Sunday, December 26, 2010

School District Refuses to Allow Autistic Child’s Service Dog

This post is old... from August 14th, 2009, but I discovered it still lingering in my drafts.  Here it is anyway!

It should be so easy... and it should be easy for a disabled child to bring his/her new service dog into school. Time and time again, I read about children who are being denied the right to be assisted by their service dog. There are cases all over the place and it just shouldn't be! Many of these schools are breaking state laws by denying the use of a service dogs in schools. All are breaking federal law. Please read this story and you will have an example of what I am talking about:
School District Refuses to Allow Autistic Child’s Service Dog

When Talking About Service Dogs Gets Nasty

You know, I simply replied to a message on Facebook and some lady misconstrues everything, reading into what is not even there and reacts irrationally. My reaction may not be real nice, but it was nicer than her post was. I have been keeping my eye on her "appearences" in the community, Someone recently told me that she *un-friended this woman because she was sending nasty messages to her Facebook page, and it upset her.

Lisa: You're in Bangor?? We should meet up someday! I take agility from EMAC *.

Will be moving soon to Oregon. We take agility from a training facility in Levant that trains service dogs... who certified Rosie and I 2 yrs ago as a service dog team after we passed our Public Access test.

Thankfully I know that SDs * DO NOT have to be cerified OR have a PAT *! and Mine are owner/trained. Well I guess it's a good thing u are moving.. you don't sound nice and am removing u as a friend on FB * . It's people like you that flaunt that YOUR dog is "certified" that give us owner/trainers and people that don't have their dogs certified a hard time with access issues! Thankfully, I didn't waste my money doing something the ADA * says i don't have to do!!!!

Heather: I worked quite hard at raising and training my own service dog which tells me that you really know nothing about me or my dog at all, but feel the need to judge me on nothing. Well I guess it's good you are removing me as a friend since you know nothing about me or my dog yet you feel I am being snooty.

I wasted no money on my dog, only the money I would have paid had I taken the same obedience classes with any dog I own, whether service dog candidate or pet. Infact, this dog trainer is one of the more affordable ones in the area. I raised and trained my dog from 9 weeks old. I later found a trainer that helped us get my dog her CGC * , and a couple years later he gave us a public access test. I was NOT expecting to be certified since they had said they would never certify a dog they did not raise and train themselves. Doing these tests helped me feel more confident about my dog's training and confident that she was learning from me all she should know to set a good example as an owner-trained service dog. I do not flaunt her certification because I KNOW she doesn't need to be certified, plus it gives the impression that someone else trained her and ignorant people like you assume that SD * s that are certified are not owner-trained. I think if anything I am setting a great example for owner-trainers and maybe if your dogs could behave that well you would not have the access problems that you have. It is the people that have SD * s that are not trained sufficiently that give owner trainers a bad name. NOT ME!

Heather: You also would have less access problems if you used one service dog like the rest of us do. I hear one of your dogs didn't behave the greatest at the Bangor State Fair this year.
EMAC- Eastern Maine Agility Club

SDs- Service Dogs

PAT- Public Access Test

FB- Facebook (social internet site)

ADA- American's with Disabilities Act

CGC- Canine Good Citizen (Behavior test for dogs through the AKC- American Kennel Club)

Apparently this woman has a habit of going off at others and has been kicked off a number of lists, some of which I have been on.  Occasionally she sees me on a group on Facebook and tries to get in a couple of pot shots, but usually the moderator will cut it off before I even get a chance to see it.  I understand what psychiatric service dogs are, but I am really wondering what a service dog can do to help an individual who may have a mental illness, yes, but who is an irrational b---- to everyone.  She has 2 service dogs and neither of them seem to help her with the areas that truly affect her life (and everyone around her) negatively.  I am not sure what a dog can do to assist an attitudinal personality disorder.  Service dogs are usually used to help a person manage symptoms of a disabling Axis I major mental illness diagnosis.

I am being too harsh when I really don't know all the details.  However I feel  I've got to share this stuff somewhere! 
I created a little brag page for Rosie after seeing similar pages used in the AKC's weekly winners page.  They are kind of like advertising the dog, like an E-harmony type thing where the purebred dog can find mates.  No offense was intended in my description so please don't take any if you show your dog and or have a page like this for your dog.  I think they are great and love seeing them.

Thinking Into the New Year

Rowena, my shining star and I playing in the golfcourse one recent afternoon.

Happy 2011 New Year!

It's the day after Christmas (2010) and Rosie and I are relaxing on the couch after a romp in the cold snow.  All for a game of frisbee in the dark!  Rosie's favorite present was Mr. Gingerbread Man... also the cheapest present.  I wanted to get her a Jolly Ball, but the biggest one without a handle was the size of her soccer ball (the real one, not the fuzzy big one) and cost $20.  I thought that was a bit on the expensive side so I had to skip it even though Rosie loved it.

This little faux suade dog bed is perfectly sized for a Puggle or a Cocker Spaniel, but Rosie makes it fit just right!  And Gingerbread Man is happy I sewed his limbs back on.

