Posted in Doggone Good Reads!

“A Dog’s Purpose”

Anyone who knows me well knows that it is my goal to author child and adult literature. I’ve dreamt of writing fiction and nonfiction stories from the perspective of my own dogs to capture the essence of our human-animal bond. My experiences in the assistance dogs community, however, ignited a reluctance to utilizing such an anthropomorphic approach in my writing. To mediate this inner conflict and develop inspiration, I turned to existing literature that has been well-esteemed by its readers to date. The work of W. Bruce Cameron, a bestselling author, perfectly exemplifies how to write from the dog’s point of view, embrace creativity, and respect the unique differences between humans and non-human animals.


“There are no bad dogs, Bobby, just bad people. They just need love.”

(Cameron, 2010, p. 34)

“A Dog’s Purpose” is the first in a series of tail-wagging good reads written by Cameron. Cameron strategically utilizes anthropomorphism to offer insight into the science behind dogs (i.e., their keen sense of smell, olfactory detection of hormonal changes in humans, etc.). Through a series of stories, readers become attuned to issues, such as shelter overcrowding and pet loss, and an open-minded audience can expect to think creatively about what might happen after their pet crosses the rainbow bridge.

Some might argue that “A Dog’s Purpose” is a hope-instilling read that offers insight into the life purposes of ourselves and our companion animals. Through the lived experiences of the dog, it becomes readily apparent that the purpose of the human-animal bond is to promote protection, companionship, safety, security, comfort, and beyond. Anyone with a keen eye for philosophy will quickly recognize that “A Dog’s Purpose” invites questions about one’s own purpose. For example, do we each have just one purpose? Does our purpose change as we navigate life? How do we discover our purpose?

“This was, I decided, my purpose as a dog, to comfort the boy whenever he needed me.”

(Cameron, 2010, p. 71)

As painted by Cameron, having and finding purpose isn’t just a unique human experience, it’s commonplace for our companion animals as well.

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!”

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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

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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

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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!

-T.

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.

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Pinella on her first day in training with me!


Fake Service Dogs and the Problems They Pose:

Injuries: 
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.

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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.

Stress:
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!

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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?


  Conclusion:

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)!

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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! 🙂

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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!  🙂

 


References

Goren, W.D. (2014).  Service dogs and the rights of the disabled.  In March/April 2014:  Disability law.  Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2014/march_april/service_dogs_and_rights_the_disabled.html

Ollove, Michael. (2017, October 16).  These 19 states are cracking down on fake service dogs.  Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/19-states-cracking-fake-service-dogs

U.S. Department of Justice.  (2015, July 20).  Frequently asked questions about service animals and the ADA.  Retrieved from https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html