Service dogs in Missouri City 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 Emotional Support Service Animal letter in Missouri City
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!
Quick Aspects About Applying for an ESA Certificate
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.
Quick Aspects About Applying for an ESA Certificate
Hunter is looking you right in the eye for some straight talk because he would like to have a heart to heart conversation with you.
Hunter is pleading for your help to spread the word about an alarming issue.
Today, Hunter wants to inform the public about a growing problem that is a big concern for all properly trained and registered Service Dogs, and their owners. They do not want to offend anyone or hurt anyone's feelings, but this is an important topic that must be shared. Hunter has actually heard about and seen with his very own brown eyes, dogs who are wearing a Service Dog vest that they have not earned with training or authentic registration. Hunter is shocked when he sees these fake Service Dogs that lack animal training are acting inappropriately in public. He knows at a glance that those dogs are not qualified to wear a real Service Dog vest. He does not blame the dogs, but he would like to speak directly to the people in charge of their pets.
Hunter is aware that it is not the dogs that are responsible for this counterfeit activity. It is the owners who have found a way to bring their pets into places that they would not be allowed otherwise. It seems that if there is anything legitimate, there is an illegitimate copy that can be found. Just like people who sometimes find a way to get fake I.D's for themselves, some are getting fake I.D.'s that look real for their dogs. Pet owners also are able to purchase "Service Dog" vests, which is not against the law. However, Hunter wants you to know it is very wrong to do.
You have already seen a photo of Hunter's vest, that he only wears when on duty in public. I am including a picture of his Service Dog Registration Of America I.D., which is attached to his vest at all times. Hunter's spokesperson and "Handler", Bob, wants to remain anonymous, so I removed his name. Bob wants all the attention to go to Hunter's message. Other legitimate Service Dogs may have certification from other registries.
Hunter understands that many people love their dogs and want to keep them with them whenever possible. He knows what it is to be loved like that. He also knows that it takes some particular character traits and training to be a real Service Dog. Hunter has earned the right to go where other dogs should not go, and he is true to the assistance animal's code of ethics.
I made mention that Hunter has eyeballed dogs with wannabe Service Dog vests on that display inappropriate behaviors which make them totally unsuitable for real dog assistance duties in the public. They can be insufferably annoying, because of their lack of obedience training at best or dogs PTSD. They may be doing regular dog stuff like sniffing people, jumping on people, barking or just being silly. They may be doing things that are of greater concern, such as running about, threatening with a growl or other behaviors, biting or even urinating on the floor of a business. They may create safety issues that put the public at risk. A well-trained guide dog would never do those things while on duty. A Service Dog "Handler" is responsible for keeping their dog focused and would not think of allowing their dog to be disruptive in any way. There are times when Hunter does bark, but it is for specific reasons to keep the people he serves safe.
These pretenders are making it more difficult for Hunter and other legitimate Service Dogs. Please, listen to Hunter when he says:
"Please Don't Make Your Dog Pretend To Be A Service Dog!"
He Is A Dog
Hunter the Service Dog likes to play in the snow when he and Bob go outside for chores. Hunter keeps an eye on Bob intermittently while taking time for himself to enjoy a little cool down in the snow. I watched and smiled as he would repeatedly stick his head in the snow with his rump up in the air. He was just so cute and it was plain to see that he was most definitely enjoying himself.
When this handsome hound goes to town in the winter, he often wears boots to protect his feet from the salt and other chemicals used on roads and parking lots. But, at home, Hunter prefers to go barefoot in the snow.
On a personal note, Hunter is one of those rare dogs that just naturally has chosen to “go” in the woods for his private duties. He is, however, still a dog and I noticed he did mark my tires. That made me smile too.
Hunter is trusted to have the run of the yard and lives in harmony with the birds, squirrels and even a deer that stopped by the yard. He sees everyone, but its Bob that he focuses on. It is easy to see that these guys are buddies and have a wonderful friendship, as well as a great working relationship.
Hunter Is Family
Once inside again, Hunter made his way quickly to Linda to make sure all was well with her.
Every greeting seems like its the first one of the day in this harmonious household.
It is a joy to visit this little family.
I am honored to have the opportunity to be a voice for Hunter, who has some serious things to talk about. He is living out his calling in life as a Service Dog, that he volunteered himself for, he is a natural. When he stepped up for the job, Bob and Linda decided to have Hunter become official. When that vest is on, this dog is on duty at full alert.
It is interesting that dogs know when there is going to be bad weather that could be dangerous, and Hunter is one of those furry friends that knows instinctively, and will warn his people before hand. They have learned to take his warning seriously. Hunter may have saved lives at a campground one summer. No storm was forecast, but out of nowhere a terrible storm came with strong winds and destroyed to campground knocking down most of the trees. The campers had been evacuated because of one smart dog.
The fight to have laws passed for people with special needs to be able to bring their service animals into public places with them was long. People's unruliness and unlawful behavior of bringing their pets places with them into public places should not be accepted, because they could potentially ruin it for people who by law have that privilege.
Linda has been having health problems that have either landed her in the hospital or in a nursing home. Bob and Hunter go to visit her everyday. When visiting the nursing home, Hunter does not wear his vest because the people who live there want to pet him. Hunter is trained to not allow himself to be petted while wearing the vest. So! He is being of service to many as a comfort dog or therapy dog.
What's the Difference Between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals?
There is controversy surrounding the roles of animals in the lives of people with disabilities or chronic illnesses. Many of us have seen the posts online about registering your animal as an emotional support animal with a small fee, and being able to keep your animal in a no pets allowed setting. This has led people to question the legitimacy of all service animals and their roles. A feeling of distrust among people who do not understand the difference between these animals, and the rights that accompany them, has been emerging as more people utilize these services.
Service Dogs are the most protected and trained of the 3 types of dogs. While many people refer to all 3 types as "service animals", the official names for this type is Service Dog. These dogs are legally considered medical equipment and have a price tag to match, ranging from $10,000- $50,000. They are intensively trained for 1.5-2.5 years, having to pass a variety of tests to be serviceable including, but not limited to, opening cupboards, retrieving dropped objects, staying calm in public, etc.
The last type we are discussing are Emotional Support Animals. This one is the most vague and open-ended. An Emotional Support Animal does not have to have any special training and most of the time is registered by its owner because it brings comfort. Also, an Emotional Support Animal does not have to be a dog. These animals are not protected under the ADA and cannot accompany their owners in establishments where there are no animals allowed. Owners with a registered support animals can keep them in housing that otherwise does not allow pets according to the Fair Housing Act.
The (Common) Sense Pet Professionals