Response to a Veteran

[A comment was made on one of the posts of this blog and my reply got long. I thought it might be of more general interest, so I’m making it a post for any here to see.]

A reader said:
“You are full of crap if you were to read the ADA and what it says about service animals there are only two on the list. One the dog and the other is the miniature horse and only if it is house trained to relieve it self outside. ADI wants everyone to believe that they are the only ones that can pass or fail a dog so it can the full monopoly on the entire world to be the only organization that is qualified to train and test a service animals qualifications. They already own Europe so why not give them America as well. Considering we the veterans that served our nation should have nothing to say about our animals and the help they give us. Again the ADA states clearly that only dogs and mini horses make the cut and then only if the mini horse is house trained.”

My Reply:
“There are several things to be addressed here.

“First, most members of the general public don’t know what ADA says, and the majority don’t even care. They have no idea that a snake is not a service animal. Yet snakes have been passed off as service animals! As of 2012, the ADA has revised requirements for service animals. The Revised ADA Requirements: Service Animals set separate requirements for the mini horse, and does not support the wider public access permissions a service dog does.

“Second, given the numbers of companies that are selling service dogs with little or no attention to what a service dog should be, some kind of guidelines need to be in place. A company that has been training guard dogs for years, then decides they’d like to get into the service dog business has no clue about service dogs. Service dogs are an entirely different thing. Similarly, the person that wants to hang a vest and patches on their pampered little darling or their guard dog and call it a service dog is giving service dogs a bad name. A well-trained service dog will not growl, bark and certainly not snap or bite. “Service dogs” trained by guard dog companies can be problematic in this regard. Many dogs trained by their owners also have difficulty in this regard. The public access test is supported not only by ADI (Assistance Dogs International), but by IAADP (International Association of Assistance Dog Partners) and by Pet Partners (formerly know as the Delta Society).

“Third, I don’t know what your problem is with ADI. It started in the US in 1985 with trainers of Hearing Alert Dogs and Hearing Alert Dog training/placement organizations getting together and agreeing to certain basic standards. [This is similar to any professional organization start-up. The members start it, the members set the standards, and the members enable the standards. Medical and Nursing professional organizations are like this – and they set the standards and guidelines for practice in various specialties. Architects and Engineers have the same kinds of organizations. Many of the organizations, if not international in scope, have collegial relationships with similar organizations across the world.] In a short time, ADI grew, and decided first to formally affiliate with the Delta Society and a couple of years later to formally affiliate with Assistance Dogs Europe (ADEu). In a short time, ADI grew, and decided first to formally affiliate with the Delta Society and a couple of years later to formally affiliate with Assistance Dogs Europe (ADEu). See the ADI History page on their website.

“IAADP was started by people who used service dogs – the assistance dog partners themselves. It, too, grew in scope and became international. I know a bit less about Pet Partners, except that they support the public access standards needed to ensure public safety and public access for assistance dogs. ADI has done very good work. Their members provide various kinds of assistance dogs (Guide Dogs, Mobility Assistance Dogs, Hearing Alert Dogs, Autism Assistance Dogs, Medical Assistance Dogs, and PTSD Assistance Dogs – probably others that I’m not listing). The ADI, in my opinion, is filling a needed gap/niche.

“Fourth, as a user of an assistance dog, I can input my needs and concerns to PAALS (Palmetto Animal Assistance Life Services) which provided both my Mobility Assistance Dogs, and through IAADP – which meets jointly with ADI and maintains a close relationship with ADI – after all, it is the assistance dog partners who are the people who need and use the dogs provided by assistance dog providers. (I know, that sounds redundant, but I have been up with serious pain since 4am and I’m not a coherent as I would prefer.) PAALS also provides Service Dogs for Vets.

“Fifth, Veterans can, should, and do have a lot of say as to what help their dogs should give them. When obtained through a legitimate service dog organization, the vets, like any recipient, are interviewed extensively about what they need. If they want to train their own dog, they are certainly permitted to do that under ADA. There can be a problem with public access and poor behavior on the part of the dogs not tested for public access. This would not be a problem if those training their own service dogs understood the need for the specific behaviors needed for public access.

“The Public Access Test is published on the website of ADI, and IAADP has a page that discusses various aspects of the public access test. If your home-trained dog can pass all items on the test, plus 3 specific items it needs to do in public for you, I see no problem.

