I’ve been meaning to write about this movie, but I wanted to see it first. Now I have, so here I go. It’s a documentary about GDB, the school that trained Trix and Tansy, and it’s called Pick of the Litter.
It’s the story of five guide dog puppies, and the process they move through as GDB figures out if they will become guide dogs. Basically, it answers pretty much every single question I get asked by the public about the process of training guide dog puppies. It’s available in theatres in select cities in the states, and I know it was shown in Toronto back in May but I don’t know where else it’s getting shown in Canada. But now, it’s available for rent from places like iTunes and Hulu. The great thing about watching it through iTunes is getting the audio description is as simple as making sure it’s on in your media settings under accessibility. If you watch it in the theatre, you have to download this app called “Actiview and do this kind of cumbersome thing where it needs to hear the movie so it can sync the descriptions. I’ve never done it, I’m sure it’s awesome, but this felt a little easier, even if I could find some random theatre near me where I could watch it.
It’s definitely very cute and has some sad moments in it, but it makes it clear how many people are involved in raising a guide dog puppy, and how nothing is a guarantee.
Then, after you’ve watched the movie, you can take the Pick of the Litter quiz and see which puppy in the litter is most like your pup. I was sure they would say Tansy was like Phil, but apparently the quiz thinks she’s like Patriot. Hmmm. Not sure I agree, but hmmm. It thinks Trix was like Primrose. Hmmm. I would have put her as Poppet. I’m not doing well at this.
So if you like puppies, are interested in how guide dogs get to be guide dogs, or both, check it out. It seems pretty well-done.
And now that I’ve put up the super time-sensitive and milestone-type stuff, here’s some random stuff that’s left over.
I forgot to include a recent picture of Tansy, so here’s one that was taken close to her seventh birthday. I was at a conference, and when Tans went out to pee, she must have sniffed a flower and carried some pollen away with her. My coworker thought it looked hilarious so took a picture.
That poor colleague and I had a very confusing exchange. When I first saw her, she said “Wow, your new dog looks a lot like your old dog!” I wasn’t quite sure who she was because of being at a conference and so I made a comment about them both looking alike, but I was confused because Tansy isn’t what I would consider new. Then I realized who it was, deduced she hasn’t worked at our company for more than Tansy has been my guide, and it dawned on me that when she got the email a few months ago about Trixie’s passing, she thought Tansy had died. Then I thought she must have thought I was a real jerk, just replacing her right away with a new dog who looked exactly like her. I was able to explain things, but there were a few awkward pauses.
I’m not sure if I’ve written about this because it’s hard to search for, but when Tansy is holding a toy in her mouth, she makes this weird snort noise that tells you she’s holding something. It’s good to know, in case she decides to drop said thing on your foot, or squeak said thing in your ear.
A new thing I’ve noticed lately is when she’s really liking an ear rub or a butt scratch, she will make this growling, grunting noise to express her joy. I wish she’d done that sooner so I could have figured out her likes sooner. Oh well, it’s cute anyway.
There are moments that have been lost forever and I wish I could have gotten a picture of them, like the day she was playing with Steve and climbed right in his lap. She didn’t sort of put part of her body in his lap. No, all of her had crawled right up in his lap and stayed there for a few seconds. Or there was the time I was going to take her outside to pee at the end of the day, and she would not go outside until we had a snuggle on the floor.
As she gets older, her favourite songs phase her less and less. But her love of music is still a thing, and her latest song she likes is “My Own Worst Enemy by Lit.
I don’t know how long it will last, but hey, it’s fun while it’s a thing.
I’m starting to wonder if, when we can’t get our Google Home Mini to respond to us and we speak louder, if Tansy thinks we’re yelling at it. Sometimes, she acts similar to when she hears people yelling at each other. Poor, poor, sensitive Tansy.
But she’s not all sensitivity. As she gets older, she is more willing to hump other dogs! I thought her humpings were reserved for my brother’s dog, but apparently not. One day, when she was playing with Steve’s great aunt’s dog, she started humping her, over and over again! Shmans, I was cool with you getting away from humper dogs. I didn’t want you to become one!
I think I can also say that she was no fan of the fancy new emergency alert system and its multiple alerts. The first day, she didn’t seem to care, but by the second day, when they went off, she ran to multiple nearby people as if to ask, “What’s up with the screaming, shrieking things everywhere?”
Work is becoming a more and more interesting place for Tansy. A year and a bit ago, we got a manager that Tansy fell in love with immediately. Just the site of this woman turns Shmans into a leaping, snorting maniac. Thankfully she can keep it together when in harness, although she’s just waiting for her first chance to unleash her inner loopy Shmans. Then, another guy started working near me, and sometimes he brings his own dog in. We’re trying to work out how much interacting we want to happen. At least his dog is well-behaved and he understands why Tansy isn’t just a pet.
Tansy has always been impulsive, but she’s also becoming a bit of a planner about her impulsiveness as she matures if that’s even possible. One time, I took Tansy out to relieve and I was talking to a colleague who also is a big Tansy fan. Tansy was circling as if she was planning to relieve, but she circled in such away that she could swing around and playfully leap at my colleague. Sneaky devil was trying to trick me. She knew it was wrong to just go nuts on my friend, but she thought if I didn’t realize what she was doing until it was too late, maybe she could get away with it. I told her no but what a goof.
