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The Hound and the Fury

Overseas travel. That rather middle-class rite of passage for young Australians.

Epic train trips, back-packer hostels, and guided tours. Absorbing local language and history. Knowing the best stuff to see, and how to get there. Buying mystery food from street vendors, having unexpected adventures with people you’ve just met. Being spontaneous and – what’s that word everyone’s using these days? Oh yes; random. So random.  And then of-course putting the lot up in super fun happy-snaps on Facebook to make others insanely (and inanely) jealous.

Despite the, er, slightly sarcastic tone creeping in there, I can’t deny that I’ve always wanted to do the overseas travel thing. Travelling when you have a disability, however, is not easy. Here is a blog post from a UK based blog, with the wonderful name Benefit Scrounging Scum, which shows how travel for the disabled can be an exhausting nightmare.

While my health issues are different from the above blogger’s, the idea of travel is no less onerous. Memories of the last time I was at an airport are definitely hindering my wanderlust.

Walk to a luggage trolley. No coins for the trolley. walk to a change machine. The usual walk, walk, walk, stop. Catch breath. Walk, walk, walk, stop. Catch breath. Realise the lift is at the other end of the air-port, and the plane that leaves in two minutes is another ten minute walk in a totally different direction. Queue up at the help-desk to ask for some kind of assistance (wheelchair? Ambulance? Panic button?) while a booking clerk with a blonde pony tail and an excessive amount of purple eye-shadow gets all snarky and says there really isn’t anything they can do and why didn’t I just get here earlier?

And, ugh, air travel – allright for an hour or so, but soon can become a bit alarming, what with the ever-dimishing amount of 02 circulating in the cabin. I might have to one day fork out money for a portable 02 concentrator to avoid an emergency stop-over on some tiny pacific island secretly teeming with Crichton style dinosaurs.

Scary.

And this is all before I even get to an interesting destination. Let’s face it, I can’t even walk to the shops in my own suburb, so it’s rather daunting to think about what might be involved in your average ‘twenty countries in ten days’ tourist package.

Lately, I’ve come to a decision. The only way I would consider traveling anywhere, under any circumstance what-so-ever (even possibly including the next time I go to the local shops) is with a specially trained and incredibly intelligent dog. A Lassie, or an Inspector Rex. With such a dog, surely, any kind of travel would be simply awesome.

At train stations, airports, and various tourist attractions, Lassie or Inspector Rex could run ahead and check if there are lifts or escalators within walking distance. Lassie or Inspector Rex could bark loudly and threateningly at blonde purple-eye-shadow woman until she cries and gives me a zippy ride to the terminal on one of those mini-car things, as well as a free ticket upgrade and a pinacolada. When we arrive at hostels it would leap athletically out of the taxi to fetch someone from reception, then mime with cute doggy gestures the fact that I need a person to carry my oxygen concentrator from the taxi to my room. And when I feel tired from walking around all day sight-seeing, and a bit sad because people designing buildings in 14th Century Europe didn’t know about things like lifts and escalators and disabled parking, I could simply close my eyes and bury my face in its’ silky-soft fur coat and instantly feel better.

A travel-dog is definitely the answer.

And now we come to the second part of this post. While the first part was the ‘Hound’, this part constitutes the ‘Fury’ .

Perhaps I should add here that I’ve never actually read that particular William Faulkner novel. I just have this crazy love of very bad literary puns. Sorry about that.

Another quick note: as this has been such an exceptionally long post, feel free to take a break at this point. Have a cup of tea and a biscuit. Or maybe watch some TV for a while, throw darts at the giant poster of Justin Bieber on your wall, think about new ways to contribute to the nation’s economy, or, really, whatever else it might be that you like to do in your spare time.

So, to travel with an uber-hound, one needs to save some money. Therefore, one must get a job.

Get a job.

Such a lovely little sentence with so many possibilities. When one has a job, one gets to be busy and important. One feels like a contributing member of society, and no longer feels guilty after reading newspaper articles like this one, even while being a reasonably intelligent member of the human race, and therefore able to easily de-construct it as being utter fabrication. On made-up toast.

As it happens, I have recently begun looking for part-time work. This is pretty much how my job-searching as gone so far:

Dear Sir/ Madam, I am very keen to work for your small-business/ company/ organisation. In fact, I want nothing more in life than to work for your small business/ company/ organisation. I would be such an asset for your wonderful, wonderful, small-business/ company/ organisation, which I love and adore, and did I mention that I’m terrific? I’m wonderful, I’m efficient, smart, all that, and more. I can type. And use databases. I have heaps of experience. Scads. Some of it is a bit outdated. But, oh yes, I’m great with people. I’m definitely a people-person! People, gosh, I just love them. Yes, its true I haven’t worked in a while. Here’s why. I have this teensy, weensy, little problem, kind of a heart-lung thing, its a bit annoying, and it does mean I can’t work quite full time and I might take a few sick days here and there, but really, I’m a total trooper, I’m tough, I’ll work hard even if I’m having a shit day. Oh, by the way, are there stairs at your work-place? What about good ventilation? And how’s the parking out the front? And will I have to walk up any kind of slope or incline to get from car-park to workplace? And what about inside the building? There isn’t anything in there like a tea-room or a photo-copy room that I have to walk up a huge flight of stairs to get to? Thanks for taking the time out of your busy and important schedule to read my boring letter about my crap, boring, disabled life. Oh sorry, I mean my great life. So happy and fulfilled, and I’ve had such interesting life-experiences! Let me know if you would like me to come in for an interview. I have forwarded a CV containing a pathetically small amount of actual experience for someone my age, but I was hoping you’ll overlook that out of sympathy basically, give a disabled gal a break, would ya? id I mention I really want to work for your small business/ company/ organisation? And that I’m awesome? Cheers.

Obviously, the job hunt has not gone so well.

So I recently joined a government-funded recruitment agency intended specifically for people with disabilities. I really thought it would help. But I have always had a tendency to be overly optimistic. I thought they would have a list of employers who were prepared to be magnanimous in taking on a burden such as myself, and that I would have to do little more than attend an interview in some nice clothes and behave like a proper normal person for an hour or so.

Nope.

I thought the recruitment company would communicate with my specialist regarding my disease, and try, as best as they could, to tailor a work-situation that allows me to realise my full potential in an environment supportive of my needs as a disabled person.

They haven’t.

Essentially, joining a government-funded recruitment agency means job hunting as per normal, while a case worker  gets paid to sit in an office and ask, “How is it all going?” once a week.

The last appointment was worse, however. The night before, I hadn’t slept well and possibly looked rather blue. This caused my caseworker to gape at me and exclaim,

“You look dreadful! Really awful! What’s wrong with you? Are you sick?”

“Um, yes, I kind of have this disease – its a heart-lung thing” (Oh dear, not this again).

So really, the whole finding a job and contributing to society while saving for a fabulous wonder-hound has not gone too well. But I haven’t given up yet. I’m thinking the next letter I write should be about how a certain government agency could think about replacing their staff with incredibly well-trained, highly skilled, cute and cuddly German Shepherds.

See? Look what they could be doing for me:

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