“The needs of Veterans, while somewhat different from those of other citizens, are being met by member organizations of ADI. As I am seeing it, the main problem is the vast need and the limited number of organizations and limited availability of appropriate dogs. It takes a special dog to become the service dog partner of a Veteran. Not every dog is qualified to become a service dog – of any kind – much less for a Veteran. As one among many organizations, however, PAALS is providing service dogs to Veterans with various needs. If you need one, I hope you get one soon!”

Treadmill Training Begins!

After a few weeks with Warrior, we now have permission to begin his Treadmill training! YAY!

This week, Warrior began eating breakfast on the treadmill. He has to wait until I give him the cue, “tread” before he steps onto the treadmill and approaches his food dish. He must “wait” until he is given the “all right” to begin eating.  After eating, he must “clean up” by bringing me the Booda Bones and the food dish. Then “down” and “stay” on the treadbelt for 20-30 minutes. After that, back up to the kennel to rest for an additional 30 min. This rest is to help prevent “bloat,” a condition deep-chested breeds are susceptible to.

Although Warrior has had a prophylactic gastropexy, we continue with the recommendations for prevention (gastropexy is not 100%): feed twice a day rather than once, limited volume of food, limit water drinking right before or right after meals, limit “gorging” on water after exercise, do not exercise after water drinking, etc.

In a day or two, I’ll start walking briefly on the treadmill while Warrior just stands beside me and watches. I’ll give him lots of treats for doing this – just standing there watching me.

Then, next week, or the week after, depending on how Warrior does, I’ll start feeding him treats while standing at the head of the treadmill and he stands facing me on the stationary treadbelt. Once he thinks just standing there getting treats “for nothing” (in about a week), I’ll turn the treadmill on at lowest setting. He may want to “leap off,” but I’ll have him on tight lead on his harness. He won’t go anywhere. If he does, I’ll stop the treadmill and bring him back on the stationary treadbelt for more “just standing there” treats. May have to get Himself to hold him for me until Warrior thinks walking along on the treadmill getting treats is ok.

After that, all is fine and dandy! Once he “gets it,” he’ll be exercised on the treadmill on days I’m too “cripped up” to go out, or the weather is too inclement for us to take him up to the mall for a long, fast walk. (“Business break” before such activity is essential, of course!)

Goodie for the treadmill. I can hardly wait!

Waiting at Top of Stairs

Waiting at Top of Stairs

Funny Warrior!

Warrior isn’t just 72# of muscle, he’s a clown!

I can’t get a good video of him, but there is this big ball I got for Emmy (she never played with it) that has a rope going through it with a big knot at each end of the rope. Warrior has pounced upon it with glee and runs around the yard like a crazy dog, shaking his head and stopping from time to time to grasp the ball and squeeze it! It is a stitch! We take turns throwing it for him (when he will get close enough for me to grab one end of the rope and tell him, “Drop!”). I can manage about 2 times before I’m done in. Himself was throwing it and the tennis ball side-armed yesterday and pulled a muscle in his forearm! I guess we both are getting old!

Then, last night, I was chanting my prayers at our little “altar,” in the foyer and Warrior was lying calmly by my side. (He is learning that this is a “quiet time” when he must lie quietly beside me.) That is until it started raining. The gutter “spouts” onto part of the front steps. Warrior (who has a problem of very occasionally barking and growling for no reason we can discern – BUT we ARE working on it!!) started raising his hackles and growling a low growl. Then, before I could calm him down, he began barking and barking and growling. If I were a person who was considering a B&E, I might think twice! Warrior was barking and growling at the RAIN! The spatter noise from the spout onto the top step sounded to him like a person stepping up to the door!! I just took him back to the bedroom and kenneled him for the rest of the night. It was bedtime anyway.

(When I got back to the foyer prayer corner, I had to figure out where I was, then start that prayer over. God would understand if I just took up where I was interrupted, but my small mind needs “whole” prayers – not pieces of prayers.)

In addition to being a great help already, he is providing comic relief to our lives!

Warrior Has Joined Us!

Warrior is a male Yellow Labrador Retriever. At this time he is just over 16 months old. YIKES, you say, he is still a “pup-o-lescent!” Yes, he is, but at the same time, he is quite mature for his age. Most of the other pups from that class are just into their advanced training. In 3 or 4 months, Warrior has managed to complete most of that training – yeppers, started at 13 months of age!!

He is still “rough around some of the edges,” but with the encouragement of the PAALS people – trainers and volunteers – I was given the confidence to take him home, complete his advanced training, and to add the really special tasks I need done! They believe in me, and believe that because of my experience with my beloved Emmy I can do this. YAY!

