But She’s Got Down Syndrome, Right?

I just got off the phone with a lawyer in Arizona. We talked at length about Amanda’s case. I explained that Amanda has Down syndrome and she wants to move back to Michigan and live with me. I told him her current guardian is not even allowing us a real visit.

He was not very encouraging about me filing my own petition for visitation or to amend the guardianship. I had explained that all the siblings were against me. He asked why, and I said they were angry about the book Amanda and I had written.

His advice was for me to hire an attorney. He quoted me a figure of at least $10,000. This is without the travel. So the first couple of quotes I received were in the ballpark.

He said a better option would be to talk to Amanda’s guardian, Ted and convince him I am not this terrible person Robin has made me out to be. Appeal to his humanity. 

I said, “He KNOWS very well that I am not a terrible person. I last saw him at our brother’s funeral. Even then he was sticking it to Amanda. He’s got a point to make. He is in control. He’s having a tantrum at Amanda’s expense. How do you reason with that?!”

He didn’t have an answer for that one.

I said, “All I need is one judge who will agree to talk to Amanda and hear her out.”

He said, “But she’s got Down syndrome, right?”

So with that simple question, he summed up the whole problem. Amanda is not limited by her own abilities. Amanda is limited by a stigma.

It seems the best option for Amanda and me is to raise a pile of money. I don’t know how. I think it is a travesty that the system allows this to happen. What about all the family members who do not have the resources to fight for their loved ones? How many others have suffered the way Amanda is suffering?

Unfortunately people with disabilities just don’t pack the emotional wallop that other causes do. If I were raising money to save a dog, do you think I would have $20,000 by now? How about if I were raising money to help a mainstream, white child who was separated from family?

Oh, wait. The law would protect the dog and the minor child. 

But with guardianship, this type of abuse is not considered criminal. So this 48 year old woman, this published award-winning author, this compassionate person, this raging wit, is stuck in a place she doesn’t want to be, with people she doesn’t want to live with.

…But she’s got Down syndrome, right?


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Forever Raptor

My farm in Gregory was named Reva Ridge (after my beloved dog Reva, and because the property was on a high hill; and there was a famous race horse named Riva Ridge… See how I did that?) and there was a barn I had designed myself. I decided to extend the roof to include an overhang outside the stalls, to offer shade during the day and additional shelter from rain.  There were three stalls, two for my horses and one convenient extra. I usually was able to fill it, because it seemed there was always a horse in need of a place to land.

One of my temporary residents was a third Morgan named Zach who had some nervous habits. He was much taller than both Clifford and Trudy. He could reach up and touch the underside of the extended roof. He tore out a section of it, leaving a small hole in the shape of a rectangle. When the grass came up, he had several acres of pasture to work on, so he thankfully gave up on the extracurricular chewing.

Clifford’s stall was the one closest to the door, on the left. I went in for the morning feed and was surprised to see a bird flash up over his wall. I walked outside and looked up just in time to see it disappear into the hole.

I walked across the back yard, into the basement got out the step ladder. The bird heard the commotion and it flurried a quick escape. I recognized it to be an American Kestrel.

Kestrel in Watercolor copyright Nancy J Bailey

I climbed up on the ladder and poked my head through the hole. I felt a thrill shoot down my spine. Nestled into a pile of straw and fluff were four speckled eggs.

The following week, I tried not to disturb the birds as I did my chores.

Among all raptors, the kestrels were my favorite with their bright colors and large, brilliant eyes. I had fantasies of training a bird to fly to my glove. Growing up in the deep woods of the Eastern UP had afforded me many opportunities to see raptors in action. One of my favorite books was, “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George. It told of a kid who lived in a hollow tree in the wilderness. He adopted a baby falcon and taught her to hunt.

I thought this was the coolest experience ever. I wanted to live in a tree and survive off the land. I wanted a bird of my own. I even loved her name, “Frightful.”

Over the coming days I saw both parent kestrels coming and going. When they started delivering clearly visible dragonflies and other insects, I knew the babies had hatched. So I pulled out the ladder again and climbed up to the hole. This time, above my head, I noticed the pocked, clay-colored shell constructed by a batch of angry yellow jackets. The bees swirled around my hair as I peered into the alcove. I could see the babies, white puff balls, staring at me in horror. One of them opened its beak and hissed.

