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Mon, Apr. 1st, 2013, 01:50 pm
Another Milestone in Billy's Journey - And How Impatience Almost Cost Me This Partnership

Today I am at the library working on a project for school. Of course Billy is with me. We have been here for about 15 min now.

Billy in the Library

As you can see Billy is super relaxed, staying out of the way, as much as a dog his size can anyway, and mostly unconcerned with the environment. Exactly how a well trained service dog should behave when he and his handler are hanging out in the library. He is certainly aware of people who walk by, if you watch his ears they follow the people who walk by, but his body is relaxed and that awareness of who's nearby is part of his job. If someone where to approach me from behind, he should stand up to make me aware of such a thing so I don't get startled or frightened. This behavior from him, allows me to relax in a scary environment as well. Before Gypsy I had stopped going to Libraries all together because I could never relax well enough to read.

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Mon, Mar. 25th, 2013, 07:52 pm
Acceptance

At some point in every service dog handler’s life there will come a moment when a friend or family member will say, “Do you have to bring the dog?” or, “Are you sure it’s a good idea to have a dog in this situation?” Not only does this hurt, it can be very disheartening.

Service dog law only protects my right to bring my service dog with me in places where the public is generally accepted. It does not require Aunt Betty to let me bring my service dog to her wedding. It cannot force my best friend to accommodate my service dog when she wants to have me over for drinks. And honestly, even if the law had influence in those situations, I wouldn’t even bring it up, because I wouldn’t want to force my company on my friend and relatives if they don’t want me around.

There are very few reasons why I would forgo the assistance of my service dog. When my dog is sick or injured I will not take him out until he is healed enough to do his work comfortably and with minimal coddling. I will not take my service dog into a situation where there is a high probability that he will be harmed. And sometimes, when I’m in a rush, I leave him in the car when I go into the gas station to pay for my gas. More often than not, if I make the decision that my service dog will not be going out, I stay home too. When I do choose to go somewhere without him, I have a plan in place to ensure that if something happens, I have what I need to take care of myself. I keep my keys on me, park my car in a place where I won’t be blocked in, and I check and double check that I have the ability to leave at the drop of a hat if I want to. I become hyper vigilant and usually annoy the crap out of my boyfriend who comes along as a service human. I also fall a lot.

Every service dog handler will be different in this regard. Some people will not be separated from their service dog for any reason, while other handlers will only bring their service dog with them in certain instances. Each handler also has her own feelings about what constitutes a safe environment for her dog to work in. This decision is based partially on the abilities of the service dog in question and partially on the judgment of the handler. For instance, I would feel perfectly confident bringing Gypsy to a Demolition Derby, but I would feel that is an unsafe environment for Billy. Alternatively, I feel perfectly comfortable handling Billy in thick crowds that I wouldn’t bring Gypsy to, for fear that she would get stepped on.

This is a highly personal decision. It is just as personal to a disabled person as the choice to use a cane, forearm crutches or a wheelchair for a particular outing. So when a person questions my choice to bring or not bring my service dog with me, I am deeply hurt.

I am disabled. That is a fact that will never go away. I cannot separate myself from my disease/disability. A person can choose to accept me as I am, disability, service dog and all, or not. But that person cannot pick and choose the parts of me that he wants to include in his life. If he rejects my service dog, he is rejecting me.

If tomorrow all my problems were to disappear, if I was pain free, able to walk and run and pick things up without falling, if I could have a conversation with a scary person or feel able to turn my back on a room full of strangers, if I never experienced another panic attack again, if all these things were true and I was a normal person just like any other person in the world, I would happily leave my dogs behind at home. I would give Billy’s gear away to those that need it more than me, and find myself a job working with dogs again. It is a pain in the ass to always be tied to another living being, to never be able to go out and do something on a whim. I always have to consider Billy in everything I do. Is it too hot, too cold? Will I be asking too much of my dog to expect him to go to work with me, then to class, and then out to dinner with friends? Will he be able to maintain focus that long? Can I schedule a break for him? Am I being fair to my dog?

Sometimes a stranger will approach me and ask about service dogs and at some point say, “I wish I could bring my dog with me wherever I go.”

To which I can only respond, “I wish I didn’t have to.”

Sun, Mar. 24th, 2013, 07:17 pm
Mobility Work

Mobility work is a broad category of service dog work in which the service dog is trained to safely assist his handler with balance and movement while the handler is standing or walking or changing positions. Some people include wheelchair work in the category of mobility, but this post will only cover aspects of wheelchair work that relate to mobility. Like with all types of service dog work, each team does some things the same and some things differently, doing what is best for mitigating the disability of the handler and ensuring the safety of the dog.

A few notes of caution/rules for using a dog for mobility work. Mobility work is strenuous. It puts stress on joints, muscles and ligaments. It also has an element of danger to it. Doing mobility work in the wrong way can severely injure or cripple a dog. It may seem fine at first, but the strain of doing mobility work on a dog that is not fit for it can cause long term lasting problems. At the bare minimum for light work a dog should be over 55lbs. For heavy work 65lbs. There are some variations based on the type of dog and the height and weight of the handler as well as the type of equipment used. Heavier or taller handlers should use larger dogs. Dogs that are used for mobility should be fully adult (over two years old), be conditioned, and have passed medical evaluation of hips, knees and elbows. They should also be structurally sound with a strong, level back, be able to stand squarely without turn in or out of feet, and move smoothly with good extension.

A dog is not a cane. Applying momentary downward pressure on a dog that is bracing in order to stand up or sit down, transfer into or out of a wheelchair, get up off the ground or regain your balance is fine, but applying downward pressure on a moving dog can cause severe harm. What follows is a video of Billy helping me up from the ground with a bit of an error.
More Under HereCollapse )

Thu, Mar. 21st, 2013, 11:11 pm
More Billy Blog - a new collar, Gypsy, and a funeral.

