Saturday, September 20, 2008

Store Incompetence: Mistreatment of a Service Dog Team in-Training

Some of the most difficult parts of having an invisible disability and of handling a psychiatric service dog are dealing with the public's often judgemental eye. People ask what to us are very personal questions that had our dog been a seeing eye dog, it would be very different. People do not understand that one can have an invisible disability such as a psychiatric disability and that a service dog can be of help for that disability. The stigma is often painful to bear, and the fear of judgement or having to deal with a public access challenge is enough to make me want to stay home at times! A question like: "What does your dog do for you?" appears harmful enough... but many people do not understand the answers. Sometimes these questions get rather invasive and I would need to reply by asking the person about his/her private medical history in return. Most of the general public is not so willing to share these details of their lives... I am no different.

One thing we expect is that when we go into a public place that the employees there will treat us with the same dignity and respect that would be bestowed on the other customers. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.

Here is a story from a fellow service dog team about such a visit...

Sherman has been to the Petco near us multiple times, and has always been moderately well-behaved, but the store associate asked me why I was giving him commands (sit, stay, down) in the store. I explained to him that I needed Sherman for SD work. He asked, "what kind of work?" I replied, "Psychiatric." This is how he responded: "Oh, so you're retarded?" "NO!" I nearly screamed in his face. Instead I politely responded with "No, I have an anxiety disorder. That does not make me retarded. I'm training Sherman to help me out." "Well, I'm a dog trainer. I just think I should let you know that because of your disorder [the disgust in his voice was like nails on a chalkboard] you'll never be able to train a dog. You might as well give it up. Good luck though." Then he laughed in my face. People like that should be shot. His lack of everything: Tact, intelligence, EVERYTHING he was lacking just totally hurt me. I've never been laughed at before. 9 years of my mental illness and no one has laughed at me. Now I know how much it hurts...

About a week later, she writes back with the outcome of her horrifying Petco experience:

I recently called the manager of the store. He told me he was very sorry, and to come in right away. I came into Petco (Sherman and all) expecting an apology and a crappy coupon book. What I received however was so much better. Right when I got there, he kept apologizing over and over saying how truly sorry he was for this horrible misunderstanding. He petted Sherman and asked some questions, "What is he for exactly?" "How long have you been together?" "Wow. He's so well- behaved! Good Dog!" Needless to say, I was quite surprised. Then he brought out the employee to meet me. (We'll say his name was Rick) Rick walked over and said how very sorry he was. I thanked him, but said that no matter what he said, it wasn't going to make much of a difference, my mind was made up. He said he understood, and was being reprimanded appropriately. "I'm sorry, but unless you're getting fired for ignorance, there isn't an appropriate reprimand." I said. He said he was sorry and left. Then the manager looked at me and very frankly said, "Miss, I hope you know he is being fired. He has 2 days left."
I swear I could've just jumped for joy. I thanked the manager, and he said, "You know Miss... if there is anything that I deplore, it is an insult to the disabled community. I was appalled, and I'm so sorry. The last thing I was is to upset you. You've done some great work with this pup." He then said that I was welcome to as much as I wanted of the rawhide/treat bar (which is like a smorgasborg full of rawhide and flavored treats), so I snagged a few things, thanked him for being so cooperative and left.
Wow. I frankly was prepared to go starting a war, and it wasn't necessary. The manager was so polite and thoughtful, it was a shocking contrast to what I'd experienced the last visit.
-Meghan K. & Sherman

Anyone who thinks that having a service dog must be so neat and great, let me tell you that most of the time it is true, that my dog (Rosie) is my little medical hero. However, there is nothing fun about access challenges and/or having to deal with opinionated, ignorant and closed-minded people on a regular basis. Imagine having a social phobia or Avoidant Personality Disorder and dealing with this everyday, day after day.

Having a service dog makes it so difficult to be invisible. For some of us, that is a very hard thing.

