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Archive for August, 2012

The Trials of Being an Artist

Last weekend’s fundraiser for Early Alert Canines was incredibly successful!  I left the house with five large boxes full of my pottery, and the few pieces I cam home with didn’t even cover the bottom of one.  I couldn’t believe the attention my pottery (and Rainie) received!  The compliments were gratifying – I’d never done a big show like this.  Many people asked if I’d be back next weekend, or before Christmas.  I had to tell them I hoped to be back next year.  I knew that I was offering over a year’s worth of work, and there would be no way I could do it again any time soon.

As I was wrapping each piece to get ready for the show, I realized how unique each one was.  Some were thin, others heavy and clunky.  There were different shapes and heights and weights, even when I had tried to make a matched set.   Some people commented, and I told them that when I pick up a piece, I can tell what my blood sugar was doing while I was throwing/creating it.  When my glucose levels are changing rapidly (either up or down), my coordination and balance are affected.  When my blood sugar is high, I can’t control my strength very well; and when it is going low, I have poor depth perception, no frustration tolerance, and it’s best if I quit for the day.

When people make remarks like, “You know, you could have made this thinner/taller/bigger…(etc),” I sigh, and try to remember that, considering all I’m dealing with, I’m doing the best I can – always.  And often times, people will choose to buy the piece we’re talking about, because their knowing the ‘history’ behind it makes “even more special”.

Early Alert Canines Newsletter, Vol. 1,Issue 1

I am pleased to share Early Alert Canine’s first edition of “The Scentinel”.

http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1108404407988-23/August+2012+Aireil.pdf

1st EAC Graduating Class
Stephanie & Ozark, Nancy & Kade, Carol, Nate & Oaklie, Nancy & Hoops, Chrystal & Leslie

Pride and Accomplishment

1st EAC Graduating Class
Stephanie & Ozark, Nancy & Kade, Carol, Nate & Oaklie, Nancy & Hoops, Chrystal & Leslie

Yesterday’s graduation of Early Alert Canine’s initial class was one of great joy, pride, and a sense of accomplishment!.  This ceremony was also the culminating moment of the past 20 months spent planning and fundraising  to make our dream of creating a non-profit, diabetic alert dog training organization come true.

The graduating class included four “full access diabetic alert dogs” placed with adults and one “skilled companion diabetic alert dog” that was placed with a 6-year-old and his family.  Our dog-teams, comprised of a diabetic and a low blood sugar alert dog, came from their homes in Oregon, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and the San Francisco Bay Area.  Friends, family, and the dogs’ breeders and trainers were a few of the 120 people joining in the celebration.  We shared a true sense of excitement.

I wish there were a way I could capture the sentiments expressed by the graduates as they symbolically received their dogs from each one’s puppy-raisers, or breeders.  The speeches were both funny (as we heard about the idiosyncrasy of the dogs’ and new owners’ personalities), and touchingly heart-felt as the new graduates described how the dogs have already changed their lives.  Here is an example of the sorts of things that were said:

  • She (the dog) has helped me to relate to my diabetes in a new way.
  • She has brought a new stability into my life, both in my private life, and in my diabetes.
  • I’m no longer afraid to be alone.
  • He alerted my husband when I was in the hospital and my blood sugar was dropping.
  • “There’s somebody else in the house looking out (for my son) for me.”  This was said in tears of gratitude.
  • My kids come and bug me because the dog goes to get them when I’m ignoring his alerting.
  • “I’ve learned so much about me!”
  • His alerting is so much earlier than my meter.
  • Often I don’t know I’m going low until he alerts me.
  • I feel so much safer.
  • I don’t feel alone anymore.
  • I always have company.
  • I never knew a dog would help so much, or, make such a difference.
  • My blood sugar is in better control.
  • I’m happier.
  • And: Her favorite thing in the world is her “chuck-it ball”.  I think she just keeps me around to throw it for her!

I have a funny feeling that each of us with a diabetic alert dog was relating to every story, tear and feeling.  These dogs touch our lives in ways that are so profound, yet difficult to put into words – how you describe a feeling?  To no longer live in fear, or shame, or isolation is a gift, as is living one’s life fuller, with a greater sense of ease, safety and peace of mind.

I am truly proud to be one of the workers and dreamers, and to watch EAC mature to the point of fulfilling its goal of training and placing these life saving dogs.  I had once asked Carol Edwards, our executive director and lead trainer, why she has dedicated her life to training diabetic alert dogs?  Her response was stated very simply, “…because of the positive impact they have on a diabetic’s life.”

  Congratulations to all our new graduates!  And may EAC’s dream continue to grow.

                  

My Artist’s Assistant

Oh, to be an artist with a deadline approaching!  Rainie and I will be selling my ceramics at the local farmers’ market on Saturday August 25.  Since all the proceeds go to Early Alert Canines in order to help fund the training of diabetic alert dogs, we’ve been invited to man/woman the “non-profit” table.  I am so fortunate to have a wonderful hobby (ceramics) that simultaneously helps my passion to train these life-saving dogs.(EAC); this incredible pairing allows me to be up to my elbows in clay as much as I want, and help out EAC as well.

As I type, my ‘studio’ is a mess!  It looks like Santa’s workshop before Xmas.  There are pieces drying on one table, and wet pieces on a set of shelves.  The stuff ready to be fired is on top of the kiln (not a great idea), and there are more pieces waiting to be glazed.  Oh, and the potter’s wheel has a wet piece ‘resting’ while it waits to be finished.  The main thing missing are the ‘elves’.  I’m Santa and the elves rolled into one – I do everything related to ceramics, while my one helper, Rainie, does an excellent job helping keep my blood sugar level (BSL) and me in balance.

     

When she’s not actively alerting me, she’s either resting in her cave under a work-table, or watching hummingbirds out the door, Her alerting’s made me aware that my BSL drops with each piece I throw.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether I’m throwing a small piece for a mug, or a large bowl, I’ll soon feel a gentle nudge on my thigh, or paw on my thigh that tells me it’s time to pay attention to my BSL.  And, she’s right every time, which is something I still find amazing.  I’d never realized how much my BSL changes due to the energy I expend while making pottery.  Looking back in time, I now remember the blood sugar issues I used to have while playing with clay.  It’s so easy to forget (and take things for granted).  And since I’m into remembering, the first few times Rainie came into my ‘studio’ to ‘help’ were a laughing disaster!  She soon realized that it is not a good idea to ‘alert’ me by putting her head on my potter’s wheel (wet clay must not taste very good), nor by nudging my elbow (clay doesn’t like to be inadvertently ‘knocked’ either).  Fortunately, she’s a really quick learner.

So, my wonder-dog, best friend (and elf) does a great job of keeping me company and safe while she stays away from the wet clay.  If you are in the Santa Cruz area, please come to the Cabrillo Farmers’ Market on Saturday August 25th.  We’d love to say “hi!”