Service dogs in Concord are amazing. They have been extensively trained, live strict but loved lives, and take care of their owners like truly no one else can. The dogs’ abilities to detect seizures, pick up dropped items, and even warn owners of impending stroke or heart attack make these dogs literally life savers.
With all the amazing things these animals can do, it’s no wonder we have learned to accept them in places we usually wouldn’t, like a restaurant or the office. But there is a growing cynicism towards service and support animals in general, and mostly because of misunderstanding, and I’ll admit that I used to be one of these people.
I was not raised in a house with pets, and I never could understand the “emotional support animal“. I could understand a seeing eye dog or a dog that assists with the hearing impaired, but these are obvious needs that a dog could help with. When I would see articles about an emotional support pig or bunny, I would roll my eyes.
The Best ESA Letter in Concord
World's Cutest Kitten Goes To Work.
Some animals have it, others don't. A service animal needs to be able to cope with the rigors of daily life for it's partner, because we can't do those things for ourselves. "A service animal is not a pet" is repeated a zillion times. That means, first and foremost you and your needs come first.
Willetta is five months old now. She's still a bit flighty for too much training, but I'm going to start her on the easier tasks. She needs three tasks that she can perform on command to be legal. They cannot be something a pet cat would do normally, they must relate specifically to my disabilities. She must be trained to behave well in public at all times, to walk on a leash and always be under control.
So far, she is harness and leash trained. She rides nicely in shopping cart baskets. If something frightens her, I just hold her and let her investigate from the safety of being held. Usually once does it. I purposely take her around noisy grasscutters, construction noises, what ever I can find, or what ever she looks startled at. She rides in the passenger side, and I'll be getting a safety seat for her soon.
The first thing I'll teach her is to be an obnoxious nag. She already knows how to do this, believe me! All I do is reinforce her natural tendencies to work for me. In the first case, to bug me to take my medications until I actually do. This may involve waking me up, getting my attention off the computer (much more difficult) or distracting me from whatever I am hyper-focused on. Not only will this be the easiest to train, but it's something I have a problem with that needs to be corrected as soon as possible. I need a more reliable timer, but I'll start with just my alarm clock.
The hardest part of any training is that I have to be consistent. Obviously, I have a problem with this, or I wouldn't need the service. It would be nice if I had an experienced trainer to help me, but the only one I know trains dogs and is allergic to cats, so she is an adviser only. Most the training guides out there are for dogs, but hey, Willetta and I are adaptable.
She will also be trained to let me know if someone is at the door, the phone rings, or she hears an emergency vehicle close by. To pat me if I am having an anxiety attack, the distraction and being able to hold her breaks the pattern. She will also fetch a small, special phone if I fall and it's not on me. I may get one that just dials 911 and teach her to call under the right circumstances. Now you see why I am starting with the easy tasks!
Training kids, training cats
I rarely leave the house anymore without one of the children asking if Willetta can come out for a walk. As I get further into Willetta's training, I'm less sure about letting the children walk her. But as I watched them gather around her today, each demanding politely a turn with her, I realized it wasn't just Willetta I am training.
These are a really remarkable bunch of children. I think the oldest is about 10, the youngest still not speaking in full sentences, but he can already skateboard. For the most part, they play happily together, watch out for each other and protect the youngest. Squabbles are short and made up quickly. No bullies in this part of the complex, and we all keep a sharp eye out for any that appear. There is always at least one parent in attendance, more as more children get home from school.
Some of the children have half siblings to Willetta, just a month older. One group doesn't have any animals because the Dad doesn't want them, and the little girls are kitten-starved, They come from seven families, and of course, quite varied situations. But when it comes to Willetta, they automatically take turns. Sometimes who's turn and how long is hotly disputed, and she always gets tired before every one gets a turn, but they are good about it.
Some of them are natural animal lovers. One small boy, not yet three, reached out and gently stroked her the first time he met her. There are no animals in his household. But there was the same rapt look in two pairs of blue eyes.
Today was beautiful. One of the neighbors had friends over for a barbecue. These uninitiated folks looked a little bemused when I re-emerged with a small white cat wearing a bright blue vest and walking on a multicolored leash. Children who had been playing all over the court suddenly converged on one spot. The adults looked a bit shocked, my neighbors are so used to it now that I don't think they explained for a few minutes what was going on. Some of my neighbors wandered over to say their own greetings to Willetta and chuck her under the chin. Even the dad who doesn't like animals forgot himself and tickled her and spoke to her like she is a person. He may be beginning to catch up to his childrens level of understanding some day.
I have to explain, usually every time because some of the children are so young, that Willetta has rules and must be walked in a certain way. No yanking on the leash. No screaming our shouting around her...that's actually for me. Only one child touching the leash at a time. Never, ever drag her. Respect her as a being all her own, and her status as my helper. The one child touching the leash at a time is a hard one for them. Willetta is often so surrounded by her fans that she really can't walk much. Today one toddler picked her up, he couldn't quite hold her properly and her eyes crossed a little bit more, but she never struggled. Before I could reach them, three little girls had rescued her.James, the little boy was quite offended. She may have been in a slightly awkward position, but he knows not to hold her too tight. He's a rough and tumble boy, big for his age, but he's gentle with Willetta. He may grab her tail and hold on, but he never pulls it. Again, the crowd of mini mamas rescue Willetta and sooth James frustration.
