Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Service Dog Photos Needed for Training Posters and Pamphlets--- Online Registered Dogs Need Not Apply!

I will be seeking photos of Service Dogs (with or without their disabled  handlers) to use in some upcoming personal projects.  The projects will be used to educate service dog users, trainees, and the general public, possibly including businesses. Some I may use on my blog here. Some I may use on my service dog's FB page-  I will not be getting any money, and will not be selling the photos.  The photos remain YOURS.

Will need the following photos of service dogs:
-on airplanes, with airplanes, inside airport, on cruise ship
-in hospital, on bed, in ER, in Ambulance
-In stores, malls, grocery stores, farmer's markets
-Amusement parks, zoos, festivals, music concerts, plays, movie theaters,Aquarium
-In school, college
-Cuddling with disabled handler
-playing, either alone or with other dogs
-working side by side with another service dog
-In a restaurant
-Any else you can think of that you think I might need.

I am also seeking photos of puppies in training from the shelter/breeder to crate training, first vet visits, puppy socialization, first obedience classes, and first vest and public outing.

I am also looking for Therapy Dog photos that illustrate the different elements of a therapy dog test, and also therapy dogs at work, whether it be at a Library with kids, at a nursing home, assisting with physical therapy with rehab patients, or in hospital working with patients.

I am looking for photos of dogs taking the CGC test (any level), Therapy Dog test (any program, please specify), and Public Access test.  I want photos illustrating each element of the test. (See my examples above, click on CGC or PAT etc. and see how the photos correspond.)

Since we had so many problems the last time I tried this project, each person donating a photo for use must resize and add a "watermark" of sorts to the bottom of the photo.  I will not be blamed for not getting permission to use photos again, so pay attention please!


The photo should be of clear quality, and be 300 resolution, about 4 x 6 in size.  No smaller than 3 x 5 please!

Please print the following information on the bottom of your photo using your own photo program.  (I usually use Microsoft Picture It! because I am old fashioned.  You may use Printshop or other similar type program.)

-If you do not want someone's face shown, you must smudge your own face.  One can do this in a "repair" section of a basic editing program.  Anything that gets rid of "shine" or other corrective "tool" can be used to do this.

-Your name or complete initials, or even a nickname that you will recognize, and the site (if you have one including a Facebook site if that is the only one you have) where photo is posted

-If someone else took the photo of you and your service dog (and you have rights to the photo) put that person's initials.

-Type "Permission to use photo" followed by the present date, my initials: HELG and site:

It might look something like this:

I will not knowingly use photos that are copyrighted, and by professional photographers (because they are typically copyright protected), so please do not donate these types of photos.

Because of the issues that came up last time I did this, all prepared photos must be sent to my email address with the title "Permission to Use Photo"

Included in the email, please list your name, your email address, the service dog's name, duty, breed and any other information.  Also:

"I give permission to Heather Gerquest to utilize my photo, prepared by me, for the purposes of service dog education.  This photo remains MY photo and cannot be sold."

When you are ready, attach the photo to the email and send to

Please email me if you have any questions!

Monday, August 11, 2014

How Do "Fakers" Hurt Real Disabled People and Their Real Service Dogs?

My husband, Chris, posing with Rosie, my Service Dog on her first ever Schooner ride!
 Just yesterday I met a person who told me that they made their dog a service dog because they travel abroad a lot and it was so expensive to bring their family dog.  At the time, my vested service dog and I were enjoying a sail in that person's family's schooner with many other people from the general public.  She commented on how well behaved my service dog was, stating that theirs wasn't that well behaved.  As badly as I wanted to bluntly inform these people of their mistake, and the fact that they were breaking the law, I bit my tongue and smiled and nodded, asking "You mean an Emotional Support Dog?"  
"Oh. My dog is a service dog." And the conversation was interrupted.

They have maintained their Schooner well over the years, as I had been on this particular one way back as a senior in High School, along with the math class and their teacher.  I assisted him in class to give people a little more one-on-one.  The end of the year, we sailed as a treat.  Since then, the Captain had since retired, and this family took over.  

