A service dog at work in the classroom

Unfortunately, we often hear in the press of schools refusing to allow service dogs in the classroom to work with their child partners. Either the school believes that they can provide the services that the service dog does, they’re concerned as to whether the child can fully handle the dog (including its potty breaks), or they simply don’t want a dog in the classroom.

In my case, the situation is a little different. I’m a Professor at Algoma University and my service dog accompanies me everywhere that I go, including my classroom. It takes a lot of time to train a service dog to handle a classroom situation. I often teach three hour classes. That’s a long time for a dog to hold a down stay. However, Kai (my service dog) does that on a weekly basis.

When I first started taking my service dog to class I was probably as nervous about how the students would handle the situation as much as how my dog would do. I shouldn’t have worried. My students are outstanding. They totally ignore Kai, even though many of them would love to pet him.

For his part, he curls up behind the lectern and as long as I stay within his sight he stays there for the full class unless he needs to alert me. His alerts are subtle and often not even noticed by the students. Sometimes I move out of his sight without thinking and he’ll come up to me and sit or lie down next to me until I move back near the lectern once more. Then he’ll return to his spot and wait. My classroom and my office are the only times that he’s off leash. The rest of the time I wear a cross-body leash that has him attached to me but leaves my hands free.

The only time that students even mention him after the first couple of weeks of classes is when he has his winter or summer boots on to protect his feet. I will admit that he does look cute in his boots though it’s like having a toddler watching to make sure that he always has four on and hasn’t managed to take one off. He’s good with them though as long as I get them on well he leaves them alone.

Kai is trained as a hearing dog primarily, then for mobility and mental health. Unfortunately, it wasn’t appropriate to train him as an allergy alert dog as my main allergen, citrus, is so prevalent in society and a dog’s nose so sensitive that he would be constantly alerting. Having said that, Kai has trained himself to respond to my having an allergic reaction far more quickly than I even notice that I’m having one. So, I’ve learned to listen to him and his actions and consequently saved myself from several anaphylactic reactions by being able to remove myself from the allergen quickly enough.

My colleagues are so used to my having Kai with me that if I’m ever alone, the first question is always ‘Where’s Kai?’. I’m not alone often but he does have to be clipped every six weeks to keep him looking good. Kai attends meetings with me and has a bed in my office where he can relax comfortably while I work.

Even though he’s a poodle, which are considered hypoallergenic, the University has accommodated people who are allergic to him as well as accommodating my need to have him with me. I can’t thank our Human Resources department enough for all the work they have done in this regard.

One day, we’ll probably come across another service dog team in the workplace when a student brings their service dog to class. It hasn’t happened so far but as the use of service dogs becomes more prevalent I’m sure that day isn’t long off.

For today though, I’m thankful that my employer accommodates my needs without any great debate and that I have never had to fight for accommodation in this area like so many students have.

First short story published as an e-book on Amazon

So my foray into freelance journalism didn’t last long. I was hospitalised for a few weeks shortly after my last published article and in the chaos of that combined with starting back at work full-time soon after I simply forgot to keep writing articles. However, I’m hoping that Soo Today will forgive my transgressions and start publishing my articles again once I provide them.

In the interim though I have achieved another milestone. My first short story “Hannah’s Heart” has just been published on Amazon as an e-book. You can find it here.

I doubt that it will make me rich but it’s nice to see something other than my text books on my author’s page.

I’ve also finished the draft of my first book. It’s currently out for review with publishers. However, I may just publish it myself on Amazon as it is relatively easy to do so in both e-Book and paperback formats. So watch this space….

Freelance journalism….

Just over a year ago I started this Blog as my first foray into non academic writing. I didn’t know where I’d end up but I just needed to do something being off work on medical leave, with very limited capacity to do anything.

Here I am a year later and I’ve been asked to write a few opinion columns a month for SooToday.

Already they have published three of my articles:

The first was a report from the local dog show. The second an insight into living with a service dog. The third about living with rare anaphylaxis as an adult. Future columns are planned on other real life issues from my experiences as somebody living with multiple invisible disabilities and probably from events as they come up in my life.

So today, I once again place this Blog in hiatus. It has served its role and served it well. However, with the changes in my life that are coming ahead I won’t have time to keep this up as well. I don’t think!

Maybe I’ll find that I miss the outlet and continue it after all. Who knows?