For Christmas, Gramma (my mother) gave Rosie a 2 month supply of Winston's Joint System so we are getting Rosie's body into better shape for the icy cold weather we will be having.  One of my favorite gifts is this thing called a 'Kindle" which is this little electronic thing where you can download books and read them on this little thing that is smaller than a clip board.  I have nearly completed my brother-in-law's new book, "The Poacher's Son" (written by Paul Doiron).  I highly recommend this book to any Maine loving mystery buffs.  I downloaded a handful of books on it... not sure why, I can only really read one at a time.  I think I just got excited.

Rosie opens Gingerbread Man during our family's Christmas celebration (on Solstice here in Maine to cater to the Maine family members)

This may be the last Christmas I will have with my family for a long time if this move to Oregon takes form.  So far from home... brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.  Then I realize all the "last" things I had this past year.  The last photos of springtime in the City Forest... the last site of the Raven family that lives by the bog every year... but with all the lasts there are firsts and I am trying to make that a good thing in my mind.  I really don't like the idea of living so far from my family here in the northeast, but I miss my  husband dearly. If he is going to be in Oregon then I will too. I also think that Oregon could give us the boost we need to move forward in our lives as I feel if we stay here we will stagnate and nothing will change.  We will not get ahead in any area of our lives together.

A Photoshop job for a Dogster Holiday post.

Rosie will hopefully be able to benefit from the move to Oregon as well.  She hasn't seen her human "Daddy" in over a year now (husband left for OR November 4th, 2009).  She feels his absense in her life and I know that when she sees him once again she will be all whines and full body wags. 

"Daddy" during a Christmas past.  You can see Rosie's butt just right of the center (bottom).

Daddy gives Rosie a belly rub.

Daddy plays with Rosie in the Orrington Pound.

Another absense in Rosie's life has been that of her playmate, the Puggle names Chloe.  They have been friends for about 5 years, but haven't played together all spring and summer (and fall).  A few weekends ago she got to see and play with Chloe a short bit as we were having a doggy Christmas for my friend's lab mix as he was to be put down.  He was old and had some medical problems that there was no way to treat because of his age and health.  The four dogs got to run around in the field in the rain at dusk.  Sofian the lab mix managed to muster another one of his playful spurts where he turns bucking bronco on his sis the Puggle for a mere few minutes and then is back to normal again.  Rosie wanted to play more than she did, but I think her foot was bothering her so she wasn't playing as all out as she usually does with her buddy.  That may be the last time they play together.  She has been missing canine playtime and I cannot replace that.  After we move west we will be getting another dog (most likely a pup) once we settle in a bit and she can train the dog or pup to play the way she prefers to play.  (She's bossy.) She so needs a canine friend!

Rosie's sneak attack on Chloe one winter in the field.

Chloe comes in for the tag!

Rosie playing with her buddy Chloe and the lab mix, Sofian.

Who says Puggles can't be fast!?

No body parts were bitten in the taking of this photo.

Rosie is totally happy with Chloe by her side during a hot evening in the City Forest a few years back.
So with this pending move to Oregon hopefully things will begin to move westward right after the new year.  Plans are being made as I type.  This move has been a REEEALLY LONGGG time in the making.  I miss my husband!

May your new year be full of many firsts without the heartache of the ever nostalgic lasts... unless the last is a bad thing, then you're fine.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Happy Howlidays!

This was our first Christmas card with Rosie.  She was very young so wasn't trained to sit and pose yet.  She just knew to look into the camera!  (2004)

The three wise dogs.  My friend and I were able to get all three dogs to sit and stay for this rare shot.  I of course dressed the photo up to make it more of a Christmas picture and we made a local doggy newspaper with this picture.

I posted a lot of puppy holiday photos because Rosie was a Christmas present.  My  mother and I picked Rosie up at the breeders when she was 9 weeks old!  It was a really cold snowy winter that year so it was not the easiest time to potty train a puppy with hardly any fur and no fat on her.  Especially since we screwed up the training early on by "I don't want MY puppy to have to stay in a crate!"  Many of those "I don't want MY puppy to..." ended up going right out the window.  You have to be flexible!

In her second Christmas season I promptly went out and got her a frilly collar with the matching Santa hat.  She was wonderful and posed nicely for all of my photo sessions.

In this picture she was still at 8 weeks.  She was at the breeders and my husband and I went in to see the pups.  She had personality plus where as her brothers wanted nothing to do with the real world.  She was an easy choice.  It was actually November when I took this picture, but she was a Christmas present!

New puppy comes home!  She was totally terrorized by the 8 cats.  I had her leash under my knee so that I could properly introduce her to the cats, but she slipped away with out my knowing it.  Next thing I hear is a sharp YELP! from the living room.  Then we see her come tearing into the kitchen where we had just set up her styling new metal bowls into the holder.  She crashed into those and there was a huge clanking noise.  So right off we had to deal with a puppy that was afraid to go to her own food dish!

Rosie was potty trained by Christmas but she didn't quite understand that the rules applied in other places and not just at home.  She made a few messes at Gramma's house at Christmas.  I was trying to appease my cat loving sister by having Rosie be perfect, but Rosie just wasn't.  She was only a four month old puppy and she would stay a puppy a while longer!  I was doing all I could do to make sure she was well-trained.  I don't think I did that badly either!

"Are they all for me??"

At ten weeks old she broke a toe.  A cub scout accidently stepped on her foot (she wasn't yet trained not to go after feet and pantlegs yet) and  her outside toe was broken.  I dressed her splint and bandage up for the holidays.

