Service Dog Etiquette Explained In A Simple Analogy

Here comes another quick post.

I saw this link going around Facebook, and after I finished laughing at it, I meant to post it here, but I didn’t. Someone who has a service dog for an invisible disability wrote this post trying to make it clear what would be acceptable and unacceptable behaviour towards service dogs and their handlers. She had a simple but hilarious analogy. Treat service dogs like you would treat someone else’s boobs. It’s funny, but it kinda works.

I have to say the only ones I haven’t for sure had thrown in my direction are the ones about Tans not being real or nothing looks wrong with me. But all the other ones have happened.

Hey, maybe someone will read this and it will help them understand. Or maybe people can add more boobs/ service dog analogies in the comments.

And Trix Adds Another Data Point

You know what’s funny? For years, I commented on Trixie’s grey hair and worried about her being stressed. People laughed and said stress and grey hair in dogs aren’t related. They may have been wrong.

It appears that dogs who show anxiety around strange people and situations or have a fear of loud noises, among other things, are more likely to start going grey around the muzzle earlier.

Trix was always a bit anxious about what she was supposed to do, and really seemed to get sad if she thought she did something wrong. My mom remembers this one route we took where we walked the route, and for my benefit, we did it again to see if it was better to come at it from the other side of the street. Until we crossed over to the other side, Trix looked so sad and moped along. She was sure she had done something wrong and we were reworking the route, and couldn’t be convinced otherwise until we went in another direction.

Anyone who has read here for any length of time is well-acquainted with Trix’s fear of loud noises. We were made very aware early on that she was not a fan of thunder and fireworks, or thunderworks.

As she got older she definitely was afraid of most dogs. It broke my heart when she wouldn’t play with dogs she didn’t know. I know Mylo had a lot to do with that, but it still made me sad.

Also, she put up with them, but I don’t think she was a fan of strange situations either. Every trip we took caused her to have, well, rather squishy poop. She did her best to cope with these trips, but it didn’t thrill her.

And Trix went grey very early on. Trix, again, I’m sorry if guiding was too stressful. At least now, the reason for your greying fur is because you’re pretty old for a labby.

My Dog Shouldn’t Be The Only One Watching For Traffic!

I know this happened a month ago, but it is always relevant.

An acquaintance of mine wrote a post about the consequences of careless drivers to service animals, and I wish I could make this mandatory reading material for people who drive vehicles.

People never take into account that just because they didn’t actually hit the dog, they might have scared the dog so badly that they may stop working. People’s need to get through that intersection illegally may have just given an animal PTSD and shortened their career.

It’s also interesting to read all the comments from other people with similar experiences. I haven’t had many, but I have had a few. One time, Tansy actually had to back up and kind of twist around because a driver had to fly through a tiny stop sign in front of a drug store. Really? That was necessary? Another time that was especially weird, I was at a crosswalk at the mall here. I pushed the button, I waited, I was sure nobody was moving and all the cars I could hear were stopped, and somebody decided that they didn’t feel like stopping after all and drove right through as I stepped off. Without thinking, I said “cocksucker!” Somebody happened to be around, laughed and said I was right.

I’m lucky that none of these incidents have ended Trix or Tans’s career, but the point is they could, and they’re completely unnecessary. If people are crossing the street, people in their cars can wait. And just because I have a dog who is supposed to keep me safe doesn’t give drivers license to drive like assholes.

Guide Dog Questions Answered In Video Form

This video pretty much sums up so many things I have said over the years about having a guide dog. The one question she didn’t answer, which I get a lot is “how do you pick up after the dog?” Totally legitimate question which I swear I answered here somewhere, but I can’t find it. Basically, you stand out with the dog on leash. Then the dog stops moving, you touch their back to see if they’re just standing and sniffing, sitting with back straight, or sort of squatted. At least that’s the way it goes for female dogs. Males squat to poop but don’t sit to pee, they just stand there. If they’re squatted, you line up behind them, wait for them to finish, then bend down with a bag on your hand and pick up what they left you. Then you turn the bag the other way, and woohoo, you have a bag o poop! It’s trickier in the winter but it’s still the same thing.

Her talking about French commands made me think of an old story which I’ve never written down, so why not write it now? This happened almost 20 years ago, woe! I was a camp counselor at a camp for blind teenagers to learn about computers and other fun stuff. I had been a camper, so it was fun to come back. This time, we had someone there who had a dog from the same school as the dog in the video, so the handler gave his commands in French. But there was also another teenager at the camp who spoke French fluently, and picked up on the whole French commands thing. Let’s just call him a prankster to put it mildly.