I had two funny stories involving random kids at the mall lately. One day, I was walking along and this little kid came running at Tansy. Then I heard a little voice yell “No! Don’t pet those dogs!” Good job, kid. Then another time, I was waiting in line to pay, and a kid reached to pet Tansy. When his father and I told him no, he said “That’s not a service dog, he has a leash,” only he said “leash” like “weash” which cracked me up. He said it as if to say “Ha ha, I’ve figured you out.” Sorry, Detective, you have some learning to do.
I have a few nephew stories but not many. My sister’s little guy is one smart cookie. He has figured out that when Tansy is working, she’s calm, and he’s not scared of her. He’s only scared of her if she gets goofy and starts wagging her tail or trying to kiss him or wants to play with the cats or something. He even will walk right with her if she’s working. That’s pretty awesome.
She’s always good stuff around all the little ones, even when they’re trying to jump over her, or when they manage to spill salt all over her like Steve’s sister’s little guy did. Tansy just lies still.
This last story is more about my brother’s dog than the little nephews. We went to meet the new nephew back in February, and we thought we’d let the dogs outside to romp because it wasn’t that cold and they were both acting a little out of their minds. We thought if they got their sillies out, they would lie quietly. Well, they got bored out there, and came back to the door and had a little barking contest. Yup, Tans is a brat if you let her outside and will bark to come back in. I just put her on a leash so she would calm down, and eventually they lay next to each other.
And now I’m left with the odds and ends.
I’ve mentioned before that sometimes Shmans has gotten it into her head that nighttime is playtime, especially if Steve ends up crashing out on the couch. So, I started tying her down at night if I made it to bed before he got in. But then I noticed that she seemed to be super tired the next day, so I wondered if she was managing to get any sleep that way. So I would start shutting the bedroom door instead. That seemed to do the job and she was less tired. But in the morning, when I would open the door, she would do a full lap of the house before waiting for her food. It’s funny. It’s like she’s making sure everything is where she left it.
I don’t know how I missed writing this down when we were in class together, but one day, when I had her outside to relieve and I was hoping she would pee, I started idly singing “Number 1, number 1, number 1 is so much fun, number 1, number 1, number 1 all day long.” One of my classmates started laughing and asked me what the heck I was singing, so I had to tell her about the numbers rumba. Of course she hadn’t heard of it.
I was thinking about that memory the other day and started singing it again, and someone went by and giggled. They probably think I’m nuts too.
I must be subconsciously thinking about visiting Tansy’s raisers again, because I had this wacky dream that I came to see them. The trip in the dream was pretty much like the real trip, right down to the month of the year, except we all went to a musical designed for dogs, and everybody was encouraged to let their dogs loose in the aisles at intermission. Her raisers were once again not expecting this, and I sure wasn’t. Then, suddenly, all the dogs were magnetically attracted to the one dog who was still on a leash! It must have been a combination of thinking about her raisers, my dog dreams always seeming to involve loose dogs, and maybe that story about a service dog running amuck in a Cats performance.
I just have one more story and then I’ll get out of here. Poor Tansy must find me super unpredictable. But I always thought that she knew that when that flexi leash comes out, we are going to the park. But, I guess this hasn’t been made crystal clear. A little while ago, I decided we would go to the park, but I would relieve her first so I didn’t have to carry around a nasty bag of dog plop while she played. Of course, she did in fact do the doo. So, I directed her back to the garbage can by the door so I could get rid of it. I have never seen a sadder dog. She didn’t walk back to the door, she moped back there. Then, when I got rid of the poop and turned toward the park, she was off like a shot! I think she seriously thought I was going to go “Psych!” and walk back in the building! I think my heart broke a little bit that day.
And that’s it for this epic deluge o stories. Hopefully I’ll be back sooner.
Wow. The last time Tansy got a dedicated post was December! That’s just not cool! Of course, as a result, I have a metric ton of things to write down. This one could be a multi-parter.
Tansy has entered a time period I affectionately nicknamed “the year of the complex.” She has worked with me for five years and she is seven years old. That’s how old Trixie was, and the number of guiding years she had under her belt, when she told me that work wasn’t her thing anymore. So, I’m probably going to be a little, no, a lot jumpy as we go past all the landmark spots, even though the logical part of me knows every dog is different. Come on, Tans, shatter my complex!
On the veterinary side, she’s been pretty healthy, but in April, I found her first old labby lump. It was really small but I found it. I think the vets must have thought I was silly because when I showed it to them, I said “I think it’s fat because I can wiggle and jiggle and twiddle it! They confirmed my suspicions and we moved on, but eeek, she’s officially getting older! She may not have much visible grey, but she has a visible lumpy! She also had a wee cyst on her ear a few months ago that the vet popped, and another wee tiny lump that disappeared on its own. Her weight is going up and down like a yo yo. They even checked her for worms, and of course there weren’t any, but we’re confused. At this second it’s back up and I’m working on getting it down. The vet at GDB said to watch her weight closely, I guess he was right.
She also lost some hair on her paws during the winter, just like she did in 2016. The weirdest part is she was wearing all Pawz boots, so it can’t be the fault of the other ones. The vets just think it was as a result of friction from the boots, and we’re not worried for now.
And a couple of weeks ago, she developed a raging bladder infection, and because it was a stat holiday, I had to take her to the emergency vet to get it looked at. Yup, they confirmed she had a bladder infection and she came home with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, the kind they gave to Trix after her dead tail episode. Tansy approves of them just as much as Trix did. I don’t know where the infection came from, but boy did it attack quickly. the night before it was in full swing, she bugged me to go pee a little more urgently than normal, but it was hot as hell at the time so I thought she just tanked up on water. Then in the morning, she was whining when we woke up, but I thought maybe she was just hungry. Then things got weird as she started asking for more and more trips outside, hurrying out there like she was going to burst, panting like mad. But we’ve started antibiotics and those lovely pain meds, so she’s much more content now. And the fee didn’t crush my bank account, so I’m all good too.