I didn’t touch the baby birds. Their round ugly heads wobbled and waved as they stared right back at me. Finally, I descended the ladder.

The following weeks presented a moral dilemma. Here was my chance to nab one of those babies and raise a Frightful of my own. But I researched and learned that most of the raptors in rehab centers had been taken from their nests as hatchlings and could never be released into the wild. They hadn’t learned to survive.

I couldn’t do it.

Instead, I got to witness the four young kestrels as they lined up on the pasture fence, with the parents dodging and darting around them, feeding them and teaching them to hunt. I heard their high, shrill calls and thought I would never forget what a kestrel sounds like.

It was midsummer when the adult male bird landed on the ground outside my kitchen window. We locked eyes. He sat there for a long time just looking at me. Then he flew off.

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The Audacity of My Sister, Amanda

My youngest sister Amanda has Down syndrome and, if you have been following her story you already know she is enmeshed in a guardianship situation that is rife with controversy.

Amanda is 48 years old and I am currently crowdfunding to try to get her out of the mess.

Despite the attempts of the guardian and others to keep her quiet, she has managed to let it be known that she doesn’t want to live in Arizona anymore.

Amanda has a lot of courage.

She loves her brother, and always will, because that is who she is: Generous, forgiving and kind. Loyal to the end. But she doesn’t want to live with him.

Whatever her reasons are, it shouldn’t really matter. She is not happy. She wants out. She is, after all, an adult.

I have run the gauntlet of associations and groups trying to get help for her. I’ve explained all this in past posts, how the justice system places a person with a disability on the bottom rung of priorities. Amanda has Down syndrome. Therefore she must not be able to make her own choices. Someone has to think for her.

At least, that is the mentality.

I disagree. Amanda has a quick wit and a strong sense of self. She knows who she is. She is also an astute observer and she figures people out. She is anything but stupid.

Amanda co-authored an award-winning book, “The North Side of Down”.

My crowdfunding effort is being ambushed by siblings who don’t want people to help Amanda. They want her to stay right where she is.

One extended family member thought he might be able to bring some peace to the family. He shared the link on Facebook, asking for a dialog, hoping to get a conversation going. He was immediately verbally crucified by one of my sisters. She eviscerated him so completely that when he called me afterward, his voice was shaking.

The same thing happened to a friend who contributed. She received an unwanted — and unwelcome — message from Raechel. She is not the first person to be trolled by Raechel. “Nancy is this, Nancy is that.” She didn’t even use my name — calling me “Nasty” instead.

The Trumpian sleight of hand is to get you to look the other way. They want you to stop thinking about Amanda and focus on me instead.

If a person has the nerve to stand up for Amanda, they are in for a verbal beating, by any one or more of some six or eight people. Who needs that?

Ironically, the actions of my siblings only serve to prove my point.

But would-be advocates, people who know Amanda and some who know me, recoil from the bullying. The toxicity is palpable. The verbal barrage of these siblings is so needless and vicious it makes you wonder how their hatred hasn’t eaten them alive.

Others, the type who like to roll around in the dirt, will get down in it with them and rejoice in the slavish rancor.

Whatever. Knock yourselves out, guys.

This is not about me. It’s about Amanda and how the guardian is forcing himself down her throat to the extent that he wouldn’t even allow us to see a movie with Jon’s widow, following his funeral. Amanda must be kept under strict control at all times.

Amanda is tired of this.

Hell, I am, too.

He is planning to bring her to Michigan in July and pull the same crap. No. No sister time. No Girl’s Day Out. No movies.


Sleight of hand.

Amanda is worth money. Her caretaker gets paid to have her. She’s a cash cow. If she talks, people might find out she wants to leave. If she leaves, they will lose all that income.

The system needs to change. But that will take time. For now, I say, enough. I am raising money to do what I can for Amanda with whatever I can scrape together.

Hiring a lawyer is ridiculously expensive. Maybe I won’t make that goal. But there are other things I can do. I can file another petition and hope for a more sympathetic judge, one who will listen to Amanda herself. Then she can tell him. Perhaps he will amend the guardianship and we can go see a movie.

It’s all about a movie. And a pizza.