I was paying attention to the French commands too, and every night after we had finished up, I would hear the handler saying something about “besoin.” Being an uninformed person, I could not figure out what “besoin” could possibly mean. I didn’t get the pattern that this always happened after we finished up and were coming in for the evening.

Later on in the camp, we were trying to get pictures taken, and the prankster decided to have fun with this poor handler’s dog by giving alternate commands. So the handler would say “debout” (stand up), and the prankster would immediately say “assis” (sit). After a few repetitions of this, the dog just flopped over.

I should have reprimanded Prankster a little more for this interference, but I was young and kind of dumb. Then one fine afternoon, I went to come out into the lobby and was loudly told to stop, because there was a large quantity of dog pee all over the lobby floor. Just then, I heard it, “Carin, he told my dog to besoin!” Of course, the he was Prankster, and now I knew exactly what “besoin” meant. I should have made Prankster clean it all up and stay behind from something fun, but I was young and dumb.

But it made me wonder if dogs that learn commands in another language hear that language so infrequently that they respond a little too readily to it.

Anyway, enjoy the video. I don’t know if I agree with the answering text messages bit, but everything else makes sense.

Service Dog-Related Stuff

There are a couple of service dog-related things I wanted to write down. I have been meaning to for a while, but they keep getting lost.

Sometimes, when I’m following someone, and we slow down, the person I’m following will start saying, “Come on puppy, come this way, come on!” Then they wonder why I sternly tell them to please stop doing that. Here’s why I get a little annoyed.

When the dog slows down, it’s not always just because. She slows down so that she can indicate to me that there’s something important ahead. There are stairs. It’s a tight space. There’s something that you’re going to hit your head on. She slows down so either she can navigate the place safely, or I can figure out what to do, such as reach up and block the oncoming tree branch from hitting me.

If you start urging my dog forward, she may go faster than she should, and I won’t know why she slowed down in the first place. That is I won’t know until I slam into, or fall down, the reason for the slowing down. Sure, she guides me around things, but there is a part of this process that involves her communicating, and me finding what she’s trying to show me. Since she can’t talk to me with a voice, all she has is body movements. If you tell her to not do those things, and she listens to you, you end up distracting her, and you’re actually running the risk that I will hurt myself.

What would be more useful, as always, is to talk to me. Tell me there’s nothing in front of me, we don’t have to slow down. Then I can tell my dog to speed up and feel confident doing it. Or, look around and see if there’s something you may not have noticed. Is there something coming up that might be good to know about? Are we headed for a crowd of people? Maybe there’s a reason the dog is slowing down, and letting her do her job is the order of the day. Again, you could tell me about it if you want to, but don’t talk to the dog!

On a completely different note, a couple of years ago, a man and his service dog died in a fire. It sounds like the fire started in his unit, and although it was small, it was difficult to deal with. From the article,

“The fire wasn’t overwhelmingly large but there was zero visibility. There were heavy smoke conditions,” said fire Platoon Chief Kevin Karley.

I often got asked why the dog didn’t drag this man to safety. Keep in mind a few things.

  1. This man was in a wheelchair, so might not have been able to easily get into his chair,
  2. the fire was right in his unit,
  3. and

  4. people are expecting a dog to be superhuman.

First off, usually service dogs aren’t dragging the person around, even if the person they’re with is in a wheelchair. They’re picking up dropped items, or pushing door buttons, that sort of thing. I don’t think a dog is like an ant, where they can carry more than their own weight.

On top of that, trained firefighters were saying that it was hard to navigate in there. Now, imagine a dog trying to drag a big man out of there. Even if he could, which I would think would be difficult on a good day, it would be pretty impossible when the fire was right there.

Then there’s the issue of the door. I know that special skills dogs can open doors, but a lot of the time, I think they do it by pushing a button. What if the button wasn’t working because of the fire? I guess sometimes you can tie something to the door so they can pull it open, but what if he didn’t do that? What if he had a clicker for his door, so didn’t have a rope tied on there for an emergency situation? At the very most, if the dog was trained for it, he could have pushed a button on the guy’s phone to call 911. But that might not have been enough.

And then there’s the obvious factor of the apartment being one big smoke cloud. How long until the poor dog was overwhelmed?

I just felt bad for the dog, who everyone came just short of blaming for not saving this guy. Service dogs do a lot, but they have their limits.

I hope this clears up some things for some people. Those two thoughts have come up a lot, so I thought I would make an attempt at trying to explain them. Perhaps people who know more about special skills dogs can either tell me I’m full of it or add more about the second scenario, but I know how I feel about the first one and I don’t think I’m alone.

Updates On the Two Black Beasts

I have some time, so I figured I should write about the two black beasts I know so the post doesn’t grow into a monster.