A year ago I would never have believed that I’d be in this position. A paid freelance journalist with a regular column. Who would have thought it?

Is it just mine, or do people not use the doorbell anymore?

I actually have two door bells. One is traditional which rings chimes and the other is a wireless device that flashes a light in my bedroom and living room. However, I’ve noticed over the last few months that nobody seems to use either of them anymore. I’ve checked that they’re working and they are. So why would people choose to knock rather than use a door bell?

I can understand knocking after ringing the bell that doesn’t ring. However, it seems that people don’t try either door bells they just knock. The problem with this is that I often miss a knock.

I don’t hear it and Kai isn’t trained to alert to knocks as I’ve found that people knock on tables, walls, objects fairly commonly throughout the day and it would be intrusive to have him alerting me to those knocks.

Perhaps I just need a sign that says to please ring the doorbell!

Velvet boy is home….

Kai went to the groomers today. He usually goes about every 6 weeks. However, for a number of reasons it was closer to 2 months between clips this time. I dropped off a scruffy, dirty dog and got back a velvet boy very happy to be home.

I keep Kai in what’s called a ‘kennel’ or ‘puppy’ clip. It’s very short and as a result when he’s first clipped he feels like crushed velvet. When his coat is longer it’s more like the curly wool of a sheep as he has hair rather than fur. That’s why standard poodles are considered hypoallergenic by many.

He has his face and paws clipped even tighter which helps keep him clean and also helps me with his working gear. He wears a halti when he’s working and often has to wear boots either because of the hot sidewalks in summer, or the snow, ice and salt in winter.

While he was being groomed I took the opportunity to take Molly for a walk on her own. We met up with a friend and had a short walk in the drizzle along the boardwalk. Molly enjoyed the morning without Kai.

Right now she’s been pushed down the couch so that Kai can get back in next to me. She’s very tolerant of him as he’s very insistent on being next to me. She loved bedtime though when there’s space for both of them to be next to me! It’s a good job I’m single as I’m not quite sure where we’d fit another person in with the three of us and I have a king-size bed!!

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>Thankfully it was a quiet day for me. I try to plan Kai’s grooming days for such time as I find it very hard to manage without him. I forget how much I rely on him, until days like today when he’s just not there. I even had to pick my own cell phone up when I dropped it this morning!

Welcome home, Kai!

A freelance writer is born….

Just under a year ago, I started this Blog as my first endeavour as a non-academic author. Since then, I’ve had an article published in an online forum and a poem selected for inclusion in an anthology; both under my pseudonym. The first was unpaid and the second payment is on a royalty basis and as one author among many royalties will be minimal and a long way off.

However, today I can count another milestone: My first article published as a paid freelance author. Yesterday I attended the Sault Ste. Marie Annual Dog Show. I then wrote about it for SooToday. Today, that article was published as “Dispatch from a dog show“. At the end of the month I’ll submit my invoice and I’ll be paid for what I wrote. Not it’s not going to get me out of debt in a hurry but it’ll certainly buy me a soy white-hot chocolate at Starbucks now and then and help me complete my bucket list.

Unfortunately with summer on its way I may need to stop them soon as fruit smoothies will start ruling the day and exposure to citrus becomes more problematic. However, I have enjoyed the occasional ones that I have managed. So whatever you drink, raise a glass with me, to me – Nikki Shaw – freelance writer!

Photograph courtesy of Kirsten Wilson.

The first cut of the year….

Kai 17th May 2017

Yesterday my garden go its first cut of the year. That to me is the first step towards summer. When the snow has been gone long enough that the grass is long enough to need cutting.

I’m fortunate in that a teenage neighbour cuts my grass for me, as needed, each summer. He earns some money and I don’t have to manage the equipment which in the past, has been known to shred my hands as I didn’t feel how badly the vibration was blistering my palms.

The only time I’ve enjoyed cutting the grass was the year I lived on a small-holding and we have a ride-on lawn mower. Then I was quite happy to cut the grass!!

Maybe that’s what I’ll invest in when my teenage neighbour grows up and leaves home; a little ride-on mower so that I can do my own grass.

Anyway, Kai and Molly loved the cut grass and brought lots in on their paws for me to see for myself!!

The theory is that by not raking and bagging the cut grass mulches back into the ground and helps the bald patches cover back over with grass once more. I’ll just have to see if it works!

At least we got this cut in between the thunderstorms!!

What’s the first thing that signals the beginning of summer for you?