In time, Willetta was tired and wanted to come to mommy. At this point I get a lot of protests that they haven't had their turn, that she didn't walk for them, they hadn't gotten to hold her. I explain she is a child, just like they are, and she gets tired and needs to lay down. I get hugs and thank you's and the children scatter back to their games.
Now, I am one of them. They break off playing to come say hi or give me a hug. Oh, those hugs are sweet to someone who has no grandkids of her own. Today for the first time, my little redheaded boy came to me and took my hand and wanted to show me something. The "something" turned out to be two of the visiting children wildly riding one of those rides on a spring. They were totally delighted and totally delightful! I have no idea why he wanted to show me that, but he was right, I loved it. After a few more minutes of wild riding, the child on the back hopped off and offered Issac his seat. The happy yells of all three little boys mingled with the background noise of Tag! and My turn! and the smell of good barbecue.
Back inside, I collapsed on the couch, and Willetta sensibly collapsed in front of Moosie, who immediately began to groom her. Watching her look smugly ecstatic and seeing his look of rapt adoration, I think she got the better part of the deal. But then after all, she was the one entertaining a large group of children!
Start Seeing Service Dogs Please
If you are in the US, you may have heard of emotional support animal or ESA. An emotional support animal works like a companion animal for people and patients, for offering therapeutic benefits. Usually such animals are either cats or dogs, although a patient can choose other pets. The whole purpose of an ESA is to offer relief and support for disability, psychological symptoms or emotional stress. Check some of the basic facts you need to know before getting an ESA certificate.
To get an emotional support animal, you have to check with your physician to consider the option of proving verifiable disability, as stated by law. Your doctor or medical professional will give a note or a certificate, which will mention the concerned disability and the need for emotional support animal that will offer therapeutic care and healing. However, the animal isn't treated a service animal and therefore, there is no need for any formal training. In fact, all domesticated animals, including rodents, birds, reptiles, cats and dogs, can become an ESA.
There are professional companies, which can assist you in evaluating if you qualify for ESA evaluation letters, but these services are just meant for assistance. Ultimately, only licensed medical health professionals can offer you the certificate on their professional paper. Check online and you can find simple forms that will help finding your qualification. Don't miss on asking the rules and regulations with your doctor in detail. As a pet owner, you have to find the benefits of having an ESA, so that you can exercise your rights.
Please Do Not Pet Service Dogs On Duty
Responsible In The Driver's Seat
Hunter took the driver's seat to get an important message out to all drivers: "START SEEING SERVICE DOGS!"
Parking lots and cross walks can be such dangerous places for Hunter and he has had some close calls because of drivers not being careful when they see him or not even seeing him all. Now that is disturbing to Hunter. One of his family members has to travel by wheelchair and Hunter takes her safety seriously. He does not understand why anyone would not slow down when they see a wheelchair in a crosswalk. He is there wearing his red vest to help alert drivers to slow down or stop. Stopping and waiting is the right thing to do.
- He wants you to see his vest.
- He wants you to see him.
- He wants his family to be safe.
- He wants you to take his message seriously.
You can see an illustrated parking lot tutorial below.
Also, find out what the law is for your own sake and other's.
A Springer Spaniel Dog Breed
I had a by chance meeting with Hunter and his spokesperson one day. We visited for quite some time and I was allowed to take some pictures of Hunter, and he was a working dog while we were talking. This led to some arranged meetings and stories for me to tell.
The black and white Springer Spaniel was listening to what was being said. His spokesperson, Bob, emphasized again and again that the word needs to get out for drivers to "Start Seeing Service Dogs". I said that I would do what I can to help get that important message out.
Then, Hunter jumped into his spokesperson's truck, but he did not take the passenger seat that he usually does. He crossed over to the driver's seat and quietly waited for me to notice that I had an important picture to take of him.
A Felony Offense
Hunter's spokesperson told me that it is a felony offense if a driver does not stop for a Service Dog wearing their vest. It could also be a matter of life and death or serious injury to Hunter and a family member. Hunter would not flee from a dangerous situation to save himself, he takes his job seriously. Please take his message seriously and pass it on.
A Matter of Life and Death
You see, when Hunter is in uniform, he is working to help and protect his beloved family. He is doing the job he is trained for.
If you see Hunter in public, he does not have time to socialize with you and you should never ever try to distract him from his duties. It may be a matter of being able to alert his family members to the danger that is on the line, it could be a matter of life and death.
Here you can see Hunter continuing to cross the parking lot as the ambulance is on the move and heading toward him and his people. The Service Dog's vest is plainly visibleHere you can see Hunter continuing to cross the parking lot as the ambulance is on the move and heading toward him and his people. The Service Dog's vest is plainly visible
Cell Phones Distract Drivers
Hunter hopes this message will help everyone know what to do when they see him or other Service Dogs crossing in a parking lot. On this day, there was another close call when a driver using a cell phone did not even seem to notice Hunter and the people he serves as they were about to do some shopping.