In all my years of having guide dogs, and dogs in general, I have never been to an emergency vet clinic before. What a heartbreaking experience. When I first arrived, for some reason I expected it to be a little busier, or maybe a more confined space, I don’t know why. When I walked inside, it felt like walking into a great barren room. I couldn’t even tell where the front counter was. Then we sat and waited, and while we did, we saw lots of people come in worried and leave crying! I had always heard that emergency clinics felt kind of scary because they are very focused on making sure they get paid, and I experienced that. When I called, they said they couldn’t tell me whether I should wait or come in, but here are the fees, and we don’t take American Express or cheque. They don’t take cheque? Wow! Then when I got there, they had me come up to the desk and got all my information, and then it was time to wait. I realized that it was kind of like the human ER. They do some basic triage, and then you wait and wait. I kept wondering when we were going to take her outside and get a urine sample, because they said without the urine, they couldn’t do anything. After finding out that it would be pretty hard for me to get it, they agreed to help me when I phoned in, but no one was offering to help when I got there, probably because they were doing all the triage stuff. My friend who drove me was awesome and got the sample collected so they could work on it while I waited. It didn’t seem busy, but I think a lot was going on behind the scenes, and judging by the crying people, a lot of it was not good news.
I should clarify that they were all very nice to me, but it was just a very different atmosphere than I was used to. Thankfully, the antibiotics and pain meds seemed to have fixed her up, and yesterday my regular vet place said that her urine looked clean, although they said the pH of her urine was a bit basic, I’m not sure how basic and what that will mean. I guess we’ll figure that out soon. Let’s hope I don’t have to go to an emergency vet anytime soon.
She had her followup in May, and things went well. Since I was worried about her asking for treats after every little thing, plus a few incidents where it felt like she didn’t want to show any initiative, and there are a few hairy routes around here that I could use some help on, an instructor came to see me. She gave me some tricks to help Tansy realize that I’m not a human treat dispenser. She thought Tansy was just using her pattern-recognition skills to expect treats a little too often. Over all, she said we looked like a well-seasoned team and she was impressed with how quick Tansy picked up on things. Yup, she’s still a ninja. We’ve done that route a couple of times since, and she loves doing it. It’s fun to watch her get so excited. She also told me something about duck as a protein. She said it was known as a cooling protein. The way she explained it was different than that website, but she said it was helpful in calming allergies and would help reduce inflammation. Uh, cool, I guess.
Like I said, I had experienced a few incidents where Tansy didn’t want to show any initiative in getting around people and things, and that scared me. We would be in the mall and there would be a crowd of people but some space around the edges. Instead of seeking the space, she would just stand behind the people, waiting for them to move. A couple of times we were crossing a street and a car appeared and she would just stand near it, daring it to move. And one day, she seemed hesitant to get on an escalator, and that one scared me because speed is key with escalators. But the no initiative has gotten much better, so I’m going to assume she was tired and going on autopilot a little too much. As for the escalator, it’s a mystery for now. So far, so good.
Something else she was doing in the winter was when it was time to leave the house to go somewhere, she would squish herself against the couch and go super quiet as if she was hiding from me. That one scared me too because I wasn’t sure if she was less keen to go. But I think she was just less keen on winter. I can agree with her on this one.
But she is getting older. Like Trix did near the end, she has started to want to lie down when we ride the bus more. That scares me because I don’t think it was long after Trix started lying down that her career was over. But Shmans has always been one to conserve energy whenever she could, so I’m not super worried yet. She also sleeps more deeply at work now, so much so that she dreams more.
I really feel like things have gone full circle. Remember when Tansy was new and she would search the house for Trixie? I felt like I got a very small bit of that the day Trix passed away. When I came home after saying my final goodbyes to Trixie, Tansy would not stop sniffing me. I think she knew something was up, but I wish I knew what she knew. She gave me a very thorough inspection, it seemed even more thorough than the one that I get if I’ve been without her and seen a familiar person or dog, but I’m not sure if I was projecting my own thoughts on her. But when we went to Brad’s house a few months later, she didn’t do nearly as much investigation as I would have predicted since I thought she would be expecting Trix to be there.
In a final bit of sad news, I found out that last month, Sasha, the dog from Tansy’s puppyhood that I got to meet, finally passed away. She was 18 and I think her quality of life had diminished so much that it was her time. It’s still sad, and would be sad no matter how long she lived.
And I think I will break the post here. I have another post full of things, but this one is long enough.
The future of the federal government’s bid to pair veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with service dogs was thrown into doubt Wednesday by the unexpected decision of a federal regulating agency to pull out of the project.
The Canadian General Standards Board announced it will not develop a nationwide code of acceptable training and behavioural standards for the animals.
I’m sure if Veterans’ Affairs wanted to, they could learn from the many accredited guide dog associations how to build a good standard. This one was going to cause all kinds of problems for current service dogs, and they wouldn’t have wanted that either.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that some other entity could start trying to draft another blanket standard, but for now, it looks like we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
Brad, who it can’t ever be said too many times did an amazing job of taking care of Trixie during the last 5 years of her life, has some words to say about her and what happened at the end.
Some of what I’m going to write here I know Carin has already written, but I feel like I need to say it, too. Bear with me if some of it overlaps.
