he be sedated, so the breeder had to go to Walmart and get liquid Benedryl. They got us on the last plane out of Kansas City, but it was not a direct flight to San Diego. We had to switch planes and had a two hour layover in Las Vegas. I left 5 am Sunday and got home 4 am Monday, but I had my dog! His name is Spirit.

I have been consumed by the raising of this dog. I have never had a large breed dog and it has been and overwhelming experience. When he stands on his hind legs, he is taller than I am sitting in my scooter. He becomes overly playful and it turns into aggressive play. I can't control him and have had many clothes ripped and my arm has been chewed and bruised and covered in blood and scabs. This is not the first time I've had a biting dog. I almost got rid of Andre because he bit me. It took service dog training to turn things around for us. I truly believe Andre has returned as a bigger dog and that is why he has been named Spirit. I believe with a qualified trainer, Spirit, too, will be as great of a service dog as Andre was.

Spirit is in the same service dog program Andre was, but the program has deteriorated and has lost its good trainers. I am looking into private training because I am totally dissatisfied with the program.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

On Feb. 24, I will fly to Kansas City, MO, to pick up my new Christmas Puppy. He was born Dec. 25, and presently, his name is Brady. He is a Goldendoodle. One week later he will start his service dog training.
If you would like to help with the purchase or training of this service dog, please go to and buy the story of Andre, my first Christmas Puppy and service dog. Donations can be sent to:

Pilgrim United Church of Christ
2020 Chestnut Ave.
Carlsbad, CA 92008