Me and My Dog

Trust is built with consistency.~Lincoln Chafee

Much has been said recently about service dogs. I have two, one that detects diabetic issues and another that helps keep me from falling over. One is a blue heeler while the other is a Great Dane. One flies under the radar and they other, well, draws a lot of attention. Honestly, they both draw attention. Today I had my heeler with me as I ran errands. It’s really cold right now, so she was wearing shoes and a coat. I had at least a dozen people ask me how they could bring their dog everywhere with them.

Let me make something very clear here. I love dogs. I have two pets in addition to my service dogs. But those two are exactly that, pets. They are my companions at home. They lack the training to be out in public like my service dogs. I’m not talking about their manners, which really are awful. They were never trained to mitigate my disabilities.

For every person that said that it must be great to take my dog everywhere, I know there are at least a dozen more thinking the same thing. I will admit that it is great to take my dog everywhere, but not for the reasons you think. You see, my diabetic alert dog (DAD) keeps me safe. She can tell when I’m about to have a problem. She carries all my supplies in her packs. She wakes me up at night when my diabetes is acting up. In short, she is my lifesaver.

I told our vet the other day that Blizzard and I have a healthy co-dependent relationship. She watches over me and I take care of her. That means taking the time to put on her shoes (similar to putting shoes on two toddlers at the same time). Remembering to pack her water bowl and bottles of water. Being stopped while shopping and having strangers ask very personal questions. And explaining to people that Blizzard is not a pet and that slapping a vest on a dog does not make it a service dog.

I would guess that those people who want to bring their dog everywhere haven’t really given much thought to how ignorant they sound to a person with disabilities. A service dog mitigates disabilities. Mine makes it possible for me to function with way fewer hospital visits. Would you like to take on my disabilities so you can bring your dog everywhere? That’s what you’re saying when you tell me how cool it would be to have your pet with you. I don’t see people lining up to become disabled just so they can take their dog with them.

If you have the good fortune to run across a service dog team, please respect the team. The handler most likely doesn’t want to disclose information about their disability. Whistling and making clicking noises at the team could create a life or death situation by distracting the team. I feel that snapping pictures without permission just because I have a service dog implies I’m some kind of zoo animal on display. I won’t be rude most of the time, but I’m not out with my service dog for anyone’s entertainment. I have things to do and places to go. Don’t be offended if I give you a short answer and walk away.

Blizzard and I have worked together for 3 years. We know each other’s habits and can tell how each other feels. It’s a relationship built on trust. And many, many hours of training. I never envisioned myself counting on a dog to save my life every day. Then again, I never envisioned myself having debilitating conditions.


If it has teeth….

My own quote today…Anything with teeth can bite you.

I mean real teeth, not metaphorical for once. I’ve had a guppy latch onto my finger. I’ve had dogs, cats and guinea pigs bite me. I’ve had children bite me by accident. I’ve had teenagers bite me on purpose. Family members, students and even a stranger have bitten me. Are all these people and animals evil for biting me?

I don’t think so. Sometimes I’ve deserved it…really, if you stick your hand in a guinea pig cage you should expect a nibble. Working with students who have severe disabilities means sometimes things happen when students are frustrated. Horseplay frequently leads to someone being bit in my house. It’s just part of what to expect.

By now, you are probably wondering why I’m talking about bites. In my social media platform I received notification about a company that denied access to a girl and her service dog ( The girl has Autism, the dog is a pit bull. From the sounds of it, they were denied access because of the bully breed. My point is, anything with teeth has the capacity to bite you. It has nothing to do with the organism in specific. It’s just part of the package you have to accept when you decide to be around things with teeth.

Just in case you’re not familiar with service dogs, I’d like to correct a few statements made in the article linked above. By Federal law, service dogs are not required to be “certified” or “registered.”  Some states do require a registration tag for identification, but that is a state requirement for people who reside permanently in that state. Nor are service dogs required to be “vested” or “harnessed” for identification purposes. I’m not required to carry documentation or “paperwork” about my disabilities or my dog. By law, a business owner can ask if my dog is a service dog and does she mitigate a disability. That’s it. See for more specifics. The owner may also ask me to leave if my service dog is acting unruly or disrupting business (although not if her alert is to draw attention to my medical needs).

My service dog is a blue heeler mix. The breed is well-known for their high energy and herding abilities. Most people seem to be familiar with how these dogs nip at ankles to get people to move along. I get many comments about “how can you have a dog like that around children?” The answer is easy – she was trained not to nip at ankles.

Before you condemn a breed because of reputation, look who’s holding the leash. I have many friends in the service dog community that rely on bully breeds because of their ability to perform mobility work. These dogs are highly trained and are no more threatening than the person standing next to you. A poorly trained dog, whether it be a chihuahua or a Great Dane, is a poorly trained dog.

As an aside, next time you want to bite someone, remember you just might get a reputation as a vicious individual.