Warrior was fostered by two of the volunteer “pup fosters,” and “went to prison” for much of his basic training. PAALS has an arrangement with a prison in the general area. They teach likely inmates (carefully screened) to train puppies in the basics. This benefits the prisoners (lower recidivism rates, a salable skill after release), the prison (fewer incidents involving those in the dog training program), and PAALS (frees up trainers to mainly work on advanced training). You can read more about this at the PAALS website.

Himself and I trekked to Columbia SC (a 4-5 hour drive from us because of my need to stop and walk around from time to time) on July 21. We checked in at the InTown Suites near Columbiana Centre. Not the classiest address in town, but the “Price Is Right.” Then we went to the local grocery (we later discovered there was a much closer Publix) to stock up on kitchen needs. Back to the hotel, stow food in refrig, put away the supplies, then out to dinner. I honestly can’t remember where we ate, at this point – I think Denny’s – at least we ate there once that first week. The details begin to blur already!

Classes started the next day. I was a class of ONE! The trainer, Maureen, put me at ease immediately. She had a wonderful sense of humor, had lived with and worked extensively with Warrior in the 3 months before we got there, and knew all of the foibles to warn me about! (No, he isn’t perfect! But what dog or person is? Warrior has a major sense of humor – dog humor, that is – and it will get him into trouble from time to time!

We worked in about 15 minute bursts with an hour or so between. Dogs are like “wind-up” toys. They go and go and go – then just stop and take a nap! Dogs don’t sleep as much as cats, but they are in the running! Maureen corrected me and corrected me and corrected me – I need to be as perfect as possible when giving cues. Position the dog for success in such things as going through doors, getting on elevators, actually, doing nearly anything. The dog’s position is important. Don’t take any guff off the dog – he KNOWS what he’s supposed to do, but like most adolescents (think of him as like a 15 year old boy) constantly tests the limits. “Hmmm, can I get away with…” “Does she really, really mean it? Really, really?” “I don’t want to do that! You can’t make me!” “If I can do enough “behaviors,” in one batch, maybe I will earn a treat – even though she hasn’t ‘cued’ me!” (Not hardly, LOL!) Maureen helped me recognize when he was being “a teeeeenager,” and when he was uncertain about things. This is an important differential!

Finally, the 9 days of training were over. The last day was the Public Access Test. Although all PATs are very similar and include identical behavioral tests, every Service Dog team has different, important tasks that are included. For instance, our test included Warrior picking up my cane and pressing a large button on a special device to call 9-1-1 if I need it. Warrior had to demonstrate his ability to pick up 3 different objects and bring them to me. We found that rubbing pieces of Lamb Roll on a Paracord fob that was attached to various objects (my cellphone, a little wallet, my keys and my cane) helped Warrior “want” to pick up an object. Heh, heh, heh! I had to manage my scooter, my cane and Warrior all at the same time. We safely went through an automatic door, then went to a corner by a store. Warrior “proved” he could sit and “down.” Then, after I had told him to “stay” and moved 6 feet away, he “stayed” for 1 minute without moving. After an appropriate reunion which included a treat, I told him to stay again, then moved 15 feet away. He “stayed” for 1 minute without moving. Then we had another reunion!

Next, we walked through the cosmetic department of Belk’s and walked past an area of Misses’ clothing to the elevator. The elevator is very small, so only one tester and the vid person could ride with me. Warrior and I safely navigated entering the elevator, going up to the next floor, and navigated exiting safely. On exit from an elevator, I am going backward, and experience much pain when I turn my head to look back at where I’m going and looking at Warrior. But I managed it! Twice, on different elevators! We were so excited!

He picked up each object. Then we went to a counter. He took the wallet, raised his forefeet up onto a counter, dropped it into the hand of the clerk, then got off. We pretended I had purchased something. She placed the wallet into a plastic bag, folded it over and stapled it. Then Warrior went “up,” again, got the package from the clerk, got off and dropped it into my hand. We had a struggle with this, and it took about 12 tries. He may have been “feeding off” of my anxiety, so I took a deep breath “re-booted” his brain (had him sit and down and stand in sequence) then he did the whole thing perfectly! The fact that I didn’t “lose it” and kept my cool, and kept working with Warrior was the reason this didn’t count “against” me.