This is a "Yes I am freezing my belly off for this picture!" moment.

The rule is not to get puppies or other animals as Christmas presents.  A puppy is something that requires time and money and attention and training.  If you are not prepared to take in a puppy, this would be a poor gift choice.  Also, often many pets end up in shelters  because they are unwanted.  Also you don't want an impulse buy when you are buying a live creature. Wait until after the holidays and then include the person in on the gift.  Rosie came early for me as a gift.  I had been approved to have a puppy in my apartment (especially since she was going to be trained to become my service dog).  I had received my doctor's script prescribing a puppy to train as a service dog (laws in this state give service dogs in training the same rights as service dogs).  I had already been hunting for a border collie breeder (and I had been researching about service dogs for several years as well as border collies) talking to people who have border collies to see what kind of pets they are.  Those who actually had them as household pets only had great things to say.  Those that didn't have one but knew someone who had a border collie could only say that they are hyper and need sheep to herd.  My girl had a job.  She got plenty of stimulation to keep her happy and a tired puppy towards day's end.  She would fall asleep on my lap in the bus.  I would hold her in my shirt, holding my shirt like a little hammock.  Once daddy came home though she turned into a little hellion!  My husband would request her presence in the bedroom where he rested when he came home for work and minutes later he is yelling "Come get the puppy!  She keeps attacking me!"  She wanted to play when he got home as she hadn't seen him all day.  My husband would come home to a sleeping puppy and thought that she might come cuddle with him and sleep too.



Thursday, September 02, 2010

Cesar Milan's "Junior" Gets His Service Dog Certification

Cesar with Junior, displaying the USSDR paper and patch

Junior gets his Service Dog certification!
(My comments in Blue- Heather Gerquest and Rowena, SD-c)

Junior recently received his Service Dog certification...  
(USSDR is simply a service dog registry.  It does not certify a dog at all.) 
...from The United States Service Dog Registry (USSDR), an independent registry service that offers self-identification for Service or Assistance Dogs.
(A disabled person who uses a service dog does not have to register or certify their service dog with anyone.)

"I'm so proud of Junior," Cesar said. "He's been an amazing helper to me... 
(which is what a service dog does) 

...and so many dogs, and now he can continue to share his balance with the rest of the world in his service (which is NOT what service dogs do)."

Do you think your dog has what...
 (Maybe you do, but you must be disabled to have/ use a service dog.  It is not the dog that has access, but it is the disabled person that has the public access.)
...takes to be a Service Dog? 

Although not required by law, your dog should be trained to follow both specific and basic obedience commands, as well as display non-aggressive and sociable behavior in order to be considered an effective Service Dog. 
(Some service dog programs make it mandatory to train the dog  to perform at least 3 tasks or specific work that help mitigate your disability which you need to even qualify for a service animal)
It is recommended that any potential Service Dogs undergo at least 120 hours of professional training to obtain the necessary skills and demeanor. 
(Service Dog trainers and handlers recommend that anyone training a service dog should keep a diary that tracks your dog's progress and training.) 
USSDR suggests that every candidate complete the Public Access Test created by Assistance Dogs International, Inc., 
(There are other public access tests available as well... some more strict than ADI's. Look to the left and click on one of the public access tests links listed in Rosie's Favorite Links.) fully assess your dog’s ability to function as a Service Dog.

(It is not so much that I don't believe Cesar has a disability that would necessitate the use of a service dog as much as the information the article put out to the public is misleading.  One would initially believe that Cesar had some part in the writing of this article and thus the false information would have been okayed by him.  That is what really got me most.)

I'm confused. I didn't know that Cesar was disabled, let alone disabled to the point that he even needed a service dog.

People, this article is very misleading.

The legal definition of a service dog (read the updated definiton on the "What is a Service Dog" page, tab is at the top of this blog page) is any dog that has been trained to do work or tasks that help mitigate a person with a disability. A disability is any medical or physical condition that greatly limits one or more daily life functions. A service dog is allowed by law to go anywhere the general public can go. The disabled handler with a service dog is protected by state service dog laws and also Federal service dog laws which can be found in the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act. They are NOT considered pets, but are considered adaptive equipment. It is the disabled person who is given the access, not the dog. It is like a person with a wheel chair. You never see a business say "Sorry, we don't allow wheel chairs around here. You'll have to leave it outside". As well, the service dog helps the disabled person to function better and access goods and services in the community that otherwise they would not be able to do so.

Whether Cesar has an invisible disability or not is not for me to decide.  It is possible.  However it upsets me that this article was written so poorly.  It makes it hard for me to believe Junior is his service dog.  At some point he is going to have to come clean with the public and come out of the closet and disclose that he does indeed have a disability, and same rules apply, he doesn't have to tell a single soul what that disability is.  Them's the rules!

So as you can see from my intro paragraph, it takes more than a good dog to become a service dog. The person owning or handling the dog must actually have a disability. Some training facilities also want the service dog to learn to perform 3 tasks that assist their handler with his or her individual needs as a disabled person. Examples might be the work of a Guide dog, a medical alert dog (alerting to seizures etc), a "hearing" dog, a dog that works with a child or adult with autism, as well as a dog that helps people with psychiatric disabilities to alert and other priceless tasks. These are not dogs that are well behaved and get a certification to visit people in hospitals and nursing homes. That is called a therapy dog.

