Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Please note this event is for Service Dogs placed by programs only  because 
"Over the past several years we have had some individuals claim their dog was a Service Dog just to take advantage of the eye exam.  ACVO Diplomates generously donate their time and resources to provide eye exams for Service Dogs.  These resources are limited and if nonqualified dogs fill the limited time slots allotted then a qualified dog may be excluded. "
(Yet another example of how service dog fraud hurts legitimate owner -trained service dogs and their partners. Stepping off my soap box now.)

Press Release:
Certified working service dogs are being offered free screening eye examinations through Eye Care for Animals for the entire month of May. This is the third year this event has been held nationally by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists ® in association with boarded veterinary ophthalmologists. 

Screening eye examinations can detect ocular diseases at an early stage when treatment can be most successful, thereby helping preserve the sight of these dogs whose partners depend upon them. Certified working service dogs include guide dogs, handicapped assistance dogs, detection dogs, and search and rescue dogs.

Qualified participants must register online at www.acvoeyeexam.org.  Click on Dog owners/participants at the top of the page and follow the onscreen instructions.  Once the registration number for the dog is assigned, the participant may call the participating Eye Care for Animals in their area to schedule an appointment for their dogs free eye exam during the month of May. Appointments are limited, so register and call today!

Eye Care for Animals has facilities in Arizona, California, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin, and is dedicated to providing the finest in veterinary ophthalmology services.  Their staff of board certified ophthalmologists provides the highest level of care, education, and understanding to their clients and their animal companions.  For more information visit www.eyecareforanimals.com.

ACVO® is a veterinary specialty organization of the American Board of Veterinary Specialties.  Its mission is to advance the quality of veterinary medicine through certification of veterinarians who demonstrate excellence as specialist in veterinary ophthalmology.  To become board certified a candidate must complete their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program, a one year internship, a three year residency and pass a series of credentials and examinations.

Julie Gamarano
3260 N Hayden Road, Suite 214
Scottsdale, Arizona 85251
P: 480-682-6911

Humor: The Stealth Dog

Last night as I sat in the living room watching a movie, I felt I should look to see what my beloved Shiloh was doing. As I looked around for her, I caught sight of her quietly and quite happily trotting down the hall with my jacket in tow! I cracked up laughing at the image image of her carrying my jacket by the pocket with the rest trailing behind her. I realized immediately I had left chicken teats in the pocket and it was entirely her intent to steal away with this beautiful treasure to her crate!
 I called her over to me with her treasure... She considered my request for a second, then brought the treasure to me. I, of course, opened the pocket and gave her some of her sought after treasures. People are very helpful at opening things with treasure inside, we have thumbs after all!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Life is Too Short

Today I received a very sad email from the man who really got me into service dogs.  His first partner, Bandy, passed away after a long, well-loved life of 14 years. Brandy, a large yellow Labrador worked faithfully by her partners side for 11 years. She was the first service dog for people with physical disabilities I ever met and I still remember meeting her and her human on while we were stuck on a plane having electrical difficulties on a tarmac in a plane going nowhere anytime soon. As the crew allowed other passenger to exit to plane if they wish for a bit, this gentleman and I bot made the decision to sit tight because it was too much of a hassle to get of the plane and risk not getting back in time. So we sat there for two hours. I struck up a conversation with him about sis dog who was wearing a patch for a service dog program I was thinking of applying too. He shared with me about how Brandy assisted him with retrieving dropped items, help getting up after a fall, carrying things and more. By the time we exited the flight in Tacoma we were friends and I was going to apply for a service dog.
Little did I know this team would be integral to helping Bastien and I be all we could be as a team sharing training tips and showing us what it took to be a true team. This sweet yellow lab who loved to play, had a quirky sense of humor and patience to be admired will be greatly missed....  Rest in Peace Brandy and thank for everything.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Reflections from my Experience with Medical Alert and Response Dogs

Einstein can Seizure Alert, though none of us can say what is tipping him off to his partner's seizures.When She and I were raising him, we knew that dogs from his line have alerted in the past; however, no one could guarantee he would ever alert. His partner, Katie --very much the realist-- knew from her first service dog that while the alert was great what she really needed was a dog to respond to the seizure in order  to protect her life by getting help and or activating and emergency alert system. She also knew from experience that having a dog who would then return to her and stay with her until she regained consciousness helped her to feel less afraid in her disoriented and exhausted state following a seizure.
Einstein is trained to:
-Get Help (if help is not available he stays with her)
-Return to her after getting help and stay with her. 
-Recognize Emergency Personnel and give them space to work
-Find Family Members on cue as soon as Katie is able to speak again
-Stop at Curbs, Streets, Stairs to help prevent a disoriented Katie from stumbling the street or falling down stairs that she may not see right away.
-Find the Family car
-Provide light Stability and Balance work to help keep Katie from Falling when in a weakened state after a seizure

As with all training and behaviors, the response and alert behaviors have to be consistently paid attention to and reinforced by Katie when she is able and those around her when she is not able. If the person looking for an alert of any kind does not have the awareness and cognitive ability to respond to the dog and reward them for their work, the dog will eventually stop bothering to do the behavior in question. No one, not even a dog works for nothing. (see Excel-erated Learning, Pamela Reid).
From Einstein Seizure Care
All of Katie's friends and family have been taught by her how to work with her dogs and help maintain their training by reinforcing/rewarding the dog for a job well done when she cannot. She also carries with her and uses a number of reward approach when she is out alone and has a seizure everything from verbal praise to petting and toys. Every effort is made to ensure the dog has a positive association with the seizures. That being said everyone recognizes that the job is very demanding and works hard to ensure the dog has off time to relax and play. 