Hunter has served his lady, Linda for six years and now also serves his spokesperson, Bob. He wants to keep them safe and is asking for your help. That saying, “a picture paints a thousand words”, works here.
Hunter is thrilled to be able to present pictures of what drivers are expected to do when they see him working. His most important message to all drivers is: "Start Seeing Service Dogs"
Do Not Break The Law
You can tell why this message is the most important one that Hunter wants everyone to know. He loves the people that he assists and cares about you. Yes, this Spaniel likes everyone and does not want anyone to break the law, or put people with disabilities in harms way.
Another Important Message
Hunter has an important message he wants me to tell you about.
Don't Pet Rule
He understands how important this message is.
Some Things Are Worth Repeating
I decided to be a voice for Hunter and the people he serves because I feel it is important for this message to be heard by motorists. All too often this service dog has almost gotten hit by a vehicle while on duty.
Parking lots outside of shopping centers are a dangerous place for these guide dogs and their people. Why? Because people are not paying close enough attention to their surroundings while driving. Texting and talking on cell phones is the biggest distraction that Bob and Linda see while in the line of fire.
Hunter Helps with Hearing Loss
Hunter is very social and very polite, though much less formal at home. I was so pleased when he would come and sit by me and lean a little against my leg. It didn’t take long for him to train me into the fact that he preferred that I pet him on the back of his neck to the middle of his back. Once he even sat on my foot to be closer, my smile got bigger! When I sat on the floor, Hunter came along side and I found myself putting an arm around him. Awesome!
Hunter has full run of the house and is completely trusted by Bob and Linda. Bob has raised many Springer Spaniels over the years, he says Hunter stands out above others he has known. Hunter began looking after Linda on his own at the age of two and is now seven and has taken on the additional duty of serving Bob because of hearing loss.
Service Animals, Emotional Support Animals, and Guide Dogs
How Should You Act Around a Service Dog?
How should you act around a service dog?
A person's natural instinct is to pet and play with dogs.
Unfortunately, we must all respect the vest or cape of the service dog and ignore the dog as much as possible. That means not petting it, touching it, distracting it, talking to it, teasing it, or especially feeding it.
So, how should you act? Really the best way and only recommended way is by totally ignoring the dog the same way you would politely ignore a wheelchair or cane.
A service dog that is not ignored may become "ruined" and unusable by its owner, and given that service dogs are both very hard to find for specific conditions and extremely expensive (typically averaging $15,000 each) this can be devastating for the dog's owner.
By violating this etiquette, you have also just helped contribute to the person's loss of freedom and possibly made it necessary for the owner to give up the dog, which would be heartbreaking, and for the person to require the use of a Personal Care Attendant (PCA)—another person shadowing them all the time—to provide some of the services that the dog used to perform.
Service Dog Basics for the Public
Do you have a hard time working around a service dog?
It's very hard for some people to be around service dogs and service dogs in-training because a person's natural instinct is to pet and play with dogs, especially the healthy well-kept dogs who work as service dogs.
Unfortunately, we must all respect the vest or cape of the service dog and ignore the dog as much as possible rather than petting it, touching it, distracting it, talking to it or teasing it, or even looking at it.
When the cape/vest is on, the dog is working
After all, whenever the cape is on, the dog is working hard, whether it looks like it to you or not.
Among other things, the dog is working very hard to ignore you and the tiny morsel of food on the floor over there that looks tasty.
The dog is also focused on its handler, remaining alert for any commands, scents, or hand signals for action.
It falls asleep all the time. How is that "working"?
Most service dogs are trained to catch a nap whenever possible during the day to give them the energy they need when their work is most actively needed.
Napping at strategic times, such as lunchtime and meetings, is a type of work essential for them to do their service dog work; the dog is not in any way "falling asleep on the job" in a negative sense.
So, how should you act?
Really the best way is by ignoring the dog the same way you would politely ignore a wheelchair or cane.
The service dog and its handler try to minimize the distraction the dog provides to the public, but the public needs to learn and obey manners with respect to the dog and the disabled person (or dog trainer) also.
Remember that it's not polite to stare, point, or talk about people.
One thing you should never do
It's very impolite to ask why someone uses a service dog because their disability is private health information.
Benefits of service dogs
Service dogs can be of great benefit to people with all sorts of disabilities, including invisible disabilities like diabetes, asthma, vertigo, and psychiatric disabilities.
Don't assume that a person who "looks good" and is with a service dog isn't disabled just because the disability isn't obvious to you.
Bonus: Service dogs are also a calming, friendly presence around the office or place or business.
Remember, if a service dog's vest is on they are working.
Service dogs are NOT pets, by law, and interfering with a service dog team is actually a crime in most states.
The same manners that apply to a wheelchair apply to a service dog: that's the easiest way to remember what's right or wrong most of the time.
The (Common) Sense Pet Professionals