Sunday, December 30, 2012

Servers that Ask about my Service Dog

About a week ago, I had dinner with a friend at Ruby Tuesday.  A server, not our server but a server that was busing another table, came over to ask me about Isaac.  He asked if I was training Isaac and I gave my standard answer, "No, he's fully trained."  Then he asked what Isaac does for me, which is a common response when I tell someone that no, I am not training him, he's already trained.

Now, employees of a business are allowed to ask what tasks a dog is trained to perform.  That is permitted under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  However, they are permitted to ask that if they are trying to ascertain that a dog is in fact a service dog and therefore allowed into an establishment.  They aren't supposed to ask just out of curiosity. 

Lately, I've been getting these questions almost every time I go somewhere with Isaac.  I understand that people are curious.  But I was eating my dinner and enjoying a conversation with a friend that I very rarely get to see.  I felt that it was inappropriate for him to ask me personal questions at that time.

So I wrote the manager a letter.  Yeah, I'm on a letter writing jag lately.  I wrote a letter and enclosed the brochure from Pet Partners (which is an excellent introduction to service dogs, by the way, so check it out).  Today the manager called me to thank me for my letter and the information about service dogs.  He said he learned some things himself and that he is using the information I sent to educate his staff.

Here is the letter I sent.

December 24, 2012
Ruby Tuesday
Attn: Manager
5940 Chantry Road
Columbus, OH 43232
Dear Manager:
This evening, I dined at your restaurant with a friend.  I have a disability and brought my service dog along to assist me.  After my friend and I were seated and had placed our orders, a server, not the server helping us but another server, approached and asked what my service dog was being trained for. 
You see, I don’t look disabled, so people sometimes assume I must be training a service dog for someone that is disabled.  But of course, many disabilities are not readily apparent.  I responded as I usually do when asked this question, saying, “Oh, I’m not training him, he’s fully trained.”
The server than asked me what my service dog was for.  I understand that people are curious about service dogs and it is amazing how many things dogs can be trained to do.  I realize the server didn’t mean to be impolite or intrusive.  It’s really not polite to ask strangers about their disabilities, though. 
Please understand that I am not asking that the server in question be reprimanded.  Instead, I just wanted to suggest that perhaps your staff could benefit from a bit of education about service dogs and how to relate to customers that have service dogs with them.  I’m enclosing a copy of a brochure published by Pet Partners, which provides some basic information.  I’d be happy to answer any questions via phone, or even to come in to talk to your staff during a staff meeting, if that would be helpful.  You can reach me at 419-631-6597 if I can be of any assistance.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Kelly Morris

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Casino with Policy that Violates the ADA?

Yesterday on Facebook, someone mentioned that he used to work for Hollywood Casino and that they had a policy requiring employees to ask customers with service dogs to show documentation proving their dog really was a service dog.  Of course, this is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Hopefully he was mistaken about their policy, of perhaps the policy has changed.  He used to work there and says he asked customers for documentation regarding their service dogs, though, so even if this isn't their policy, some of their employees are violating the ADA.

So I wrote them a letter, and am also sending them a copy of a brochure published by Pet Partners that explains service dogs and the ADA, as well as a copy of the business brief issues by the Department of Justice.

Here is my letter:

December 29, 2012

Hollywood Casino
777 Hollywood Boulevard
Lawrenceburg, IN 47025

To Whom It May Concern:

Yesterday I had a conversation with a former employee of yours who told me that when he worked at Hollywood Casino, the casino’s policy was to ask any customers with a service dog to provide documentation to prove their dog really was a service dog, not just a pet.  He told me that one time when he followed company policy and asked for documentation, the person with the dog because very angry and left.  I was disappointed to hear this because, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is illegal to ask to see any type of documentation verifying that a dog is indeed a service dog.

Perhaps this former employee was mistaken about your policy and was not actually acting in accordance with your policy when he violated federal law by asking to see documentation that a person’s service dog was in fact a service dog.  I certainly hope that is the case.

Just in case it’s not, though, I’m enclosing some information for you.  I’m enclosing a brochure published by Pet Partners with some basic information about service dogs and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  I’m also enclosing a copy of the business brief issued by the Department of Justice.  Note that businesses are only permitted to ask two questions: Is that a service dog?  And what task is the dog trained to perform?  Anything else is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  Please feel free to contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx if you would like more information about service dogs and the Americans with Disabilities Act.