Next (GULP!!) we went to the Food Court of the mall. Those who know Labrador Retrievers, know that they are a “walking appetite!” I went to a table and had Warrior sit, then down. All the time, he had to focus only on me, and to NOT be attracted to any food put down on the floor. The testers went about dragging chairs, putting food down, dragging more chairs, dropping clipboards flat onto the floor, and other things to distract him. He did focus on me! Of course, I was shoveling treats down him everytime he looked at me, so he decided the treats were much “yummier” than any of the distractions! A child was brought over and stepped over him while he was lying down, and petted him below his cape while he focused on me, not on the child. This is very difficult, more difficult than you might understand.

We also demonstrated that Warrior would go “under a table. We had practiced both under tables and under benches, so he was quite willing to do it properly: go under a table and lie down. Good Boy!! (treat!)

Fifteen minutes 4-5 times a day is my training schedule with him. I have a list of cues to practice and a report form to send in on a weekly basis for the next 3-5 months. After that, I’ll report mainly if there are any problems that I might notice or anything I might have questions about. This not only ensures that I AM working him and teaching him, but that we are in good shape as a team. I will report on any outings during this initial time frame: grocery, shopping mall, doctor, friends, meetings, restaurants, etc.

PAALS wants us to be successful. They will do anything in their power to support us. So I am confident that eventually – in a year or so – Warrior will be “one of the greats!”

Also, I have a GoFundMe website in an attempt to pay off what we owe PAALS for Warrior. Clients pay 1/3 of the costs and expenses of puppy raising and training over a (nearly) two year period. This includes vet bills for regular visits, testing of hips, vaccinations, etc.; toys for stimulating problem-solving abilities (not a minor expense!); food for growing pup and grown dog; and some of the administrative expenses to keep PAALS running (VERY IMPORTANT!!).


More later! Please share this blog with others!

Thank You So Much!

Many thanks to Madeline and Suzanne! They have both contributed through my GoFundMe site to help me pay for my new dog!

This was a very kind thing of them to do, and I am most grateful!

ACCEPTED for 2nd Service Dog!!

mixed-smiley-046Joy reigns in our household! Kim from PAALS (Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services) called on Friday (yesterday) and said it is official – that I have been accepted as a client for a second mobility service dog! YAAAY!!

Now the final wait begins. There are “lots of dogs” in the pipeline. It is simply a matter of whether it will be this year or next year. That may seem like a long time. But given the number of people waiting and the number of dogs available (nationwide), that is a very short time! At the time I partnered with Emmy, there were over 2000 people waiting for service dogs and only 700 dogs available each year.

Emmy in 2012 - Right After Her October Grooming

Emmy in 2012 – Right After Her October Grooming


And more people apply all the time. Obviously not just with PAALS – there are about 300 service dog organizations across the country. Only about 100 of these are members of ADI (Assistance Dogs International) or other certifying organization.

In my last post I referred to another website that discussed how to spot fake service dogs. The reason there are fake service dogs “out there” is not just because the owners want their precious pet to go with them everywhere. There are people who need a service dog so badly and have waited so long that they “create” a service dog. While it may be well-trained by the owner, the owner-trained service dogs I am familiar with are less well-trained. They are not kept as clean and well-groomed as they should be. They frequently have a bad smell because of poor diet. Their behavior is not as good as it should be.

Yes, I admit my bias. Waiting – however long it takes – to get a service dog through a well-run organization that trains the dogs carefully and ensures their behavior through annual re-certification by unbiased testers means there will be no problems with my dog. I will be re-trained to be a good partner – to be sure I know what I need to do: daily grooming, brushing of teeth, brushing of fur, excellent diet, no table scraps, regular vet visits, keeping up with immunizations, quarterly bathing, and daily practice of the behaviors she (or he!) will have been trained to perform. Over the course of a week, each behavior should be practiced at least 3 or 4 times. If there is hesitancy or improper execution extra time must be spent to bring that behavior up to speed.

This level of care and ongoing training is somewhat difficult for me with my Rheumatoid Disease and Fibromyalgia and with the attendant pain and fatigue. But it is worth it. Frankly, taking care of Emmy (my previous service dog) forced me to move more and to be more active. “Therapeutic,” said my rheumatologist. “Moving around helps keep your joints from freezing up. Keeps your muscles working.” It’s true. I will admit I have less inclined to be active since Emmy retired – not just because of the diseases, but because it is hard to force myself to do the moving I need to do. Himself helps me with that (“Come on, old girl, come sit with me in the kitchen while I cook supper.” “Go with me to Home Depot.” “Time to go to the grocery. Come on.”), and the gardening I started doing the year before Emmy retired helps, too. But – I have to admit honestly that there are times I don’t move around when I could if I just “pushed” myself more.

