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February, 2019:

My Bill Died

This legislative session, 1289 bills were introduced in Arizona. Every bill that didn’t receive a First Read by last Friday (February 22, 2019) is dead. If a bill doesn’t get a First Read, it doesn’t get assigned to a committee. If it doesn’t get assigned to a committee, it never gets voted on. I could not find a comprehensive list of all the bills that died (or that are still pending for that matter), but among the dead bills is my bill.

HB2289 would have given Arizona the ability to issue non-binary driver’s licenses. This law would have provided the legal recognition that non-binary people deserve to be treated the same as men and women. It would have helped alleviate the problems that arise when someone’s appearance is discordant to the gender they were assigned as birth.

The currently law only allows for male and female designations on IDs. There are no other options. Even if you present a non-binary birth certificate or a non-binary driver’s license from another state, they can’t issue you a non-binary driver’s license. Even if the MVD wanted to, it can’t issue a driver’s license with “X” for non-binary. (I know. I’ve tried. Ditto for leaving the field for sex blank. The computer won’t process the application without “M” or “F.”)  

During this legislative session, I called or emailed Speaker Bowers’ office almost every day. My friends called and emailed him too.  I never received a response, even when I specifically requested a call back. Each time I asked him to give the bill a First Read and assign it to a committee. My requests fell on deaf ears.

I never asked Speaker Bowers to support the bill. All I asked was that he allow it to be heard.

Issuing non-binary driver’s licenses is not a new idea. Currently, Washington D.C. and 6 states issue non-binary driver’s licenses: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and Oregon. (Looking at the pending bills and previously passed laws in other states, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont are the most likely states to be next to grant non-binary driver’s licenses.)

Wait. Back up.

Arkansas! One of the states in the “bible belt” is more progressive and accepting of non-binary people than my state!

Granting non-binary people driver’s licenses that match their gender won’t change most people’s lives, and it shouldn’t be that expensive. It’s a matter of updating a form and some computer software. By not even letting the bill be heard, the State is telling non-binary people that we don’t exist, that we don’t matter, that we don’t deserve the same rights and acknowledgement as everyone else. The State of Arizona is saying we’re second class citizens at best.

This hurt. Having my bill die without being given a chance was a slap in the face and a kick in the gut. It made me want to figuratively crawl into a corner and cry.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/34757503063
Image by Ted Eytan from Werk For Your Health (Creative Commons License)

At the same time, I want to scream at anyone who says we don’t exist. I will shop in the men’s and women’s sections if I feel like it. I will cringe every time I hear someone refer to me as “ma’am” or “miss.” I want to take my non-binary birth certificate (thanks California!) and whip it out anytime someone claims we should be forced to use the bathroom based on what gender we were assigned at birth.

We know we exist. I’m not asking for your validation. I just want the same rights as everyone else.

If you’re curious about the status of a bill, you can look it up on the State’s website. A lot of good bills died last week.

Blind Dog Living: 90 Days In

When Rosie lost her right eye to glaucoma and became a pirate pup in 2015, our doctor said it would only be a matter of time until the illness took her other eye. They said most glaucoma dogs lose their second eye within a year of the first one.

Rosie made it 3 years and 9 months.

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Day 1: Sudden Blindness

Monday, November 19, 2018 (the Monday before Thanksgiving): Rosie woke up blind. When we went for our morning walk, she stumbled when the surface of the ground changed from sidewalk, to gravel, to grass. That’s what tipped me off that she wasn’t just tired. Not that she could see much before then – between the glaucoma and her eye drops, Rosie’s view of the world was like looking through a straw after her first eye surgery.

I called our puppy ophthalmologist’s emergency number (it was before 6 a.m.). The doctor gave the go-ahead to give Rosie’s emergency meds and told me to make an appointment with our regular vet. I mixed glycerin with milk and slowly poured down Rosie’s throat with a big syringe. This dehydrated her and hopefully brought down the pressure in her eye.

How About Today?