They were friendly with everyone, and their young daughter and my older niece hit it off and provided some live entertainment (unplanned, but they had new songs to perform).  The other high point was that they let me take my service dog onto the boat and did not challenge me in the slightest.  I was there with my whole family celebrating my Mother's birthday.  The weather was perfect.  (Too perfect. There wasn't enough wind!)  So what was my problem??

(Want to sail in a Windjammer?


Quick answer- They can't.

Have you ever seen those sites on the internet that says that you can register or certify your dog to be a service dog?  Usually there is a price to pay.  One says: "Official Service Dog Kits- Take Your Dog Anywhere Without the Hassle!"  It will even email you temporary documents to use while you wait for your "real" ones to arrive.  This family may have seen something like this and paid the money to "make" their family dog a "service dog".  Some of these sites do have educational pages or links.  How many people do you think bothers to read those sections?  How many read them and do it anyway?

It is my assumption that they made their family dog an "Emotional Support" dog, which is not the same as a service dog, but is allowed on airplanes.  They obviously don't know the laws that pertain to each type of job, or if they qualify for either of them, because if they did, they would know that it is not a certificate or registration that makes a service dog a service dog.  Emotional Support dogs only have public access in planes and in "No Pets" housing.  Of course, it can be more convenient to have a service dog because you can take them almost anywhere.  Perhaps they paid the money for the papers and thought "and so it is so."


According to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act, 2010), a Service Animal is:
Q: What is a service animal?
A: The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.
Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:
_ Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.
_ Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.
_ Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.

First of all, in order for a person to even qualify for a service dog, one has to be disabled as defined in the ADA.  The disability must affect  one or more major life activities.  What complicates this is that each person is different.  Two people can suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and one may be able to work, maintain a home, take care of him/herself.  Another person with PTSD may have big problems.  The person may not be able to function well enough to work, or may not work enough, they may have problems with things as simple as staying safe.  This means that a diagnosis doesn't mean a person qualifies for a service dog.  

See: If I'm not really disabled, Couldn't I qualify for a Service Dog under the "Third Prong"?

Secondly, the dog its self must be trained, not just in general obedience, but must be trained to perform work or tasks that will assist the disabled person he/she will work for.  Even a legit service dog can get kicked out of a public place if it does not behave appropriately. A service dog, though the handler can get very attached and fall deeply in love with the dog, is considered adaptive medical equipment, and is not considered a pet. At the end of the day, it is that dog's training that makes him/her a service dog and not some old piece of paper or a vest or harness.  In public, if that service dog is not with his/her handler, but with another person, that dog is no longer considered a service dog and has no public access.


One of the problems with a family "making" their pet dog a "service dog" or "emotional support dog" is that typically, only so many dogs are allowed in the cabin of the plane at a time.  This means that family A, who has a pet they simply don't want to pay the extra money to travel with could be preventing a truly disabled individual from traveling with his legit service dog.  Who will that be?  Will the Veteran with the service dog for his PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or a person with seizures?  Will it be a guide dog and his visually impaired handler?   Maybe it is a person with a legitimate emotional support dog.  See the problem?  
Another issue that comes up with plane travel is that Emotional Support Pets must be accompanied by a letter from a Doctor.  An expensive piece of paper from the internet is not going to cut it here.

Lastly, the airports and planes are not following the same set of laws.  They do not follow the ADA.  They have their own set of rules, and have been known to kick out legitimate service dogs and their disabled handlers.

It may not surprise you to learn that around the time of dog shows, air travel with service dogs and emotional support dogs increases.  Show handlers don't want their dogs in the cabin, and, as we know, it is expensive to fly with a dog in the cabin.  This too is not legal.

See:  Air Travel with an Assistance Dog:

Me with Rosie & Elaine with Jenn at the Portland Int'l Airport heading for Washington DC.