Please do not read Cesar's article about his now "certified service dog" and go out and sign Fifi up with USSDR. Also it is merely a registry. It doesn't certify your dog to be anything. There are (federal and often state) laws against people who fake a pet dog as a service dog, and some of the fines are large. And the worst part of it is that it makes it even harder for those of us that really need the use of a service dog. I know my service dog is a life saver and life giver. Without her assisting me on a daily basis I don't know if I'd still be here.

To check out the United States Service Dog Registry, click on this link-

Read what USSDR's REAL mission is and click the above link.

THIS IS FROM THE USSDR SITE:  Please note: Only individuals who are qualified to use a Service Dog under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are eligible for registration. Therapy Dogs and other  working dogs are not able to be  included.

The Friends of United States Service Dog Registry on FB  wrote....

"Thanks for posting this! We're very honored to have Cesar and Junior as part of this Registry. Cesar does have invisible disability and it is a private issue. He also knows quite a bit about Service Dogs and the ADA. He's worked with dis...abled individuals and Service Animals on training for tasks and completing Minimum Training Standards and Public Access Tests both privately and publicly. However the writer on his staff has used some incorrect language in this post. We'll contact Cesar's assistant tonight to make sure this is corrected."


Friday, 9/3/2010 USSDR UPDATE Regarding Article about Cesar and Junior:

"... ugh. It's been a busy day here! I've been on the phone with Cesar's assistant and she'd having the writer fix the blog's wording. Thank you for drawing our attention to this. I didn't even know about it until you posted it."

Later on Friday:

"USSDR: It's confirmed. Cesar usually reviews blog posts but was not given the chance to see this one before it went live. We have been promised this will be fixed tonight. Thank goodness!"

I have heard that a new article was posted on Cesar's blog and then was pulled.  To my knowledge a new article has not been posted and this issue remains unresolved.  Cesar needs to take this as an opportunity to educate people about what service dogs really are... like you must be disabled.
I have waited a very long time now and have not seen any kind of retraction or correction from the article written about Junior becoming a "Registered" or "Certified" service dog.  This is an irresponsible decision on Cesar Milan's part.

Here is what I had to say about that today:
So, to sum it up...  (from Sept 2010) USSDR tells the public that CM is indeed disabled (invisible disability).  However, CM has in no way tried to clarify the mistakes his assistant made in the blog entry that announced Junior becoming "certified" as a service dog with USSDR.  CM can be asked what his service dog does for him and that is not a violation of his rights, yet he has not responded to that either. Instead, whatever articles had been written were pulled.  Whether CM is disabled or not, that is not the issue right now as much as he did not try to responsibly post another entry to correct the misinformation his assistant (or whoever) posted which, at least to me, leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth and still in question as to how honest CM is regarding this whole thing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Cleaning out my email storage... Utah thinking of banning Emotional support pets"

This is a modern response to an old email conversation with a woman talking about how Utah wanted to ban Emotional Support Animals.  I reread the response she gave me and really wasn't sure if she knew that it read like she was using "Service Dog" "Therapy Dog" and Emotional Support Dog" interchangeably.  This is a common error so it would not be the first time someone has or would ever do that.

I will have to put the other half of the conversation in here so maybe you can get the full picture of the conversation.  The original email took place in March of 2009.

I was rereading this as I am cleaning out my email storage and I am confused because ESAs, PSDs, and Therapy animals are terms that seem to be used interchangeably but are actually 3 different creatures.

Therapy dogs do not help its disabled handler. They are trained to visit places like hospitals, nursing homes and such to help patients (and employees in some cases) feel better, often taking a small part in physical rehab. They are allowed access only to the places where they work (usually only when they work).

Emotional support animals do not need any special training at all and are merely there for the comfort of the elderly or disabled individual. They do not have public access like a service dog does. However they are allowed to live in "no pets" housing.

A service dog of any kind is a dog that is trained to do work or tasks that directly mitigates the symptoms of a person's disability (which is a mental or physical condition that effects one or more areas of living).

Basically the federal law is written saying "to do work or tasks" not one or the other. Both are crucially important. One cannot train a medical alert, however one can reward the alerting behavior which makes it a teachable task by reinforcing the alerting behavior that is wanted. Many PSDs are "alert" dogs, not just comfort dogs. A comfort dog is an emotional support animal. There are many tasks (or work) that PSDs perform that seem just like typical doggy things sometimes, but the simple act is actually providing a great service to the dog's disabled handler (such as a returning vet or someone with panic attacks for example). The work of an Autism dog is such a major help to a family with a child with autism. The simple act of going out to an appointment or shopping can be a nightmare with some families with children with autism. Yet some people would argue that some of the work the dog does is not a trainable task. I sense from some of these individuals that they must be very insecure to feel the need to minimize another disability or the work of another type of service dog. How can they say what another person with a different disability needs or doesn't need, and why do they want to take away this person's service dog if the dog is actually doing a job and making this person's disability less of a burden on daily life?

If Utah has banned Emotional Support Animals in "No Pets" housing, they are one of the few states who do and this may be a federal violation as well. This would fall under HUD, and Equal Opportunity Housing, Fair Housing Act, but not the ADA (which only defines and protects the users of service animals.)

