Thursday, June 25, 2009

Note: Attending Conference this weekend

I will be attending the Assistance dog Club of Puget Sound Annual Conference this weekend. I will bring you the details when I return. I also plan to visit my retired service dog, Bastien.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

News: Service with a Snarl

Service with a Snarl appeared in this week's San Francisco Weekly. I was horrified to read of a person with a dog who has been designated as vicious and dangerous animal in public. The article has generated such a buzz as to have picked up by the area public radio (listen here, sorry no transcript yet but I am asking).
Some things that bother me about this whole situation are:
-the attempt to pit members of the disability community against one another i.e. I need a service animal and you don't.
-the mistaken idea that vicious and ill-behaved animals are covered by the laws
-the, again, mistaken belief, that the owner simply having a disability makes the animal a service animal
The program does take an upswing with regard to encouraging people to train their animals to a high standard. The writer of the original article does also bring up a good point about the laws being too open to fraudulent use. These articles are taking about San Francisco specifically but I think it needs watch since several large well known, well respected service dog institutions are based in California. These organizations, and rightly so, want to keep their dogs and teams above reproach of any kind. Just because we don't live in a place doesn't mean how California and the service dog community choose to react or not won't affect the national service dog community. As handlers and ongoing trainers of our dogs, whether owner or program trained, it behooves us all to make sure that our service animals and those of people we see are above reproach. The decision that a dog needs to retire or was never a good candidate for service dog work is not an easy one. As a community we need to be educating each other about what is and isn't acceptable dog behavior, and supporting people making the brave but had decisions to retire or career change a dog.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Educating Friends and Community Members

As a very active team Shiloh and I work diligently to present our community with an image of a happy, reasonable, and responsible team and recently our efforts have been paying off since people see us (all right me) as a credible resource for their questions.

Shiloh, myself, my roommate, and her Guide Dog Cammy went into a local bookstore to sell some books we no longer wanted for a little cash. As I entered the store I was pleased to discover one of our dog park friends worked there and that her little Boston Terrier, Little D, served as shop dog. She knew that our girls were on duty and quickly moved Little D behind the counter so that we could simply go about our business. (Not that our girls couldn't work with him around, it just gave her peace of mind that he wouldn't pester us.) As we finished our business she asked if she could ask us a question about our dogs. She wanted to know if service dogs had to wear harnesses, or vests when out in public. Not wanting to increase confusion or spread misinformation-nevermind how simple it is to dress one's service dog so people are not always pestering you about bringing THAT DOG in here- we told her no the law doesn't require that service dogs wear any kind of special harness of vest. However, we went on to say that most people will since it is so simple to do and cuts down on people hassling them. She asked because a lady had come into the store with a dog who wasn't dressed and not the best behaved and when she asked the lady about the dog the lady got offended saying it was a service dog. We also told her the questions that the DOJ has said businesses can ask. She thanked us and said she looked forward to seeing us again.
How about it readers (Those who are partnered with SDs) do you dress your service dog? Why or why not? leave a comment and tell others and me what you think. Those readers not partnered with service dogs how do you feel about harnesses and vests for service dogs?

We have a housekeeper who comes every couple of weeks to help with the deeper cleaning that neight myself nor my roommate can do very well and as I sat relaxing one evening I her voice come over the answering machine wondering if I might be able to give her some resources on service dogs who do seizure response, since she know that is what Einstein does, for a friend of hers who has epilepsy and is now living alone for the first time in years as her son just moved out. When she came over later that week I gave her the websites for ADI and IAADP to share with her friend since her friend is very new to the idea of a service dog. I was happy to pass on credible sources of information for her friend, since I know there are a lot of websites out there full of misinformation.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

One Year Anniversary of My Blog and a Contest

Today marks the one year of Service Dogs: A Way of Life and the 140th entry on this Blog! I want to thank all who read faithfully, post thoughtful comments, and link to my blog. I want this blog to be of service: a place of learning, sharing and community to all those involved with service dogs in anyway.
I thought I would share a little about what I know about my readers over the past year thanks to Google Analytics:
  1. You come from all over the globe representing more than 40 countries including such far off locals as Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Israel, and South Africa.
  2. Over the past year I have had nearly 2,000 Visitors (and that's not counting repeats)!
  3. You, my loyal readers read an average of a page and half each time you visit.
  4. Your top favorite posts include:
5. Nearly 40 percent of you find me through other blogs/websites! The top blogs/websites referring people here are:
  • A SD By My Side (Listed in my Blog list on the right side of this page)
  • Service Dog Central (Listed under Service Dog Community Links on the right)
  • Charlie the North Star Dog (Listed in my Blog list on the right side of this page)
  • A Service Dogs Journey (Listed in my Blog list on the right side of this page)
  • Great Dane Service Dog (Listed in my Blog list on the right side of this page)
  • Service Dog Sawyer (Listed in my Blog list on the right side of this page)
Thank you to each of you for feeling my blog was worth pointing your loyal readers to and for participating in this real time story about life with service dogs.