Fakers have been on the rise with service dogs.  It creates a lot of problems for those who are disabled and really need their trained service dog.  Faker service dogs put service dogs at risk when they are not trained well, or just plain aggressive.  A yapping fake SD is a big distraction, and really annoying for everyone else in the business.  Faker SDs can make it more difficult for a legit, well-trained service dog team to enter a business later.  They misbehave and the business owner assumes that all service dogs will act like this. People with fake SDs often show "papers" when a service dog team doesn't need to even carry such papers. This can make business owners think that every service dog team will have "papers" or ID.  There are certain behaviors expected of real service dogs, and those who just slap a vest on their pet and wave around some $40 papers is not going to be aware of those behaviors.  What is accepted from a pet dog in a public place may not be what is accepted from a trained service dog.  At some point, probably really soon, there will be laws to make it more difficult for people to fake their pet dogs as service dogs.  There will be standardized tests.  There will be ID cards available from a single licensed source, like the state or city.  People who are disabled and have real service dogs often wish they did not have to take their service dog everywhere all the time, but they NEED to.  Sometimes a disabled person wants to be invisible, and that is impossible when the person has a service dog.  It sounds like a lot of fun, to take your dog everywhere with you, but it gets old. Many of us who are disabled, though we love our service dogs dearly, wish that we didn't need the dog all the time.  It would be great to not have a disability too.

Waiting for the bus in front of Walmart in Bangor


I have a psychiatric disability that substantially affects my ability to perform some pretty basic major life activities.  After spending a lot of time in and out of hospitals, trying various medications, and a variety of different therapies, and nearly dying on a few occasions, it seemed that nothing would help me.  My whole adult life was like this.  One year I went to a Mental Health Consumer conference in St. Paul, Minnesota called Alternatives.  A woman had her dog on the plane with her.  She said it was a service dog I believe, but I believe that the dog actually fit the description of an Emotional Support Dog.  He was a handsome black Lab named Spencer, and he was well behaved.  I picked up some information about dogs like Spencer and took it home with me (with a pile of new books and a million other sheets and brochures).  Over the next several years, I would read about Emotional Support Dogs and Service Dogs, the laws that pertain to them and the people that qualify to use them, and how they helped their people.  I spoke with other people I saw with these types of dogs and learned more.  Finally, in 2004, my Psychiatrist and I were talking about how I was doing and what to try next and he mentioned a service dog.  He had another client with a service dog who saw him and she had some similar issues.  Seems as though this dog was a big help to her in dealing with her disability.  I thought, "Yes.  This is the time to try this.  I have nothing to lose and everything to gain from trying this out."  And so I began looking for ads for puppies to train in the local paper.  I was totally into getting a border collie, so when I found an ad for a litter of border collie pups for sale fairly nearby, I got excited.  I had been looking into the breed for years, talking to anyone who had one to see what they were like.  I had to ask my Landlord at the time, and needed to give him a copy of my Doctor's prescription for the service dog.  My husband and I went to visit the pups, and the little female seemed to be selling herself quite eagerly.  She was sweet, had attitude, and seemed very confident.  Later, my Mother and I visited the pup.  The female pup again sold herself successfully, and a deposit was made. The end of the week, we returned to pick up the puppy and begin raising and training my new service dog candidate.  Rowena became my best partner that day.

8-week old Rowena at the breeder's house.  My husband is holding her.
From 9 weeks old, I worked hard to train Rowena to be the kind of dog that would be a good service dog. I began taking her everywhere from day one.  I carried her on the bus, to appointments, on walks, we did obedience classes, I trained with her all the time.  She was quick and eager to learn.  Early on, I began teaching her how to behave properly in public places.  We practiced our basics everywhere.

When Rosie was about a year old, we found a person who lived a half hour away who raised and trained service dogs.  Their specialty was training service dogs for children with Autism, but they did others too.  They had begun a Handler-Trained Service Dog class.  Through this, we took a class to get Rowena's CGC (Canine Good Citizen test).  See the top of the page for more information on AKC's CGC program. We worked hard, and Rosie was ready for the test before I was.  However, we continued to go to classes and we took the CGC test in May of 2006, and passed it!  After the CGC, we attended a Therapy Dog training class.  We often discussed service dog laws, and people were always being told that Therapy dogs were NOT the same as service dogs. When the class was over, many dogs in the class went on to become Therapy Dogs.  However, since Rosie was a service dog, the organization who sponsored the class (TDI) would not let us test and become a therapy dog team.  However, in October 2007, we went to the Bangor Mall to watch some service dog teams take (and pass) their public access test.  We ended up taking the test ourselves that day, and we passed!  It was really impromptu and I didn't have time to really drill Rosie on the items on the test, but we did it!  (See at the top of the page for a description of the public access test and the items tested.)  Even though I never expected it, we did receive a certificate of completion that stated that we met the requirements and are now a task trained service dog team.