As you likely know, on the 21st of February, Trixie passed away due to what seemed like a very short battle with cancer. I say very short because, in January, we were still going about like nothing was different. During that warm spell in the middle of the month, we were actually able to get out on the trails and get one of those 5 KM loops that Trix loved so much in. She was so happy to be out, off her leash and able to go around in circles, sniff stuff, catch up again, then run ahead a little ways. Like I said, it was basically business as usual.
About a week after that, we were out for a walk around the neighbourhood. It had cooled off and was snowing and the ground was freezing again. Trix slipped on a patch of ice and almost fell. We stopped a minute while she got sorted and I made sure all was alright. We finished the walk, seemingly none the worse for wear. She seemed fine after that, and the entire thing was basically forgotten. She did slow down a bit, and we even took a couple days off walking, because she didn’t seem to be moving as well. She was limping a bit on her left front leg. I figured, well, she slipped, maybe pulled a muscle, right? Well, maybe she did, maybe she didn’t.
Seemingly overnight, she developed a rather large lump on that left shoulder, right on top. I thought back to her slip from a few days ago and figured it was just left from that, but called the vet just to make sure. Trix didn’t seem to be in any pain from this lump. I could touch it; push on it a bit, nothing. It was hard as a rock and had no give to it at all. That’s what made me think it was a bone. It felt just like one.
Unfortunately, when I called, my vet was away on vacation, and would not be back for a few more days. I booked a time when she would be back, and hoped for the best. They asked if she seemed to be in pain and I said it didn’t look like it. I had some pain medicine left from her toe amputation back in the Fall, and they said I might try it just to be sure that nothing was bothering her. I did. Nothing changed. She grew a little more lethargic. I called the vet back to keep them in the loop, but our appointment was still a couple days off.
She began to seem terrified of the stairs, and I would have to help her down them. She could go up on her own. Keep in mind; this is all in about a week’s time. By about the fourth day, she needed help both up and down the stairs. The pain meds weren’t making a difference. When not on the stairs, Trix seemed like herself. She still wanted to go walking, but I kept it down to a block or two, just enough to get her out and moving. Usually, she hated when I shortened walks, but she was ok with it this time.
Monday of that week was Family day. We went for what would prove to be our last walk. We went out around the block. One block. This was by Trix’s choosing. She sniffed everything, just like always. She went straight to bed after her post-walk treat. She slept until supper. Another thing, she was eating just fine. Nothing wrong with her appetite at all.
The next day it was back to work for me. Trix didn’t seem keen on our block walk, so we didn’t go. I took her outside before I headed out. I had to help her both in and out. She seemed very tired, too. One of my neighbours often stops by to let Trix out and feed her in the evenings while I’m working. I didn’t know until the next morning when I checked my email that Trix hadn’t been interested in her supper. The neighbour said it took about fifteen minutes for her to decide to come out and eat it.
The next morning when I went down and was getting her breakfast ready, she didn’t come roaring out like she always did for food. I made it up, and then went in to see what was going on. I told her it was breakfast time, but she didn’t seem overly interested. I helped her up, and we slowly, very slowly tottered out to the kitchen. She ate, very slowly, then I literally carried her out to do her business. She wasn’t interested in making her daily circuit of the yard. She was out to pee, and no more. I carried her back in, and she lay down right away. Our vet appointment was still one day away, but I knew something was really not good. I called them. They said they were booked right up, but to bring her right in anyway. I called around for a few minutes and found a ride. Deep inside, I think I knew she might not come home. I don’t know how, it was just a feeling.
I lay down on the floor with her, and we had one of our little chats. It was fairly one sided, but I told her I was worried about her, and that she didn’t seem right. She just licked my cheek and put her head on my arm. I couldn’t help it, I lost it. Meltdown 1.0 was in session.
When we got to the vet, she walked in the front door. They took one look at her and said, “Whoa!” There was no waiting around for our time. She went straight on the scale. I knew she’d lost a little weight, but I was floored when they said she was down ten LBS from Christmas. She had been a very lumpy beast for quite a while, so her ribs weren’t that easy to feel. She had a lot of those fatty tumours. Harmless they always said.
We headed for the exam room. They did a blood test right away to check organ function. Results came back fine. All systems firing fine. They did have an awful time getting any blood for the test, though. This worried not only me, but them as well.
They wanted to do x-rays. It was obvious that something was drastically wrong, but the blood test didn’t show it. Of course I said go for it. We have to figure this out.
After about 25 minutes, the vet was back with the x-ray. She said it looked like something that looked like a kidney was putting pressure on her intestines, but couldn’t tell with that angle. I remember asking if that meant that something else was displacing the kidney. She said it probably did.
They wanted another x-ray from a different angle. The vet suspected that Trix had a tumour somewhere in her abdomen. She couldn’t see it, but she was pretty sure that was what it was.
They did another x-ray. It still didn’t show the tumour, but things weren’t aligned like they should be. They brought Trix back up to the room where I was waiting. She was absolutely exhausted. They carried her down to the basement for the x-ray, and back up after it. They set her on the floor by me, and she sat down, and then just lay down. She was exhausted. We talked a bit more. The vet said there was nothing they could really do. Trix had a bleeding tumour in her abdomen, which would explain the lethargy, and the difficulty getting a sample. Her heart was beating very fast, which were all signs of internal bleeding. The only thing to do would be to put her down. Meltdown 2.0 hit me like a freight train. I had suspected something bad when we went there. I think I even knew this would happen in the back of my mind, but, no matter how prepared you think you are for that news, you’re not ready when they come out and say it.
