Catnip: Aztec Animal Clinic

Aztec Animal Clinic is located at 4340 Coal SE, Albuquerque NM 87108

Their Phone Number is : 505-265-4939

No one ever wants to need a veterinary hospital for their animals, and yet this is the best one I have ever been in. In previous places I had faced discrimination based on my disability, financial recriminations for being a poor person and daring to have an animal companion, and just a general process of humans being devalued. Needless to say my writing this should indicate none of that happened here.

At the Aztec Clinic my cat and I were valued equally, and highly. My financial limitations were respected, and every single doctor I dealt with made me feel safe and I had no hesitation on trusting them. I worked mostly with Benoit Bouchet, but several of their doctors were helpful in dealing with Nymph’s critical illness.

From my first phone call when dealing with their receptionists and asking about pricing on through my most recent visit, not my last by any means, there was no problem with my need to keep in mind my wallet. There were suggestions made on how I could help make ends meet and other hospitals were mentioned as places I might try. Aztec turned out to be the least costly and the best equipped for my veterinary needs.

My first visit we met the founder of the clinic, Dr. Truesdell, she was warm, understanding, and I didn’t feel like there was any grating despite my Autism always being a factor in conversation. Especially during times of stress. In fact, I appreciated how up front everyone was with me, each doctor asked me if they needed to sugar coat things, though they phrased that far better than I did. I was given the communication I needed. I was unaware she had founded the hospital at the time, or I would have had more faith on my next visit where we met Dr.Bouchet. He continued this trend, and each of the techs that I worked with, there were so many and I cannot recall all of their names, each one was the epitome of professional without professionalism being used to distance them from their clients.

Wait, there’s more. The receptionists, I worked mostly with Hope, 9/10 calls Hope answered and that is why she gets mentioned. She was great with me on the phone, and I will be honest, the phone is where I sound like I am a rabid badger. She was great in person. She was great even when I wasn’t sure how to answer a question. The amount of patience and actual care these people have just knocks my socks off. It was at a point where I was actually disappointed when Hope didn’t answer the first time, until my discovery that each of her colleagues has the same skills.

I wish I could go into detail with my experience here, but as I did on other pages of this blog and that writing is very sad, I want to try and keep this light hearted. This Catnip Award is the most well deserved so far, out of a tradition of only the best meeting my standards.

As always this means the ADA must be met, and then surpassed. The only flaw is their front door, but as the staff will help you, other clients will help you and I do believe the door was light enough, though M the Carer is the person who handled it the most often, it isn’t an object. The rooms, even their smaller rooms, are large enough for me and my chair, as well as other people. Their wheelchair friendly room is huge! In fact, I could navigate the space easily. There are enough places to sit where I wasn’t exposed to dog without my say so, which is incredible to me.

Even the lighting and decorations are soothing, this place was built to echo the chambers of your heart, a place of love.

Frankly even if they are no longer the cheapest vet, they are my vet. If you want a veterinary experience full of love that helps you and your pet to heal? Go to the Aztec Animal Clinic!

For more, please visit their website. http://www.aztecanimalclinic.com/

Catnip: Lobo Anime and Comics

Lobo Anime and Comics is Located at : 1016 Juan Tabo Boulevard Northeast Albuquerque, NM 87112

Their Phone Number is: 505-332-0499 (May be updated if this is an old article)

What Makes them so Awesome?

I haven’t had such good customer service as with this shop. Anywhere. Ever. Not only is this one of only TWO accessible comic book stores, but it is one that has windows, treats their customers so well that it is impossible for me to bedrugde them my dollars that I can spend there, and they work with Comixology, a pick up service that lets me do shopping before I send either a carer or go in the manual chair (Gate and Paratransit access pending at the time of this writing).The other comic book store shall remain nameless because they don’t treat people well and their selection also pales in comparison.

They have a website that could use some professional touches, but over all isn’t so bad that it makes me not want to shop there. This is also where I go to see the Batmobile annually. This comic shop is one that I treasure. Not only do they announce their sales with about two weeks notice, sometimes more, but they throw events. This shop is where I met some of my fantastic artist friends like the ArtAssassin (You can and should google him, he’s a fantastic artist and a real sweetheart). Every year on Free Comic Book Day they give more than just comics. I came away from FCBD with a few things I had wanted but hadn’t been able to give in on because of sales, and they also enabled my purchase of a Batgirl statue which is my birthday present to me.

