Service dogs in public are working!I can’t say it any plainer. I don’t care if you can’t tell or not, if they are in a public space they are working, end of story. Most service dogs wear vests that say things like “working dog do not pet,”but American federal law does not require a dog to wear a vest or the owner to carry anything identifying the dog as a service animal, basically we use the vests to label our dogs service animals to save ourselves the headache of having a major argument about the dog’s presence every single time we leave the house. If you see a dog in a public space where dogs usually aren’t, vest or not, they are probably working. If you are interested in the dog’s presence, by all means. talk to the person on the other end of the leash. You may want to pet the dog, ask first, and realize that the handler is under no obligation whatsoever to allow it. Why? Service dogs in public are working. Even if all they are doing at that exact moment is sitting next to their handler or laying under a table. You do not know what this animal is trying to do and therefore even brief casual petting by a stranger can distract the dog and possibly put the human at risk. A good rule of thumb is to totally ignore the dog’s presence as much as possible It’s hard. I’ve had to find something,anything, for my hands to do so I wasn’t tempted to sneak pet another handler’s dog after they sad no, respect the no anyway. A service dog is an extension of the handler’s personal space . You don’t like strangers crowding your personal space, do you?Imagine you are at work and people are constantly calling your name, snapping their fingers, whistling, etc, trying to distract you from work. Chances are your employer is not going to be happy.However. if a service dog handler declines a request to pet our partner this is the response we often get”it’s just a dog,why can’t I pet him/her , often followed by an attempt to “sneak pet” them after I said no. It’s not just a dog. One of Gideon’s task is helping me cross streets safely(no I’m not blind but I have gotten hit while crossing the street in my wheelchair(before I got him) so now I have him check for cars even when I should have the right of way as a pedestrian. If some were to sneak pet him at the wrong moment while crossing a road that could be very bad. My personal policy about letting a stranger pet my dog while out in public is this, assuming you asked first, 80% of the time my answer will likely be yes, if I said no when you asked and you try to sneak pet either of them(my Aussie pup is going to start public outings soon) I will make as noisy as scene as possible , expect the same reaction if you don’t ask at all. You have been warned.
Author’s note: I will say again, Isometimes let others pet my dogs while they are in working gear.That is my personal choice,do not assume any other handler will do the same.
My golden retriever turns six in April. He is still extremely willing to go to work but a knee injury that he got when we lived in Colorado making it difficult for him to go up and down stairs at times. So we have decided that it is time to start training another dog so that he can retire in a few years.He is still going to go everywhere with me but so is the puppy one she is housebroken. Medical school has a saying “see one, do one, teach one,” and that’s the theory I’m using. She is not a golden retriever, I considered another one but I didn’t want to fall into the trap of expecting her to behave exactly like Gideon, that’s not fair to either of them. She will be my first Australian Shepherd. I know they are high-energy but I believe I’m up to the challenge. At this point, I would like to address something that frustrates me immensely. Service/assistance dogs are often separated into two categories owner trained and program trained. Gideon and Nekoda, (named for the main female character in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Chronicles of Nick book series), fall into the owner trained category. Many owner trainers do so because waiting lists for program trained dogs can be several years long and many require that the service animal is the only dog in the house. Some people are willing to make that choice and rehome a pet dog to comply with the program stipulations, I am in no way trash talking the person who chooses to do so, or the program for having those rules. The fact is that most people do not expect the same level of behavior from their pet dogs as is required in a service animal.
Training my service animal has been my personal crucible.I’m not the same person I was five years ago. I am no one’s doormat or rug. Training my dogs has given more self-confidence than almost any other experience in my adult life. After the recent election, I need every bit of that confidence. In the face of a very real and very worrisome Trump presidency, we as service animal handlers need to shelve our bias and preconceived notions of each other. Someone once told me that our first and best advocates are always ourselves. We can’t be the advocates we will need to be for the next four years if we are fighting among ourselves.
