defenceless

Lucy

Lucy Like-a-Charm by Dawn-joy Leong

It isn’t our petty human judgements that matter, really. All the to-ing and fro-ing around what is or isn’t ‘vanity’, ‘comfort’, or self-glorification, accusations of misconduct and counter declarations of innocence, and the swirling, heaving, churning of pathetic human reasoning are but worthless distractions, grandiloquent farce.

You want a pet? You want an Assistance Dog? Go for it! So what if your reasons are mired in narcissism or personal comfort? Why not? Let’s be brutally honest, shall we? We all want to be loved.

Let’s forget all the human-centric bitching and snitching, snivelling and grinding, grovelling and shoving. Quit the ridiculous conniptions, shall we?

Here is the bottom line.

To anyone disabled or non-disabled who wants to bring an animal into their lives, whether pet or assistance animal, or whatever else you wish to call it: no matter what your reasons, noble or ignoble, just make very sure you will not neglect, misuse and abuse body, mind and soul this voiceless sentient innocence.

Meanwhile… there goes yet another innocent life, sacrificed on the Altar of Human Hubris, surrounded by pious choir, replete with tiny little violins playing pitiful tunes tugging at the heart strings of our human guilt.

My heart breaks.

dogs and disability advocacy

TEDx 2018

… with Lucy at TEDx 2018, Enabling Village.

It was good to read this article today in Mothership by my friend Cassandra Chiu about her experiences as the first female guide dog handler in Singapore, and the first (and still the only really effective) guide dog advocate in Singapore who has managed to herald in a new chapter of awareness, acceptance (albeit tentative) and even legislation for public access.

Yet, I still remember the huge fiasco at Ngee Ann City which attracted so much nasty criticism against Cassandra. I was in Sydney at the time, closely following Cassandra and Esme on their social media. I read with disgust the sick and heartless comments made against Cassandra, some grossly indecent and personal, and others just parochial, low-level jibes all too common among the average stubbornly uninformed Singaporean keyboard warriors that populate social media spaces. Even radio deejays got in on the act, calling her an “a**hole” on air. Yes, the radio station was fined but not for disability discrimination, mind you, the penalty was merely for using a censored word. Oh, and various online news articles seemed to delight in the “b*tch” word, probably because the half-baked ‘journalists’ just did not have the vocabulary to do better than that.

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finale – SYNC Day 5

Day 5 of the SYNC programme came and went. The going was at times ponderous, because the body was weak and felt like a sack of potatoes, trudging, groaning, creaking and sighing. But I was a tad sad that time had passed so quickly.

I did not bring Lucy, because I had a dinner appointment later that day, and the long hours would be too much for her. But I missed her terribly – it was visibly hard for me to get through the day without her. Our programme coach and instructor remarked that the difference in me was obvious.

There was much learning, pondering and reflecting – but I will not delve into that here. These little snippets are sensory-focused, they are about my sensory experiences of SYNC.

Here are the few photos I took on Friday. No Lucy, so not much inspiration left.

Food. There was a lot of food. Thanks to Maureen and the kind folk from Very Special Arts (VSA). One artist brought their retired guide dog – she is a lovely sweetheart, but such a huge contrast from Lucy’s still, quiet, regal poise. There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing settling the dog down, and occasional froufrou noises generally made by the owner telling the dog to calm down, which actually stirred the air so much that it had the opposite effect on the poor dog. Methinks some basic dog handling 101 (training) is needed here, for the human, not the dog. At one moment, I walked by and the darling dog got out from her ‘tuck’ position under the table, sat on my feet and leaned resolutely against me, refusing to budge. Anyone who understands some basic doggy body language would know what that meant. My heart goes out to the dog each time I see her. But the smell… I cannot deal with stinky dogs. So very very sorry, darling.

I was a little sad that the week went by so quickly, even though I was already exhausted right at the beginning, and nearly fainted from fatigue twice on Friday afternoon.

Enabling Village is a beautiful place – despite its tacky and almost inappropriately ableist name. We were welcomed every morning by the friendly security people – especially Lucy, which is a marked difference from most other places in Singapore. When I arrived on Friday without Lucy, the lovely men asked me where she was and why I didn’t bring her. One of them whipped out their mobile phone and showed me the photograph that he’d taken of Lucy the day before, on Thursday. They kept saying how beautiful she is, and how still, calm and gentle. I should come here more often with Lucy, perhaps?

The village is a strange place, in other ways, though. Heavy doors make it difficult, if not impossible, for people in wheelchairs to get through on their own. Mirrors in the ladies’ toilet are positioned so high that people in wheelchairs can only see half their reflections. There is no soap dispenser in the disability toilet – do they think that disabled people don’t need to use soap to wash their hands? There are no electric outlets in the training room – how do they expect disabled people with electronic devices to charge their equipment when using the training rooms for long periods of time? And the big bugbear I have? There is no quiet or calm room for people with disabilities – only a “carer’s pod” for carers!!! Isn’t this place for and about people with disabilities?

Sigh.

Nevertheless, having something like Enabling Village at all is a big step in the right direction for Singapore, I guess, though it also shows very starkly that we really do have a very long way more to go.

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.

regression aggression

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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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Screenshot.

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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

bump!

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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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