Archives for September 2009

Privilege

Over the years I have met many people with service dogs and each person brings a different perspective regarding access to the table. Some people think that everyone should just know the law and regulations regarding service dogs and refuse to educate people. Others feel that people should just ignore the fact a dog exists beside them and allow them to move on with their daily lives without asking questions or wondering why a dog has just entered a public place. Then there are others like me who believe in education and encourage people to come up and ask questions and learn what difference a dog can make. I recognize the fact that some people have health conditions which their dogs assist them with and they do not feel comfortable discussing it with others. And I understand that some people live busy lives and cannot afford the time to stop and answer every question or acknowledge every curious look. But, we have been given a privilege (not a right) that many people do not understand the reasons behind and it is our duty to educate and to understand why this knowledge does not exist.

I have been a guide dog user for 12 years now and have only really had access issues a dozen times. Yes, I use a dog because I am visually impaired and yes, the public is much more educated on the guide dog, but does this matter? – I have still faced access issues. I find the majority of my issues have been due to cultural differences and understanding. I know the people who have refused me should be aware of the laws regarding the refusal of service dogs, but sometimes there is a language barrier and sometimes there is a cultural belief which prohibits one from being around an animal such as a dog. Then there is the fear which exists because in many middle eastern countries dogs are wild and seen as dirty or evil. Therefore, as a guide dog user it is my duty to be polite (at first anyways) and explain what my dog does and what the laws are surrounding refusal of entry. In most cases the restaurant or store owners will relent seeing the fact that they do not have the authority to refuse me, but in other cases I will just choose to leave because the owner continues to ignore the fact that I am speaking. It bothers me when I hear other service dog users ranting about people who refused them and ignoring the fact that they themselves did not take the opportunity to attempt educating before throwing the law at them.

I guess I see having a guide dog and being allowed to take her into public places as a priviledge rather than as a right. If Cessna is barking, misbehaving or causing a scene then I feel the establishments have the right (no matter what the law says) to ask me to leave. If my dog is dirty or smelly then again I feel that restaurant and store owners have the right to ask me to leave. If she is well-behaved, well-groomed and not bothering others then I think that I should be allowed to remain, but if someone does not understand the law or the purpose of her being with me then it is my duty to educate because in many cases people just don’t understand.

I guess the point of this whole entry is to ask other service dog users out there to stop and think before they react to being refused entry into a public place. Ask yourself; is this person being rude? Or is this person missing the information required to understand what my dog does and why they are allowed to enter with me? Sometimes taking a few minutes to explain will avoid further issues later and issues for others who use service dogs as well.

A Month Has Passed

It has been just over a month since we moved north and I thought it was about time I sit down and fill everyone in on what’s been happening. The movers came around 9:00am on Monday the 24th of August and Huib and I piled the dogs into the car and set off on our long drive north. We made a bunch of stops in Guelph before leaving and then made a few stops on the drive to let the dogs relieve themselves and stretch their legs. They were all so good about being packed into the back of our little Cavalier. We arrived in Engleheart around 10:00pm and picked up our keys from the home owners. When we arrived at the house the dogs did their usual sniffing around and then quickly settled in for the night. The movers arrived around 10:00pm on Tuesday and quickly unpacked our stuff. They put together our bed, set up our china cabinet and put all of the boxes and Rubbermaid containers in their designated areas. My aunt and her guy friend arrived shortly after the movers and began helping us unpack and put things together. It was a long day, but we got a lot accomplished.

We have been living here for just over a month now and have only a few containers left to sort through. Huib has begun to create a path from our house to the lake and the dogs have begun to learn their boundaries. Cessna and Aspen both love the swimming and are learning to dock dive. Cessna has become pretty good at it, but Aspen still stops at the end of the dock and barks at the water not knowing what to do, but wanting to go after the toy that was thrown. Reece (9 months & 75lbs) still isn’t a huge fan of swimming, so spends most of his time running back and forth along the dock and shore waiting for the girls to come in so he can pounce on them and steal the toy or stick. Phoenix will go in to his shoulders and sometimes swim for a toy a couple of times, but most of the time he stands on the dock watching the “fools” chase the thrown object. I think he has decided that playing fetch is now for the “fools” to do rather than for him to waste his energy participating.

On the 14th of September we headed down to Waterloo and stayed with another fellow puppy raiser. We dropped Aspen off in Hanover to visit her breeder for a bit so only had Reece, Cessna and Phoenix. While “down south” as my sister likes to call it, we did some shopping at Costco, visited some friends and picked up some paperwork at the college. On the Wednesday evening we took part in the weekly puppy outing and got to meet an adorable new golden foster named Cooper. He was so tiny and fluffy – it made me miss my little golden girl. Reece was a star and out shined many of the other puppies around his age. He has come a long way from the insecure little chocolate puppy we picked up just 7 months ago.

On the Thursday morning we met up with another puppy raiser and gave Reece to her for his elbow assessment. Over the past month his limp has only improved when not doing the usual pavement and slippery floor walking he did while living in Guelph. Once we begin taking him for walks in town his limp gets progressively worse. Last week we got an update on Reece and he is behaving well – going into his crate without protest and playing well with the raisers other dogs (2 goldens, 1 lab, 1 toy poodle & a mix of some sort). She is still waiting for his vet records to arrive in the mail from the vet we took him to see, but is hoping to have him assessed this coming week so that we can pick him up on the weekend when we go back “down south” to retrieve Aspen. We will either be picking him up to continue fostering or we will be taking him to his forever home – a family with two young children. We had them come to meet Reece and he did absolutely amazing with both the 7 year old boy and his older sister. The young boy had him running up and down stairs and hills, but never once did Reece pull him off his feet. These children have ADHD and even though he might not be able to help them through service, Reece will be able to help them in other ways as their pet. It will be hard to say good-bye, but we know it is for the best – he is not a dog for us and we know he can do more for these children than he can staying with us.

It has sure been a quiet week without Aspen and Reece. Phoenix and Cessna sleep most of the time when Huib is at work. When he is home, we take them to the water to swim or around the property for a little exploring. We have started playing fetch with Cessna in the longer grass to see how she does at finding her Frisbee. On Friday she only missed finding it once out of the 10 or more times we threw it. I think we are going to look at the training that would need to happen for search and rescue and see if we can teach her some of that before looking into the actual volunteer process. Even though Cessna will be 6 years old at the end of October she still continues to learn new skills and desires the constant challenge.