Posted in Wagging Through Life Blogs

What It Means To: Embrace Your Need For Self-Care!

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers!  Before I get into this post, I owe a huge THANK YOU for all of the views, likes, and positive feedback on my previous blog post!  A special thank you to “Earle the Service Dog” for sharing my post on Facebook and initiating a much-needed discussion about the growing concerns of fraudulent service dogs!  🙂

In today’s post I want to highlight the importance of self-care and provide examples of how you (yes, even the busiest of yous) can engage in a daily self-care routine to promote a healthy mental and physical well-being!

“If you work hard, you’ll get good grades.” 

“If you work hard, you’ll get a high-paying job.”
“If you work hard, your friendships will last forever (most don’t, by the way).”

Familiar with statements such as these?  In today’s society, we instill these types of statements in children before they are even able to comprehend the words we are spewing at them.  We make promises to kids that if they try hard enough, they can achieve anything.  But what happens when we try too hard?  Is there such a thing as trying too hard to achieve your goals?

Story time:

Throughout my life, hard work has proven to be one of my most treasured values.  Regardless of the task at-hand, these “If you work hard” statements were unwittingly on a never-ending loop in the back of my mind.  They reminded me to persevere until I achieve the ultimate goal — success.  As a high school student and throughout my undergraduate experience, my drive for success was at an all-time high.  My first two years as an undergraduate student were spent studying, rewriting notes, writing papers, reading textbook after textbook, and if the sun was still shining when I finished all of that, I would start again.  I developed this unhealthy mentality that, in an effort to achieve success, every awakening moment had to quite literally be spent working in some capacity.  At one point during my sophomore year, I was maintaining five separate jobs, a course load of five classes per semester, and volunteer work.  So can you try too hard to achieve success?  In short, yes!

It wasn’t until I recently began my graduate program that I (thankfully) started to embrace the concept of self-care.  My experiences as a graduate student taught me a crucial life lesson:  The absence of self-care can lead to burnout, physical fatigue, and mental exhaustion.  I learned that, regardless of time constraints and busy schedules, self-care can and should always be incorporated into one’s daily routine!  Now, I have replaced those “If you work hard” statements with “Move over hard work, self-care coming through!”

Pinella helps me incorporate self-care by scheduling daily walks together!

So what is self-care?  In a simple answer, self-care is “you time,” but it certainly extends beyond that.  To be a true act of self-care, it should be self-initiated, deliberate, and intended to promote your physical and mental health.  It should be something that you thoroughly enjoy, look forward to, and plan out in your daily routine.  Reading this may unquestionably invoke thoughts about what constitutes self-care and how it can be incorporated into a busy, parent of three kids, high school soccer coach, full-time employee type of schedule.  Have no fear:  I have outlined examples for individuals of all abilities below that demonstrate just how simple self-care can be!  🙂

“Move Over Hard Work, Self-Care Coming Through”

Physical Self-Care Activities (Sedentary):

  • Take a bubble bath
  • Write, blog, or journal/log  your thoughts
  • Watch a movie, television show, or favorite YouTube channel
  • Read a book, magazine, newspaper, or Sit, Stay, & Blog posts 🙂
  • Craft, scrapbook, paint, or draw
  • Sit outside or at your favorite window and embrace the nature surrounding you
  • Sing
  • Learn how to play a musical instrument
  • Meditate
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Take a nap, rest
  • Get a massage, manicure, pedicure
  • Listen to motivating music
When I’m not writing about dogs, I’m reading about them as part of my self-care routine!

Physical Self-Care Activities (Active):

  • Dance to your favorite beat
  • Exercise:  Run, walk, ride a bike, yoga, go hiking, train for a running race (5K, 10K)
  • Go shopping, treat yourself to a new book, article of clothing, candle, etc.
  • Photography
  • Bake your most prized dessert
  • Cook your famous Thanksgiving dish
  • Clean, rearrange your furniture (but NOT done as a chore!)
  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter, service dog organization, hospital, soup kitchen, shelter, etc.




5Ks and 10Ks are incorporated into my self-care plan!