After I sort of pulled myself together, I asked if they could come to the house early Friday afternoon and put her down. I didn’t know this was something they offered, but apparently it was.
She needed to be carried to the truck, as she could no longer stand. I guess the additional blood needed for the test drained her. I lifted her out of the truck when we got home, and she walked with me to the backyard. I figured she may as well pee while we were out there anyway, and save another trip out. She tried to burrow in to a big pile of garden waste bins and other junk my neighbour has between my fence and his house. She has never done that before. I fished her out and guided her in to the back yard. Instead of going to the bathroom, she headed down the yard, and crawled in under some wood in the back corner. I knew then that this was it. I know firsthand that dogs often go off alone when they are ready to die. I unlocked the door, fished Trixie out of the wood pile, and carried her in to her bed. She didn’t even seem to be completely with it at this point. I knew it would be pointless to make her hold on until Friday.
I called Carin to let her know what was happening, and asked if she could make it down that afternoon. As you know from her post, she did, thanks to a great coworker. I called the vet back and explained everything. They said they would be there at three that afternoon.
Those two hours were the longest I had ever spent. I spent most of them laying on the floor next to Trix’s bed just petting and talking to her. I don’t know just what all I said, but I think I told her everything, including what was going to happen and why. She gave me a couple licks, but that was about it.
By the time carin and the vets got there, Trix was in some sort of other world. I don’t think she even knew anyone was there at all. She was lying there, breathing like she was asleep. Carin said her goodbyes, and even got Trixie’s puppy raiser on the phone for one last goodbye. To their credit, the vet and her assistant waited patiently and gave us all the time we needed.
When the time came, I sat with Trix, with her chin in my hand, just like she often did. They took another couple minutes trying to find a vein with enough pressure to inject the sedative in. It was quick. One second I could feel her breath on my wrist and the usual way her head felt in my hand. The next, she was gone. The breathing stopped, and her head was heavy in my palm. I put her head down on the bed again and just sat, petting her and talking a little. After that, the vet and her assistant carefully rolled her in a blanket, gave me a hug, and took Trixie out to their car.
Carin and I just sat and talked. What do you do when something like this happens? We talked about all the different things Trixie had done, funny, strange, and downright weird.
I forget what I did after that. The house just seemed so empty. It still does.
I’m sorry this turned out so long, but I wanted to get everything down so you all would know what happened. I didn’t expect it to be this hard to write, though. I’ve had to stop a couple times to blow my nose and dry my eyes. I guess some things are harder to get over than you think. Even a month later, I still get asked at least twice a week where my dog is, and I have to tell the story, the abridged version, again and again.
Trixie, you were a great dog, and I will always love and miss you. I’ll never forget all the great times we had, the places we wandered, and the times we got lost in the bush together. So long, friend.
I didn’t realize it when I woke up yesterday, but I was going to be on the news by the end of the day. Don’t worry, it wasn’t for something scary or stupid. I guess an old friend from school ended up talking to a reporter about the problem of disservice dogs and how businesses don’t know what to do. When the reporter asked him for a local person with a service dog, he thought of me, and so it went.
It all came together pretty quickly, from “Would you be ok talking to a reporter about this?” to “Where do you work? I’ll meet you in an hour!” I was a very nervous human being, super afraid I was going to be misquoted, or say something that could be taken out of context.
Here is the resulting report. I babbled and rambled at her a while, so I’m glad she got at least a good line. I apparently looked fit to be on camera too, which is reassuring, since the wind blew my hair all crazy when I first arrived outside.
I feel like they threw this together quickly, and for the time they gave it, they did the best they could. I almost wish they could turn this into a series because this report barely scratched the surface of the issue, but they won’t. I also know this came together quickly because the reporter doesn’t know a heck of a lot about service dogs. The first thing she did was try to greet Tansy. She respected me when I said no, but the fact is she greeted her, which is a short leap from trying to pet her.
I wish I had been more articulate in my rambles because I have so much to say but it won’t come out in a controlled manner. There are so many parts to this. Fake service dogs have the potential to cause damage to legitimate service dogs either indirectly or directly. They can cause harm by making business owners worried about having dogs in their establishments because one of the fakes behaved badly or peed or crapped on the floor. Or, a fake service dog that isn’t well-socialized might attack a real service dog simply because they are sharing the same space. These fakes are being stressed out by being put in this situation, and their owners have no idea what harm they’re causing.
Also, I’m afraid that the pendulum of acceptance of service animals might swing in the opposite direction. After the initial fight to prove that service dogs can be in public spaces, people became very accepting of them, and if they made a mistake or did something mildly inappropriate like sniff someone in a moment of weakness, most people didn’t say much because most often, the dog’s behaviour was excellent. Now, I’m afraid that if my dog commits an infraction at all, we may reach a point where her legitimacy may be questioned. I’m not saying that I let her get away with murder because I can and those days will be gone, but I’m saying that because of the fakes, we will be under a microscope even more than we already are.