What makes them deserving of my rare praise for a shop of able bodied people? It isn’t their mom and pop status. It isn’t their customer service. It isn’t their accessibility. It’s what they do beyond those things. Every year they sell hot dogs on FCBD, with relish. Which could send me into anaphalactic shock. This year I decided to call in and let them know. Their accomodation of my need was something that went beyond reasonable, they pulled the hot dogs away from the lone ramp (not their fault) and also made sure that there was extra room on the side walk for manuevering a chair since last year my ogre of a scooter made things beyond difficult. Then to top it off the relish bottle stayed closed and as far from people as possible. I still had a little reaction this year but that is because of people eating the hot dogs and daring to breathe. Since I wouldn’t want them to suffocate I took my allergy pills before and during the event and was prepped with several epipens ready to stab me if I needed them.

It gets better. Since they use Comixology and I can pick things up, I often have to call them and ask them to wait a bit longer with my hold items and they always do. Today I called in and they let me know about a minor error on my order (in my favor no less) and this really means that my statue is THERE. Right now. I can hardly wait to get down there (possibly Friday) but this shop will hold my items until I can because I let them know I am having some transportation challenges. My goal once I have paratransit is a minimum monthly trip, because I want to support this shop. This means I will spend about five dollars minimum getting there and home and around five in the store. Okay so maybe two in the store on the Birds of Prey series but my goal is five! I mean a girl has to get her Oracle and Batman fix right? Plus every so often there is a Batman in the store!

For Albuquerque New Mexico there is really only one place for any true believer, nerd, geek, comic book fan, anime geek, or admirer of graphic novels to shop and that would be Lobo Anime and Comics!

(Trust me on this, their prices are also usually much lower than listings on the internet, there is no shipping, and with my rarely met standards being surpassed you know this is THE best shop in the state, possibly the entire multiverse.)

Pictures from Free Comic Book Day 2010 at Lobo Anime and Comics (yes that chair IS as uncomfortable as it looks):

Kat Fury with Iron Man beside her and another Iron Man Behind her. The first iron man is very adorable and is around four years old. Kat Fury and Batman infront of the 1960s Batmobile. Batman has his cape stretched out behind both people.

Sharing the Dream

I have a dream. It started small, with the idea of teaching other women with disabilities how to get their doctor to adapt to their needs, to make certain that they have proper medical care and it grew. A part of this is the rumor that in California there are accessible facilities for medical care. This access should be for all women and men with disabilities as well as those who are aging. A second portion is a discussion I recently spent two weeks taking part in. The third part is my own experience and the frustration that is omnipresent with my current medical needs.

I am sharing this dream with you for two reasons. The first is that I want your input. I am not an expert on all disabilities and I want to make this dream a reality. The other is that this will be my platform when I make my run for Ms Wheelchair USA. So, here it is, my dream.

I want to create not just an accessible doctor’s office but an accessible facility that has several purposes. First and foremost I want an accessible mammogram, one where you do not have to call, beg, and push to get access but where it is expected that you will need access. This will be furthered by a program to teach you how to adapt to your bodily changes and limitations while being able to fulfill the self exam for breast health. If you cannot adapt, either due to paralysis or other limitations then I want to offer the option of having a doctor or nurse perform your exam for you. Breast cancer risk does not magically vanish the minute you are suddenly disabled. It often goes up!

This goes further, I want accessible exam tables and facilities to offer every woman regardless of function and mobility a pap smear. I have an annual cancer scare, something tries to trick us into thinking it is cancer yearly. This year’s cancer scare surrounds my pap and it’s abnormal results and other tests that scream, “You might have cancer!” I am more worried about the high table, embarrassing lack of hospital gowns that actually fit, and my physical issues hampering the test than the actual possibility of cancer. I am loathing the idea of half climbing half being shoved up on that table, half naked and without any chance at privacy because I need help at times to even move my hips. There are accessible tables. Other forms of accesibility will be needed. I want to hear from any persons of short stature, what are the needs you face in the doctor’s office that are not being met? Even the most accessible table for a tall person will fail you, so please tell me what you need so that you are not excluded from my dream.