Anyway, I am writing this email after a long time has passed and don't even know if you are using the same email.

The past year plus has been very enlightening to say the least. I am happy with the rewording of the ADA and am happy that it will continue to use the wording of "work or tasks" as they have seen the importance for the use of both words in the act's definition of service dog. (No longer service turkey, service lobster, or service weasel...)

Take Care,
Heather Gerquest and Rosie, SD-c

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Rosie Was Attacked: Who is Upholding Service Dog Protection Laws?? Anyone??

Rosie was attacked:
Laws Against Attacks on Service Dogs
July 1, 2010

Above: the dog on the leash is the one that stalked and attacked Rosie. I feel horrible that I had her in a down stay, like a sitting duck, but that was safer than stalking playfully in return.

It was supposed to be a good afternoon. I figured the weather had cooled enough that Rosie and I could walk up to Saxl Park next to the state hospital. If they haven’t hayed yet, the birds would be all over the place, bobolinks, Red-wings and sparrows. There would also be lots of wild flowers to take photos of as well. So Rosie and I make our way up State Street and through Cascade Park to get to Saxl Park. Then off the leash comes and Rosie is free to romp and chase her ball.

We had made our way from the far end of the field by the entrance to Cascade Park to the front where there is a parking lot behind an old empty building. I was tossing Rosie’s balls with a Chuck-it and checking out how dry the front vernal pool was and I noticed a man with one dog leashed and another off leash The one off leash began stalking behavior. I don’t normally take this seriously since many dogs we have met do this kind of behavior, as well as Rosie herself, and it always ends in a game of tag. Rosie wanted to return the behavior but the man was yelling for the dog (maybe “Nellie”?) but the dog just kept going. I had Rosie in a down-stay about 5 feet away from my right. To my utter shock, this dog just lunged at Rosie who was luckily turned around to run anyway and the dog would not leave her alone. Sheer panic rose out of my lungs as I yelled at this dog at the top of my lungs… it just happened. There was no forethought. Even when the man finally got to the scene to pull his dog off of Rosie that dog did not want to stop fighting. For all I know, this dog was out for blood and death. At points I tried to get hold of my pepper spray that hangs around my neck with a bright orange rescue whistle, but it just wasn’t happening. The man asked if she was alright, but I wasn’t sure yet. Rosie has a thick double coat that makes it difficult to find wounds on her skin. When she was attacked by a German Shepherd Dog as a pup, I did not feel or see any wounds, but later at the vet, Dr. Ritchie found some puncture wounds right off under the thick hair on her hips.

One thing I noticed is that Rosie was trying to hide somewhere. I thought it was because of the attack. She was acting weird. Later I would realize that she was hiding from ME! I was crushed.

So this guy comes back around to recheck and I said that I couldn’t find anything (wound wise that is). I then stood up and told him I would need his information because this was my service dog. He got all snippy and rude saying “I’m not going to give you my information. Your dog is fine!” and he began to walk away. Rosie at this point figured that this guy was the quietest and didn’t yell and was walking towards them. I am trying to call her back. He goes “See she’s walking right up to us!” And his dog was moving towards her every time. That followed by name calling and something about how I should follow the leash law (?). There is no leash law, and if there was he was violating the law as much as anyone. Yes my dog was off leash as she has been in that field since day one at 9 weeks old. She listens, doesn’t run off and is friendly. My dog is friendly. But this really wasn’t about my dog. It was about him and his dog that had just brutally attacked my dog who is also a medical alert dog. As he walked on and continued to call me names, I took his picture. He didn’t seem to mind, probably because he didn’t feel he was in the wrong here. Arrogance.

Above: The man, in this picture is calling me names and telling me that I should follow the leash laws. What leash laws? And wait, which dog was in down-stay and which dog was stalking and ignoring its human, and which dog attacked another who was in a down-stay and minding her own business?? Before you start blabbing nonsense, make sure you have the facts straight buddy. If any dog had to be leashed, it was YOURS!

Let’s stop here and take a look at Maine State Service Dog Law…

Attack on a Service Animal (Title 7; Part 9; Chapter 729; 3961-A)

A person who owns or keeps a dog that attacks, injures OR kills a service animal while the service animal is in discharge of its duties commit’s a civil violation for which a forfeiture of not more than $1,000 may be adjudged. When a person is adjudicated of a violation of this section, the court shall order the person to make restitution to the owner of the Service Animal for any veterinary bills and necessary retraining costs or replacement costs of the service animal if it is disabled or killed.

So I am left there in the field with Rosie who wanted nothing to do with me because when I yelled at the top of my lungs, I had scared her. How was she to know that I wasn’t yelling at her? As a result, her way of alerting me has been to get all wide eyed and leave, which I must say really didn’t help deescalate the situation. She has always checked in on me no matter where we are and what she is doing, and alerts when she feels she needs to. Not any more. I am not sure how to get her to alert properly again. Damage done.

I called animal control and reported the attack. Animal control said that I should stop by the Police Dept. and report it there as well. She said they could probably use that photo I took of him. So I walked back into town immediately. The spirit of the afternoon was gone. The field had already been hayed so Saxl was a rather barren land with no wild flowers or birds (because a number of them nest in the bushes and brush.) The only pictures I took that day at the field was a few of some sweet smelling Milk Weed, and this jerk whose dog had attacked my service dog.

