concatenate

A massively overloading day. I made it through the first part because of Lucy. We attended the second Opening of I-Opener at Playeum this morning. It was heartening to see so many people at the event, and I was so glad that everyone seemed enthusiastic and supportive, and our work as a whole was very well received – but my senses were screaming with silent horror after the first half hour, and the shrieking crescendo broke the fortissimo barrier by the second hour.

When Peter, our friendly RydePet regular favourite ride came to pick us up at the end of the two hours, I was already in a near catatonic state, my headspace ringing with the imprint of dissonant cacophony. Strangely enough, I was still able to prattle away in the car with Peter and my friend Jacky, who was riding with us to the next event of the day. Was I already going into a state of disconnect?

I left Lucy at home, and Jacky and I went to attend the Peter and the Wolf show. Two of our friends, Cavan and Timothy, were in it, and Timothy’s mum so very kindly bought us tickets. But I couldn’t bring Lucy to this one. Ironic, because the venue is assistance dog friendly – Lucy has been there several times – but the show’s organiser’s “were not prepared” for us.

It was a fun show, the cast were great, and I even managed to smile for the cameraman after the show (he took a photo of Cavan, Timothy and me). But I had to scuttle away quickly after that, because my head felt as if it would explode and shatter into a million fragments.

Home at last with my Lucy, I crashed into a much needed two hour sleep, and woke up only when Lucy decided it was time for her dinner.

The headache is still doing its pounding thing, the two panadol insufficient to quell it. Time for an early dive into bed.

For people like me, some days, just making it through is a laudable achievement, something to be proud of. And today was a pleasant day. Really. I love my friends, so many came in a much appreciated show of support – in fact, I was so overloaded that I didn’t even see one of my friends, who brought her husband and son to the Opening. I didn’t know she was there at all, the sea of faces had melted into a bizarre Salvadore Dali landscape with an aggressive soundscape to accompany. Later, without Lucy, it was even harder to focus and I had to consciously and repeatedly pull myself away from the abyss of dissociation – the out of body sensation that overtakes when I am in overload. It was a day of positive social interactional vibes, but my senses just aren’t designed for this kind of activity. Especially not when I cannot have Lucy with me.

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Good Night, Every Bunny!

Lucy is now fast asleep in bed next to me. The little fragments of my Being are slowly shifting, shuffling and scuttling back towards each other, slowly joining and melding, slowly mending, inside this Clement Space of ours – just Lucy and me. The best soundscape in the world for shattered nerves? The rhythmic rise and fall of my Angel’s breath.

Good night, Every Bunny! And thank you my dear friends for helping me get through an actually really truly lovely day.

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Lucy inside Qantas cabin 2016 11 26

I read with dismay and disappointment that Qantas no longer allows psychiatric assistance dogs on board. What was even more distressing, was reading the comments that followed the article in the The Australian.

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Autistic Thriving @TEDx Pickering

 

“Autistic Thriving” – Dawn-joy Leong & Lucy Like-a-Charm. (Captions available on Youtube – please turn on cc option.)

Apologies for not posting this earlier.

“Just what you being made ‘aware’ of? And where are the Actually Autistic voices in this grand cacophony of opinions and interpretations?”

crucial assistance

 

 

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Lucy came with me to the Arts & Disability International Conference today. It was a huge blessing to have her with me, well worth the small ‘inconveniences’, like having to take her outside for potty each time we had a break and thus missing out on food and beverage.

When we first arrived, I made the mistake of choosing to sit in a busy area where people were walking or wheeling back and forth, standing around chatting, and even striding over Lucy, who was laying on her mat next to me at my feet. The lights in the rooms were confronting, to say the least. Lucy took it all in with grace and quietude, and she kept a discreet whisker out for me all the time. I began to feel nervous and agitated from the constant noise, movement and frenetic energy buzzing round and round, and Lucy got up to indicate that we should move to a less busy spot. She led me to the far corner on the other side of the room, and we settled down comfortably there, until lunchtime. Continue reading

Lucy’s Grand Adventure

This piece, about our adventure across the skies, traveling home to Singapore from Sydney, was first published in the Greyhound Equality Society website. I am republishing it here with some minor edits (mainly typos and grammatical errors).

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Lucy’s Grand Adventure.

– Dawn-joy Leong.