Mental Self-Care Activities:

  • Replace one negative thought with three positive thoughts:
    • “I can’t fit self-care into my daily schedule” –>
      1.  “I can take 30 minutes to take a bubble bath.”
      2.  “I can spend 45 minutes playing with my dog.”
      3.  “I can sit down and watch my favorite TV show tonight.”
  • Create a list of things you are most grateful for
  • Do a mental check-in and think about your current thoughts, feelings, and emotions
  • Stay in the moment:  Acknowledge 5 things you can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel
  • Having trouble powering down after work?  Mentally tell yourself all of the things you’re doing as you end your day (I am shutting down my computer, I am grabbing my jacket and putting it on, I am turning off the light, I am closing my office door, I am walking to my car, etc.)  Essentially, leave work at work and home at home! 🙂



Pets and Self-Care Activities:

  • Snuggle with your pet
  • Enjoy a nap with your pet
  • Take  your pet on a hike, a walk, or on a trip to a nearby dog park
  • Play hide-and-seek with them at home
  • Place their kibble/food sporadically throughout your home and watch them play hide-and-seek!
  • Reminisce on all of your favorite memories with your pet
  • Take them to a pet-friendly pet store and watch their excitement when they pick out a new toy (Don’t forget to skedaddle when you see a working service dog!)
  • Play tug, fetch…just play!
  • Read them a book (It sounds silly, but I’m sure they’ll love you for it!)
  • Tell your pets how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking (You won’t find anyone more nonjudgmental!)
  • Have training sessions with your pet
Pinella, Alex, and I often incorporate a good hike into our self-care routine!

Regardless of your busy schedule, it is time that you incorporate self-care into it!  If you keep a planner or calendar, start scheduling specific times to engage in your self-care activities.  But don’t let it be an added stressor for you:  Start off slow and gradually increase your commitment to self-care.  In my favorite words from my dad, “Never say you can’t do it, just do it!”  🙂

As always, I want to thank you for reading!  Comment below what you do for self-care or what you plan on incorporating into your daily routine to ensure you’re achieving optimal mental and physical health!  Don’t forget to “Like” and “Follow” Sit, Stay, and Blog on Facebook and Twitter, and stay tuned for the next post!


Posted in Tail-Wagging Dog Blogs

“What It Means To: Impersonate a Service Dog”

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers!

Impersonate a service dog?  Unfathomable!  You might not do it, but some individuals do, and this causes a plethora of problems for service dog handlers, working dogs, and puppy raisers.  As a disclaimer, much of this post is written from the perspective of a service dog raiser/trainer because that is where my experience with fake service dogs emanates from.

Pinella on her first day in training with me!

Fake Service Dogs and the Problems They Pose:

Service dogs undergo approximately 18-24 months of training through which they become highly socialized to other people, animals, sounds, etc.  Through training and socialization activities, they learn how to ignore dogs who are barking, lunging, playful, and/or misbehaving.  When fake, untrained service dogs encounter working service dogs in public, several problems can arise including, but not limited to, injuries.  In this  PBS News Hour article, Earle (a working service dog) experienced injuries after being bitten by a poodle whose owner was posing him as a service dog.

“My dog never moved, never retaliated, never barked. He did nothing. That is the way a service dog is trained”

Ollove, Michael (2017) cites Slavin, Chris, Earle’s handler.

Too Many Dogs:
Read closely as this is the only time my dog-loving self will ever type this:  There can exist such a thing as too many dogs.  As the use of legitimate service dogs becomes a more widely recognized and accepted practice in society, the number of dogs in public will undoubtedly increase.  What is problematic, however, is when the number of untrained and/or under-trained dogs in public increases.  Many of us possess a desire to take our dogs everywhere we go, but in reality, this is simply not practical.  Further, it is our duty as dog owners to reserve those public access rights for legitimate working service dogs and their handlers!

Public Access Denial:
Restaurants, stores, airport personnel, and other business establishment owners face the unnecessary challenge of figuring out how to navigate a situation in which they suspect a dog is being posed as a fake service dog.  By law and pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), only two questions are permissible to ask upon determining the legitimacy of a service dog:

1.  Is the dog required because of a disability?
2.  What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Business owners often must weigh the outcomes of two possible decisions:  1.  The costs associated with being sued for denying a legitimate service dog team their public access rights and 2.  The costs and dangers of admitting a fake service dog into their establishment.  Unfortunately, protecting the integrity of the establishment sometimes results in the denial of public access rights for deserving individuals and their working service dogs.  This undoubtedly poses unnecessary obstacles for individuals whose physical and/or mental disabilities already present with a host of accompanying challenges.