Our Service Dog Team Certificate
Me with Rosie and our Instructor at the Bangor Mall on test day.

Through the years with Rosie, even in her puppy days, I had been active on online Service Dog Advocacy and Support listservs, and had become exceedingly  more knowledgeable in service dog law, and what was expected from me as a service dog handler, and what was expected of Rowena, the service dog.  I became very familiar with the ADA and how it defines "disability" and "service dog" and what a "major life activity" is. I got on a study group at the state capitol, Augusta, Maine, to help the state redefine "Service Dog".  It was nerve wracking, and working with Pine Tree State Guide Dog Users was not a positive experience.  One guide dog was aggressive acting, barking and lunging at the other people and service dogs as they entered the State House.  No One, not a single law making, bill creating, political soul said anything to that woman  about her dog's behavior, and she barely had a grasp on that German Shepherd Dog.  Things did not turn out the way they were supposed to.  At the very end, right before our last vote, the Pine Tree State Guide Dog Users decided that they didn't agree on something in the way the new definition was written, even though they had been a part of the creation of the definition all along.  As a result, last minute changes were made, and the result was probably not what they'd been hoping for either.  I don't know.  Anyway, the wording was changed, and the definition updated later after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was revised and updated, so that problem has since been resolved.

The instructor, a 17- month old service dog in training, and me with Rosie at the State Capitol, Augusta

With a service dog, the training never stops. It is an ongoing process.  If a service dog handler lacks the skills to train the service dog, or lack the knowledge of knowing what others expect from a service dog in a public place (and its handler), they may not be able to catch problems as they arise, or may not know how to maintain the training the dog has (or even build on them as need presents).  I am constantly learning newer, better ways of training a dog, or raising a service dog puppy that I will certainly utilize with my next candidate. Rosie was my first ever dog, let alone my first service dog.  She has taught me a lot over the years as well.

Rosie and Me posing in front of the Augusta State House
Basically, it comes down to this... I worked my tail off making sure my pup learned the skills she would need to become a successful service dog.  I spent money (I don't really have) on many classes.  I spent many hours with her, both in class and out of class to shape her to be a successful service dog.  We have been together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for almost ten years now.  There have been maybe a few hours we have not been together through out the years.  With my disability, the journey has not been easy either. When someone just "makes" their pet dog a "service dog" so that traveling is not as expensive, it is going to anger me.  When someone purchases a vest with a patch on it online so they can bring their ill-behaved pet dog into Walmart with them, it is going to irritate me, not to mention, it is these types of dogs that have lunged, growled and gone after Rosie (and other service dogs) while she was vested, concentrating on her work and minding her own business.  A dog attack can RUIN a service dog.  Maybe the physical harm isn't bad, but the emotional toll it takes on some dogs (especially soft breeds like border collies) can make a great service dog unsuitable for working in the public.  Because that person needed to take their pet into Walmart, or wherever, a disabled person loses their independence because a dog went after, or attacked that disabled person's working service dog.  A barking dog can make my dog nervous enough that she can become distracted from her work.  She is afraid the dog will attack.
Rosie and Me in an obedience class.  She was about 6 months old
Your pet dog runs up to my service dog and you yell "He's friendly!" after you  have unsuccessfully tried to recall your pet.  My service dog doesn't know your dog is friendly.  She's been attacked a few times so you are going to have to do better than that to convince her your dog who is charging after her, hanging over her, right in her space that your dog is friendly.

I worked damn  hard to get my dog where she is today. Anyone needing the services of a service dog, and wanting to train their own should also work hard.  If after all that work I am unable to load a plane heading for a conference or even a vacation location because someone who is not disabled has "made" their pet dog a "service dog" or "emotional support" dog and is taking that dog on the plane, I am going to be angry, because the fact of the matter is, I need my dog with me in order to be independent, stay safe, and stay out of the hospital.  I cannot travel without her.  You, the pet owner, can.