I wish they had offered some actual pointers to business owners instead of the message of “there are fakes, what are ya gonna do about it?” I guess they mentioned that actual service dogs don’t bark and run around unleashed and such, but there wasn’t anything beyond that. After I tweeted out the news report, a friend asked what would be a polite question to ask. The ones I thought of resembled the ones recommended by the ADA in the states. Is the dog a service dog? What tasks has the dog been trained to do to help with a disability? To be brief, you could ask the person what the dog does for them. Then the person can talk about the dog’s job instead of having to talk about their disability and medical condition. Hopefully this would also work for people with invisible disabilities so they don’t get the embarrassing comments like “You don’t look disabled, why do you have a service dog?” I think anyone who has a canine walking along beside them should have a response to the question of what their dog does that preserves their dignity at the ready because there are going to be questions. It is inevitable. It is something service dog handlers have to accept as soon as we decide to become service dog handlers. Also, the answer can’t be “He makes me feel good.” I know there are actual tasks that some dogs do to help with anxiety, but the handler should say what the dog actively does to help ease stress, such as watching out for people coming around corners or helping the person find an exit from a crowded room if they get overwhelmed. If business owners learn how to differentiate the good answers from the crap, and only ask when they’re not so sure, I think this might help. Finally, business owners need to know that, whether the service dog is legitimate or not, if it’s behaving badly, dog and handler can be given the boot. I always joke that even if I’m allowed to shop anywhere I choose, as soon as I start punching people and defiling or stealing property, I would be escorted out post haste.
It would also prevent a situation that happened to me at Walmart last summer. I walked into the store, and was immediately told that there was a pit bull in the store and that I should go wait at the courtesy desk or they should get my items for me. I asked if it seemed like the pit bull-like dog was a service dog, who knows if it was actually a pit bull, and they said no. I asked if they allow pets in the store, because if they don’t, pit bull and owner should be asked to leave. Their response was they don’t feel like they can ask anyone to leave. I was ushered to courtesy and asked what I came for, but I had a rather complicated list. I eventually persuaded someone to go with me and keep an eye out for the dog. I knew I was taking a big risk, but I felt I shouldn’t be treated like a second-class citizen while this person, who they couldn’t even locate, was wandering through the store. Who knows how long I would have been standing in the courtesy area? We got through the store just fine, but the point is that staff at Walmart had no idea how to handle the situation, except to put hands over ears and go “La la la la, everything will be fine if we just put our heads in the sand and hope for the best.”
I didn’t like the final line about how people are going to develop a licensing standard and people have to prove they need a service dog. Hmmm. That sounds a lot like this proposed service dog standards garbage that won’t do anybody any favours. It also sounds a lot like a pendulum swinging the other way. Once again, legitimate service dog handlers will be the ones that will have to jump through more hoops than they already do.
I’m glad a story was done on this topic, and I’m glad I was part of it. I have had people I barely know say they saw it on the news, so it grabbed some attention for sure. I wish she had pronounced my name correctly though, especially since she had me say and spell it. Oh well, lots of people get my name wrong. I could think of way worse things to screw up. I hope it starts some kind of dialog with the right people so no group of handlers gets screwed by the outcome, and business owners don’t feel so powerless.
I have to say the people at my work are amazing. When they heard about Trix’s passing, one of them decided to make me a little something to remember her by. Not only that, but she managed to get a ton of people to send me messages of condolence. This all came together super quickly. I now have a file full of beautiful messages from people, and this amazing little statue. Apologies if the picture is sideways. I really need someone to help me learn how to fix that!
Isn’t that just heart-meltingly awesome?
Side note: I always knew 3D printers were cool. Now I have actual evidence of how cool they are. Not only did it make a pretty awesome statue of a dog, but around the base is readable Braille! I know this is a testament to the detail of the specs that were used, but still! Mind blown! My coworker who made it was so happy when I was able to effortlessly read the message that was written there, since if the spacing of the dots is off at all, it can be incomprehensible.
I have had the little Trix statue on my desk since Tuesday and every now and then, I pick it up and hold it for a second. I laughed one day because I set my lunchbox next to it, and the placement was perfect, since it kind of looked like the Trix nose was headed right for it, which it would have been if actual Trix was that close to my lunch.
I will treasure this statue forever. I am truly lucky to have such wonderful people in my life who get it, and go the extra mile to show they care.
I wanted to write about this last week, but I was a little occupied. I also wanted to put that soundtrack in the post the first time I wrote about this, but I fail.
It seems like Delta received quite a lot of feedback about their heavy-handed service dog policy and have decided to update it to resemble that of United. While not perfect, i.e. psychiatric service dogs are lumped in with emotional support animals, they have made some massive improvements. I’m happy to see that we don’t have to go to only one counter and have our dogs inspected by some random employee who may or may not know anything about service dogs, and we can just carry our papers to provide if asked, removing the 48-hours restriction and the need for some special form.
Hopefully they will still be open to further tweaks and we can find a policy that works, and helps solve the problem of ill-trained service animals, and pets mascarading as service animals.
This post is going to take me a long time to write. Bear with me. Hopefully, it will actually make sense. I will try, but there is no guarantee.
On Wednesday February 21, Trixie had to be put down. You’re probably all pretty shocked. Brad and I had some inklings, and a screaming warning the night before, but this was not something that was a long time coming that was a big old secret we were keeping from the world. We were all caught by surprise.
The sucky part, one of many, is we don’t know precisely what evil thing came to get her at the end. All we know is she was losing a lot of blood internally, and masses were pushing on organs, and there wasn’t anything they could do. Whatever these masses were, they came on suddenly and grew like crazy, so I don’t think we had a chance. I’m sure Brad will have more thoughts about her last days, but I know he said she was at least trying to have a sniffy walk on Family Day, and by the next night, walking anywhere was not an option, so the last part of the decline was super fast.