An important job of a service dog and service dog in-training is having good attention on their handler  as Pinella demonstrates here!

Reputation Wreckers:
One negative encounter with a fake service dog is often enough justification for people to deem service dogs as “ill-behaved,” “not worthy of being in public,” “mean,” “dumb,” “aggressive,” etc.  This is harmful because the years of training these dogs undergo with their dedicated trainers is often negated and disregarded.  Although I have no concrete evidence to support this claim, it is my opinion that service dog handlers’ reputations could additionally be affected.  I speculate that others may deem them as “irresponsible,” “unable to control their animals,” “incapable,” “lazy,” etc. as a result of the actions of dog owners who pose their pets as fake service dogs.

You log onto your computer, do a general search for service dog vest, click purchase, and within a few days a $20 service dog vest is delivered to your doorstep.  Convenience, right?  Wrong!  For your pet who has never been in a public establishment, you are about to expose them to what will likely be an overwhelming, anxiety-producing, and stressful experience.  Are you and your $20 fake service dog vest equipped to deal with that?

Dogs need practice in social environments which entails a great deal of socialization. This may first require starting off small (perhaps standing outside of a mall) before working up to more complex outings (walking in a grocery store next to a shopping cart or performing a long down stay in a good-smelling restaurant).  In essence, a non-working dog cannot be introduced to a public space and be expected to automatically respond positively to it.  Without adequate training, proper socialization, and exposure, the dog may be subject to stress and become fearful.  Your previously non-aggressive, “wouldn’t hurt a fly” dog may start to exhibit behavioral issues such as aggression toward a passerby.

Aside from experience in public settings, dogs often need exposure to wearing a vest.  Halfway through training Pinella for service dog work, she experienced harness sensitivity.  Putting on the vest was sometimes anxiety-provoking for her, and she would refuse to respond to cues.  However, through additional training and positive associations, we were able to overcome it.  This example serves as yet another testament to the nature of the work that is required to produce legitimate service dogs — it is not as simple as putting on a vest and strolling into public!

Untrained and Under-trained:
As mentioned throughout this post, fake service dogs are often untrained or under-trained.  Without the adequate training, their “service dog” life is unfamiliar, uncomfortable territory.  They are unsure of how to respond and behave.  I equate it to an accountant, for example, walking into an operating room to perform open-heart surgery.  That would be uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and rather unfair to expose that individual to that type of situation without proper training — the same goes for service dogs!

As a service dog  in-training, Pinella accompanied me at work & classes!

Irresponsible Dog Ownership:
When I think about the act of faking one’s pet as a legitimate service dog, I often question the motive.  Is this an individual who has little respect and regard for the rights of others?  Perhaps this is someone who would be an ideal candidate for a service dog but lacks education about problems that impersonating service dogs can pose?  Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of dog owners to become better educated about the potential dangers that impersonating a service dog can pose to you, your pet, service dog handlers, working dogs, and the general public.

In addition, individuals with legitimate service dogs are required at all times to accompany and maintain control of their service dog when in public.  Otherwise, they are lawfully allowed to be asked to leave the establishment.  This emphasizes that the Americans with Disabilities Act upholds service dogs and their handlers to high standards, thereby setting the stage for responsible dog ownership.

Legal Obstacles and General Challenges:
In writing this post, I utilized numerous articles to clarify exactly what the laws are regarding misrepresentation of service dogs.  Here is where a dilemma arose:  Via an internet search using key terms such as fake service dogs and crime, many articles indicate that the ADA warrants impersonating a service dog as a federal crime.  In assessing the provisions of the ADA itself, I was unable to locate any information regarding the like.  However, the American Bar Association indicated that, while the ADA has no such provisions, individual states have associated misrepresentation of a service dog as a misdemeanor (Goren, 2014).    In addition to this conundrum, there does not exist a national registry for service dogs that is recognized by the Department of Justice.  Service dogs are also not required to be harnessed in a vest or wear an identification badge, and covered entities are not permitted to request documentation from the handler that confirms the dog has been trained, certified, or licensed (U.S. Department of Justice, 2015).

…’Ruff’ stuff, am I right?