Tansy went to the vet for her annual checkup a month or so ago, and they said she looked great. They did comment that she does have a tiny bit of grey under her eyes. Nobody else comments on it, so it must be pretty subtle. Yes, Shmans does age. This is a big difference from Trix, who looked noticeably grey when she was only 3. Tans is 6, almost 6 and a half. This is good.

You can tell that Tans is ever so slightly settling down. She’s still nuts, but she calms down faster and tires out easier. Even the vet noticed that she was a smidge calmer. I didn’t think that was possible.

I also noticed that she’s not quite fearless. If we’re out on the balcony and the wind picks up in a certain way, she becomes insistant that we get our butts inside. You know what? As much as we’re probably safe out there, she has a point.

But I think she’s having a bit of a midlife crisis, or going through a late rebellious phase right now. Like I said before, she sometimes forgets the rule that she should stay in bed until I get up. She only does this if Steve is on the couch. I try to remember to tie her down if it looks like he’s going to stay on the couch. I tried only doing it for a short time, but as soon as I didn’t tie her down, she still got up and exuberantly greeted him at 3 in the morning when he was trying to sleep.

And just this morning, even though she knows the kitchen is out of bounds, she trotted in there like she owned the place. When Steve busted her, boy did she run back to bed and stay there.

Our buddy J was down for a visit. It was nice having him around. It felt like he had always been here. It was nice to think back on old memories. But I think Tansy loved having him around even more than we did! I swear, she would have gone home with him without a second thought! It was something else to behold, especially since they met once before without Tansy showing him all this affection. But this time, all she wanted to do was snuggle up to him, play with him, act like a total wackjob around him. It was a little spooky, since he said he was thinking about getting a guide dog, and it was like Tansy had decided she was the salesdog for GDB, trying to make it as appealing as possible.

Shmans is definitely quirky. Someone who sits near me started bringing their dog in. The dog seems perfectly good, and the person keeps the dog on a leash. It is interested in Tans, but it’s a dog, of course it is. But it behaves itself. Tans, on the other hand, started acting weird. Without provocation, she would get up from her bed and run to me. I would say hello and send her back to bed, and she would go back there, but this would keep happening. Then one day, Tans was playing with a couple managers that work nearby, they came over to see us. She got really excited, sprinted over to the other dog, played with it for a minute, and then came back. Now that I think about it, after she did that, she hasn’t been running to me every so often. Was she asking permission to go say hi to the dog, and that’s all she wanted?

She did something else weird, and slightly disturbing, at work. The fire alarm went off one day. Instead of just coming to me so I could leash and harness her up, she ran to some colleagues across the way. Um, chief? This is one of those times when I need you in a hurry!

I know I talked about Tansy barking at the door when she wanted to come back in when we were at the raisers place. Apparently, she will do it anywhere when she wants to get back in. When we were visiting Brad a few weeks ago, we went inside while the dogs were playing outside since Brad’s yard is all fenced. All of a sudden, we hear this squeaky yelpy bark at the door. There’s Tans, wanting to be back inside. Very very interesting. At least she doesn’t scratch the door or do other obnoxious things.

On the subject of Trix, she’s still doing well, but you can see that she’s 12 and a half. When we were there, Brad commented that it’s nice to see a dog making full use of the yard, since Trix just sort of sticks close.

Also, I saw how little Trix likes to chew bones. Shmans made short work of a chew that had been laying on the floor that Trix hadn’t touched in a long while, and found a bone that had just been laying out in the yard. We were sitting outside, and suddenly I heard “chew chew gnaw gnaw” and said “Um, what has Shmans found?” It was just a bone that Trix had left alone. That would not have been possible previously.

Trix has been nicknamed the bearded lady, since she has a definite white beard.

I could be crazy, but it seems like Trix feels the heat even more than she used to. After we came in from a walk, and had been in for a while, Trix was still going “puffa puffa puffa.” She would even do it if we hadn’t been out. I know it was hot that weekend, but woe.

But Tans still managed to annoy the heck out of Trix on our walk because she wanted to sniff every square inch of space, and Trix wanted to go go go! Brad says Trix likes to do that, but does not approve if she’s not the one calling the shots. Well well well.

It’s weird to see the dogs get up in the morning and not make a heap of noise. They just got up, I fed Tans, and put her outside to do her thing. Trix just sort of paced around and waited for Tans to get back in. I think she might have gotten fed. Then she went outside. Then they both came back in, puffed and snorted at each other and that was that. That would not have happened a few years ago. There would have been much chasing, wrestling, lion growling and roofing.

So here’s a scary factoid for the long-time readers. This coming Saturday, Trix will have been with Brad for 5 years. I had Trix for about 5 and a half. Wow. I’m so happy Trix has had a long, happy retirement.

I think that’s about it for now. I wish I had pictures, but I’m lame and didn’t even think of taking some when we had both dogs together and might have been able to convince someone to take them. Hopefully I’ll have more beast updates sooner rather than later.

Tansy Goes Back To Her Roots

Tansy in her puppy raisers' living room
Home sweet vacation home!

This trip happened last summer, but I’m just writing about it now. Way to go, me! But it is one that needs to be written down as an important thing in the life of Shmans.

Last July, I planned a trip to Tansy’s puppy raisers’ place. They had invited me down to spend some vacation time with them, and I like to at least make one trip so they can see their pup all grown up and working. With Trix, we met up in Niagara Falls, but this time, I was actually going back to the home where Tans was raised. What a funny and interesting experience that was.

Tansy’s raiser met us at our gate. I fully expected mayhem to ensue, but although Tans went nuts, no fellow travelers were harmed in the making of this display. We walked out to the car, and after all luggage was grabbed, off we went. At first, Tans was relatively calm, happy but calm. But once we got about a mile from her puppyhood home, she started pawing at my legs as if to say “Ooo! I know where we’re going! I think I could run there now! Let’s goooo!”

As soon as she entered the gates of her old yard, it was like Tansy reverted to her puppy self. The first thing she did was run over to the tomato plants and steal a tomato! During my time there, tomato-thievery was a regular pastime of hers, much to my chagrin. Her raisers would joke that she would have a tomato for dessert, and reminisce about how she would steal avocados in her puppy days. Everything she did, she did loudly and with gusto. If there was a barking dog among the 3 dogs in the yard, it was guaranteed to be mine. Shmans! Shame on you! But apparently that was her way as a puppy.

Tansy lounging on her old bed
Carin brought a bed? Who’s Carin?

She remembered where all her favourite spots were. She found her favourite bed next to her raisers’ bed[and would go there when it was time to sleep. What am I, chopped liver? She picked out her favourite spot to do her business and would always go there, and of course she went right back to her vegetable-thieving, loud barking ways.

I got to meet one of the dogs that Tansy grew up with. Sadly, the other dog had already passed away. But this dog was 16 years old, and although she was showing her age, she still liked to join in the fun. Once, when Tansy was outside, this dog actually found a way to let me know that Tansy wanted back in. She poked me in the leg and then kept walking to the door. Good job! She’s still alive as I write this, amazingly enough, but she’s definitely slowing down.

There was another dog who had come since Tansy had left. I think she considered herself to be the house’s security alarm. For the first couple of nights, I could not so much as leave my bed at night to visit the washroom without this dog growling and barking as if there was an intruder in the basement. Eventually, she accepted me, but it took a while.

I was worried about how I would feed Tansy and keep her away from the other dogs when they were eating. I should have been more forceful about this, but the puppy raisers had put Tansy’s leash and harness somewhere where I didn’t know where they were. So, I couldn’t just put Tans on a leash when the others were eating. Thankfully, I had nothing to worry about. Shmans didn’t even steal from the other dogs, and they were good about her too. I guess I had nothing to worry about when it came to the older dog because sometimes she couldn’t even finish her own meals, and the self-appointed security system dog would finish her meal, but only when given permission.

I learned about more nicknames for Shmans, and once again, Tansy told me in no uncertain terms that those nicknames were off-limits for me, kind of like when Steve calls her ‘Bear’. The lady who raised her would call her something that sounded like “Mishka Pishka” and Sweety-beety” and she’d get all waggy. But if I call her that, there is 0 response. Ok, I get it.

Tansy on our boat ride
I’m on a boat!

We went on many adventures over the next few days, and I think Tansy blew her raisers’ minds. They could not believe how quiet and calm she could be in a play, on a boat, at puppy meeting, even during that meditation session where I saw all the things. They got very excited watching her walk me around cars and keep me on the straight and narrow. I think they knew the theory behind guide work, but they may not have seen very many working teams. To be more accurate, I think he had a pretty good idea, but she was less informed.

I learned so much about Tansy’s younger days. Apparently she was known around puppy club as “Wild Tansy.” She had no tolerance for laying around doing nothing. If she got bored in puppy meetings, she would bark! Really? Wow!

I also learned that she was almost matched with someone else, but they didn’t work out as a team. Wow! I almost didn’t get the Shmans. This is just mind-blowing! Well, I’m glad the first team didn’t work out because I think she was meant for me. I just hope whoever was going to get her got a better match.