I want accessible facilities for rape victims with either severe injuries due to the actual rape or a previous disability. Writing these words has me panting with fear, but, how many women could be protected with evidence that is not obtained? There is enough of a violation with in rape itself, but being violated and treated like you do not matter after is a crime as well. This alone could be my platform focus, this alone could impact the lives of countless women. Accessible rape kit access with proper training for those taking the kit is a must. this is the part of my dream that is frightening, this is the part of my dream that feels the most out of reach. I must reach this goal however, for every victim and survivor that exists now or may exist.

I also want a center for adaptation. The Center for Adaptation would include a kitchen, a bathroom, and other areas that the once-abled take for granted. I still have not managed to cook a meal without harming myself in years, but a place where I had the safety to learn without being in danger of literally killing myself would help. This adaptation center must include potential assistive devices so that before the money is spent by the individual they know if the device will work. I wasted so much money on items that I cannot even use. Everyone does. Most persons with disabilities or freshly disabled persons have a very limited income, therefore this is a key component to creating universal access. Imagine learning how to cook around your limited energy, ability, and strength? Imagine learning how to clean again, and imagine too learning other things such as crafts, or finding ways to adapt so that you can create art? Dream with me and see it, a place of learning for all levels of ability.

Not just learning but socialization. I want people of all ability levels to commune together. There need to be varying support groups, socialization groups, and even a place to coordinate activities for the single individual and the couples. There needs to be a safe place to discuss sex with in ability, there needs to be a safe place where intersetion occurs. If you are gay, bisexual, a lesbian, or a transgendered person with a disability you deserve this just as much as someone who does not overlap two subgroups with in the realm of minority. The able bodied need to be welcomed here too, so that they can learn, assist, and so that there is a lack of segregation.

There needs too, to be a place to work with Service Animals. This facet will have to have answers to questions about the legalities of service animals in the given area, certification challenges, and training suggestions. Although it will not be a place to get a service dog, there needs to be a place where safe support can be found easily. Safe support that can come and help you advocate, safe support that teaches you to self advocate, and safe support for the process of accepting your animal partner.

Less medicalization of life needs to happen, and the focus on that aspect is a place to find good fashion, perhaps this could even become the funding source for my facility. The fashion needs to be adaptable to the wheelchair users needs, most likely this will require custom tailoring. The clothing needs to be affordable but also fashionable. Persons who have disabilities cover all age groups and the institutionalization of clothing is unacceptable. The clothing must also be in a broad range of sizes. Just as wheelchairs need to fit everyone from the small child up to the very large adults, the clothing must as well. Giving a place to access good, quality, stylish clothing for men and women with varying abilities will be a huge part of this, simply out of my own desires. I desire affordable clothing that works with my ability. I do not want to trip over skirts that are too long, I do not want to have my sleeves caught in my wheels if I use a manual chair, and I am presuming this is a universal frustration.

There need to be classes as well to train those with degenerative conditions to adapt, or those with compound disabilities to adapt. Perhaps the adaptation center is a new spin on the idea of an accessible home to learn in, yet, the focus on this portion includes teaching skills you might not have. What brought this to mind is my own degeneration. I lost my ability to walk and my sight is endangered. What adaptation can I have if I cannot see to drive my chair? I must learn and there needs to be a safe place for this. There needs to be a place where it is safe to feel the fear, the hope, and a place where there is hope. There is too little hope for the disabled demographic in this world.

A part of preventative care is dentistry, though I have yet to find a dentist who can work with my limitations. There needs to be a facility for dental care. I have a cavity I cannot get tended due to my combination of allergies and inability to bend backwards in their chairs. This cannot be. This is discrimination, yet to stamp out discrimination there needs to be action. If the facility cannot have a dentist, then it needs to have an office where accessible vision and dental care is listed, where referrals can be given, and it needs to be a place where there is acceptance that every body has a different need.

Disaster Safety is also a concern. During the disasters that hit the world, such as Hurricane Katrina, the disabled are often left behind. Their families may stay so that their loved ones do not die alone, and therefore these devalued people are murdered. It is murder to leave someone behind because it might be hard to deal with their wheelchair. A part of this facility needs to house a program that teaches people how to advocate, adapt, and prepare for emergencies. This program also needs to teach FEMA and other rescue organizations how to rescue the disabled. We are people, we deserve life, and being abandoned because of a wheelchair or cognitive disability is murder. It can be helped, it can be changed.