I got an appointment with our vet just before noon where they confirmed what I already suspected: Rosie was blind. Her glaucoma had spread and the pressure in her right eye was too high. It needed to be removed.

I asked our vet if they had availability on the schedule to do Rosie’s surgery the next day. She went to the back to check the surgeon’s schedule. When the vet returned, she said, “How about today?”

At 12:30 that afternoon, I left Rosie in the trusted care of our vet where the same surgeon who did her first enucleation would be performing her second one. The hardest part was not being able to explain to Rosie what was about to happen. I couldn’t tell her, “These nice people are going to put you to sleep, and when you wake up, your head isn’t going to hurt anymore, but you’ll never see again.”

Support from the Blind Basset Community

One of the first people I reached out to after leaving Rosie was Daisy the Blind Snowflake – an all-white blind basset I knew from Instagram. Her mom told me that adapting to blindness is harder on the human than the dog and gave me some tips. That was reassuring.

Sarah and Thomas to the Rescue

I picked up Rosie from the vet at 8 that night. The vet tech was very sweet. She told me while Rosie was in recovery, it was just her and another dog in that area, neither one in a kennel or cages. At one point, Rosie randomly walked over to the other dog and gently bumped her head into them.

I snapped Rosie’s protective cone from her first surgery around her head, loaded her into the car, and drove her home. Newly blind and still groggy from surgery, she didn’t want to move much. When I unloaded her from the car, she refused to walk, even with a gentle tug on the leash.

I had a moment of mild panic. What was I going to do? I can lift my 68-pound dog, but I can’t carry her the 100ish feet from my parking spot to our condo. I immediately called my neighbors, Sarah and Thomas, who bolted over to help. Thomas scooped up my potato sack of a dog and carried her all the way to her bed.

It turned out, Rosie was freaked out by the cone. As soon as I unsnapped it, she was fine. I made her a deal that she could have breaks from it while I home, nearby, and awake, if she didn’t scratch at her stitches.

Day 2: Surreal

The day after surgery was surreal for me as I looked at my beautiful dog with her swollen purple eye and thought, “My dog is really blind. This isn’t going to change.”

She can’t see shapes. She can’t even see light. She literally has no eyeballs. Her world is dark.

There were some sad moments for me that day, but I found comfort in reminding myself that adapting is harder for me than Rosie. As I was experiencing these thoughts, she was comfortably relaxing on the lawn.

Day 5: You’re Killing Mommy

I often participate in Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday, but I had to make an exception. I was working in my home office, and Rosie was crashing around the living room in her cone.

Bang bang bang bang bang!

I try to be patient with Rosie, especially in times like this where she can’t help it, but the noise was making me insane. I think at one point I actually said, “Rosie, you’re killing Mommy.”

A quick run to Ryan’s Pet Supplies saved my sanity. I got Rosie a soft inflatable doughnut to replace her plastic cone. I think we were both happier for it.

Imperfect Navigation

Basset hounds are scent hounds. I figured navigating as a blind dog would be easy for Rosie. I was surprised to see her that she couldn’t beeline toward a scent.

For example, Rosie’s bowls are in the kitchen. You have to go around the counter to get to them. When she walks to meals, I have to watch to make sure she doesn’t walk into a chair that’s under the dining table. There’s plenty of navigation space. Sometimes she sniffs at her water bowl before realizing that her food bowl is next to it. Even though she has a top-notch sniffer, she’s still navigating in the dark.

Going for walks is a daily adventure for us. We switched to walking with her car harness after her second surgery – a suggestion from the vet tech. At first, it was like walking a marionette. I always have to be on the lookout to make sure she doesn’t inadvertently walk off a curb. When I let Rosie lead, she frequently walks in ovals in the parking lot. I’m not sure why she does that.

I learned that other owners taught their glaucoma dogs verbal commands for “right,” “left,” “slow down,” and “hard stop” while they still had some vision. Yeah . . . Rosie and I didn’t do that. She spent the last 4 years mostly being self-directed on our walks and often walked off-leash. Going back to wearing a leash has been quite the adjustment for her.