Since becoming involved in the service dog community, I have heard various stories about the independence that service dogs provide to their partners.  For example, prior to having a service dog, some individuals are unable to leave their residences and enter public spaces (due to physical constraints, mental limitations, etc.).  Service dogs essentially assist in mitigating those types of challenges.  When fake service dogs are introduced, problems arise on many levels.

Taking Pinella into public is undoubtedly the thing I miss the most about her service dog training.  However, as her responsible pet owner, I recognize that it is my moral and civic obligation to respect the rights of working dogs, their handlers, and their former hard-working raisers/trainers.  As an alternative, we now opt for outings to pet-friendly establishments such as PetSmart and Lowe’s (while still keeping in mind that we must leave or relocate upon seeing a working or in-training service dog)!


If you are someone who truly believes that having a dog in public would assist you in gaining independence and mitigating challenges that accompany your physical and/or mental disability, then I urge you to do your research!  Find the nearest service dog organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International and inquire!  If cost becomes an issue, get creative with fundraising, look for organizations that provide dogs for free, or inquire about possible payment plan options.  Always remember, there are thousands of individuals like myself who dedicate their time, energy, and money to reputable service dog organizations  in an effort to simplify the process for deserving individuals to obtain a highly trained service dog!  If you need help, please feel free to reach out to me via my Contact page! 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this rather lengthy, yet informative post!  As you can tell, this is a topic that sparks a never-ending passion in me!  Don’t forget to follow and like Sit, Stay, & Blog on Twitter and Facebook, and stay tuned for next week’s post!  🙂



Goren, W.D. (2014).  Service dogs and the rights of the disabled.  In March/April 2014:  Disability law.  Retrieved from

Ollove, Michael. (2017, October 16).  These 19 states are cracking down on fake service dogs.  Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Justice.  (2015, July 20).  Frequently asked questions about service animals and the ADA.  Retrieved from




Posted in Wagging Through Life Blogs

“What It Means To: Unplug From Social Media!”

Welcome back, Sit, Stay, & Bloggers, and Happy 2018!  Is your New Year’s resolution to unplug from social media?  The mere fact that you’re reading this blog on a social media platform tells me one of two things:  1.  You’ve broke your New Year’s resolution;  2.  You’re starting your resolution on the day that never comes:  tomorrow!

No, I did not unplug for the purposes of this post.  My social media news feeds are loaded with never-ending cycles of adorable puppy photos.  With that I ask, can you blame me?  Therefore, today’s post, a Q & A style blog, was inspired by Alex’s (my boyfriend) recent experiences unplugging from two social media platforms:  Facebook and Twitter.

Pinella blog
Pinella can’t unplug from social media!  Who do you think gives you blog updates on Facebook and Twitter?

Background Information:

  • What is your rationale behind maintaining a Facebook account?
    • Alex described that he utilizes Facebook as a way to remain connected with family members and friends.  He additionally described that life updates posted via Facebook appear to serve as a social lubricant when reconnecting with friends and family at holiday gatherings, parties, etc.  For example, if I adopt a dog and post about it on Facebook, this provides my friends and family with an easy conversation starter  –>  “How is your new puppy doing?”
  • What made you decide to temporarily disconnect from social media?
    • Alex stated that one of the motivating factors was to discover whether or not he had the willpower to actually do it.  He recently recognized that he was checking social media “too frequently”  and defined “too frequently” as approximately 9x/day on weekends and 3x/day on weekdays.  He explained that it was overwhelming to repetitively read negative comments, posts, or complaints from others.  Alex interestingly stated that the start of a new year also often prompts statements such as “2017 was such a terrible year, so 2018 has to be better,” which he wanted to actively avoid, hence the timing of the disconnect (New Year’s Eve).
  • Did you unplug from all social media outlets or just Facebook and Twitter? 
    • Alex continued to use Snapchat and LinkedIn; however, he now questions how his experience would have differed if he unplugged from all platforms entirely.
  • How long have you been unplugged from your social media platforms?
    • Nine days at the time of this interview.

What Happened? 