A lot of the focus here is on prevention and adaptation. My focus is not to cure disability, to wipe it out. That is impossible and I have gained from my own limitations. I cannot imagine a world without Autism as being beautiful, for without it I would not exist. Therefore the focus needs to be on preventative medicine, there needs to be a focus with in the facility on adaptive medicine, and there needs to be a focus on demedicalizing the bodies that have limitations. There needs to be a personalization of existence. I exist beyond my disabilities, though they are a part of me. We need to foster acceptance of self, of difference, and we need to offer a safe harbor for all people with all abilities to commune.

A lot of people are unable to work, are fighting for government assistance, and are dying without durable medical equipment. I want to offer rentals, loaners, and at times even the purchase of needed medical equipment such as CPAP machines, wheelchairs, and walkers. These are just examples. There would be a qualification process, and yet the freedom I felt that first time I sat in a manual chair and had more than three hours of coherent function haunts me. I have nightmares of being trapped without my chair now, I have nightmares that others feel that same terror. Those nightmares are realities. This program could use older equipment that was donated, purchased equipment, and could perhaps eventually include low interest/zero interest loans with minimal payments to allow people to obtain equipment. This could help those with a copay and a minuscule income to make ends meet. This could help someone who is choosing between homelessness and a wheelchair to get the chair and keep their home.

A second facet on employment is access to workforce training. There are already facilities yet at times access is denied based on a lack of visible potential, so, I want to coordinate with them to try and educate and prepare those who want to work but are being told they aren’t worth the training. An entire segment of this facility needs to be coordination with existing organizations to get people what they need, to get people connected with the programs that exist. A lot of people who ask me for help do so because they cannot find programs that fit their needs, even when they exist. A hub in the network could make their impact broader, while in a way delegating some of my dream over to their offices. I know one facility cannot possibly do it all.

This is my dream, this is also why I was so quiet this past week. I was dreaming, trying to put into a coherent idea what is needed. This facility will need funding but the insured can be charged. I do not see this as a fee free environment but money should not cause a person to not be able to participate. If a person can pay, or if their insurance can allow coverage then they should pay. Much of what is offered should be covered under Medicaid/Medicare and other insurances without issue. The rest could be funded via donations and grants. I have no idea what I would call this facility yet, but, that is not the most important focus at this time. Branding must come after a plan for action is laid out.

Share the dream. Share what you see as a need. Please feel free to pass links to this post around, I want to offer a taste of freedom to a set of people that anyone can join, to the only equal opportunity minority. If we band together, we can change the world and create universal access. This plan is flawed, this dream is imperfect yet it is merely a start.

Corned Beef Homelessness

I was humming “The Rising of the Moon,” today and remembering Saint Padraig’s Days past. Part of it was the entire discordance in my body, the rest of it was a mixture of too much green and random facts about Saint Pats. I had seizures all day, starting directly after the TVC Toastmaster’s Meeting began. This left me exhausted, and my mind was not on the evaluation.

I still did my best, but, instead of baseball I wanted to think about the children i used to know. When I was homeless, at the first shelter I was running under the presumption that there was no joy to be had there, no safety, no happiness, no love. So far this had been proven correct, until I woke up on Saint Patrick’s Day Morn. This was about four years ago, I was all alone in the world. What woke me was a soft bundle of skin clinging to me tightly, crying.

The little girl was blind, and could not tell where her mommy was, and I felt nice and safe. So, sitting up I carefully ran a hand down her back and asked her what her mother’s name was. It was an hour before wake up call, and the girl had just gone to the bathroom, but her mommy had left her there, or so she thought. I put my shoes on and forced my body to move. Once I had my footing we walked to the bathroom, through the snow, my coat wrapped around the girl. I was cold, but, she was smaller and I decided she likely needed it more than I did.

I could hear someone calling, “Maggie?” In the darkness, I could not see but I could hear her. “I hear my Mommy!” The relief filled the child and she wanted to run off, but was afraid because this was their first night at the Shelter and she had fallen a few times, trying to find her mother. We made it to the bathroom, over 500 yards from the main building. Her mother was in tears when she saw her child and scooped her up. “I thought you were gone forever.” They said this in unison. I took my coat, her mother had hers, and wrapped myself in it, creeping back to bed.