One thing I do during our walks is I let her bump into things. Not hard. When we’re approaching a car or a wall, if she wants to keep walking toward the solid object, I’ll slow her down and let her gently bump it. I figure she’s not going to learn how close things are without experiencing it.

Rules for Blind Dog Living

Here are some of the rules I’ve learned for living with a blind dog:

  1. Don’t move the furniture. (I’m not one of them, but apparently there are people who recreationally rearrange their furniture.)
  2. No clutter on the floor. Don’t leave things like shoes out where your dog can trip on them.
  3. Open doors slowly. You never know where your blind dog is on the other side. Your dog cannot tell how fast the door is moving and get out of the way.
  4. You can help your dog navigate by tapping on the floor or wall near where you want them to go.
  5. Protect your blind dog from approaching dogs. During our first week of blind living, a rambunctious dog came up too fast on Rosie. (He just wanted to play.) That was the moment I learned to step in front of Rosie to physically block her from fast approaching dogs. 
  6. Use a harness to walk your blind dog. You don’t want to pull at their neck.
  7. Use a “blind dog” leash.* Rosie has the leash and collar.* This way, anyone approaching us will see that she’s blind and be more thoughtful.
  8. Use scent-based play. We like to play hide-the-treat where I’ll hide pieces of dog treats in shoes, in her bed, behind doors, etc., where she has to sniff them out. Rosie also loves pushing around her Kong treat ball.*
  9. Give all other treats directly to the dog’s mouth. For dental sticks,* bully slices,* and Milkbones,* I hold one side of the treat near her face, and let her grab it with her mouth.

Day 90: Getting the Hang of It

I’m still getting used to having a blind dog. I’ve seen a big improvement in how well she navigates our condo and our complex. She’s gained a lot more confidence in the last few weeks.

She often sticks close to walls and furniture both when walking and laying down. Whenever she lays down at home or in the office, her butt or side is usually touching something. I think this gives her a sense of security about where she is. Whenever I’m looking for her, I scan the edges of the room.

One of the things that gives me the warm fuzzies is seeing her recognize familiar people and dogs. Her tail wags like crazy when she realizes she’s found a friend, sometimes followed by happy whines.

Over the last 90 days, Rosie and my lives have changed a lot. She doesn’t need eye drops anymore. We walk slower. I have to get out of her way, because she’s not getting out of mine. I try to be careful about scary noises like the food processor and vacuum.

On the flip side, a lot of things have stayed the same. Rosie is still my baby. She’s still as stubborn as ever, and probably now even more spoiled (as she should be).  

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Whenever I book a hotel room, if there’s a box on the reservation form for notes or requests, I like to type in something about being non-binary or I’ll put in something silly. One time I asked for the hotel to put a “high five” in my room, just to see what they’d do with that. I would have been tickled pink if they had taped a piece of paper with the outline of someone’s hand on it to the wall. Unfortunately, they ignore it.

I like to have fun when I travel. I’m also the person who shakes out the Gideon Bible, just in case there’s money in it.

Don’t worry. My silly antics aren’t just limited to hotels. I regularly ask servers at restaurants for a pony when they ask if they can bring anything else. Usually they smile and say something lighthearted back. But one drew me a picture of a pony on my bill. She got an extra tip that night.

Last month, I spent a few nights in Vegas for the Shankminds live mastermind event. When I booked my room at the Park MGM, I asked for the staff to refer to me as “Your Grace” and for the hotel to put an octopus made out of towels in my room.

This was what I saw when I walked into my hotel room.

I shall call you “Ocky.”

I giggled when I saw this little guy. I put him on a side table and smiled every time I looked at it for the rest of my trip. (If there is such thing as a spirit animal, I’m pretty sure mine is an octopus.)

I think asking for a towel octopus will be my new thing when I travel. I’m curious to see how other hotels execute my request.

Paying to be an Arizona Lawyer

I just paid $505 for my Arizona bar dues. That’s right, Arizona is a pay-to-play mandatory bar. I paid $505 just so I can be a lawyer for the next year. That’s about $42/month and just under $10/week just so I can work in my profession.