  • Did you find yourself wanting to check social media more or less frequently as the days progressed?
    • Alex stated that on days one, two, and three, for example, he had less of a desire to check.  However, as time progressed, he found himself wondering what he has missed out on.
  • How did you spend your newfound free time not spent checking social media?
    • Something that I observed and Alex admitted to was that he spent more time physically reading a book, a treasured pastime of his.  He additionally stated that the quantity and quality of time spent playing and interacting with Pinella improved.  He ultimately felt more relaxed and spent less time with his phone at his fingertips.
  • Were there any aspects of your physical health that changed upon disconnecting?  
    • Alex admitted that, with less time that his eyes were fixated on a screen, he noticed a reduction in eye strain and felt as if his eyes were “less heavy.”
  • Were there any aspects of your mental health and mood that changed upon disconnecting?
    • The mental health counselor-in-training in me was intrigued to hear about Alex’s experiences with regard to changes in mental health and overall mood.  He stated that he didn’t feel as “down,” which he attributes to the reduction in the amount of negativity that he was previously surrounding himself with via social media.
  • What was the most interesting thing you noticed? 
    • He discussed a recent realization regarding how frequently individuals prompt conversations with, “Did you see _____ on Facebook?”  (Apparently, I’m guilty of this too!).  He stated that social media posts allow people to share a similar “Facebook world,” and when you unplug from that arena, you’re instantly out of the loop and disconnected from those conversations.   He said it was surprising and amazing to have recognized how much of the “Facebook world” enters real-world conversations.
  • Were there any negative effects you experienced?  
    • Alex noted that he doesn’t feel as connected to others as he previously did and  that disconnecting from social media has also required him to lose access to minute-by-minute news at his fingertips.  While he previously may have learned about somebody’s recent job offer two minutes after it happened (Thanks, Facebook), he described now having to possibly wait days before learning about this news from other sources.

What Happens Next?

  • Will you reconnect to your social media platforms? 
    • He confirmed he will eventually return to Facebook but cannot identify when.  Alex noted, however, that he has since deleted his Twitter account because he recognized he was only posting for the likes and retweets, received a lot of “junk” on his news feed, and had many of the same people on Facebook and Twitter which resulted in repetitive content.
  • Do you anticipate any challenges upon reconnecting to Facebook?
    • He expects that returning to Facebook will likely be overwhelming partly due to the anticipated flood of missed notifications and seemingly never-ending status updates.
  • Do you have any recommendations for individuals wishing to unplug?
    • Alex acknowledged that you don’t have to be somebody who thinks “Whoa, I use social media too much” to unplug.  Unfortunately, unplugging appears to be the primary way to begin to recognize how much time is spent on Facebook and the rationale for doing so.  He recommends unplugging from social media to anybody but especially stresses that it may be of benefit to individuals who are overwhelmed by negativity on their news feeds.

      “No matter who you are, there is something that could come out of [it] for everyone.  Any time you make a change in your life, it is then that you start to see differences.”

  • In a society that utilizes social media to stay connected and receive minute-by-minute updates, do you foresee any negative outcomes arising from a disconnect from social media?
    • In responding to this question, he shared a personal experience while in grad school where he was geographically distanced from all friends and family.  He stated that, at that time, social media was one of his primary mechanisms to stay connected with loved ones.  In that sense, Alex concluded that unplugging may be of less benefit and cause an increased sense of loneliness to those who already feel a sense of disconnect from others such as students, travel nurses, flight attendants, truck drivers, etc.

Concluding Thoughts:

Upon asking Alex if he had any concluding thoughts, here is how he responded:

“I don’t know how my phone just went down to 87 percent.”

Apparently, there are many benefits to unplugging from social media, however, a longer-lasting battery isn’t one of them! 😉

I hope you all enjoyed this style blog and found it insightful and/or relatable.  While I firmly believe that there are many positive aspects to social media (puppy photos and videos), it is important to balance your social media and real-world experiences.  Take time to enjoy nature through your own visual senses and not through a camera lens.  Don’t neglect quality time with your pets, even if it means reducing how often you innocently scroll through the most adorable photos of others’ pets on Instagram!  Most importantly, take care of yourself and the ones you love.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed by negativity on social media platforms, breathe, take a step back, and reflect on your physical world!

If you are achieving your New Year’s resolution, leave a comment below and tell us about it!  You deserve some recognition for your hard work! 🙂
As always, thank you for reading (especially if you’ve read this far).  Stay tuned for the next blog post entitled, “What It Means To: Impersonate a Service Dog.”