I tried to go back to sleep but it was too late for extra rest. Still, I reasoned this wouldn’t be a big deal. They often treated women like garbage there, I am certain they still do. This day was different, if you could ignore the fact that the men had a restroom inside the main building and did not have to go outside with wet hair, they even had six toilets instead of just two and theirs was accessible. I couldn’t ignore it but was told if I so much as protested I would be out with no shelter.

When we cleared the floor, set the tables and had our breakfast, a bowl of sugary cereal each, the children came in. They rarely got breakfast, unless someone saved it for them, first come first serve, and children without a home are just as reticent to leave their warm beds as those with. I often saved my cereal for a child, and this morning I presented it to Maggie, after it turned out there was no more food. She recognized my voice and told her mother I was the nice lady who had saved her. I smiled for the first time, since losing my home. For a moment I didn’t hurt so much either. Then my stomach started whining at me, it wasn’t hungry it was just the sheer amount of allergens I had to eat in order to not die. The knife’s edge I walked on had become narrower and more harrowing.

I pulled on the very shirt I wore today, one of the few I managed to salvage. It was my only green at that point. I let my hair down, liking how it felt. I felt pretty again, a first since my back injury and homelessness. I wanted to dance, though I did not trust my legs for that. Then the staff asked for volunteers to run arts and crafts. The adults all grumbled, no one wanted to bother with the kids. I raised my hand. I have this strange reaction to chances to do things, I usually say yes.

There were acrylic paints, glitter glues, glitter, glue, and a lot of paper. I was given the one pair of scissors and we set out to work. Maggie was the first to want to try something, so, I helped her cut out clover and let her smear the glue all over the paper. She was having a blast. I remember her laughter, “It’s gooey!” Her mother watched, but less carefully since I had returned her unharmed without knowing either of them. Another girl came over, then a boy, and they made green paper chains, then, on white paper we painted leprechauns. Soon, the entire building was covered in green.

That smile kept returning too. After the first chain was hung, a few of the men began to pin the decorations, growling out playfully, “We need more green over here.” Smiling as one of the kids ran a decoration over, the smiles started to spread. By the time the annual news cameras came, filming us just to show how great the people who run the place are everyone was smiling. I remember the reporter, a short man with a puce tie, muttering, “Why are they so damned happy? Don’t they know they are homeless?”

As we sat down, a kind man bringing me a plate as I had begun to fall over again I realized why I was happy. I had stopped focusing for one day on my homelessness, and had instead focused on making someone else happy. I wanted to make sure that those kids had a happy day. I wanted to see their smiles. It was cold out, snowing, but inside the warmth of family and friends was found. I also had the first meal that was not going to make me sick since arriving there. Corned Beef with a side of freshly mashed potatoes. There was enough for everyone, a rarity there. I even was allowed seconds on the meat and potatoes.

I hid from the camera, this was helped by the smile that would not abate, I could not stop grinning. After all, the children were laughing, our temporary home felt like a home for once and until it was time to sleep no one fought, there was no need to try to steal food, and we were all content. The next morning there was no green, just the cold snow. There was too little food once more and it all went back to being a gray existence, dull and painful. Except, that I still felt happy.

My happiness was not permanent, yet, my acceptance that I could feel happiness made it easier to exist in a state of contentment. Without that day, I might very well have been too depressed to fight for survival a month later, when I nearly froze to death. That shelter is a special hell, for those in need, for those who no one cares enough about. It is not up to code, safe, and they do not try to make you safe or happy. It was merely a whim that lead to that one day, a kindness so rarely given.

As more and more families lose their homes, they head to shelters just like that one. Today, I remembered my own agony as I fondled a bit of green paint hidden just inside my sleeve, the paint stain is left over from that day. I too considered why I kept the shirt, and I realized despite it being a bit uncomfortable, always too warm , I keep it because this shirt has memories attached. It isn’t just the shade of green that sets my hair afire, smooths my skin, and makes me feel absolutely beautiful. The beauty I feel is instead in the subconscious associations with happiness.

When you have nothing, you still have your soul, your life, and the ability to love.
Happy Saint Padraig’s Day. May the road rise to meet you, your friends and family greet you, and love fill your heart today.

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