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pictures of Isaac

I thought it was time to post some new pictures of Isaac.

This was taken just a few minutes ago.  It's a cold, snowy day, perfect for staying inside and sleeping.

This is also Isaac sleeping.  Notice how many pictures I have of him sleeping?

And here is Isaac enjoying the basketball we bought him the other day at the thrift store.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fundraising Update

Thanks to all who shopped at Bariatric Foodie during the month of November!  You raised $250 for Isaac.  Isaac and I both appreciate it greatly.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Manners, Manners

If you see a person in a wheelchair in a store or restaurant, do you go up to them and ask why they use a wheelchair?  If you are older than five years old, I certainly hope you don't.  Very young kids may not know better, but adults certainly should.

But if you wouldn't do that, why would you go up to a complete stranger and ask why they have a service dog?  What would make you think a stranger wants to tell you about their disability?  It's just rude.

Sure, people are curious when they see a service dog.  It's really fascinating, all the things service dogs can do.  I get that.

That doesn't make it your business, though.  That doesn't mean it's OK to ask intrusive personal questions.  So don't do it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Dog Tags

I finally got along to ordering a dog tag for Isaac.  Yes, I was slow about it.  He had a tag from his trainer with her name and numbers on it, so if he got lost before I got his tag, he could have still been returned.  He also has a microchip.

I ended up ordering his tag online from Love Your Pets.  Mostly I ordered it from there because it was cheap.  It arrived yesterday.  It's nice.  It's shaped like a dog bone.  I also like it because I could have six lines of text engraved on it and most other companies I considered ordering from only put four or five lines of text on their tags.    Hey, I have a lot to say!

The tag says:

My full name
My city and state
Reward If Found
My phone number
A friend's phone number

The reason for my name and city and state is to make it easier for someone to track down Isaac's owner, especially if he would get lost when I was traveling somewhere.  I put "reward if found" to encourage people to return him.  I thought about putting "service dog" on the tag but I didn't have room, plus he has a second tag on his collar which is his license from the county which says "handicap assistance dog" on it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thank You, Teachers

This has nothing to do with service dogs, but I've been reading about the recent school shooting, and I'm really touched by the teachers and other school staff that died trying to protect their students.  When you decide to become a teacher, you expect to deal with all sorts of things, but I don't think anyone thinks about dealing with something like this.  Many years ago, I taught preschool for a little while, and I can tell you it never once occurred to me that one day someone with a gun might burst into my classroom and start shooting.

Would I have risked my life to protect my students?  Probably.  I guess we never really know until we are faced with that question, and I hope most of us never will be.  But I was thinking about it, and you know, I bet most teachers would.  And that is absolutely incredible.  You know how little teachers get paid?  And how hard they work?  And all the crap they put up with?  We ask them to do all that, and then we want them to be willing to die to protect their students, too.

I watched an interview on 20/20 with one of the teachers that survived, in which she talked about how she crowded her 15 first grade students into a tiny bathroom, about six square feet.  She talked about how she kept them calm and how, as she heard the sound of gunshots approaching her classroom, she told the students how much she loved them.  She thought those might be the last words they ever heard, and if so, she wanted them to leave this world knowing they were loved.  She was afraid if the children made any noise, the gunman might hear them and come in.  Can you imagine how hard it would be to keep 15 little kids quiet as they huddled in a tiny bathroom, listening to the sound of gunfire? 

I watched an interview of a little girl, maybe eight years old, and she talked about how her teacher read books to the students to keep them calm until help arrived.  She said the teacher read them the Nutcracker and another book about Christmas.  Can you imagine reading a story while listening to gunshots down the hall?  Can you imagine how hard it would be to keep the kids focused on the story, to keep them calm?  But she clearly did.  This little girl remembered what her teacher read.

These teachers didn't panic.  They stayed calm and helped children through something so scary and traumatic that most of us can't even imagine it.  They made sure that the children knew they were loved.  Of course, this experience is going to affect these children for the rest of their lives, but these teachers brought them through it as well as anyone possibly could.  And this isn't what teachers are trained for.

So let's just say thank you today to all the teachers out that there would die if necessary to protect our kids.

Service Dogs for Insomnia

One of the most commonly used search times by which people find my blog is "service dogs for insomnia."