About that. Steve will tell you I’m an uber planner. If I can plan for something, I will try, even if it’s impossible because there is so much uncertainty. As Trix got older and began to slow down, I had mentally considered what I would want to do when the end came if I got to see her either right before, or when it was time. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to bring Tansy, but I started to think that Trix might not want her there because they had such a set of mixed feelings towards each other. Tansy always loved Trix, but Trix was a little less keen on the crazed Shmans. Plus, Tansy is very tuned into my emotions, so may not have responded well to whatever state of distress I might be in seeing Trix near her end. I tried to think out how I would get there, and be helpful without being too much of a burden on Brad both before and after. I even found an Uber driver who wasn’t an arsehole about dogs, and didn’t mind long drives. I scooped up his number and had it on standby. I had to keep in mind that said Uber driver needed some advance notice to do this since he had kids and a business, so he could only be used if I knew days out that this was happening. Of course, all of this would be contingent on Brad even being able to have me there for whatever reason, it happening in a planned manner and nature not just taking matters into its own hands, but I wanted to be all ready to go. Then I read about another person putting their dog to sleep at home, and thought that would be the way to do it if we could at all. Trix, in her younger days, was nofan of the vet, so I thought this would make it as comfortable as possible. I looked to see if you had to find a special service for this, and was relieved to see that Trix’s current vet offered this. I stuffed that nugget of info away in my back pocket, but was too cowardly to bring it up to Brad. What good is your back pocket full of nuggets if you just end up losing them in the laundry?
I tried to plan a little further back, hoping to let Trix’s raiser see Trix in video form at least one last time. I was contemplating asking her if she wanted to come up this way and then we could plan some kind of visit, but then life made that possibility next to impossible, so I thought at least I could do the video part. I was taking entirely too long to troubleshoot whether you could put 3 people on a Facebook Messenger video chat so Brad, the raiser and I could all chat together from different locations, since usually when Brad and I were together, it was at a family due. But I took too long, and the universe made completely sure that video contact would not happen. Perhaps this was for the best.
Then, that same universe boomed “I spit in the face of your planning, you measly human! Bow down to my power!” Some things, probably the important ones, worked out the way I wanted them to, but there was no measured and elaborate plan. Like I said, the night before, Brad said she needed help in and out to do duty, and was obviously not herself. The next day, she even needed help to her food. This dog did not need any help finding food. If there was food to be consumed, even unsanctioned food, this beasticus would find it.
So, off to the vet she went, where things continued to look bad for the poor thing. From what I understand, they basically said she was losing blood and she had masses inside her that were pushing on things but they didn’t know why, and her options weren’t good. Brad first planned that we would put her down on Friday, but it became clear that she was probably going that day. Thankfully, he discovered that they would do it at home, and decided to go that route.
He called me and told me the news. All my preparations of scenarios went right out the window. I must have made quite a scene, bawling my face off at my desk, zombifiedly shambling to heat up a lunch I was never going to eat, because an angel in coworker form said “Do you want a cookie? I think you need one!” When I explained to him what was happening, this guy offered to drive me there and back! Seriously! As much as I cursed the universe for taking my plans and smashing them into pretty little shards, I couldn’t have asked for a better gift than this. I will owe him forever.
After I told Brad that I could make it that day, he started arranging things with the vet. we took off, and first dropped off Tansy at home with Steve. I felt bad that Steve didn’t get to see Trix one last time, but he offered to stay here. It’s a really good thing that I was traveling with someone who knew me because I soon discovered that I was not coherent. Never have I found the tasks of unplugging a charger or typing on my phone or finding the correct door in my apartment building or locating necessary items to be such a chore, but they were today.
Once Shmans was safely at home wondering what in god’s name was wrong with me, soon we discovered that the city where Brad lives was a freaking mess because of a nice flood situation. “Road closed” was a sign we saw frequently while trying to get to Brad. This caused us to take longer, which was making me very nervous. Maybe Trix wouldn’t even make it that long. Maybe the vet would have to hurry. Maybe all of this would be for nothing. But there was nothing I could do about it but hope and pray.
I arrived, and the vet and tech were sitting there, taking all the time in the world. They knew the scoop, and were completely understanding of the situation. I continued acting in a completely incoherent manner, barely remembering to hand Brad my coat and set things down. I just listened, heard Trix’s laboured breathing and headed straight for her, bonking into the coffee table as I went.
It was abundantly clear that Trix was at death’s door, knocking loudly. I could hear her breathing from across the room, and it was loud and difficult. Sometimes, it would be peppered with little whimpers that you could be fooled into thinking were dream barks. But these weren’t dream barks. As I approached, she didn’t move one muscle. I petted her and the head didn’t move. That lizard tongue did not reach out to give me a lick. She was in her own world.
As I petted her, I noticed these new and weird masses all over. Where there weren’t masses, she was bony and her back legs felt kind of caved in. This Trix was not the same Trix I saw at the end of December. Whatever this degeneration was, it happened in one heck of a hurry. I knew this, but seeing it solidified it…and started up the waterworks again.
I wondered what my last words would be to Trix. I would always read other people’s descriptions of what they said to their dogs at the end, and wonder if I could come up with something. I couldn’t. I can’t actually remember what I said. I know I passed on that her puppy raiser said that Pepper would be waiting for her at the bridge, and I think I said something like “Thanks for being an awesome dog.” I think I muttered something about being a trooper, no wait, that’s your brother, because some inside joke about Trix’s siblings would make a whole heap of sense to anyone but me. Anyway, when facing down the death of someone important, I was yet again rendered inarticulate.
The vet and tech were incredibly patient as I fought with my phone to get the video chat to work so I could talk to Trixie’s raiser. The weirdest thing was whenever I would open the window for her raiser, without fail, the app would crash. I could open anyone else’s window, but not that one. Closing the app didn’t help, rebooting the phone didn’t help. I only fixed it the next day when I reinstalled the app. So I gave up and called her.