Rarely do I consider my wheelchair an object which gives me a certain level of privilege and I’m not referring the kinds of things a lot of able people see as privileges like being first to board a plane. I’m talking about the kind of privilege that people refer to when they address white privlage or socio-economic privlage. Believe it or not there is a certain privlage that comes with being visibly disabled. Surprised? Me too.
Tennessee holds its annual Renaissance Faire every weekend of May. This year was the first chance I had to go in years plus there was the added bonus of getting to go with a childhood friend who offered to drive us out there as a birthday present before she moved out of state.Dear Friend struggles with mental health issues and has a service dog to help her deal with them. Dear Friend is also not noticeably disabled other than her mental health. The employees and actors of the Tennessee Ren Faire were wonderfully kind to both of us as far as I saw. Many folks went out of their way to ask if Gideon had enough water which was a good thing because somehow extra water didn’t make it into the day pack. (Bad SD partner bad) It wasn’t until driving home and talking with Dear Friend that I realized she had spent a good portion of the time we weren’t together being hassled because other visitors to the Faire assumed that she didn’t need a service dog and that K* was just a pet she snuck past in spite of the clearly stated no pets policy.
DF and I have known each other since she and my sister started the eighth grade together. Her issues are just as real and ever present as mine are even though people who do not know her as well as my family does may not see them at all. To those people who would demand proof of a psychiatric disability from a complete stranger I have more than a few things to say. The first one is how dare you? You have no idea the kind of road a person has to travel to feel up to doing whatever “normal person” thing you happen to encounter them doing that day. My friend and I plan this particular trip for weeks in part because she has difficulty in crowds. She did it because it was something important to me. She probably knew that some ignorant fellow patron would gripe that she didn’t “look” disabled and it wasn’t fair that she got to bring her dog while a complete stranger was so inconvenienced because they had to leave their dog (who has probably never been in a crowd half as large and therefore would have very likely been freaking out anyway) at home. The second thing I have to say is that disability whether it be physical or cognitive or psychiatric has no particular look. In that way disabilities are similar to chess, there are an infinite number of chess games. For every disability with a label there are an infinite number of permutations for how that disability may manifest. I know of some people who are obviously disabled but whose doctors cannot find a label which includes all their idiosyncratic difficulties and therefore they’re given only the vaguest terms like “motor delay” or “dysfunction” or “brain injury”. I know other people who have multiple diagnoses to describe their difficulties each including at least two three syllable words.
The third thing I would like to say to people who demand proof of a stranger’s disability you be careful what you ask for because you just might get it. My personal disability is fairly straight forward I was born two months and 10 days premature at a hospital that isn’t much more than glorified Band-Aid station. They had no neonatal intensive care unit to speak of and so I had to be transported to Dallas which was two hours away. Whenever anyone asks I say it was oxygen deprivation which caused my brain damage but in truth nobody is quite certain whether it was oxygen deprivation or too much oxygen during the ambulance ride which caused the brain damage which resulted in my disability. The point I am trying to illustrate by telling you that story is that each persons disability and the back story for it are extremely personal things which some people are more comfortable sharing then others. I have been in public speaking situations about my disability several times in my life so for me personally sharing isn’t a problem. I can talk for several hours and you can ask pretty much any question you could possibly think of and so long as you were asking it from a place of genuine curiosity and an effort to understand and not some sense of voyeuristic entitlement that makes me think you believe I owe you the answer, I will answer with as much detail as I can muster, which in some cases maybe way more then you expected. Every person with a disability is an individual and it should not be assumed that they are comfortable with being an open book.
Author’s Note: Dear Friend is used in place of the person’s name. K is the first of her dogs name.
