Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Letter I Wrote for GPRC

This letter was written to the Grande Prairie Regional College, in hopes that when I go to school next year, Jubilee can accompany me.

My name is Tanis (Wuttunee-Belleau) Fraysse.

I plan on going to school next year to upgrade some of my subjects, but I have an unusual request.

My doctor prescribed me a therapy animal in August this year, a 5 week old kitten.  I've been training her as a companion therapy animal since, and she's been phenomenal.  She's been out with the public, busy streets and businesses, lots of people and she's extremely mellow and behaved.  She's very quiet, doesn't meow, doesn't jump up on people or things, and is being trained to lie down and have a nap when I'm busy.

You're probably wondering why I have therapy animal to start with.

I have Acute High Risk Depression, adult ADHD, and severe social anxiety.  I've been diagnosed for about 8 years, and at 25, it's still difficult to manage - even with medications. I had a dog, Logan for about 10 years, and he recently passed away.  I trained him in less than a year, when he was about 3-5 years old to be a full time companion.  I got him at a garage sale, and was supposedly impossible to train. He was a Llasa Apso mix, and they're very independent.

My doctor who knew Logan, had the idea of giving me another animal.  He wanted me to have a dog, but the place I live only allows cats.  He called me to the office and presented Jubilee, along with a prescription to help allow her into non-pet friendly stores, like the grocers.  He figured if I could train my dog, I could train a cat.

It's only been 4 months, but I'm proud to say that I'm doing it.

There are a few concerns and details I feel is important to bring up though.

1. The Government will not recognize her as a true working animal.  The Working Dog Act is just that - dogs only.  There is no regulation for other animals to be recognized, and I cannot legally claim she's a working animal.

She is a therapy animal, and while she has some rights, at anytime she can be refused, and if someone says no, I have to abide. This is the main reason why I'm writing this.

2. Allergies.

More people are allergic to cats, than to dogs - and I understand that the college is full of people with allergies.  I brush her every day, and give her a bath at least twice a month (washing her even once a week can damage her skin and coat).

I do have her trained to travel and stay in a carrier, but I would prefer her to be on my shoulder when traveling through the halls.  There's a few reasons for this, the main being that people - despite starring at me - will often smile, laugh, and give me more space to move freely.  She gives me confidence to talk to strangers, answering questions about her, and generally making me more at ease, rather than nervous. People are less likely to accidentally touch me - which sends me into a panic attack almost immediately.  It also frees up my arms and hands for carrying around essential items.  She will be in her carrier when in the canteen, to avoid contamination.

3. General Hygiene. (Where will she do her business?)

I'm figuring this one out.  I would love to potty train her to use the toilet.  She's completely cat-boxed trained, and so far as refused to go anywhere else.  What I might end up doing is setting up a 'portable' cat box, outside - and getting her used to going outside there when not at home.  The other thing I was thinking about, was possibly setting up a cat box in a bathroom that was easily accessible during the day.  It would then be my full responsibility to make sure it's always clean and disposed of properly every time she used it.

4. Behaviour - Will she be a distraction to me and other students?

Like any situation where there's a working/therapy animal, people often become distracted by them - want to touch them - ask questions, and so on. Then, there's the animal itself.  Will she be moving around, will she meow, jump up on people, hiss and scratch? For the most part - she hasn't so far. Jubilee has the personality of a working Labrador.  At home, she's a cat.  She doesn't come when called, she gets into mischief like a kitten would, and is generally 'untrained.'  Outside, especially on my shoulder - she's incredible.

I've taken her to appointments, different shops, parades even the terrifying 'Vegas Night' downtown. (Which btw, was as much of a test for me as it was for her.)  She's not bothered by crowds, and has so far shown no signs of looking for attention else where.  She's very quiet, rarely meowing even at home, and extremely laid back.  She wants nothing more than to sleep.

I've also learned to ignore her when I'm busy, and not letting her on my lap at the computer unless I pick her up and put her there.  This way she doesn't develop the habit of jumping on me or others during classes or what have you.

5. Am I prepared to hear a No?

Honestly, no I'm not.  I'm actually quite terrified at that prospect, because going to school would almost be impossible.  While I could do most of my upgrading at home, I would prefer to study at the college, just so that I could get the help if I needed it.  It would also mean I had an actual reason to socialize, and possibly make friends.  I've never been really able to do that.

6. What do I plan on taking?  What path am I looking at?

My main upgrading I want to do is my Math and Sciences.  Math 30 pure, Chem, Physics and Bio 30 and Computer Sciences.

After years of looking for a career that I think would suit my needs - Data Analyst seems to fit the bill.  Working with numbers, computer programming, organization, and not working with the general public.

What I really want to do, is be part of something to be proud of.  I'm not interested in business and accounting - I am interested in scientific studies. This career is the only one that gives me potential to fulfill my life-long goals.

Working with math (I love math.)
Being an essential part of a research team, without being in the spotlight.
Having a desk job that avoids public attention
Working on a computer, creating and using various programs (I built my first computer at 13, and my first website shortly after using only HTML. 1998)
Having a lot of opportunity and options.

I've searched for so long to have something to strive for, to finally follow a dream.  I've taught myself calculus in two months (basic yes, but still...).  I don't want to be looked after for the rest of my life.  I don't want my disease to be the end point of all there is.  Jubilee has given me something to strive for.  She gave me hope, and confidence that if I could go to Vegas Night, alone, after dark - and not have a panic attack, I can do anything with her at my side.

The fact that I'm training a cat - is one huge hurdle, to have trained a cat that allows me to walk in public, and not be afraid?  That's one impossible thing I've already done.  I want to do more!

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