No National Service Dog Team Standard! Yea!

I have a happy update to the Canadian service dog team standards story. They have scrapped it!

I guess all the comments, meetings with MP\s, and whatever everyone else did convinced them that a one-size-fits-all standard does not work, as we all knew it wouldn’t.

Of course, there are articles like this one that make the standard’s being scrapped sound like a horrible idea.

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.

Goodbye To Trixie

Trixie takes a treat out of Brad's mouth.
Mmmmm…mouth treat.

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.

Trixie smiling as she runs on a hill with Brad.
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.

Trixie laying on her bed in Brad's living room.
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.

Brad and Trixie as the sun sets.
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.

Brad and Trixie on the floor by a fireplace.
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.

Trixie on a beach as the sun sets behind her.
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.

Trixie in a lei.
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.

Brad and Trixie at a creek.
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 Was On The News Talking About Fake Service Dogs

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.

A Memorial To Trixie

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!

Statue of a black lab sitting on a little round base with "Trixie-Always in our hearts" written in Braille around the outside.
The Braille says “Trixie-Always in our hearts”

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.

Delta Has Updated Its Service Animal Policy

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.

Goodbye, Trixie.

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 no fan 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.

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.