I am a name nerd. I’ve had a fascination with names since grade school. My mom is a name nerd too, it just might be genetic. I have only one sibling but you’d never guess that if the only thing you saw were the number of name books on our shelves. In all of my the time I lived with my folks I can count on both hands the number of times we gave an animal a pet or animal something you’d expect to hear. I remember one spring when all the new baby goats had the names of ice cream flavors.. One year I named a pair of boy/girl goat twins FDR and Elanor. I have had dogs named Travis, Portia( when we named her I was thinking of the Shakespeare character however almost anybody outside of my family who hears her name assumes we meant to name her for a car) Lola, Rosie(female terrier mix) Roosevelt (male lab mix) Honey, Spice, Buster Caylee and Nora. My current dog a Golden Retriever is named Gideon. Yes I know Gideon is a biblical name but in my case its a pop culture reference to Criminal Minds. It was a coin toss between Gideon and Reid
I’m also a fiction writer and so I use name books and websites to name characters. Nameberry.com has lists upon lists of names. You can search name by gender meaning, sound, popularity or any combination thereof. The site also has a forum for writers to brainstorm possible character names. It is definitely worth a look around., especially if your characters are anything like mine and makr you guess their names like Rumpelstiltskin.
Football may be a Thanksgiving tradition for a lot of people but it’s not mine. The National Dog Show comes on after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and that is where you will find This year I had to get a little creative since we no longer have traditional TV access. We don’t have cable and because of where we live the local channels are not much more than snow and static so it was an adventure. I’m glad to say that I got to see both the parade and the dog show. I freely admit to being an armchair judge and I think I’m getting pretty good at it. The thing to remember is that the dog is not being judged against the other dogs to the ring, but on how closely they resemble the American Kennel Club‘s breed standard.
I’m actually enough of a dog geek that I bought the AKC Dog Book which has all the standards and history of the recognized grades, well most of them, the edition I have is about two years out of date. The National Dog Show Best in Show was a Wirehaired Fox Terrier, personally I disagree with the judge. Before anybody says anything, yes I have a Golden Retriever, the Golden from the Sporting Group didn’t make it to the last ring and he shouldn’t have soul I’m not just saying that because “my dog” didn’t win.
As well as resembling the breed standard there should be an extra spark, it should be obvious that the dog itself wants to win. If you don’t believe me that a show dog knows when it has won I disagree. Several years ago a 13 inch beagle named Uno won Best in Show and when it was announced that he and his handler had won he started to howl and the audience actually joined in. For me The Wirehaired Fox Terrier did not have that spark even though she was pretty technically correct, but that’s just my opinion.
Thanksgiving food is still not finished yet but for me the best part of all of it has already happened. I have said it many times, but I really don’t know what I would do without Gideon.. He is bright, cheerful, and happy. I have yet to see anything phase him and he is never been anything other than polite and friendly to strangers. I truthfully think that my New Year’s resolution is going to be too strives to be more like my dog.
It’s the day after the US Presidential Election and whether you are celebrating the result, feel like you have a hangover because of it, or have a hangover from celebrating, we could all use some levity. I voted yesterday for the first time since Gideon (my Golden Retriever service dog) has been here and it was refreshing after the political tensions of the past year to see things from his view. I voted at our City Hall and there was a line of people outside the the room where the voting machines were set up. He walked in tail wagging, politely sniffed shoes and sat down to wait our turn. While I voted he power napped under the table. When we left he gracefully accepted compliments and perfunctory pats from volunteers and voters regardless of party affiliation with a tail wag or the occasional lick. I continue to hope that one day we can express differing opinions without the verbal brawling and bloodletting that often takes place. Maybe next time the candidates will take a leaf out of their pets books while on the trail and hopefully be better for it.
People who know me from Tennessee would probably agree that I had the makings of a night owl to start with. Living with a boyfriend who works 7 to 7 has made it official I think. The dog is fine…. housemates take him out as needed though as soon as I can get my power chair here I will. On the days the boyfriend works I’m up at 5 and don’t really sleep until he comes home the next morning. On his off days I keep more or less “normal” hours. I’m pretty sure Gideon is still assured I am still human