Here's the thing.  Dogs may well help some people sleep.  I was hoping Isaac would help me sleep, but so far I can't really say that he has.  However, in order for a dog to be a service dog, you have to be disabled and the dog has to be trained to perform tasks that mitigate your disability.

I know how miserable insomnia can make you.  Believe me, I know.  But it's not usually considered a disability. 

Beyond that, I'm not sure what tasks you might train a dog to do that would help you sleep.  It might help you sleep just to have a dog sleeping beside you, but dogs don't have to be trained to sleep.  That's not a task.

So for the most part, one would not get a service dog for insomnia.  One might get a service dog for other things and find that an additional benefit of having the dog is improved sleep, or one might simply get a pet dog and find that having a pet dog helps with sleep.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hot Dogs in the Bathtub

Isaac and I have a new game that we play, called Hot Dogs in the Bathtub.  He loves it because it involved hot dogs, which he thinks are the greatest food in the world.

I invented the game after the second time I had to give Isaac a bath.  When I told him to get into the bathtub, he looked at me like I was nuts.  I tried to coax him in with dog treats, but he decided he'd rather pass on the treats than get into the tub.  So I got out the hot dogs.  I believe he would do anything for hot dogs.  He was certainly willing to get into the tub for them.

But I decided I wanted him to get used to getting into the tub and I wanted to make it something that he wasn't nervous or unhappy about.  So we started playing the Hot Dogs in the Bathtub game.  Initially, I put a piece of hot dog in the tub and he had to climb in to get it.  He wasn't in a hurry to get out, either, because he had to sniff around the whole tub in case there was another piece of hot dog that he missed somehow.  Now I hold the hot dogs in my hand and tell him to get in the tub.  He hops right in, no hesitation.  I give him a piece of hot dog and tell him to get out and he hops out.  He loves it.  We'll see what happens next time he needs a bath.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cost of Living Increase

Today I got a letter from Social Security telling me that my benefits will be increased beginning in January because Social Security is issuing a cost of living increase in the amount of 1.73%.  Now, I'm glad to get any kind of increase in my benefits, because indeed the cost of living does keep going up.  And there have been one or two years since I've been on SSDI that Social Security did not issue any cost of living increase whatsoever.  But here's the thing.  Do you think the cost of living really only goes up by 1.73% in a year?

When I was working as a social worker, we got an annual employer performance evaluation and a raise, every year.  At the agency where I worked, it was almost impossible to do so badly on your evaluation that you did not get any raise at all.  The raise was typically 3 to 5%.  One year, I got a 10% raise, and my supervisor told me he'd had to fight with human resources to get that for me, but I had worked really hard that year, including putting in a lot of extra hours for which I did not get paid (one of the many joys of being a salaried employee).  But my point is, even a mediocre employee at that agency got a 3% raise.

Yes, I realize my Social Security cost of living increase is not based on performance.  I didn't do anything to earn it, other than become disabled and work for a living prior to becoming disabled.  And I really am grateful for all the benefits that I receive.  I couldn't survive without them.

I guess I just felt the need to point out how small the cost of living increase is this year since there seem to be so many people that think it's fun and easy to live on disability benefits.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Isaac Has Killed His Stuffed Cat

Do you think this might have something to do with why my cats are all still terrified of him?

Updated Thank You List

Just wanted to update my thank you list.  Thanks so much to all who have helped in some way, including making donations and assisting with fundraising efforts.

Steve and Julie
Westwood Alliance Church
Lexington Presbyterian Church
Trinity Lutheran Church
Ashland Road Animal Clinic

I'm about halfway through my fundraising goal, which means I still need to raise about $3,000 for my service dog.  If you're interested in making a donation or want to volunteer to help with fundraising, please contact me at poet_kelly at yahoo dot com.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Doing Laundry with Isaac

One of the most helpful things Isaac does for me, currently, is helping me do laundry.

I have a rope tied to a laundry basket and Isaac pulls that basket by the rope from the bedroom out into the hallway where my washer and dryer are.  Then he hands me the articles of clothing, one by one, and I put them into the washing machine.  I transfer the clothes into the dryer myself, and when the clothes are dry, Isaac takes them out of the dryer and hands them to me.  I drop them into the laundry basket on the floor and Isaac pulls the basket out to the living room, where I can sit on the couch and fold the clothes.  When they are all folded, Isaac pulls the basket all the way back to the bedroom.  Then I pick up the basket, put it on the bed, and put the clothes away.