Now I promised you a contest and here it is!
Win a copy of Excel-erated Learning (this is my copy bought it, so I can give it away) simply by writing a short essay (between 200-400 words) on the most important thing you have learned about yourself because of your service dog or that your service dog has taught you. If you have a blog post your entry on it and leave a link for me in the comments under this post. If you don't have a blog send me an email. If you are not big on writing or your disability makes it difficult you can either dictate it to some one to write for you or (if you know how) send or post an audio entry. I will post the top three entries on my blog and the winner will get the book provided they remember to leave me a way to contact them. The deadline for entry is June 24, 2009.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Preventing and Curing Separation Anxiety in Service Dogs

Recently, I read an article Cocoa: don't leave home without him. I was horrified to read this little service dog's reaction to a practice run of being boarded with some family friends before the family went on vacation that they deemed not the best for Cocoa to join them. Cocoa was so traumatized at being left he escaped running more than ten miles over two days, "Cocoa's paws were all raw, his hair was matted and he hadn't eaten for days, but when Skyler and his special friend finally reunited it was as if this was a Hollywood movie! With film crews capturing every jumping, yelping, and "piddling" moment, tears of joy were shed." It is very fortunate that Cocoa was not more seriously injured or killed while lose.
All service dogs, no matter what their job need to be comfortable staying home alone, staying with family/friends, and being crated. There are times when having your service dog with you may not be the best choice for you or them, as well as times they can't be with you and it is up to us to make sure that our dogs can handle being with out us. Examples:
  • You are having surgery
  • You are in the hospital and so sick as to not be able to care for your dog yourself.
  • You are going somewhere not safe for your service dog like a loud concert, a bar, a wild animal park, a private event.
  • Your service dog is injured/sick and should not work.
  • Your service dog needs to stay at the vet for procedures.
  • Your service dog is going to be professionally groomed.
  • You have worked your service dog particularly hard for a day, week, or month and decide they need rest.
Many service dog handlers unknowingly create separation anxiety in their service dogs by:
  • Having the dog with them around the clock everyday of their lives together. Even medic-alert/seizure alert dogs need to be comfortable being alone.If the paramedics come to pick you up from your home, chances are pretty good the dog will be left behind.
  • Allowing their dogs to see them anxious about leaving them. If you're anxious chances are pretty good your dog will be too.
  • Believing they are the only one who could possibly care for their service dog. This is a self created problem. It doesn't take that much work to teach a few family members/friends your service dog's basic cues, schedule, and particular care needs. The work pays off in comfort and confidence for both your service dog and yourself should you ever have to be separated. This could be explained to child partners of dogs using human independence examples like why the learn to play alone, learning to sleep in one's own bed, learning to have fun and feel safe at a sleep over/ sleep away camp, or places you don't take your child because it is not safe for them. The child (if able) could be involved in teaching the surrogate doggy carers how to care for their dog, and choosing who/where the dog will stay.
I have no less than five people Shiloh is comfortable with and could stay with if there was a need. I also leave Shiloh behind and go out several times a month and ask her to spend time in her crate regularly. I don't want her injuring herself or getting lost just because I left.

For those of you living with dogs with separation anxiety or looking to prevent I found a couple resources:
  1. Canine Separation Anxiety Workbook
  2. I'll Be Home Soon- By Patricia McConnell, Ph.D (you'll notice her blog linked here and other books by her in my favorites list. I don't know Ms. McConnell but I find her work easy to understand and put into practice.)
Video: Good Dog U: Separation Anxiety (Animal Planet)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Susquehanna Service Dogs on Characteristics of a Good Service Dog

Don't miss this enlightening posts on Characteristics of a Good Service Dog. This post is first in the series What Makes a Good Service Dog.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Book Review: This Month's Bark Features a Marathon Running Guide Dog

The May/June 2009 Issue of Bark Magazine features "Two for the Road—Guide dog helps his partner navigate the course" By Brad Crawford. This article shows what a well-matched team can achieve together. Audi, the yellow lab Guide Dog and his human, Kerry Kuck run marathons together. The article is well-written showing both the pros and cons of Kuck's decision to use his guide dog to run. For those wanting to read the rest of the article, you'll have to buy the issue or find a copy at your public library,sorry.
This month's Bark also features tips on teaching the all important "leave it"(which you'll also have to buy the magazine for however the Bark team offers this video on "leave it") and a discussion on whether gender affects a dog's ability to learn.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Book Review: Dogs are from Neptune by Jean Dobbs

Dogs are from Neptune by Jean Donaldson is what I call an oldie but a goody on my shelf of dog books published in 1998. This book offers answers to common situations around aggression and other common behaviors in dogs as posed to the author in letters from readers. The book splits the letters into six categories: Aggression towards strangers, resource guarding, dog-dog aggression, behavior problems, Obedience problems, and fear & anxiety. Jean answers reader in detail providing additional information about dogs with these problems, posing questions for the reader to consider, and clear step-by-step options to addressing the problem at hand. The reader is can read just the letters and solutions that address their particular problem, a section at a time or the whole book cover to cover and come away with an array of knowledge and useful approaches. She even included a letter from a person partnered with a service dog, whose dog had begun breaking stays while she was presenting. I know many people whose service dog's stays break down when they have their back turned or are out of the room. Jean's advice was positive and addressed the fact that something in the environment was mostly likely working against this handler's work to strengthen he dog's stay providing a high value reward to the dog for breaking its stay.
Other problems the book discusses which are often dealt with by service dog teams and dogs in training include: counter surfing, separation anxiety, off leash control, heeling on the street, and pulling on the leash.
I highly recommend this book for is ease of reading and practical approach to common problems. Happy reading!