So – we are very happy. A new dog will be here relatively soon! She will be my helper, my companion, and my new friend.

Service Dog Certification — Spotting Fake Certification/Registration/ID

Many people are going on-line and getting fake “service dog” certification or ID cards or some kind of “registration.” This is an EXCELLENT article which shows how to spot fake ID / registration / certification.

Taxi Drivers Refuse Seeing Eye Dogs Entry

I wonder how all these US taxi drivers can get away with refusing to accommodate service dogs? Any other group of drivers would be fined heavily, and the taxi companies would be fined heavily and required to give training in the ADA laws and regulations. But this ONE group of people get away with it.

And another, related, problem is that in many cities the vast majority of taxi drivers are Muslim. So taxi after taxi after taxi either speeds by without picking up a person with a guide dog or a service dog, or refuses the dog, necessary to the passenger, entry into the taxi. Some people documented in the referenced article have had to wait over 3 hours to get a taxi to get home – often in inclement weather.

Why doesn’t the Federal Government and local police enforce the ADA law and regulations? No time? too much money? The IRS goes after even little people who owe less than $1000, but the ADA ignores blind and disabled people’s rights under the law?? We ARE talking about a significant minority group here – the disabled.

Between the Woofs: Beginning To Let Go

John Donne said, “No man is an island,  entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were;  any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. ” (

When Emmy had to retire, I felt diminished and island-like – alone. But this was all about me, not about Emmy. She had been my assistant for nearly 6 years, and I was bereft. I mourned as if she had died.

But she hasn’t died. She is with my son’s family, and is very happy with them. She is now their beloved pet. She “fell into clover,” as Himself says.

I now know, I have to let go. But I’m now open to the joy of a new dog. Whoever he or she is, there will be a special place for her in our lives and in my heart. It won’t be Emmy’s place. It will be her own place. She can’t and won’t take Emmy’s place – but Emmy couldn’t and wouldn’t take her place.

As a mother, I know each child is loved completely as himself or herself and each has a special place in the mother’s heart. How could I have lost sight of that?! My new dog will have a special place in my heart and be loved completely – just like adding a new child.

I’m surprised it took me this long to realize this! It’s as if a light has gone on inside – a big incandescent bulb that not only gives light, but gives heat. So my mind and heart are enlightened, and I am warmed inside, too.

So, on to the new Woof! It will be several months, but I will be preparing – reviewing my notes from the training camp I attended; reviewing the materials they gave me; reviewing my copy of “Don’t Shoot the Dog!” I will especially review the cues and re-memorize any I have forgotten (I don’t think I have, but I’ll review them, anyway!) I’m ready, and I’m preparing! New Woof, you have your own place in my heart waiting – just for you!

Between the Woofs: Grief – Ups and Downs

Well, 3 months have passed. There are times I think the pain is getting worse rather than better. Emmy is extremely happy with her new family (does that make me jealous? I think so, at times) and her health needs are being addressed very well.

In the meantime, between the woofs, I’ve contacted the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) about their Assistance Dog Loss Service. I don’t want my grief over Emmy to interfere with me bonding with the new woof, do I?

My (now Their) Emmy – such a wonderful assistance dog! I have a brief slideshow that I made from some of Emmy’s pix. I watch it from time to time – not so often that I get maudlin about her, but just to refresh my memory and love for her.

Himself keeps reminding me, “She was your employee, not just your precious pet.” He is right. But the 5 1/2 years we were together were precious to me, and created a bond deeper than I, a “cat person,” ever dreamed I would or even could have with a dog. Himself has taken up many of Emmy’s tasks – and I realize just how independent I was with her. I still needed help, you understand, but SHE provided most of the help. I didn’t have to ask other people for help nearly as much as I do without her.

So, life goes on. My birthday is coming up – and we are going to Medieval Times for dinner! I’m sure I’ll think, “wouldn’t Emmy be interested in those horses!” But, we’ll just have to go to Medieval Times again [this is the original website] after the new woof comes into our lives. Maybe for my next birthday! That’s something positive to look forward to!

Meantime, here is a picture of Emmy with her little boy – just too cute! Think she fell into clover? You betcha! 🙂

Emmy sleeps with the youngest boy (9). Think they adore each other?

Emmy sleeps with the youngest boy (9). Think they adore each other?

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