(I had a Petco dog trainer who wanted to teach my service dog how to sit and beg (among other useless tricks). I can teach your dog 101 tricks! How exactly does he think the sit and beg will go over the next time I eat out at a restaurant???)
Learn more about Psychiatric Service Dogs at a non-profit organization.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

AKC Responsible Dog Onwership Day/Month

September is Responsible Dog Ownership month! Have you signed the Pet Promise this year?? Show your dog(s) you love them and really care about them by reading and signing this petition, the Pet Promise.
(copy & paste)

From the AKC Site:

We are petitioning America's pet owners to remind them of everything that is required to be a responsible dog owner. Sure we give our pups lots of playtime, treats and affection, but what about training? Is your dog groomed as often as his breed requires? Is your pup wearing a collar with tags and permanently identified with a microchip to maximize his chances of being returned to you if he becomes lost?

The AKC Responsible Dog Owner Pet Promise, created to bring the spirit of AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day to life, reminds us that raising a happy and healthy pet is more than just playtime and pampering. Owners must ensure their dogs do not infringe on the rights of others, and this includes properly disposing of your dog's waste in all public areas, adhering to local leash laws and training your dog to sit, come when called and to cease barking so to not disturb others.

We signed the AKC Responsible Dog Owner Pet Promise to show our commitment to our four-legged friends and we hope you will too!


As a dog owner, I do solemnly swear:

* I will never overlook my responsibilities for this living being and recognize that my dog's welfare is totally dependent on me.

* I will always provide fresh water and quality food for my dog.

* I will socialize my dog via exposure to new people, places and other dogs.

* I will take pride in my dog's appearance with regular grooming.

* I will recognize the necessity of basic training by teaching my dog to reliably sit, stay and come when called.

* I will take my dog to the vet regularly and keep all vaccinations current.

* I will pick-up and properly dispose of my dog's waste.

* I will make sure my dog is regarded as an AKC Canine Good Citizen® by being aware of my responsibilities to my neighbors and to the community.

* I will ensure that the proper amount of exercise and mental stimulation appropriate for my dog's age, breed and energy level is provided.

* I will ensure that my dog has some form of identification (which may include collar tags, tattoo or microchip ID.)

* I will adhere to local leash laws.
What events are taking place in your area for Responsible Dog Ownership Day?? Check by clicking on the below link:
2007's Responsible Dog Ownership Day is presented with our sponsors: Invisible Fence Brand by PetSafe and Nature's Recipe.
(Click link at the top of the post to sign the petition)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Maine's New Service Dog Laws Took Effect in July!

In July, Maine's new service dog laws took effect. The major thing those with service dogs must know is that in order to get your dog license fee WAIVER, you must fill out with your doctor (or other qualified professional) the Service Dog Verification Form. This is not mandatory unless you want your dog license fee waiver. If not, then you do not need to fill out the form. If you have chosen to do the form, you bring it to your town office/City Hall clerk and hand it in. The clerk will keep it on file and you will not need to fill another one out for as long as you are using that service dog. A benefit is that you will be adding more to your trail of evidence to help prove that your dog is a service dog. Your service dog license will have your dog checked off as a special/service dog. This whole process is the state's way of helping city/town clerks to tell which dog is a real service dog and which one's are not. Therefore, Maine will be sure to get all their money from the maybe .05% of fakers out there (figuring about 2% or less who are disabled and legally utilizing a service dog) when 50% of the State's dog owners still don't bother to license their dog at all. It makes me wonder what the real reason is that we license our dogs, because I don't think it was so Maine can take in lots of money. Wasn't it a good reason... something that benefitted the dogs or something?? Anyway, for now, the Maine goverment is done trying to squeeze money from its disabled citizens. Maybe now Animal Welfare can figure out how to get the people who don't license their dogs at all.

You can copy the Maine Service Dog Verification Form from the Department of Agriculture's website in PDF format. The link is the following: