Delta And United Could Be Rolling Out Kind Of Bad Service Animal Policies

I have been meaning to write about this for a while, but I was hoping to disentangle everything and be able to have a very coherent response with a clear way forward. But that isn’t happening, and it still needs to be written about.

Back in mid January, Delta Airlines decided it had had enough of the disservice animal problem, or the problem of people bringing animals onto planes, saying they were for service and support, and then the animals freaking out because they were not trained, having accidents on the plane, injuring flight crews and passengers or being a general nuisance and hazard. They decided to tighten up their policies in the hopes that they would be able to filter out the ones abusing the system. United Airlines has decided to tighten things up as well, but they went about it slightly differently. Both policies are to go into effect March 1. Here’s an article about both airlines. Also, here’s Delta’s policy (.pdf format) and United’s policy.

First of all, I totally understand why they need to try and make sure animals that aren’t trained to be good public citizens don’t make it onto planes. They could hurt people and other service dogs because they are not well-socialized, and a plane is a rather confined space. Once you’re flying, it’s kind of hard to open the door and kick out the bad one. So, I applaud them for wanting to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, at least Delta went about it all wrong. I’m still holding out hope for United, although upon a quick read, I’m afraid there’s a lot of wiggle room.

From what I understand, Delta’s new policy requires that every time someone flies with a service animal, 48 hours before their flight, they have to submit a special form with paperwork from their vet certifying that their animal is up to date on its vaccinations and is healthy. They also can only go to a specific counter so their animal can be visually inspected by an employee. United’s policy is better, but still has some problems. It seems that anyone whose service animal is doing a task to mitigate a physical disability doesn’t need to do more than what we already have to do to travel. For example, if I’m traveling to Hawaii, I have to satisfy the requirements of Hawaii. But I don’t have to give all this extra notice and go to special counters. But, they have lumped psychiatric service animals in with emotional support animals, which is not cool. Psychiatric service animals are still service animals. They have been trained to do tasks like giving a person with PTSD space between them and a crowd, or looking around corners etc. Emotional support animals give their owner that warm fuzzy snuggly feeling when they give them a pet petty pet pet. Who knows if they have been trained to deal with anything unusual, which…flying several thousand feet above the earth is pretty unusual. Who knows if they’re used to sharing small spaces with other people and service animals. To be completely clear, I’m not being a discriminating arsehole and saying that certain disabilities are less worthy of having a service animal. All I care about is the rigor of the training that the animal goes through. Nine times out of 10, the people bringing emotional support animals either don’t need them and are just trying to get Foofoo on the plane instead of putting her in cargo, or they have no idea what puppy raisers and trainers go through to ready their dogs for public access, and that is the problem.

To get back to Delta’s policy, the reason theirs is problematic, above and beyond what I just said, is that they are putting unnecessary restrictions on people who have legitimate service animals as well, some of whom already can’t drive so are down one transportation option. The 48-hour notice requirement basically makes it impossible to make an emergency trip, use Delta as an unplanned connecting flight if another one gets canceled, or use Delta if traveling very frequently. In addition, I fail to see how these requirements actually help Delta do more than cover their butts. How are they going to validate that the animal will be good? The only way they’ll find out is when we board. So, they are making it harder for people who already have barriers, and for no benefit. For example, I now would have to make my vet fill out a form, or complete a potentially inaccessible form and navigate a website whose accessibility may change without notice just before I travel. I probably will have to pay to have my vet fill out their special form. People who want to bring Fluff-Muffin won’t find these steps to be overly problematic. They don’t have to worry about inaccessible websites or limited transportation options.

And don’t even get me started on the whole requirements of going to a special counter for a visual inspection. I have had my dog referred to as an emotional support dog. My black lab whose mouth isn’t moving has been blamed for the barking of a yappy chihuahua-sized dog several feet away. These people have no idea what they are inspecting. It also excludes people from using kiosks or curb-side check-in. They might find these to be better options, and again, it is of no benefit. At the end of it all, the person is standing in front of someone who has had very little training to make them qualified to make a determination that this dog is healthy and socialized. It penalizes people who are already limited in their options, and the owners of emotional support animals will only be mildly inconvenienced.

I have 0 problem bringing my dog’s health records, but I should be able to bring a certificate that the vet already drafts up, which we can receive at the point of last vaccination. I should not have to make a special trip to the vet to fill out some proprietary form, and every airline will have its own form. I also don’t even mind signing something quickly upon checkin that says something to the effect of “My dog will not crap on the plane floor, run rampant through the plane or gnaw on my fellow passengers or flight crew.” It’s annoying, more annoying than having health records on hand, but if I can do it quickly, I don’t mind. I have no doubt that my dog will be fine. When I was in Vegas, I had to sign such a form at the hotel. They didn’t charge me pet fees, but they wanted me to assure that I would not leave her loose in the room and she wouldn’t leave any undesirable presents for housekeeping. Fine. Whatever the process, it needs to be as streamlined as possible and can’t leave room for misinformed people to make decisions that could prevent a person with a legitimate service animal from traveling.

From what I have read, the whole problem could be taken care of by tweaking the Air Carrier Access Act a wee smidge to tighten up on what is a service animal so we don’t get any more support peacocks et al, as well as making clear procedures on how to deal with an animal, service, support or whatever, that has become a danger, and we wouldn’t have to deal with all these different airlines and their different policies.

The fact is Delta started the ball rolling and now we have to get the ball rolling the right way, or flying is really going to suck for anyone with a service animal. Here is a post that states it well and has links on where to make complaints and make our voices heard. The links are in the comments of the post.

Now that I have written all of this down, maybe I can put together something resembling a useful and reasonable complaint.

Have A Giant Holiday Wrap-Up

Holy crap, it’s 2018. I feel like these holidays snuck up on us, then jumped on us, and now I’m still in disbelief that they’re over. In a small sense, they’re not quite over because I haven’t seen the nephews on my side of the family and we might see them this weekend, but everything else is over.

I think the Christmas season would have been a bit merrier if there wasn’t a roving cold going through the family making people sick one after another. This cold/flu/whatever the heck wasn’t messing around. It sent some pretty tough people to the doctor, and hung around plaguing some other pretty tough people for a week or two. It seems to hit you, then just when you think you’ve fought it off, it comes back for a second round of punches. I haven’t got it yet, and I really hope I don’t.

We got tons of time with Steve’s sister’s little guy. That boy can move, climb, do stairs, and his new favourite thing is throwing things. Food, toys, things that aren’t toys…you name it, if it’s within range, it’s probably going for a trip if you don’t catch him in time. I accidentally taught him a new word, but I think he misunderstands its meaning. Whenever anything would clatter to earth, I would say “oops” or “oopsy” or “woops.” Now, he says them after hurling something to the ground. Um, oops.

He’s adorable and a lot of fun. One hilarious thing he does is if you sing a song like “the wheels on the bus,” he doesn’t sing, but he does all the hand actions, and if you’re not singing, he stares at you. He also loves it if you laugh and cover your mouth when you do it. Like most kids his age, he loves having the same book read over and over. I think I could read the “Grandma and me” book from memory. I was almost hoping he would bring it to me and ask me to read it.

Watching him move around puts a whole new perspective on the world and how many things could be scary in it when you don’t know what they do. You can suddenly lose your balance and fall over. You can fail to realize you are under a table, stand up and bash your head. Doors can pinch your wee fingers. People way bigger than you can accidentally bonk you. There are hot things, sharp things, things that look like smarties that aren’t, things that look like they could be fun that aren’t, things that were fun that now no longer are, and they’re all waiting for you to set them off. How in the world do we survive this stage without crumpling into sad heaps of fear?

But instead of being scared, he is full of curiosity and wonder! Many times, you can hear him say “Ooo!” or “Wow!” as he looks at something. He is full of wonder, wondering what that is that he has just found, and we are forced to wonder what he just found and what that might mean.

He also makes it very clear that modesty is a learned thing. He got this adorable, fuzzy bathrobe for Christmas. He came down to show it off to us, and he looked like this little bundle of fuzz with hands and feet sticking out. Then, in a flash, the robe fell off and there he was in his birthday suit, and he didn’t care! He ran through the basement and we had to convince him to put it back on. We had to watch out that he didn’t just stop and pee on a random book. Oh no, “Grandma and Me” might be “Grandma and Wee!”

He got several adorable toys, and their songs and sound effects will follow me for quite some time. One was this little barn with animals and songs.

That video doesn’t have all the songs in it, and it even cuts off the end of one of them, but it has 3 of them that are chasing me around. I’m a terrible person. In the one that says “you give them all the things they need, and you get love in return,” I wasn’t thinking, and for a moment I was mortified. “What? Did it say you’ll get lunch in return?” I thought. Thankfully, I kept my mouth shut and heard what it really said.

Another big hit was this firetruck.

To the dad in this video, go ahead and let Dannie chuck it. It will survive just fine. I don’t think we’ve heard half the things it will say, but it likes to sing the song about “heading out to help, everyone in town, in our red firetruck, hear the siren sound.” We also heard a lot about seeing the flashing lights, and putting the ladder up and down.

There were some other big hits he got, but I can’t remember what they’re called so I can’t find the videos. One was a digger with a little backup beeper on it. Now, when I hear a real backup beeper, I keep hearing “Cat power!” in my head.

He also tested Shmans’s tolerance for little kidlets, and she was amazing. He would fall over her, hug her, try to feed her his bottle of milk, and she took it like a champ. How many times did I pet her and find her with sticky spots where he had probably been? Poor Shmans.

And if he wasn’t testing her patience, there were other doggies who would join in. This was so funny. I brought her into another gathering and kept her in harness. There were two little tiny dogs and several children there, so I was hoping to keep her calm. But this one dog thought there was something wrong with her and just kept poking at her. Sniff her eyes, sniff her harness, sniff her butt. It made me think of how we test responses of people who are in comas by shining lights in their eyes or pinching some skin to see if they flinch. Shmans was not responding, and this made the little dog more insistent. I realized that she would not leave her alone, so after getting approval from the people who owned the house, I let her loose. I don’t think I have ever seen two happier dogs. I think the little dog was sure she had just resuscitated Shmans, and Shmans was so happy to let loose. For the rest of the afternoon, the two dogs could be found playing under the table and being goofballs.

Tans was also amazing because about 3:30 in the morning when all this craziness was set to start, Tans barfed on our carpet. It seems I haven’t documented this fully, but at least once a year, Tans will barf. It’s always in a different month of the year, and we’ve started calling it playing barf bingo. The first two episodes have been talked about, but it happened again in August of 2015, then November of 2016, and just when I was a little too confident that we would make it through 2017 without incident, there it was. She had gotten sick once earlier in the week, but I only saw the evidence after I had fed her her breakfast, so I couldn’t make her skip a meal. Everything seemed to be going along ok, and then on the morning of Christmas Eve, we awoke to what sounded like someone slowly pouring a bottle of water on the floor. Yuck! So that breakfast got skipped, and despite everything being nuts, she didn’t have another upset through the whole holiday insanity.

Tans and Trix didn’t play much, but they got a couple of sessions in. Trix still likes to bark. But Trix is definitely getting older. I can actually hear her legs shuffling along. Don’t get me wrong, she can move, and she did a lot of moving to try and chase people around the kitchen all holiday, but the shuffle is audible. I think she might be moving a little better now, since the poor beasty had to have a toe amputated because it was full of some nasty cancer. They say the cancer didn’t make it to the bone, so she might be ok, but yikes! I don’t know if I’ve lost my mind, but Trix’s head looks noticeably smaller than Tans’s. Is this just something I’ve never noticed before or could it have shrunk? That’s probably not possible, so I’m going to go with the idea that I’m nuts and Trix’s head has always been smaller. Finally, she has this obsession with water, so much so that we have to restrict it, and we have to keep lids down on toilets and bathroom doors closed so she doesn’t try to suck water out of the shower drain or slurp it out of the john. We had to keep the little nephew out of the bathroom anyway, and couldn’t leave water down because if we did, he would probably make his own lake with it, but it’s so strange to see Trix need the restrictions. She hasn’t drank out of a toilet since she was new with me. I told her no and that was that. Now, it’s like she’s driven by a compulsion to drink more than she could ever need. In fact, Brad says if you let her, sometimes she would drink until it just comes back up. She has been tested for all the physical things that could make her thirsty and they come up normal, so we’re left with the conclusion she is doing it because old dog is old. I definitely am trying to get my Trix snuggles in when I can, again, because old dog is old. She seems to think I’m a decent person still, thank goodness.

Steve’s dad moved at the end of November. Now, we should never run into last year’s problem of not being able to get him to Christmas stuff. His place is much smaller than he had, but I think it’s perfect for him, and we all fit in it, even with two dogs and a baby walking around. It was neat to finally see it, since we hadn’t been there yet.

I have learned that I can be such a baby. Steve’s stepdad bought this game called Pie Face. Basically, there’s this apparatus with a chin rest and another part that’s slathered with whipped cream. Every time you turn the handle, there’s the potential to get a splat of whipped cream to the face. So, you have to spin the dial, and whatever number it comes up with, you have to turn the handles that many times while your chin is resting on this chin rest. If you manage to spin it the prescribed number of times without getting splorched, you get the points. In our game, you got double the points. In any case, once you make it to 25 points, you’re safe.

Here’s a video of some people playing it.

Let’s just say that’s not the way I looked. Apparently they have hilarious video of me. I look like I’m playing Russian Roulette. I know my face was all screwed up, and I did not like turning that handle. I kept hearing people saying “She looks like she’s going to have a heart attack!” It was a fun game…there was just something really freaky about never quite knowing when you were going to get covered in goo. That sounds gross.

While I’m all weirded out by getting splattered with whipped cream, some people really don’t like those gift exchanges where you can trade gifts with other people. At one gathering, the way it works is everybody brings something kind of generic that anybody might be able to enjoy. If you’re a woman, you bring something more feminine, if you’re a guy, you bring something more masculine, so there are enough things and everybody gets something. So, all the women draw cards and pick from the girls’ pile and show everybody what they got. Then they draw again and choose to either keep what they have or trade with someone else. The people who drew higher cards have a greater chance of leaving with what they want. Then the guys do the same thing.

There’s this one guy who just hates this game. He always gets annoyed when someone takes his gift, or in the old days when anyone could take anything, when he would end up with a more girly gift. Apparently, he has always been not the biggest fan of this game, so it’s not because he’s getting older or anything. It’s almost become a sport to make him trade, just to watch him get all sad. Yes, we’re evil. I don’t know if he just wants to get something and keep it, or if he can’t remember all the things and it’s too hard, but every year, he gets annoyed. If he would just be cool about it, we’d probably leave him alone.

So that’s the run-down of our Christmas craziness. Like I said before, we decided not to go out last night to hopefully head off this stupid cold. So it’s back to work with me. We just have the nephews on my side to see and then we’ll be all done.

What can I say about 2017? For us personally, it was a pretty decent year. We all were healthy, the nephews got a little older, we went to some shows, everything stayed relatively ordinary, which is the way we like years to go. As for the world, that was another story. It’s never good when every time you look at news, you just keep saying “That can’t be real! That’s not possible,” but it is. It is frightening to see so much open racism and hatred, but I’m happy to see a lot of resistance to that hatred so it’s not all bad. I really hope 2018 can bring better things for everyone.

Tansy Stuff

It’s almost Christmas, holy moly, so I thought I should write another Tans post. Amazingly, this one *shouldn’t* be a monster.

I was feeling pretty good about our progress with Tans in the hatch. Well, all of that fell apart when once again, she rode with something that bumped her as we rode. Now, her upset in the hatch has increased. She doesn’t care about a bone at all, and if you’re not careful, when we arrive at our destination, she will jump out of the hatch and run for the nearest safe person. That was embarrassing. We were driving to the Mandarin, and she was shaking and being completely wigged out. When we arrived, Brad was nearby. We opened the hatch, and didn’t have a prayer of catching her. She was in the air and out of there before you could say “Wait!” Sheesh, how embarrassing. I don’t know quite what to do now except ask if there’s any way to fasten things down that are riding with her, and start anew at rebuilding her trust in the hatch.

It’s weird how she reacts differently to different kids. My brother’s son can come see her and she’s as calm as anything, but apparently, my sister’s son makes her super excited, and has since he was a wee baby. The sad part is he’s the nervous one…so Tans’s thumping tail and excitement is not helping make the kid feel more at ease near her. As for Steve’s sister’s little guy, I think she’s mostly indifferent to him. I know she has licked his face a couple of times and he hasn’t been thrilled, but that’s about all I remember.

I know I have commented earlier about Tansy’s ability to snore, but it feels like lately, she has been snoring even more. I was so worried that when she was going to the vet for something else, I asked about it. Everything seems to be in order, so they’re thinking she’s just getting older.

So, you might be wondering why she was headed for the vet. Well, apparently leptospirosis, like Santa Claus, is coming to town, and the vet was recommending vaccination. That’s just freaky. I’ve never had to vaccinate her against it because I don’t play on trails or hang out in the woods. Trix started getting vaccinated when she went to Brad because they do romp on trails and could come in contact with wildlife. But I wonder what brought Lepto into town. Is it the weird weather? Very strange developments.

It’s a good thing that happened, because we discovered that Tans peeled off a kilogram in record time. We’re confused, but I raised the food a quarter cup, and we’ll see if that improves things. She has to go back on Saturday for her lepto booster, and we’ll get her weighed again. Hopefully we won’t have a medical mystery to unravel.

I am starting to think that the news will be good, though, because after increasing her food, it’s like she got younger again. She has been much more alert, much more playful and very much more peppy. Also, her fur got a lot smoother. This has happened before, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but the thing is we had to adjust down to this amount because she seemed to be gaining. We’re not walking a ton more, so I can’t figure out why the need changed. At any rate, sorry about that, Shmans. The decrease in energy happened so gradually that I just thought she was getting a bit older. Also, she wasn’t diving for stuff, so it never entered my mind. I wonder why her metabolism seems to vary so wildly.

As I combed through the blog posts about Shmans, I noticed that I never wrote a couple of things down that need a place. First, I did note that she reacted to her rabies vaccine in 2014. But, I never documented that when we did it in 2016, they gave her a shot of Benadryl and that seemed to have prevented a reaction. She never has reactions to other ones, so I wonder what makes her body flip out about the Rabies one. Or, was it just a one-off? At any rate, any time she gets a vaccination, I ask them where they gave it to her so I can watch the spot.

A quirk I never wrote down is when Tans gets excited and is flying around the room, sometimes she will try to climb up people’s legs or parts of furniture. She doesn’t try really hard, just sometimes Steve or I will suddenly find ourselves being pawed on the legs or sometimes we will see a couple of front legs up on the couch. One time, I heard Brad say “Get off the couch.” I was floored because I’d never seen her jump on furniture. Now I think I know what’s going on. My question is what is she trying to accomplish? Or, did she momentarily forget she was a grown dog and thought she had a wee tiny body that could climb things? She will also ping pong off the sides of things, sometimes hard things, and she doesn’t seem to care. Tans, you’re wacky.

I think that’s about it for now. I’m sure I will have lots more Tansy stories after the holidays.

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.