One small step in the right direction would make a world of difference.

For now, that is all we want.

No one should have the right to silence anybody. Ever.


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Down Syndrome, Guardianship and the Justice System

This post is worth a revisit. I am trying to get help for Amanda. https://www.fundedjustice.com/BringAmandaHome?ref=ab_a85le3_ab_785jef

Diary of a Misplaced Yooper: Cliffy's Mom's Blog

Down syndrome, formerly called “Mongolian Idiocy” was named for a physician who described the condition in the 1860’s, Dr. John Langdon Down.

He wrote:

The Mongolian type of idiocy occurs in more than ten per cent of the cases which are presented to me. They are always congenital idiots and never result from accidents after uterine life. They are, for the most part instances of degeneracy arising from tuberculosis in the parents. They have considerable power of imitation, even bordering on being mimics. They are humorous and a lively sense of the ridiculous often colours their mimicry. This faculty of imitation can be cultivated to a very great extent and a practical direction given to the results obtained. They are usually able to speak; the speech is thick and indistinct, but may be improved very greatly by a well directed scheme of tongue gymnastics. The co-ordinating faculty is abnormal, but…

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The Chickadee Charmer

In memory of Dad. November 24, 1925 – March 30, 2013

Through the polar blast, the birds huddled in the nook of Dad’s old free-standing feeder. He had made it from steel, cutting and welding, shaping the tray and its own little roof. It stood on a pole about five feet long, just tall enough where if I stood on my toes I could see into it.

As a kid I had a cheap 110 camera I had purchased by saving up coupons. The bird feeder stood under a willow tree my grandfather had planted, right outside the kitchen window. The tree had flourished there, reaching skyward. Its massive trunk split into three columns that held the rattly tree house where I lay on the flat top, letting the sun warm me through the still-naked twigs of reluctant spring.

I used to rest my hand on the edge of the feeder and wait patiently, and if I stood very still, a chickadee would land on me. I would snap photos of the fluffy birds as they squabbled and pecked at the seeds. The pictures were always blurry; too close-up for the equipment of the day. Of course, I couldn’t tell at the time how bad they were going to be.

Among the gathering cardinals, jays, nuthatches and sparrows, the chickadees were the ones who feared me the least. In those days, the birds didn’t get handouts in parking lots or fast food joints. They were truly wild.

Years later, at camp, I saw one chickadee sitting on the feeder, pecking wistfully at a sunflower seed on the other side of the plastic. He could reach the millet but he didn’t want it. He wanted the good stuff.

I remembered the days, so many years ago, with Dad’s feeder, taking photos. I got a handful of sunflower seeds and sat down and just waited.

Eventually, the first bird, who I called the Rookie, did come to my hand. The first time he landed, I remember I thought he would just grab the seed and go. But he sat on my fingers for a long time, hunkered down defensively, eyeing me with care. I tried not to stare directly at him. He finally took one seed and flew off.

After that, it was easier to get him to come down. Once the other birds saw him doing it, we were bombarded. Dad and I made it our mission to always keep sunflower seeds in our pockets. The chickadees perched high in the poplar and spruce trees, their white hatch marks shining like tiny ornaments. They followed Dad around. They perched on the fence when I cleaned the corral and they followed me down the road when I dumped the manure. They would land on Clifford’s back, and on the seat of the tractor. One flew in the open window of Dad’s truck when he pulled in, sitting on the steering wheel and looking at him.

I had only to point at a particular bird, high in a tree, and it would fly down, land on my hand, take a seed and then go.

I thought maybe in spring, I would have to tame them all over again. But they remembered. When we opened up camp, they came around, flinging themselves at our heads when we exited the camper, flashing through the trees and calling their characteristic, “dee dee dee.”

The most surprising thing about these birds was that we could tell them apart. It was not so much by their markings, which were virtually identical, but their behaviors. Each bird had its own habits. The bird Dad called Spotty had a white spot on his head and preferred to eat his seeds from the ground. He would land on Dad’s shoe. The one I called Rookie I always knew, as he sat on the low cedar branch and would say, “Chip” to me softly. He brought a juvenile with him the second year, and fed him faithfully.

Dad said that having those chickadees around camp was one of the nicest things that had ever happened to him.  In thinking back, I will second that notion.