I have talked about how well-behaved Shmans was on this trip, but boy, she had her moments of doing things I have never seen her do before or since! One morning, before we were going to go on our day of adventures riding a boat and walking all over creation, Tansy’s raisers wanted to take their pet dogs on a walk to tire them out so they wouldn’t be all wound up when we got home from all our walking. I said I would keep Tansy back with me because she was going to be out with us, so didn’t need this walk, plus I wanted to do a bit of obedience with her since she was acting like a bit of a crazy dog and I wanted to make sure she was still listening to me. Well, that was not going to happen! When Tansy saw the raisers leashing up their dogs, she let out this set of shrieks and screams that would convince someone who didn’t know better that I was torturing her! So, to my sadness, she went with them.

I need to write down a couple of funny and unforgettable stories about this trip.

Tans wearing giant headphones
Tans in her theatre-going ear protection: best investment ever!

First, I found out that we were going to some kind of concert. All I knew about it was the main event was someone named Sam Harris, and he was involved in American Idol, or maybe America’s Got Talent, nobody really knew. It turns out it was Star Search. I tried to google him but was having no luck. Upon arrival, we got our tickets and read that it was some kind of one-man musical theatre performance called “Ham”.

Hmmm interesting. We sat down and started to watch, and a few things became apparent:

  1. This was a dramatization of this fellow’s life story.
  2. It was a story of a man discovering he is gay and coming to terms with it,
  3. and

  4. Tansy’s raisers had no idea this was the content of the musical. Yes, they just read about it in the paper.

I have come to know that they are very open-minded people, but there is always a limit to someone’s open-mindedness, and was this going to be it? Would the play push a certain button and they would feel the need to leave? Meanwhile, I think they were panicking, wondering what I was thinking, possibly feeling bad about bringing me to this play. I told them over and over again that it was fine, I’m pretty hard to offend, but to this day, it seems that they feel bad about it. There’s no need to feel bad. It makes a great story, and I liked the play anyway!

The other funny story was a joke that sort of built over the few days I was there. I learned pretty quickly that they did not want Trump to be president. But whenever we would pass by anything owned by Donald Trump, the husband would say loudly, “President Trump! We have to get used to it, President Trump!” I would laugh and we would go on, and at least I thought this was a ridiculous joke. Who’s laughing now? Then, we took Tansy and their pet dogs through a nice walking path and had a picnic. Where was this path located? In the Donald Trump National Golf Course. Incidentally, they couldn’t help commenting that in a state ravaged by drought, his huge golf course was lush and green. Anyway, as a joke, they snapped a picture of me standing next to the Trump sign. I don’t have this picture, because they told me they wanted to use it as blackmail material. If I didn’t give them enough Tansy updates, they would release it and tell the world I was a Trump supporter! Of course they were joking around…but hmmm I still don’t have that picture. Uh-oh!
I do have this picture of us by Bubba Gump’s.

Tansy and I near the Bubba Gump's sign
Bubba Gump would make a better president than Trump anyway.

It was time to leave, and just like I did with Trixie’s raisers, I felt like I was ripping their heart out and stealing their baby. I was a little worried that Tansy would start screaming at the sight of her beloved first family leaving, but thankfully she didn’t. When we finally got home after nearly getting stuck in Chicago, she seemed happy to be back, and jumped all over Steve before running off to her bed.

I’m glad I went to visit Tansy’s raisers. I met and learned about more of their family, and I feel like I know them even better. It would be fun if they could come up here…but I think we would have to stay somewhere a little more fun and/or picturesque than Kitchener. How could I compare to living in LA’s backyard? But hopefully I could figure out a way to take them to interesting places.

Something For The Tans Fans

I’ve been very slow in writing about Tansy, which is a shame. She turned 6 back in May and I didn’t write a thing. So now that it’s been 3 months since my last deluge, have another one.

Finding the perfect amount of food for her has been a challenge. I switched to duck back in March or so when she had the UTI issue, and fed slightly more. Apparently it was too much because she packed on the hound pounds. But I only had to reduce it by a quarter of a cup before she dropped back to reasonable. But the weird thing is she’s been getting a lot of treats and is still maintaining her weight. Her metabolism baffles me.

A couple of months ago, I was kind of stressed out. Work was crazy, some stuff temporarily went splat with my benefits, I was getting ready to speak at a conference, life was a little crazy. I thought I wasn’t letting it affect Tansy, but she told me one day that I was wrong. One time I was walking a familiar route. I was basically on autopilot, thinking about life stuff and not travel stuff. Without warning, Tans came to a stop and looked up at me. It was like she was checking to see if she was doing ok because I probably wasn’t giving her feedback of any kind. I felt so bad. I got down on my knees and gave her a big hug and then all was well. But in our four years together, I have never seen Tans ask for reassurance. Sorry, bud. You’re doing just fine. It’s me.