It was at this moment when I realized that I had done a crappy job of helping to knit Trix’s life together. Sure, I had sent her raiser lots of pictures and updates on how she was doing while with Brad, and I had even given Brad her address so he could send her a calendar that had Trix’s picture on one page. But, not once had I brought them together to chat, not once! So, on the day when Trix was about to leave this world, Brad and Trix’s raiser finally met and had a conversation. For that, I will always be sorry that it wasn’t sooner.
After we had all sat around and talked a while, and it was clear that Trix had wormed her way into the hearts of her vet and tech, they gently moved in to do what they came for. Poor Trix had lost so much blood that they could not get the needle into a front leg, had to go for a back leg, and then they kind of had to prop her up a bit so they could get things to go where they had to be. Perhaps it took 10 seconds, and she was gone, just like that. There were no dramatic last breaths, there were thankfully no twitches or gasps or horrible messes on the floor, she was just gone. I don’t know how to explain it, but the room suddenly felt more empty than it had just seconds before.
We talked a little longer about logistics, they gave Brad her collar, wrapped Trix up in a blanket, scooped her up and left. And just like that, the end of an era had come. Trix, who has been a fixture in all of our lives was gone forever.
Unfortunately, I had to head back too. My wonderful coworker had agreed to hang around the city, and since the city was under a state of emergency because of the flood, and Brad was near an evacuation zone, we thought it would be best if I left in case he did have to get the heck out of dodge. So, I was not able to stay around, maybe get him some dinner, talk a while. I felt bad for descending on him and flitting off just as quickly, even though it was what I had to do.
I knew this would be hard. I knew I would be a wreck for a long time. I knew these things in a logical, clinical sense. What I didn’t know was how it would feel, and what creative methods of punishment my mind would devise to make me wonder what I might have done along the way to screw things up. When I got home, in a moment of clarity, I called the school to give them the scoop. That was a rather jumbled conversation. “Hello, support center? Who do I talk to about…erm…it’s Carin Headrick calling…what’s the process for notifying people…my retired guide dog passed away.” They were really good, and took down the info as best I could give it. There was a lot of I don’t know, and then they asked me if Trix had had any ongoing medical issues. It was at this point that I realized I never told them about the lupoid onychodystrophy, or the toe that had to be removed in November, or the thing she was doing where she was drinking way too much water. We just took care of them, and in the case of the toe and the lupoid thing, we thought they were under control. In the case of the water thing, the vet had run a bunch of tests and they had all come up normal. We had put it down to some weird old dog quirk, maybe a bit of dementia, and decided to keep an eye on her water intake. Suddenly, I wondered maybe if I had asked for their advice, maybe they could have asked for different tests and we could have discovered the fast-growing masses before they jumped out from behind the proverbial tree to say “Boo!” But I am starting to realize that all that might have done was hasten the inevitable, since these things meant business, and she could not have survived surgeries the way she was at the end. She was nearly 13, and dogs don’t live forever. But in those moments when I was on the phone with GDB, I suddenly began to be afraid that I hadn’t told them information they needed for the dog’s health, and because of this, Trix had paid the price. Yes, my mind is an evil, evil thing.
It amazes me how many people know Trixie. Each time I tell the story, it gets a little easier, and I can wrap my mind around it a little more. But I think I will be finding people for months that I will have to tell. Trix has a massive fan club.
I am so happy that I have so much of Trix’s life documented. Those memories will live on for years to come, and give me so many laughs, and that is what matters.
Trix, you were a great dog. You put up with this clueless human and learned with me, because I was pretty much a newb to guide dog life when I got you. You melted my dad’s heart, and my dad is not a dog-lover! You took away my one friend’s fear of black dogs. You showed me that I wasn’t the reason that Babs and I failed, and made it so I wasn’t afraid that all dogs pulled like freight trains. You amazed me with your steel-trap memory. You helped me solve the problem of what to do to protect dogs’ paws in the winter. Thanks for traveling with me on all our crazy adventures, including but not limited to new jobs, funerals, weddings, family events, long bus trips, flights, boat rides, helping take care of friends’ babies, the examples are endless. I know some of those things stressed you out but you did them anyway. You really are a trooper.
Not only did you do all of that, but you gave Brad so many memories too. You did things with him that I didn’t think you would ever do! You rediscovered your love of swimming and decided you loved snow! You decided that barking at people who came to the house was a great idea. You really became a dog, pure and simple. I remember one day, we got a voicemail from Brad that said something like “Trix rolled in some dead thing! It stenches!” My parents were there and could hardly believe that you would do such a thing! I’m so happy that once you retired and your stress lifted, all your health problems evapourated. Poor Brad got a laundry list of your needs and things to watch out for. I think I traumatized him, but he still bravely agreed to go ahead. I’m so glad he did, he gave you the life I would have wanted for you.
How on earth do I end this? I guess I could end it by explaining the beginning. That song fits perfectly with this post, but there’s an even better reason to put it here. One night, our friend who we call the shoe thief was at our place, hanging out. For some reason, this song started randomly playing, and Steve and Shoe decided they had to dance to it, because they’re goofs. Trix absolutely loved Shoe, and I guess she decided to get in on it. There she was, standing on her hind legs, perching her front legs on their arms, trying to dance with them. She had never done that before and she never did it again. I really wish I’d gotten a video.
Trix will never be forgotten. Wherever she was, she always made life interesting. We will all miss her.
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.