I spoke to Officer Millard at the Bangor P. D. I had a feeling that this would most likely go no where as most things I report do. I left a message with Animal Control today, and have heard nothing. It was a long weekend due to the Fourth of July events and Monday being a holiday mostly for those who need to recover from their hangovers. I had expected someone to call me back, but nothing.

So at this point, my service dog is damaged, and that has affected the work she does for me. She also begins to pull ahead whenever a dog barks at us, or shows any sort of over-exuberance. I have to say I jump too. In the past few months since I have increased my activity, Rosie and I have been charged by 2 pit bulls, one nearly grabbed her hindquarters (Off of his property), one Boxer who seems to go as far as the end of her property, some sort of pit bull/American Bulldog/ Mastiff type dog near the entrance to the City Forest, and a white fluffy thing down the road who’s people made him mean. That dog rushed us on the sidewalk and began going after Rosie. On my way by, I mentioned that there was a $1,000 fine for an attack on a service animal. Now whenever they are out walking, they give us wide berth. This is the same person I am sure, who right out front on the sidewalk at the end of the front yard, a guy walked by with a small dog and seemed to be bragging that the mop would attack my dog if it was off leash. I have seen people in this neighborhood trying to make small dogs mean before, so I can believe that. Not surprisingly, both Rosie and I are very wary of every dog we see and/or hear.

It presently looks like another Maine Law is not being enforced. Most people, even the ones you would expect to know the laws don’t even familiarize themselves with them. Therefore, ignorance means they don’t have to work too hard on this one.

Police Resist Education...I dropped off a pamphlet that Crystal and I had posted on the Internet that put all the Service Dog pertinent laws on one pamphlet JUST THE WAY IT IS WRITTEN. This means that we wrote our pamphlet so that it was not any one person’s assumptions, translations or hypothesis. The officer said that they already had some of those pamphlets. (I was handing him just ONE pamphlet.) I knew that wasn’t true (our link for this online pamphlet is not widely known), and knew he was probably either lying or talking about the Maine Human Rights Commission’s pamphlet. If it was the latter, that meant the officer was not familiar with the pamphlet they were given. Why do people resist education?

Here is what I might know about the man whose dog attacked my service dog in the field. I believe that in order to avoid me on his way back to his vehicle that he cut off the trail in a weird spot (next to Fisheries & Wildlife building, the non parking lot side). Then he walked to his car which was a white SUV type vehicle. If he ever comes back to the field, I will take a picture of the jerk’s license plate too.

This man needs to be held accountable for what his dog did. I am sick of people who are supposed to care and enforce these laws that protect our pets, service dogs, and farm animals not doing anything, unless there is an open wound. My service dog is proof that there is more to damage than the visible ones. (Heck, so am I with an invisible disability!) She is a nervous wreck around other dogs, and before she could do fine with others… would just ignore them. Perhaps the issue with my dog alerting was my fault? But then again I wouldn’t have gone from a 0- 100 sudden panic attack had that man’s dog not attacked my dog. It is vicious dogs like this one, and stupid owners who let these dogs off leash who make it necessary to create leash laws.

I should be able to go places with my service dog without having to worry about some dog charging and attacking us. I just want to feel safe. Do I at least deserve that right?

The Following Information is a Bit Repetitive.  Bare with me...
Value of a Service Dog...
If the Police Department and Animal control really knew the value of service dogs to a person with ANY kind of disability maybe they would try a little harder to uphold the laws that are supposed to protect service dogs and their handlers.  To not do anything at all, it is like the police are saying they don't really give a crap about a dog.  That is the problem.  My dog is a Service dog, not just a pet.  It took years of hard work, training, testing, and lots of money to make my dog who she is today.  The injuries to a service dog do not have to be visual to damage the service dog's ability to do it's job.  The guy shown above thought that if my dog had no open wounds that there was nothing else he needed to do.  However, this jerk doesn't realize that the emotional damage is often just as debilitating, sometimes causing a dog to need to retire early.  My dog has been unable to properly alert me since this attack.  When my anxiety begins to rise, she is totally afraid of me and goes off to hide because I freaked out when the dog attacked and Rosie thought I was yelling at her.  I scared her.  It breaks my heart (and doesn't help my anxiety much) to see her do this.

We are not safe...
 Every dog that barks when we walk down the street scares her to death.  And it doesn't matter if Rosie is off leash or on leash.  We have been attacked both on and off.  Actually, we have been attacked more on leash than off.  That throws the whole "Leash law" safety theory right out the window.  The truth is... Rosie and I are NOT safe ever.  Doesn't matter if we are in the forest, field or walking up the road.  And the fact that we have a police department that doesn't seem to give a crap half the time doesn't help at all.  I thought they were to "Serve and Protect".  This service dog has kept me out of police cruisers and out of hospitals, and have saved their wallets valuable taxpayers' money.  Maybe they miss roughing me up when I am having a panic attack or problems with active flashbacks.  Maybe THEY want to cover the cost of raising and training my next service dog who may have to arrive earlier than I had planned.  They cost anywhere from $7,000- $20,000.  Service dog maintenance is an extra few thousand dollars a year extra.  Medicaid and Medicare don't help me cover the costs of my service dog even though she has done far more than any paid professional has ever done for me.  I spend everyday and every hour with my service dog.  We have been a team for almost 6 years now.  Our bond to one another is priceless.  Think they can cover that?