As with any service dog a person with any sort of medical alert/ response dog should not put all their eggs in one basket depending solely on a dog to be on constant and fail proof look out. Dogs are living creatures that make mistakes, can decide that something else is more important, or get sick and be unable to work. Anyone with a service dog needs to have back up plans and alternate ways of maintaining both theirs and their dog's health and safety.
Remember folks Lassie and Rin Tin Tin are fictional characters brought to us through the magic of Hollywood-- They don't exist. As great as our service dogs are, and they are. We as partners need to be realistic and fair about how they truly have the capacity to help and our role in how successful they are in doing  so each and every time it happens. 

More Reading on Seizure Dogs(this really applies to any type of medical alert people may be looking for in my opinion).

From Einstein Seizure Care

Sunday, March 14, 2010

News: Buyer Beware on Diabetic Alert Dogs

Taken from Article:Alert capabilities questioned:Views differ on effectiveness of Betheden training

"But after spending thousands of dollars, Keegan and others say the training provided by Betheden Kennels, based in Canyon at the time, was ineffective and put the safety of people in jeopardy.
The problem, experts say, is that behavioral tests haven't conclusively determined whether canines can be effectively trained to perform various services, including to alert for diabetic complications." Read Full Story


Friday, March 12, 2010

Commentary: Disagreement Over Service Dog

I saw this story today Disagreement Over Service Dogs and was so stuck by how uninformed the handler seemed to be about what the laws does and does not say about a person with disabilities right to be accompanied by a service dog that I would like to point out and discuss them one by one.

"During lunch one of the dogs started barking.  "He let out a big woof cause he had to go out and go potty," said Jonathan.  "The manager at that point came over and told us that we had to leave because Marriott had a no pet policy and it was disturbing the guests.  Buddy kind of looked at him and went grrrr."
First off, having your dog bark in public is disruptive. There are other more appropriate ways for handlers to communicate with their service dogs. If the dog barked to go out, why wasn't the handler on his way out the door before the manager even got to him. Why did the handler feel is was okay for the dog to "grrr" (which I took to mean growl at the manager? The DOJ Business Brief states:
"A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his service animal from the premises unless: (1) the animal is out of control and the animal's owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie) or (2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others." ( ADA Business BRIEF: Service Animals)

If this dog was having an off day, as can happen from time to time, why didn't the handler take the dog out to the car. As responsible partners of service dogs we need to recognize when our partners are overloaded, tired, bored, hungry, thirsty, or just feeling out of sorts and take steps to address each and every possible issue that may be causing our partners to behave in a fashion inappropriate for a service dog. A hotel lobby or restaurant is simply not an environment where a handler can afford to test the ignore it until they stop on their own training principle.

Secondly, having an ID card, vest, back pack, obvious disability or anything else to support that a person's claim a dog is a service dog as defined by the ADA (Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling awheelchair, or fetching dropped items.) does not mean the dog can behave however it will with no repercussions for the handler. Service dog teams working in public do have rights and with those rights come the responsibility to ensure that while you are exercising your rights, you are also aware of where your rights end and those of others including business owners begin. See the Minimum Standards for Assistance Dogs in Public

As someone who has been working dogs in public for over 10 years, I know it is possibly for even the best dog to have an off day. The best way to handle these occasional slip ups is to apologize and engage the dog's training to get them back in line. If you can't quickly get your service dog under control or if the nature of the problem is such that the dog is creating a disturbance or mess, you should leave in all do speed (all the while apologizing and expressing concern for the situation and your dog). If the dog is ill and you need to go out, handlers should alert staff and inform them of their intent to return and clean it up as soon as they get their dog out. Even people who may need help cleaning up can carry  the necessary tools for a quick clean up. Lodging a complaint because someone calls you on a dog's misbehavior is not the way to go.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Our First Experience with a Power Wheelchair

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to road test one on the power chairs the DME company is recommending, since the one originally chose has been discontinued. As I mention in previous posts, Summit, in the interest of helping Shiloh to bond with me and me having the dog I so desperately needed ASAP, left some of Shiloh's wheelchair acclimation training to me. She had some wheelchair experience and was not afraid of them. The finer points of where to exactly walk were left for me. Shiloh is a very smart dog, who trusts me to be fair and warn her of the chair's movement before I do it. This is a must unless you want your service dog or service dog in training to think that they must maintain a distance of  three or more in order to avoid being run over by this unpredictable thing!
I set the chair our at first at its' lowest setting for the benefit of both of us, after all the handling was a mystery to me at that point. I, then, carefully arranged myself to be as stable in the chair as possible, placed Shiloh on the left in a heel, shortened the leash to about 18" and said "Heel" just before starting off. By the end of the hour we had up the speed of the chair to third level and Shiloh had figured outo to pivot in place when I made a left circle!