I do notice that without realizing it, Tans and I have slowed down a lot, and I don’t know why. A friend got a new guide dog, and without any effort at all, she will leave us in her dust. I always considered Tans to be a fast walker, but she definitely slowed down since I was sick a while ago. But the encouraging part is she can move if we’re going to an interesting or new place, so I’m going to hope the slowness is just boredom. But how do I combat that boredom when we’re dealing with so much construction?

I saw Trixie again a couple of weeks ago. She’s still enjoying life, but she’s definitely slowing down. Tansy doesn’t even try to bug her into playing with her. She just sort of plays on her own nearby. Hmmm. Could that be a sign of Shmans maturing and knowing that not all dogs want to play? Woe! I never thought I would see that day!

I’ve talked before about Tans feeling the need to rescue Steve if he hides his face under a blanket. I don’t know why, but once, after she did her routine of freeing him from the blanket, she was still going nuts, and it looked like she was actually stressed out. She just kept doing circles of the room, growling at some imaginary thing and still trying to free Steve from a blanket that wasn’t there. We had to actually sit her down and convince her that all was fine.

Also, for some reason, when Steve imitates her by making snorting noises and flopping around on the floor, she goes crazy. I try to do the same, but it doesn’t have the same effect. Does she think Steve is making fun of her? Or is she so happy to play with someone who speaks her language?

So apparently Revolution is losing its effectiveness. It doesn’t totally suck, but the vets are starting to say we should move to something else. So they convinced me to put Tansy on something called Bravecto for the flea and tick bit, and something called Interceptor for the heartworm part. Both things are pills, so no more need to slather my dog with a tube of nasty goop once a month, which I’m sure makes both of us happy. But now I have to remember wacky schedules of pill-giving. The Bravecto is only every three months, and since I started it at the end of a month, it’s on a different day than the Interceptor. So far, I haven’t caused Tansy to miss a dose, although I managed to convince myself I might have, and had to check. Holy crap, both Bravecto and Interceptor are huge! I’m glad she just gobbles them down. I’m also relieved that they haven’t given her any nasty side-effects. I heard about Bravecto last year, but I heard the biggest side-effect was GI upset, and at the time, we were dealing with enough of that already! Thankfully, she’s had 2 of the 3 doses, and nothing nasty has occurred so far.

I’ve talked about Tansy being convinced that my blood pressure cuff was a magical treat dispenser, and bumping the heck out of me while I’m trying to use it. Now, she seems to have given up on jostling the thing when I take it out. Instead, she just lies down next to me. It’s as if she wants to have a calming effect on my blood pressure…or maybe she’s just hoping to be very close by if a treat does happen to fall out of that Velcro thing and she’s proven right.

This year, the client conference for the company was in Las Vegas. Whenever I would say that, everyone would cheer and go “Wow! That’s awesome!” I’m glad I experienced Las Vegas, but I don’t think it was my, or Tansy’s, idea of fun. I had heard that it was crazy and there was a lot of noise and commotion, but I was not prepared for it.

As soon as I walked into the lobby of the Bellagio, I was overwhelmed by the noise. I was always in a perpetual crowd near a fountain and a couple other sources of loud music. It was impossible to get a clue about navigation. Thank god for amazing coworkers. If not for them, I would have been totally screwed.

I also didn’t like the smell that greeted me. When I walked in, Foursquare said “Welcome to paradise!” and I thought “Paradise smells like a busy public bathroom?” I couldn’t figure out why I thought it smelled like a bathroom until I realized what I smelled was what reminded me of really strong bathroom air-freshener, which they needed to use to cover up everyone’s smoking, which they felt the need to do every friggin where.

I felt like I was at an NFB convention, because the pedestrians with which I shared the halls didn’t watch where they were going! People would just stop without warning to stare at this or that, or cut in front of us. On top of that, parents would let their kids dive out in front of Tansy without consequence, and hands would come out of the sea of humanity to sneak pets. Apparently people were taking pictures of us like we were part of the scenery. Tansy was constantly having to watch for people who obviously weren’t watching. She was completely exhausted by the end, so much so that when I was seated somewhere, I barely had to touch the leash because she was out cold at my feet.

And the sidewalks, oh the sidewalks! I knew Vegas was hot, and I even brought Mushers Secret to put on Tansy’s paws to help, but without thinking, I didn’t apply some before leaving for the airport so she would be protected as soon as we arrived in Vegas. We did fine until we hit a few feet of sidewalk that were being completely bathed in the sun. Poor Tansy started dancing from the heat. For the rest of the time, I applied the wax, and we were mostly in the hotel so it was ok. That was some crazy heat!