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Puppy Boot Camp – 6 Month GSD – Proofing the Stay

With a “soft” dog like Arthur, proofing the stay can be a trick because he likes to be right in your pocket. But teaching a reliable stay is a great confidence builder for a worried dog. It is also a great thing for a dog to have on his resume; you never know when a situation is going to come up when you need your dog to just stay put.

Also, it is great for posing for photos!

This post explains an easy way to teach a dog to stay. As I explained,
when I am at the farthest point away from the dog, I click and then return with the treat. I like the dog to maintain eye contact during this time. If he is watching me he is less inclined to be distracted by things that might tempt him to move.

Proofing the stay involves teaching the concept of what “stay” means. Sit here, even if I walk away. Sit here even if I call another dog. Sit here even if I go out of sight.

There are loads of ways to proof a stay. The “stay” command is like a muscle; it gets stronger in time as long as it is consistently reinforced.

Teaching the “down stay” is generally easier because it takes more energy for the dog to get up and move. “Sit stay is more difficult; so I tend to teach that first. As we go along, I up the ante, introducing more temptations and making the stay more difficult.

Arthur went to his first class with me on Friday night and made me proud by staying in place despite being in a totally new environment around a bunch of strange dogs. He was able to transfer all those lessons with Til in the farm store, to a new environment.

He did break a couple of times. But it is normal for a dog to get up and walk out of a stay in these early stages of training. If that happens, it’s not a big deal. He just gets taken back to the same spot and told again.

Here are some videos of Arthur in various stages of proofing.

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Puppy Boot Camp – What To Feed A Spooky Pup

Arthur the GSD turned 6 months old on February 7th. I wish I could say he was completely cured. He is doing so much better but he relapses once in awhile. He is still afraid of kids. In the kitchen the other day, while letting him out the door, I stepped on his foot and he let out a screech and ran to his crate. He didn’t want to come out, so he got to stay in there for an hour and recover. I just left him alone.

I found his reaction overly dramatic — I do not weigh THAT much, hello! But the next time he went to the door, he was much more aware of where his feet were, stepping out of my way as I reached for the doorknob.

He is panicky, but he is capable of learning. He has these moments but overall his whole demeanor seems happier.

We are continuing to work on training. His recall is coming along great.

Every day he comes out and helps me do barn chores.

He loves the cold and is the only one of my dogs who wants to be out there! He rolls and rubs his face in the snow. More power to ya, Arthur.

He is growing like a proverbial weed and he is still getting good nutrition, The Courage Meal. Part of this protein diet designed to help build confidence is made up of high quality kibble, to ensure he gets all the proper nutrients for his canid system. He is going to be a big dog, so it’s important to keep his weight down, not stressing his joints while still giving him everything he needs.

Several people have asked me what kind of dog food is best. It’s getting super scary out there with all pet food recalls and plus, the common ingredient not only corn, but the remains of euthanized dogs and cats!

ACK!!! Gives a whole new meaning to that vague phrase, “meat by-products”. Check your ingredients!

There are several great kibble candidates on the market. I decided to promote Life’s Abundance since the food does NOT contain preservatives. The food is super palatable; when you open the bag the fresh smell comes out. The kibble pieces are great as training treats also.

The addition of some home cooked ingredients can help make the cost manageable. Here is the link: The Courage Kibble

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Puppy Boot Camp – Arthur GSD and His Fear

A German shepherd is a dog that should not fear anything; least of all little kids. When Arthur came to me about a month ago he was riddled with issues. He was terrified of moving vehicles: Being around them, being in them, even the sound of them. He was afraid of people wearing hats. He had no interest in coming when called. He piddled on himself incessantly. He was terrified, and he was miserable.

The past month has involved a very regulated schedule; crate time to teach him to hold his bladder. Outdoor time to teach him the appropriate place to relieve himself. Training time to teach him how to pay attention and give him confidence.

Sitting in heel position.

My other dogs helped a lot in teaching him how the home routine works. Nobody HERE pees in the house. Everyone HERE comes when I call. The dogs, especially my border collie Til, have set a stellar example of how dogs act. They didn’t always appreciate having to teach a boisterous, oversized, lop-eared puppy how to behave. He required so much correction! But they do it, because that’s how a pack works.