Lucy Like-a-Charm has graced my life for four years now. Lucy is my assistance dog. An assistance dog is one that performs specific tasks to address a disability. For me, Lucy primarily helps to mitigate the effects of autistic hypersensory anxiety, by warning me in advance about potential triggers, thus preventing serious sensory overload and meltdown. As an assistance dog, Lucy has connected me to the wonderful mindDog Australia family. As a rescued former racing Greyhound, we are part of the Greyhound Equality Society, advocating for Greyhound welfare. Yet, Lucy is much more than all these, she is also my research assistant, advisor and creative muse, inspiring unique trajectories to explore and ponder, and my Canine Angel, a beautiful reminder of the preciousness of parallel embodiment. Continue reading

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Meltdown

It’s Wednesday. Midweek. Lucy and I hit a few bumps along the road today.

This morning, as if she somehow had an inkling of what lay ahead, Lucy was less happy than usual to get out of bed for her early morning breakfast. During our little walk around the block, she was sniffing around a familiar patch of grass, when she stopped, walked very deliberately to the gate leading to a gallery where I had held my first exhibition, and stood at the gate. She resolutely refused to move from that position, even turning away from her favourite lamb puff treat when I tried to persuade her. “It’s locked, honey, we can’t go in from here.” She usually understands this, and will follow me thereafter, but Lucy stood frozen to the spot, as if in a mini, silent meltdown. Her nose began to drip, another sign of distress. I checked her all over to make sure she hadn’t suffered any injury, or stepped on glass shards etc. All ok. Something must have triggered in her mind. A sensory issue? An olfactory memory? She seemed insistent on going inside via that particular gate. Or perhaps she was just reacting to the big change of being back with me after 2 months at ‘holiday camp’ with my lovely friends Jan and Pete, and their five dogs?  Continue reading

reboot

Four months of chaos, disorder, sensory assault and social dissonance. The autistic constitution can only be this much resilient. I wonder often how much an average neurotypical is able to endure the same dimensions, levels and consistent torture – and do so with the panache and persistence that many of us autistics execute on a daily basis?

Time to retreat and reboot. If only for a mere four and a half days.

Saturday bruncheon with Rick at our favourite Not Just Coffee – nourishing noshment and conversation, providing vim and vigour for the adventure ahead. It was so good to be back in our old neighbourhood of Paddington too.

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mindDog needs help!

For many people with invisible disabilities, an assistance dog makes the difference between living a richer life or one shut inside fear and terror. Without Lucy, I would not have had the amazing inspiration trajectories for my professional work, and I would not have the courage to keep going when overwhelmed by the cosmic maelstrom that I have found myself hurled into over and over again during this incredible PhD journey. I can honestly say that on more than one occasion, Lucy has saved my life in very concrete, palpable ways. An assistance dog is not only a beloved companion animal, but one trained to address specific disabilities in practical and essential ways. Continue reading

not just a dog

 

No dog that is loved is “just a dog.” Someone I lived with in the past used to say of her own dogs, “they’re just dogs.” She treated them well when they were delightful and healthy, but the moment illness struck, she euthanised them, even the one that was healthy, because she couldn’t be bothered to deal with the burden of caring for a sick dog or an aging dog. This echoes the attitude of people in the Greyhound racing industry, who swear blue that they “love” their dogs, “like family” or “like royalty,” but have no qualms in killing them when they are unable to run for money. Yes, the official figures are admitted by the industry – 17,000 are killed a year in Australia, by the Greyhound racing industry… people who say they “love” their dogs.

A beloved pet dog is not “just a dog.” They are family. I know people who truly love their pets, not just when it is convenient and easy. Pets are companions who bring us joy and comfort. The emotional support that pets give to us, and what we can learn from them are immeasurable. I know that, because I grew up with pets – dogs, bunnies, chickens, ducks etc.

And assistance dogs are very special angels that do tasks beyond and above the already wonderful things that beloved pets do. Assistance animals help keep some of us alive and functioning. They do specific tasks that alleviate our disabilities and open up an otherwise inaccessible world to us. This video is about these special angels. Doogle, Buddy and Lucy are just three of many, many assistance animals that help people with disabilities, visible and invisible, to live fuller and richer lives. They help us in ways that humans cannot.

I am so grateful for my Lucy. And to mindDog Australia.

MindDog Australia is a wonderful organisation. They have helped many of us to live better, fuller and enabled lives. Thank you, mindDog!

edification

What does it feel like to be in an inclusive as well as embracing milieu? Yesterday, Lucy and I spent six hours in the company of people who demonstrated what open hearts and minds mean. My instinctive reading of the group told me they were a mixed bag of neurotypical and neurodiverse from all walks of life. It was a grueling two day workshop for art educators, but to me, on the very simple basic level, we were just earnest humans sharing experiences and insights, inspiring one another to develop professional and personal skills, strategies and perceptions. Artistic practice is truly a cogent agency for empathic edification. Continue reading