I have to do very little bending and lifting this way.  It takes a lot longer than doing laundry myself.  It reminds me a bit of doing household chores with a three year old that wants to help but makes it take longer and needs a lot of supervision and direction.  But it spares me a great deal of back pain.  I haven't taken any pain medication in a few days now.

Isaac really likes pulling the laundry basket.  He'll start to pull it before he's taken all the clothes out of the dryer and I have to redirect him.  Most of the time I have to tell him "get it" and point before he picks up an item of clothing, although, a couple times he has gone back to the dryer for the next item without me reminding him.  I expect he'll get better at that over time.

It's really fun to see him pull the laundry basket.  He just loves doing that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thank You Westwood Alliance Church of Mansfield

Thank you to the deacons of Westwood Alliance Church of Mansfield, Ohio, for the generous donation!

Although I have Isaac with me now, I'm still fundraising.  I was lucky that the program that trained him was willing to go ahead and place him with me before receiving all their money, but I still owe them a little over $3,000.  If anyone would like to donate a few bucks, it would be much appreciated!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pizza Hut

Yesterday Isaac and I went to Pizza Hut with Mike for lunch.  Isaac's behavior in public has been a bit inconsistent lately.  I think I know why that is.  I haven't written about it here yet, but two weeks ago, I was hospitalized for five days.  I think Isaac got out of practice during that time and I think it may have affected our bonding process a little bit.

Anyway, I wanted to go out to lunch with Mike and decided on Pizza Hut because they have a lunch buffet, so it could be a fairly quick meal.  Isaac and I met Mike at his office, and Isaac was very surprised and excited to see Mike someplace other than at home.  Because he was so excited, he wanted to jump up on Mike and didn't want to heel or sit or anything else I told him to do.  I got him calmed down, though, and then we all went to Pizza Hut.

I had to tell Isaac a couple times to "go under" before he went under the table.  He doesn't really like sitting under the table at restaurants.  I think it's because he wants to see what's going on, plus of course restaurants are full of interesting smells.  The server was trying to get our drink orders at the same time I was trying to get Isaac to go under the table, which was kind of getting on my nerves.  I know she probably had several tables to wait on and just wanted to do her job, but I needed to focus on Isaac and more importantly, to get him to focus on me.  If you happen to see someone with a service dog that is busy dealing with the dog, please be patient and let them do that before trying to engage them in conversation.  It's a lot like if a parent is dealing with an irritable toddler; the parent would need to take care of their child before telling you what they want to drink.

But Isaac did go under the table and I told him to sit and he did.  I asked Mike to go up to the buffet and get his food, then to hold Isaac's leash while I went to the buffet.  I felt it would be too difficult for both me and Isaac to try to take him up to the buffet with me.  I'm not very good and holding a lot of stuff while also holding Isaac's leash and I could see myself spilling food all over the buffet.

After I got my food and sat back down, I took the leash back from Mike.  After a couple minutes, Isaac lay down and rested his head on my foot, like a pillow.  A few minutes later, I think he was sleeping and dreaming, because he was twitching a little like he was running in his sleep, which I always think is really cute.  I tucked the leash under my leg so I had both hands free to eat and enjoyed my meal.

A couple people in the restaurant had noticed I had a dog with me and one elderly man asked, as he was walking by my table, how old my dog was.  Another woman commented that he was a pretty dog, which I think he is. 

Isaac was quiet and well-behaved through the whole meal.  When we were done eating, Mike went to pay and I took Isaac on outside for a potty break before we got back in the car.  I think this was our best outing to a restaurant so far and I felt really good about it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Hired a Dog Walker for Isaac

Well, a dog runner, really.

He needs more exercise than I can easily give him.  Due to my back problems, I cannot run with him.  I can't even walk as fast as he'd really like to walk.  He does use the treadmill at home but I still think he needs more exercise.  He is so energetic and he gets bored and annoying when he isn't able to burn off all the energy.

So I decided to look for someone to take him for a run a couple times a week.