I like to think back on our progress, because it gives me encouragement moving forward. I am very concerned about Arthur’s fear of children. It is just not a good thing to have a dog that will potentially be 100 pounds, behaving fearfully around kids that can’t even reach the tops of his ears. It’s just the little ones he reacts to. He’s okay with teenagers. He is finally pretty much okay with people in hats. He leans against them for petting and sits on their feet. He is a big baby. I want to get him to the point of huggable even for the little ones.

Today, while we worked on heeling at attention, sits and stays in the farm store, a couple of little kids came in with their parents and Arthur tuned in immediately. He heard their voices and his whole demeanor changed so visibly that the little girls’ father wisely told them, with no prompting from me, “Do not approach that dog, he is afraid of you.”

Arthur did resort to his old go-to of barking the alarm at the kids as we walked up an adjoining aisle. He could see them through the spaces in the shelves that separated us. I kept walking. I had some high value treats and just resorted to simple attention exercises. Sit. Make eye contact. Heel. Step over this way. Come around. Stay. Good boy.

Once I had him a little bit grounded I put him on a down and asked him to stay. He did stay put, even though the evil children were only a few yards away.

As the family shopped, I stayed in their orbit with Arthur, encouraging him to keep up the good work and just ignore the fact that they were there. When they approached the checkout, so did we. I had Arthur sitting at heel when the last child walked right by him and out the door. She was involved in her own stuff and seemed not to notice him. Big win for him.

He survived the encounter, but we need to see a lot more kids.

His sit-stay, however, is coming along great!

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Puppy Boot Camp – Revisiting the Stay

Sometimes when you take some time off, the puppy will relapse. Such was the case for Dom, now Arthur, who visited the store today and his walking with the cart reminded me of the first day I took him. A few turns into him for forging ahead, and turns away for lagging behind, and he was back in business. I hadn’t thought about it but it really does give him a good opportunity for body awareness. He did remember to sit every time we stopped.

These videos might be a little like watching paint dry. But you can see how every time he pulls on the leash, I stop and he has to sit. If he keeps a loose leash, we keep on going.

He is wet because it was raining outside. He got pretty muddy. After the cart session we left Til with the cart and I just walked Arthur around.

He did no barking at all this time, but the store was quiet. He saw a couple of people that he considered suspicious. People that he previously would have barked at would cause him to do a double take. He managed to keep pretty well focused on what we were doing.

My timing with the reward is pretty bad in the video because I have trouble handling the phone and the clicker at the same time.

We did some random downs and proofed the stay. The pup did well on these. Some people like to teach the down as a stay because the dog is more inclined to stay in position when he is lying down.

I usually teach Sit Stay first because it is easier for me to move around the dog, pop back and reward when they are sitting. If a dog can master a sit-stay first, then the down stay usually comes much easier.

From here we will move in to more challenging aspects of the stay. We will proof under all kinds of different circumstances like different locations, asking for the stay when I walk other dogs around him, asking for the stay when I go out of sight, etc. Today I squatted down to take his picture and I thought he might not stay there but he did.

So here is his first off-leash photo opp, in a sit stay with his friend, Til. Good boys!

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Puppy Boot Camp Day 20, Part 2: German Shepherd and the Random Down

The German shepherd pup formerly known as Dom, now called Top or more formally, Arthur, has been learning to lie down on cue. The hand signal is traditionally raising the right hand. But he is now learning to drop when I say the word, “Down.”

I use these cues at random times because Down really comes in handy. It is excellent as a replacement for other undesirables. For instance, if your dog is about to jump up, or getting too excited, an in-motion Down is a great alternative.

There are all kinds of reasons to teach Down as a cue to be executed on the spot. Plus, if you ever go into advanced obedience, it is one thing your dog will have to know.

I have used it with Til while out hiking, if he is running off to greet people and I don’t want him to, I can shout out, “Down” and he will drop in place. It is good as a preventative measure but also comes in handy at other times, such as when you are taking photos.

I like to mix the Down up with other cues. For instance, today when we were working on recalls I added a couple of downs, just as a change-up. It helps to keep things fresh.

Arthur is doing pretty well with his random downs. And today, he made his first catch.

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