Now, I’m not opposed to a mandatory bar, as we are a self-regulating industry. I am opposed to a state bar not giving their members their money’s worth. I’m definitely not getting $505 worth of value from the State Bar of Arizona, even with our member discounts. I have yet to meet a fellow Arizona lawyer who disagrees with me.

One thing that makes me furious with the State Bar is there was no need to raise our bar dues from $460 (which was already at the high end of state bar dues). The Board of Governors approved the raise despite seeing that the State Bar was forecast to have a multi-million dollar cash surplus at our then rate.

Benefits of the State Bar of Arizona

Before I continue my rant, let me give credit where credit is due. There are some benefits to being a member of the State Bar of Arizona (besides getting to do my job):

  • Ethics Hotline: The State Bar has a number where you can discuss your ethical questions with a qualified lawyer. They will usually not give you a direct answer to your question (unless it is a black-and-white issue). My first year as a lawyer, my goals were to make a profit and not get disbarred. I was on a first name basis with one of the State Bar’s ethic’s lawyers because I called so much.
  • Fastcase: I don’t pay for Westlaw or Lexis. I do most of my case law research with Fastcase through the State Bar. It’s not worth $505/year, but it’s a valuable resource.
  • Arizona Attorney Daily 5: I like getting this email every weekday from Tim Eigo, the editor of Arizona Attorney magazine. It has information about newsworthy legal stories in current events, many of which that are relate to my practice areas.
  • Conference Rooms: When I started my firm, I used a mailbox at a UPS Store for my address and worked from home. When I had to meet with clients, I used the conference rooms at the State Bar in Phoenix which were free to use. They need a better scheduling system, but it’s useful to those of us who live nearby.
  • Investigate Ethics Complaints: One thing the State Bar does is investigate complaints against lawyers. If you read the Lawyer Regulation section of our magazine, you know there are some lawyers who either need help, have no business running a law practice, and/or have no business being a lawyer. Someone needs to be the watchdog over us.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/joegoauktiatrcompetition/11654037604
Image by
tiatrcompetition20133 from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Back to Ranting

One thing that annoys the crap of me about the State Bar is the fact that they charge for continuing education events (CLEs) at their own facilities. They don’t pay their speakers, so their costs to put on an event is close to nothing, and yet they charge $54-$149 per person. You will not see me at one of their CLEs as a speaker or a participant unless they change how they operate.

What I’d Do Differently

If I ran the State Bar, I’d immediately assess the budget – what’s needed and what’s not. When I asked the Bar what our dues pay for, I received a response that said our dues cover about 60% of their budget. (And don’t forget that cash surplus they’re sitting on.)

Additionally, the State Bar should either offer their CLEs at their facilities for free or pay their speakers. With the money they’re sitting on, they could bring in some top-notch speakers who are worth every penny.

I don’t know how the State Bar goes about getting discounts for its members, but I want better ones. They should look for ideas on the Local First Arizona directory to see if there are companies who might was to partner with the Bar – for office supplies, office furniture, document shredding, marketing services, and company shwag. Let’s keep our money supporting our community where we can. I’d also find value in discounts for airline tickets, a custom tailor, and hotels outside the Phoenix area, and because I’m concerned about lawyer safety, I’d love to see discounts for self-defense classes and bulletproof undershirts.

(The one place a lawyer can’t take their gun is into a courthouse. If someone was targeting one of us, that would be a place where we’d most vulnerable. I don’t own a gun. I want a bulletproof undershirt because of the rates of violence against transgender persons.)

Putting my Money Where my Mouth Is

My rule is you can’t bitch unless you’re willing to do something about it. The minimum I can do is vote in the next Board of Governors election this spring. For any incumbents, I’ll look at how they voted on the last bar dues increase. In the candidates’ personal statements, I want to see their ideas to reduce our bar dues and/or provide greater value to the membership. I hope my fellow Arizona lawyers will do the same.