I do have to say that Tansy doesn’t like many of those indoor relieving areas at airports, the ones inside security, but she was fine with the one in Vegas. Thank goodness she was, since the outdoor relieving area was under construction.

I think those are the major updates that I can think of. I have no idea where the time is going, but Tansy just keeps on trucking.

Guide Dog Lifestyle Survey

This survey was sent around a little bit ago. It seems GDB is looking for people to talk about the ups and downs of having a guide dog, specifically to do with pedestrian travel, ride sharing, airlines that are good and not so good, businesses that are good and not so good, that sort of thing. They want to raise awareness about what having a guide dog means, and perhaps get the media involved. If you want to add your thoughts, fill out this survey. You could win a $50 Amazon gift card.

The survey closes August 1, so you have a bit of time, but not a ton.

My Thoughts On The Draft Canadian Service Dog Team Standards

I have said over and over that we need to deal with fake service dogs, mostly because those dogs don’t have the training to behave properly in public. They either make messes or attack others, making it hard for the real service dog teams to go about their business. I have slowly learned that the solution isn’t to make an ID card, because people can make fake ID cards, and it’s not the ID card but the behaviour that matters. I hoped for a set of standards for behaviour that businesses should be educated on so they know a fake when they see one.

Others have been thinking about standards, and are trying to draft one. I can tell they have tried to be very thorough, and they have somewhat done their homework on service dogs and disabilities. But for all the good that is in this standard, there are a lot of problems. I’m not one who frequently comments on drafts and legislation, but one way or another, I’m going to make my voice heard on this one. If the draft standard goes through as is, and is used as a supporting standard for laws, it has the potential to make the lives of at least guide dog teams very hard. If you feel the same, I urge you to comment. Public comment closes on Friday July the 14th.

Here is a news article and a blog post that basically agree with me, and tell me I have valid concerns. Writing my comment is going to be hard, because for the many good intentions I can see in the standard, there are many many things wrong with it, things that to me don’t even need explaining because they’re so obvious, but I know I’m going to have to break it down in a very methodical way.

Here are the overarching themes that keep coming back again and again.