I really got lucky.  I found a woman that loves dogs but isn't able to have one of her own at the moment because pets aren't allowed where she lives.  She jogs regularly.  I don't get why anyone would jog if they didn't have to, but anyway, apparently she enjoys it.  So she thinks it would be fun to take Isaac for a jog.  Isaac thinks it sounds like fun, too.

We decided she will take him for a 45 minutes jog three times a week.  She gave me a really good price.  Actually, the price she named initially seemed so low to me that I told her I wanted to pay a bit more than that.  I'm all for affordable services, but I don't want to feel like I'm paying someone less than what their work is worth.

Isaac gets to go on his first jog later this morning.  I hope it wears him out for a while!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Make a Stuffed Sock Dog Toy

Isaac is a very energetic dog and he also gets bored kind of easily.  I'm always trying to find new ways to entertain him and keep his mind active.

You know how the dryer sometimes eats socks?  And then you end up with some socks that don't have matches?  Well, you can use those lonely socks to make a stuffed sock dog toy.  You can also use socks that are getting holes in the toes.

Take an old sock and stuff it with scraps of cloth or with stuffing you buy at craft stores.  I use scraps of cloth left over from various craft projects, and I also use stuffing that Isaac has pulled out of his stuffed animals.  You can reuse the scraps of cloth or stuffing for multiple socks.

Put a yummy treat or two in the sock, somewhere in the middle of all the stuffing.  Then tie a knot in the end of the sock to keep everything in.

And that's it.  It's that simple.  Show it to your dog, give it a toss, and let your dog chase it and tear the sock apart to get to the treats inside.

It only takes Isaac about 15 minutes to tear a stuffed sock apart and get the treats out, but he really enjoys it.

Here is a picture of one, before he tore it to shreds:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Isaac Learns a New Task

Isaac helped me do laundry today. I have this braided rope that I can put on things, like on the refrigerator door handle, and he pulls on the rope to open up the fridge for me. I can open it myself but he likes having little jobs to do. Well, today I tied the rope onto my laundry basket, and then he pulled the basket of clean, folded laundry from the living room, where I'd been sitting on the couch folding clothes, to the bedroom, where I then put the clothes away. Bending over and picking up baskets of laundry is very difficult for me these days, with my back problems, so this is immensely helpful. Isaac was pretty excited about it, too.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Isaac and His Basketball

This is one of Isaac's favorite toys these days.  It's a basketball that was slightly deflated when I gave it to him (I was told he liked them that way).  He promptly chewed a hole in it and then began gnawing off little chunks and spitting them out.  He's probably destroyed about a quarter of the whole ball so far.  It keeps him busy a lot.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Isaac’s Vocabulary

Well, vocabulary may not be the right word, but it’s close enough.  I was talking to a friend the other day who has an eight month old puppy he is training (she is a pet, not a service dog) and he told me he has ten commands he is teaching her and that it’s been hard work.  I’m not sure if he is trying to teach all ten commands at once or not.  I’m thinking it would work best to train just one or two commands at a time, then move on to the next one once the dog is good at those.

So now I’m trying to think of how many commands Isaac knows.  He knows “sit,” “down,”, “stay” and “come,” of course. 

He knows “heel,” although he has a strong tendency to walk a bit ahead of me, which is a problem.  We’re working on it. 

We’re also working on “quiet” right now.  When he wants attention and isn’t getting it, he sometimes barks. 

Then, he knows “get meds” and “get lights” (turn lights on).  He knows “get it,” which means to pick up whatever I’m pointing at and give it to me.  He knows “give it.”  He knows “leave it” and fortunately does that one well. 

He knows “go in,” which means go in his crate, and “go under,” which means go under the table at a restaurant (which he does not particularly like doing, he prefers to be where he can watch everything that’s going on). 

He knows “load” and “unload,” which means get in/out of the car.  

He knows “circle,” which means to circle closely around me, like making sure I have space around me and keeping people from getting too close.  He knows “front,” which means to stand in front of me, which is what he does if I’m standing at a counter paying for something, things like that.  

He knows “OK,” which basically means to go ahead, like when I put his food down he waits until I say “OK” to start eating and when I open the door he waits until I say “OK” to go out.  

He knows “watch me,” which means he watches me and pays attention.  I use that when we are out and he’s getting distracted by stuff and not paying attention to what he’s supposed to be doing.  

Those might be all right now.  There are some other commands I want to teach him in the future, but first I want to work on “heel” and “quiet” some more.