Here is a video someone sent me the link to that urges Police Officers to uphold service dog protection laws (the film talks about guide dogs and their visually impaired handlers, but at the end specifies that the protection is extended to other type service dogs.)  I found it a little traumatizing probably because the dog attack from a few weeks ago has still left me and my dog kind of raw and fragile.

I think I am going to make some wanted posters to hang around town.  Maybe someone will help me identify this jerk whose dog attacked my Rosie.  I think it is about time someone pays for something like this to set an example that if your dog is not friendly and/or doesn't listen, keep it leashed.  Heck, keep it muzzled and keep it home!  I can't afford to lose my girl!

Oh, I heard from animal control a week later.  She said she had been on vacation so she hadn't gotten back with me.  She said that they can't find the person whose dog attacked Rosie.  How would they expect to find the guy if the only detail I gave the police was "He had really short brown hair and glasses".  The police didn't want my photo.  He didn't even want to look at the photo.  And later on when I came back with the pamphlet with the Maine SD laws in it, the officer tried to tell me that someone from Augusta had already given them pamphlets.  I knew that they didn't have THIS pamphlet because my friend and I created this so that we had the state SD laws as they are written in the law.  MCRC was kind of loose with their translation of the SD laws.  Both Pamphlets are accessible on the side of this blog under Rosie's Favorite Links.  You can make a copy of it for your own use.

This morning I was supposed to meet with the trainer but her husband was called into work and one of her friend's dogs was having pups so she needed to go over and help.  Great.  Anxiety attack.  My dog runs and hides from me which only makes me feel worse and makes the panic attack get worse and last even longer.  I just don't understand how she can totally love me and then totally fear me in the same second.  I gave her nearly 6 good years of pampering, training and lots of love and praise.  Where is it?  How can one incident totally ruin my service dog?  I just don't get it.  I am so scared that she will have to retire.  If she does, she will not be able to go with me in public and will be totally unhappy.  I wish she understood that.  I wish she knew the importance of alerting me and that I need her to do that.

To see this as a larger image, click on the picture.
Do You Know This Man?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Spring Update

This spring has been an unusual one here in Maine.  It is only the tail end of May and the weather has been unlike our usual spring weather.  Instead of mud, right now we have grass.  Instead of frost, we are presently having temps in the 80's.  Today I put in my second air conditioner (which I planned on not having to put back in this window at all.  I was supposed to be in Oregon).  Rosie and I would normally take the bus to walk in the City Forest all afternoon, coming home around supper, but I took the day off to run errands and pick up stuff to put the AC in correctly.  Tomorrow will also be very hot, but I plan on taking the bus out to the forest to give Rosie and I some run time for a few hours before hiking out.  The downfall is that tomorrow is supposed to be hotter, and we may be getting some thunder showers... some severe.  These storms usually hit when we are on our way out to catch the bus which means that we will be out of the forest (more than likely) and on Kittridge Road somewhere.  There is no protection there.

The joys of spring are all ours when we are walking in the forest.  With my camera, I catch each stage of new growth and flowers opening, and Rosie's first swim in the beaver pond.  My Lupine at home is far ahead of the Lupine in the Forest.  It is very unusual to have Lupine in bloom like this in May, but here we are!  The Lady's Slippers are out in huge numbers, and the fields are growing very fast this year.  The birds have already established nests in the long grass and low shrubs.  My best friend and confidant is Rosie, my service dog.  For the most part, she is not super judgemental of me.  She loves to walk in the woods with me though she'd prefer I focus all my attention on her and not photographing everything else BUT her (she has her fair number of photos).  She doesn't understand why I won't let her play and leap off the rough trails (because of the delicate flowers like Lady's Slippers in bloom right now.  The grass in the field hides bird nests and also her expensive Chuck-it balls so I am not throwing them in the fields anymore.  I do make sure she hits the pond as we come in and on our way out.  We have seen no beavers unfortunately, no frogs yet, but there are those monster blood suckers in there!

Because of the stress of being apart from my husband who is in Oregon trying to get the money to come back to Maine and move us all west, financial stress and second dog stress, I must be wound quite tightly.  It takes very little for Rosie to be on the alert, looking over to me to see if I am okay.  I don't have to be in tears, she looks over and just knows.  I can't wait until this move is over even though it will bring with it new stresses, like finding new providers, switching over my checks and medical care... and finally I will be able to parent Blizzard my "puppy".  He is now one, but is no where close to being an adult dog.  He is my project dog.  Rosie is my psychotherapy.

I have begun attending church and though she really hates it, Rosie quietly lays by my feet for the 3 hours we are there for Sacrament and the 2 classes afterwards. Then afterwards she pulls me towards the door like she is saying "Let's get out of here!"  However, if she gathers her fan club, she will slow down until they all disperse.

Right now the temp has gone down to 79 so I will get Rosie ready to go play down by the river for a little bit.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fun With My Service Dog: Combining Training and Play

Rosie helps me pick up trash on the lawn.