Earlier this week Billy got a new collar.

Billy's new collar

I love this collar. It's wide enough to make me happy and it should last forever. Billy can't really wear a collar full time because it destroys his coat, so I wanted to get him something beautiful to wear when I actually use a leash with him.

I have to admit that he is so well trained at this point that I very rarely use a collar and leash with him when we are working. It gets in our way, even with the over the shoulder leash. I use verbal communications and some hand signals to direct him. Of course I only do this at work and school usually. Places that we both know really well and are indoors.

I took Gypsy out earlier this week. I wasn't planning on actually doing anything in a store or anything and my car was full of returns. I can't bring my service dog into the redemption center because it simply isn't safe for the dog. Then I went to the bank to deposit money. Then I decided that I absolutely needed some horrible bad food from the grocery store. So to the store we went and Gypsy got to go out in her vest for the first time in forever.

It's amazing how different it was. Gypsy totally remembered everything and was willing to trot along at my side for the 10 min we were in the store. I got FAR more attention than I'm used to with Billy. (which makes no sense to me) But it was bazaar. I kept giving hand signals like I do with Billy and Gypsy was completely oblivious. And I had trouble walking/balancing without Billy in his harness. I must have looked drunk, maybe that's why everyone was staring at me.

Gypsy did her job like she has never left it. Ten min in the grocery store.

Then we got home and she's limping again. I gave her a buffered aspirin and she's napping now.

I do NOT use G for mobility of any kind. There is no tension on the leash, she simply walks to heel beside me. She finds it hard to walk at my pace. When we walk for exercise we do so with her off leash so she can run ahead, sniff for a while as I walk past her and then run ahead again.

She was just so HAPPY to be the dog I was taking in the car today. When I put Billy in the crate and started walking to the door she was all JOYOUS! And when I got to the store she was READY to go in, and got so excited when she saw her vest.

She seems happy in her retirement, but I need to come up with more things that we can do together, just the two of us.

Funeral under the cutCollapse )

Wed, Feb. 13th, 2013, 02:56 am
Updates and Nemo

Hey everyone.

I have some time so I figured I would update everyone and let y'all know that we are still alive and Billy is still amazing. There are so many things I want to share about how awesome Billy, Gypsy and I are doing that this post is going to be long and rather spastic and full of pictures. The time line is erractic, as I'm covering things that happened since summer.


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Lots of PicturesCollapse )

Wed, Dec. 19th, 2012, 12:45 pm
A Perfectly Lovely Extraordinarily Ordinary Day

I went to the movies today. Billy went too. Nothing particularly special happened. We showed up, got our tickets, went and found a seat, went and found a different seat when the first seat tried to kill me, settled down and watched an awesome movie. (It was The Hobbit, for those that care). When the movie was over, Billy helped me down the stairs and back outside and I went on with my day.

And yet by the fact that a rather unremarkable movie watching happened, I am quietly proud of my Billy boy and I feel so free. I can do just about anything I care to do, with Billy at my side.

Mon, Jun. 25th, 2012, 07:04 am

It has been almost two months since I had the energy/time/focus/will/interest to try to update y'all about what's been happening with me, Billy and Gypsy.

We are all doing well enough, Gypsy is settling into retirement and Billy continues to amaze me with his awesomeness.

Road Trip to South CarolinaCollapse )

Tue, May. 1st, 2012, 10:50 am

Sorry I haven't updated here in a while, things have been crazy busy.

I have an official diagnosis of Fibromyalgia. Sucks but there it is.

Billy is awesome. Gypsy is having a hard time adjusting to retirement.

I have one more week of classes, then finals and I am done for the semester. No summer classes this year, I just can't handle it.

I'm also writing a book.

So I've had more than enough to be getting on with . . . so what did I do? I went for CRAZY ROAD TRIPS!

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Thu, Apr. 5th, 2012, 02:49 pm
Billy Goes to Classes and the Doctors

So the next step in Billy's training is full days at school in classes with me. We have done two full days Today and last week, Tuesday.

He is doing great! Please excuse the bad quality of the pictures, my camera phone is all I have right now.

Pictures of Billy!Collapse )

In other news:

Dusty update: "The boys are doing great. Finn loves to wrestle with Dusty. Any time Dusty runs Finn thinks that he wants to rough house so sometimes Dusty has to put him in his place but Finn loves it. They just started sleeping in our room and they're in heaven. Finn usually ends up on the floor but I normally wake up with Dusty by my head sharing my pillow. Then he rolls over for a morning belly rub. Not spoiled at all!"

Fundraising update: I raised just over $100 with the chip in, and some very kind, amazing, awesome, mysterious angel came along, contacted Katrina, the owner of the company that makes the BLD harness, and is paying for the remainder of Billy's new harness. We get it in about a month! Isn't that the best news EVER! I am still completely overwhelmed that someone could be that generous! And so grateful, too! Katrina told me that my benefactor only wants me to pay it forward when I can. I will!

Gypsy update: Gypsy is still working, doing the things that Billy can't do yet. Really high distraction environments and date night when I would much rather snuggle with my boyfriend then manage a dog in training. She seems to be settling into part time work well, though she is overly attentive for at least an hour after I return home from working with Billy.

Mon, Mar. 19th, 2012, 01:54 am
Dusty has the BEST HOME EVAR, and Billy visits DC



This is Dusty on the couch with his new brother. He loves his new family and they love him. Thank you to everyone that helped Dusty find the perfect new home.

In other news, Dusty's new home was really far away. So . . .

Billy visits DCCollapse )

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