Think of it this way:  Rosie has saved taxpayers thousands of MaineCare and Medicare dollars a year for each year she has been my service dog.  No other method of treatment had ever accomplished that.
Rosie and Me in an advanced obedience class

Monday, January 13, 2014

My Dog and I Cured Me

My new puppy!  November 11, 2004!  There is nothing like the glow in the face of a new puppy owner.
Around the time I got my puppy that I was going to train as a service dog, I had been out of the psychiatric hospital for about a year.  I had only been out of the medical hospital (which I was in for psychiatric medical reasons) for about 2 months.  When my puppy was born, I had just come home.  Mentally, I was somewhere between locking myself up in the security of a psych ward and staying home to attempt to tough it out and see if I could do it.  My life was in the balance.

The past year had been a struggle, but I had stayed out of the psych unit for months.  The Doctor of the psych unit might say "it was my unscrupulous treatment of her that made her stay out of the hospital.  I broke her."  The caseworkers were saying, "It is because we deemed her 'not disabled enough' to continue with case management and discharged her from the team that she was able to stay out."  I will not be giving them credit for what they claim they did for the sake of "treatment", because all they did was abandon me when I needed someone to be there and take me seriously.  What I needed was a way to get out, a way to recover without being scolded all the time.  I was not getting any pleasure from reliving a trauma over and over again and I certainly wasn't getting treatment from a doctor whose approach to care for me was to make my stay as miserable as possible to the point where I willingly took those mind-numbing meds that did nothing more than knock me out.  I certainly didn't want to be conscious.

For several years I had been learning about emotional support dogs, therapy dogs and service dogs for psychiatric disabilities.  I knew a bit about it.  It was one thing I had not tried yet.  Soon after my discharge from the medical hospital, my (community-based) psychiatrist wrote me a script for a service dog.  I can't even remember what we talked about.  I can't remember at what point in my search for a puppy I was in when we began discussing it.  I know the note was written the week I was to get my new puppy, which we had found an ad for in the newspaper.  Knowing how uncommon it is to see border collie puppies advertised in the local paper, I know God must have been helping out with this one.
Posing for a winter photo
Raising a puppy that first 6 months was the best therapy I could have ever had.  Not only did it give me something new to work on, it seemed to meet a need.  It seemed to quiet something that had fought so hard before.  And at 6 months, she began alerting to rising anxiety.  She began learning a task that would make her a service dog one day soon.

The way the human aspect of the Mental Health treatment had hurt me was inexcusable, and unjust.  If anything, it was downright re-traumatizing.  In fact, I have nightmares about being in the hospital (psych unit). This was a system that was supposed to help people, not leave traumatized people with more traumas to struggle with in life.
A day at Camp Capella in Lucerne, Maine
WHO got me to where I am today, having been out of a psychiatric hospital (and medical hospital) for about 8 years or so?  WHO has weaned me away from the harm of the mental health system?  I give credit to few individuals:  Rowena, my service dog, and myself.  I give thanks to few, but I recognize 2 outpatient psychiatrists, Deborah Ryan, MD and Pakkam Rajasekaran, MD for their faith in service dogs (especially mine) and their faith in me.  So many other "Helpers" have only succeeded in leaving me feeling hurt and like I'd been stabbed in the back.  So few had faith in me.  None of them had done away with the scolding to actually listen to me.

You can not shame and blame a person back to mental health.  You cannot shame and blame a dog to do your bidding.
I'd like to purchase this please?

I blame myself for the need to write this piece as I watched a movie the other night, a "horror" flick.  It took place in a psych ward of a big old fashion Institition, probably the same age as the one I spent many nights in many years ago.  I don't know if the people who created the film had any clue that their horror film is so much like the many "hospital" dreams I have. The confusion, and surprise endings are nothing too different from the real feelings I have had.  And then that so confusing feeling of escape from the outside world.  THAT is why I have these dreams to begin with.  So much stress.  So much so that I fall asleep and dream of being locked up away from the outside world.  However, I do not meet the criteria so I must stay out with my faithful service dog and continue to try to make myself stronger in this harsh world we live in...  even when I'd rather be in seclusion in a drug induced fog.
Participating in a fund raising walk to raise money for the local animal shelter
Everyday I stay out, I am hopefully that much stronger.  And my best friend is not about to scold me for feeling weak.

Photographing life in the bog, one of my favorite pastimes.
Photographing one of my favorite subjects, my service dog Rowena (while at the bog).