Sunday, November 7, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions

I wrote this list of questions from all the millions of questions asked of me when I'm in the community with my dogs. I'm most happy to answer those questions. I find myself in grocery stores with people circling around me with these questions. I try to stop for them even when I'm in a hurry. I'm overjoyed by the curiosity I receive from the public - this means that more people can make dogs a larger part of their life. No one plans on having a disability. It's my hope that people living with disabilities will find it calming to know that a canine will be there to help them, and if nothing else, love them.

Q: What does your dog do for you?

A: He gets the phone for me, picks up dropped objects like socks, clothing, utensils, pens, eye glasses and keys. He walks next to me on a leash without pulling me over. When I'm on the ground, he stands still so I can grab his back and use him as a bench. While walking without my walker, the dog has an anchoring effect for me, which helps with my balance.

Q: How long is the training period?

A: 18 Months for full duty. The dog needs strong mature bones to bear the person's weight without it harming the dog.

Q: When can the dog visit with people?

A: When I say the word "Release", the dog knows he's on break and that I'm not depending on his for support. (And then his tail goes crazy!)

Q: How can I get a service dog?

A: Go to a large group like Canines for Independence, or other groups that offer adult service dogs. You can also pick out a calm pup and pay for a trainer that specializes in service dogs, which is what I did. Starting with a pup can be a difficult challenge for a person with a disability, if that person has to be the puppy raiser. You can try to pick up a puppy that seems to have the right temperament, however you won't know definitely if the pup will become a good service dog until well into the second year.

Q: When does a dog get too old to work and what happens then?

A: That depends on what the dog's job is. For example, Jetta can still come with me to appointments. She walks next to me but can't do any weight-bearing tasks like helping me to stand up. Jetta is slowing down and getting tired; she still loves to work but also enjoys being lazy. Because she is my dog, Jetta stays with me for the rest of her life. With guide dogs, sometimes the person can keep the old dog but sometimes that's not possible. If your dog does not pass the tests to be come a working dog or is retiring from service, there is a long list of people waiting to adopt them.

Q: Who qualifies for a service dog?

A: Anyone with a disability that has a doctor's note stating that a service dog would make their life safer.

Q: What different types of Service Dogs are there?

A: Guide dogs, Seizure dogs, Hearing dogs, dogs for stress disorders, dogs for returning war vets with post traumatic stress disorders.

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