  • The standard feels like overkill for any service dog handler from a reputable school. The standard wants to establish assessment and training criteria that the schools have handled seamlessly for decades. People ask why we go away to train for weeks, up to a month. The very things referenced in this standard, which it appears we are being obligated to prove over and over again, are the things we are being taught, and the things that are being reinforced. We are taught good handling, training, grooming, dealing with the public, knowing our access rights and limitations, dealing with dog health-related things, and on and on and on. Once we leave training, it’s not over. How many times have you seen me write about followup visits? The instructor is coming to check on our teamwork, the health of the dog, the willingness of the dog to continue to work, and the solidity of the training that I received. Why should handlers in my position be forced to submit to an extra layer of scrutiny? If you are training your own dog, then it makes sense to ensure that someone assesses your suitability for a service dog, and makes you aware of what is to come, so you don’t go into this relationship with false ideas. As for the rest of us, we know.
  • I know they were trying for a standard into which they could neatly fit all service dogs, but due to the nature of a service dog, this is doomed to fail. My guide dog’s duties are different than those of a PTSD dog, or a seizure assistance dog, …you get the point. By consequence, interactions are going to be different. For example, I am not always going to know about a distraction until my guide dog, well-trained as she is, gets distracted by it, at which point, I have to react. However, the standards laid out do not allow for such a reaction. I may have to tug on the leash. This isn’t a bodily choking, this is a movement to get her attention. This would not be allowed. Sometimes I put a gentle leader on my dog so I can better feel what her head is doing. This is not a muzzle, but may be perceived as such, and according to the standard, muzzles are not allowed. My dog would have to do off-leash obedience, which isn’t how we do obedience, since of course I have to feel what she’s doing, because, duh, I’m blind, hence the dog! There are so many examples of this, but you can already see that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. I think they tried to get feedback from all user groups, but because it was so divergent, they just gave up and this was the result.
  • I cannot stand the tone of this standard, for a couple of reasons. Let me start with the heavy emphasis on shifting the blame for any unfortunate events to the handler of the dog, not the environment or the other people in the environment. For example, if we encounter an aggressive dog, we are to avoid the dog by crossing the street, we are to stop the attack with our own bodies if necessary, tell the owner to get their dog on a leash, etc. How exactly are we to take proactive action when sometimes we are not aware of an aggressive dog until it is upon us? Not all aggressive dogs snarl and growl as warnings. Some of them, if they truly are aggressive, will simply wait until their target is in range and attack. For example, how on earth am I expected to avoid a dog jumping out of a car and latching onto me? How is anyone expected to avoid that, but if I can’t see it coming, I don’t have a chance. How am I supposed to avoid a dog lunging at us as we stand inside an elevator? How am I expected to avoid a dog attacking my dog when I am on icy terrain? How do I avoid meeting a deranged rock-throwing man? Also, how can I be expected to cross the street upon perceiving an aggressive dog if the street is extremely busy and not safe to cross there? How is a person in a wheelchair expected to immediately cross the street upon sight of an aggressive dog if there is no curb cut to cross there? How will I avoid glass if I don’t know of its existence until I have the misfortune of stepping on it? There is a big section of the standard talking about how we should take precautions when walking into roadways where there are cars. Of course we do, most of us don’t have death wishes. But what if we step off at the correct time, only to be cut off by an unobservant driver? Sure, the dog is going to do what he can, but sometimes you can’t avoid a speeding truck. Sighted people get hit, so how are we supposed to be superheroes? Is the default of this standard setting up to blame us for the accident? There is only so much one can do. Sure, we shouldn’t walk into danger with no regard for what may happen, that would be pretty stupid, but the onus shouldn’t be on us to prevent all situations.
  • …This leads nicely into my next point. There is an overall tone that we as service dog handlers need to be micromanaged, that we have no coping or problem-solving skills whatsoever, and should accept needing to provide all kinds of proof of every aspect of our lives to whoever asks for it. NO! It’s simple as that. N…O. If it has been deemed that we are capable of taking care of this animal, then treat us as such. We are being asked to do more than one reasonably does for their children. When you’re out with your kids, do you carry a fully-stocked first-aid kit? Or is it expected that if something comes up, you will ask for help and deal with it to the best of your ability? Are you expected to regularly show proof that you’ve taken your child to the doctor? Or, is this only brought up if your child looks ill or otherwise uncared for? Are you expected to provide proof that you know how to handle every single eventuality? Or are you expected to problem-solve. This is an unacceptable burden to place on people who are already taking exemplary care of their service dogs, and frankly, I find it insulting. Hands off! I am a competent adult and I demand to be treated as such.
  • On one hand, every little thing that the handler must do is detailed, but when it comes to the specifications for assessment, there are gaping holes where details should be. How frequently will these assessments be conducted? By whom? Will they be scheduled or unannounced? There is the description of a test where someone unknown to the dog will walk up and take the dog from you and walk away. Is this going to be done without warning? If so, I will be living in perpetual fear, and as a blind person, I will not know who is kidnapping my dog and who is an assessor. Will I have to go somewhere, taking off work, for these assessments to be done? How long will they take? How on earth will they properly assess play? Playing a game in front of someone is never as natural as what happens at home. What is the difference between testing and inspection? There is so little clarity in this part of the standard that it’s kind of terrifying. Yet, the people who wrote this settled on this as an acceptable way to treat us.
  • There is way too much weight placed on the public’s opinion. As any service dog handler or puppy raiser knows, all of the public have opinions in plentiful quantities, but many of those opinions are uninformed or misinformed. On any given day I can be told
    • that my dog is fat,
    • that my dog is too thin,
    • that my dog looks happy,
    • that my dog looks sad,
    • that my dog is too shy,
    • that my dog is too sociable,
    • that I’m good to my dog,
    • that I’m a mean mean handler (when I won’t let her get pets),
    • that my dog is well-trained,
    • that my dog has never seen a day of instruction in her life.

    I could go on all day. You get the point. If these people can make decisions about whether I can come in a place, I’m in trouble. Of course, if my dog looks like a flea-bitten disobedient mange-covered mutt who craps on the floor and bites people, then the public can say all it wants, but they are far too quick to criticize every little infraction, and to give them power scares me.

I’m sure, on its face, it looks like all these provisions are for the best, but I hope my examples illustrate my point. I am already doing my best to keep my dog’s training up. I do not want to live in constant fear that I will have to prove that to every Tom, Dick and Harry who says he’s an assessor.

I’m tired. I have been writing this for hours, and I’m going to have to reform this into something fit for a public comment. But I will do it, because it means that much to me.

If you feel the same, you can do it in one of two ways. You can submit your comments on this form, or you can write a letter and send it to Jennifer(dot)Jimenez(at)tpsgc-pwgsc(dot)gc(dot)ca
I kind of butchered her address in the hopes that it wouldn’t be spammed, so you’re going to have to rebuild it.

I really hope lots of comments come in and it gets a massive revamp. It’s not totally awful, but I think it needs work or it will try to solve one problem and create four more.