Here’s our sticker for this month, an homage to my service dog, Nonoha!
Get the monthly exclusive jumbo version of this vinyl sticker on my Ko-fi shop. No account or subscription necessary!
July is Disability Pride Month, so I wanted to take this opportunity to celebrate my service dog, Nonoha, and talk a little about some of my chronic illnesses and their impact on my career as an artist and teacher. Trigger warnings for mentions of chronic illness, disability, and mild ableism.
To quickly summarise my chronic illness journey: I developed a severe case of H1N1 back in 2010 when I was in university. It triggered lupus (which was quickly diagnosed) and ME/CFS (which was not quickly diagnosed). I felt better with my lupus treatment but never recovered enough to go back to my Master’s degree, so I became a dog trainer teaching a couple hours a week. I gradually got more and more sick over time until I couldn’t teach any longer, and I was diagnosed with MC/CFS about this time. We moved from Toronto, ON to Fredericton, NB in the hopes a quieter environment would help my health. I don’t think my health has improved, but I do love living in NB! After a few years here, I actually started getting much sicker. I was recently diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency/Addison’s disease. This puts an even tighter limit on my energy levels, but I’m working with an amazing endocrinologist who has helped minimise the worst of my symptoms. I’m not quite back to my usual ME/CFS energy levels, but I’m no longer bed-bound most days and can even go shopping or on short hikes a couple times a month.
Doggy stuff: We were on a waiting list to get Nonoha as a sports dog for a couple years before my ME/CFS diagnosis, and we brought her home about 6 months before my diagnosis. I trained her in agility, obedience, and service dog tasks. She does alerts for migraines, deep pressure therapy for pain and fatigue, and a myriad of minor tasks like retrieving medication and my cane, picking up things I’ve dropped, etc. Unfortunately, I’ve found it’s really frustrating using her in public. I don’t look obviously disabled without my cane (which I thankfully do not need often anymore), and people often let their children chase us. There really needs to be more education about different types of service dogs. Not all disabilities are obvious, and service dogs can learn so many tasks to help their people! So Nono is retired from public service, and I rely on my husband instead, but the little goblin does help out around the house. (She especially loves retrieving and doing alerts.)
Art career stuff: Digital painting was my biggest hobby in high school and university. I thought an art career might work out because I can easily control how much, and when, I work. I quickly pivoted from digital art to watercolours and then fell in love with rug tufting, too. I can work about an hour or two a day on a good day, and I’m careful to take a lot of breaks to lay down. I have a cot in my home studio, so I don’t have to travel far to take a little break. I also rarely work two days in a row, but I’m always very excited when I get to work more often! This means my productivity is very low, and some weeks, I’m not able to work at all. I have to begin prepping months in advance for any local events, and that’s why I don’t sell originals online. (Gotta hoard those bois for the locals haha!)
I’ve always been interested in teaching, and my goal was always to become an educator. While I can’t teach in person because of my energy limits, I’ve slowly been learning to create video lessons. I’m not the best at video editing, but I’ve found the few lessons I’ve been able to create really rewarding! I hope my students have been enjoying my classes and learning a bit despite my lack of technical skills haha!
In the future: I’m hoping to pivot my career from commission based to teaching based while still running my little art shop. Creating video lessons is a lot more work, but it’s easier to spread out over time than commissions which have to be delivered in a reasonable time frame. (Though all my commissioners have been absolutely amazing and compassionate when I’ve run into hiccups and delays, and I’m thankful every day for meeting such wonderful people!) Joining the art community in Fredericton has really expanded my world. I’ve been able to meet really wonderful, compassionate, and passionate people while working within my physical limits. I’m extremely thankful for finding such a wonderful path in life, and I really look forward to continuing my art journey for as long as possible!