My service dog, Rosie never ceases to amaze me with her intelligence and ability to grasp onto a newly taught skill. Last week I decided to see how she would do picking things up and handing it to me. We have tried in the past, but if she thinks it is a goofy game, she has a tendency to chew on the object in her mouth. I knew there was a chance she would do the same today too. I sat at my desk and dropped things onto the floor. Then I would ask her to pick it up. The tricky part was getting her to actually give it to me and not drop it on the floor in front of me. After all, she is not a retriever. It didn’t take too long before I had her putting the object in my lap. I started with big objects, an old cell phone, an old camera, an article of clothing… and then upped the challenge. I moved on to check sized paper, a plastic medicine bottle, and even a tiny charm that was rounded and a bit thicker than a coin. Before I dropped this object on the floor for Rosie to pick up, I looked at it, inspected its rounded edges and fairly compact size and decided it was safe for her even if she happened to swallow it (which I was really hoping she wouldn’t do.) So I flicked the little object onto the floor, telling Rosie to pick it up and give it to me. She barely hesitated, picked the thing up in her teeth and brought it to me. WooHoo! She got lots of praises. The second time she dropped it on the floor and I thought she had swallowed it. I freaked, pulled her jaws open and swept the back of her throat before I looked down and saw the charm laying there at Rosie’s feet. The only thing I swept from Rosie’s throat was the treat I had given her. I apologized and gave her praise and another treat. She realized I was wound a bit tight that day, so she wasn’t bothered by my upset at all (plus, I have shoved and placed plenty of supplements in the back of her throat for many years, so it was nothing alien to her.)
Rosie hands me the trash that was on the lawn.

I got the idea to try this activity again because last time I did laundry at the laundry mat, I knew she was bored and we wouldn’t have much time or energy left for playtime afterwards. I was dropping loose socks and squatting down to pick up the articles of clothing was just plain painful. Achy. I began to have Rosie pick up the clothes and hand them to me. The delivery of items to my lap or to my hand has always been the biggest challenge when we have tried these retrieve activities before, but I feel she caught on pretty well today. I began dropping stuff on the floor on purpose for her to pick up and hand to me. This was a great activity for her (and me). It was a little bit of training to break the monotony of the task I had at hand. It also gave her brain and body something to do other than just stand there looking truly pitiful.
Oops! I dropped something!... Rosie hands me the article of clothing that fell on the floor.

A couple days ago, she had her long dog and was playing with it. I asked her to bring it to me… which of course she did. Then I was telling her to bring it to Solace (“her” kitten, a 4 year old Siamese mix with an attitude.) This confused her at first, but then the light bulb went on and she brought her long dog over and put it on the office chair right in front of where Solace was laying (on the office chair). I gave Rosie lots of praise for carrying through this activity. What she had done was something we have only done before with another person, and not for a very long time. It was a command that she carried through from a distance of me. More on that later.

Today it was very cold (compared to yesterday’s 60. It was actually seasonable for March for a change today) Wanting to do something different, I set up a game with some of Rosie’s tennis balls, a bucket and a Chuck-it Ball launcher. To warm up for the game, I stood at the bucket of tennis balls. I would throw one and Rosie would go get it. I would tell her to “put the ball in the bucket”. Once she had the hang of that (didn’t take too long as we have played this game before).

Then I decided to work on having her do the same command with me standing far away from the bucket. She often has a hard time doing a command far away from me, and I think it is because I teach her these commands right there at my feet. If I tell her to roll over and she is 20 feet away, she feels like she has to keep moving until she reaches me and then drop to do her roll over. After I teach her something, I need to train her to do the same task at a distance as well.

Rosie delivers a tennis ball to me... Rosie puts the tennis ball in the bucket.

Anyway, back to the tennis ball and bucket activity: The game rules were, I would stand about ten feet away from the bucket of tennis balls. I would send Rosie over to the bucket to get a ball out and “bring it to me”. Then I would send her back to get another tennis ball from the bucket. When she returns to me, I have her sit and I step back, and throw the ball to her so she can catch it in her mouth. Then I tell her to “take the ball and put it in the bucket”. The extra ball I have is kind of a distraction because she will want me to throw her that ball instead of carrying through with “putting the ball in the bucket”. Once she drops the ball in the bucket, she can return for the last ball which I throw to her and we do the whole process all over again. What drives me nuts about Rosie is that she really thinks she can pull the wool over my eyes so to speak. She knows how to do this activity, but if she is for some reason distracted or just being plain obstinate, she will just throw the ball around even though previously she put it in the bucket several times in a row. If she throws the ball around even though I am giving her the command to “put it in the bucket” and then eventually puts the ball in the bucket, I definitely do NOT treat her. I know she knows that task. She’s not getting an easy treat from me! I too can be obstinate!

All in all, even after five years, Rosie and I are still learning and teaching each other things. Things that she hadn’t been able to take seriously when she was younger, she was now able to understand and not goof off while doing the activity

It is hard to explain to others how to teach some of the things Rosie does to their dogs. I have learned that not all dogs or dog breeds learn the same or at the same speed or ease as border collies do and Rosie is my first dog. “How did you teach her not to bark?” I would grab her snout firmly and say “No! No barking!” and she would stop. “What if your dog sees a squirrel and starts after it?” I yell “Rowena, No!” and she stops. Do you see my dilemma? I cannot easily spread my knowledge, because sometimes Rosie learns with out my trying to teach.

Anyway, I love Rosie and enjoy having her be my service dog.

Rosie and her "long dog" toy.