Fake disabilities… Fake service dogs…

I’ve written before about the issue of certification for service dogs in Canada and how discriminatory some provinces are for service dogs and their handlers. However, there is a growing problem across Canada in terms of people faking disabilities in order to take their pet dog out in public.

Actually I doubt that they realise that that’s what they’re doing. However, if you take a pet dog out in public and call it a service dog when you’re not disabled to a point that a service dog mitigates your disability then you are faking a disability.

To have a service dog in Ontario a medical professional must have written you a letter, that you must carry with you, that states that you need a service dog to mitigate your disability. Without that letter a dog, no matter how well behaved, is a fake service dog.

Why is this such an issue? Well it takes about 2 years to fully train a service dog and training continues throughout its working life. Service dogs are trained to cope with a huge variety of situations and scenarios. Throughout all they are required to be calm, quiet and do their job.

Pet dogs are not trained to the levels that a service dog is. Even extremely well trained dogs, such as a police dog, is not expected to behave as calmly as a service dog is.

So when you bring your pet dog out in public and come across a legitimate service dog team the majority of pet dogs will misbehave. They’ll bark, lunge, try to ‘say hello’ to the service dog and in some cases even attack the service dog. I know of several teams whose service dogs have been attacked and the dog had to be retired from service work as a consequence. Leaving that handler isolated and bereft.

Additionally, people take their pet dogs out in public and they are way beyond their comfort level so they misbehave. That puts the next service dog team at risk of being refused public access due to the first dogs behaviour. It’s not right and shouldn’t happen, but it does.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are an American concept and is needed to allow pets in non pet friendly housing. They do not exist in Canada, aside from in Calgary by-laws for livestock! With that exception either your dog is a full service dog or it’s not.

If it’s not then please realise that when you take your pet dog out in public and call it a service dog that you are really faking a disability.

To be totally honest having a service dog is hard work. It’s not something many people would choose unless they’ve tried everything else first. It’s like having a permanent toddler. Everywhere I go I have to think about my dog’s safety and what tools, such as boots or ear protection, I might need.

Additionally, I have to be ready to deal with the people who try and interact with my dog when it’s working despite a clearly labelled vest which asks people to ignore the dog. I also have to be ready to listen to everybody’s dead dog story. I have no idea why service dog handlers are expected to listen to such stories but I’m not alone in coming across this. Even if people leave us alone they still point and stare. Working a service dog is not for the faint at heart. A 10 minute trip to the store can become 30-45 minutes easily just dealing with other people.

So let me reiterate: Please stop taking out pet dogs and calling them service dogs. You are discriminating against the disabled in doing so and making the life of legitimate service dogs teams much harder. Please just stop!

Dead canaries…

In the days of heavy coal mining canaries were taken down the pit as early indicators of gas leaks. To put it simply, if there was a leak such as carbon monoxide the canaries would die before the miners giving them a warning and time to get out of the pits immediately.

Sometimes I think that we should now have a modern version of canaries in all public places. Not to detect carbon monoxide but rather the clouds of perfume and cologne that some people drench themselves with.

Our sense of smell is much like our other senses. It acclimates to the smells that are regularly around us so that it can concentrate on smelling things that are of danger to us and out of the ordinary.

Unfortunately, this means that for some people they can no longer smell their favourite perfumes/colognes and so they add more and more until they can smell it again. By which point it’s so intense that those of us with sensitivity to smells have real problems.

Sometimes you can talk to those concerned and they’ll agree to back off the scent a little. Most health related buildings are no scent or low scent areas but not everybody follows the mandate.

So I think we need a modern version of a canary in public spaces. Something that would set off an alert if somebody entered the space with excessive scents. I think that a few embarrassing moments like that and the perpetrators may think a little more before using so much scent again.

In reality this isn’t going to happen but perhaps we can just raise awareness that scents can kill people. As an example, I’m allergic to Marijuana so 420 friendly spaces are literally deadly for me.

So please, as you reach for that perfume or cologne think twice about where you will be going that day and think twice about how much you put on. Those of us with scent sensitivities will thank you.

Toxic people no longer welcome here…

For the sake of my mental health I have cut out certain people from my life over the past two years. It hasn’t been easy and at times it’s been the hardest thing that I have ever done. However, it is worth it. The decreased stress in my life from no longer having to actively deal with their issues and problems is beyond measure. If you’re not sure what I’m taking about Chelsea Jackson explains well what it means to have, and cut out, a toxic person in your life in her blog “Why it’s OK to cut toxic family members from your life”

So for anybody struggling with this issue let me reassure you that it gets easier with time and is extremely worth it in the end!

To be the best person you can be, means that you must look after yourself first and foremost. If you’re constantly engaging with a toxic person you can never be your best you as they are constanty dragging you down. Stand up for yourself and you will become the better mother, daughter, sister, wife, that you want to be.

Sometimes being stubborn is what’s needed…

Sometimes it’s hard not to think that life is out to get me. On Monday, I posted about finally feeling like myself again having had a day out in the form of a road trip on Sunday.

On Monday I had some follow-up tests due to one of those rabbit holes we dropped down when trying to find the cause of my breathing issues, just as a precaution, and the results came in yesterday and they’re not good. So I’m back to that specialist next week.  First appointment after the holiday weekend.

It just seems that for the last year, or two, that every time I start to feel as so I’m getting a handle on life again that something else comes to try to knock me flat.

Well this weeble may have been slow in recovering her equilibrium over the past two years and it might be taking me longer to get back up; but I’m getting back up and will deal with this issue as it comes. I’ll also work hard at not worrying about the unknown and the suspected in the interim.

In reality nothing has changed since Sunday. I had the same issue then, I just didn’t know it. So I’m going to hold on to the good feeling from Sunday and use that to help me through the next few weeks.

I’m on the path to health and while it seems to be an especially twisty path I will get there!

I’m too stubborn not to!

 

 

Why labels, and getting the right labels, are important for some disabled people

I’ve always wondered what life would have been like if I had been raised as Deaf rather than mainstreamed with occasional accommodations for my “hearing loss” that were often more an afterthought than an actual accommodation.

More recently, as I’ve struggled so much with my health getting the right label has been of the utmost importance. Without a label at all, everything was a great deal harder. “Breathing difficulties’ sounds so innocuous.

Unfortunately what seems to be the right label, that of Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS) and Hypersensitivity seem to be very much misunderstood.

However, knowing that that is what’s wrong with me personally has allowed me to push myself in respiratory rehab. much more than I would have done before I knew for sure. Until we’d ruled out a lot of other possibilities I was always scared to do much of anything just in case I made anything worse.

Fighting to breathe for over 6 months before gaining any relief was hard enough. I wasn’t willing to do anything that could make that come back or get any worse. I was already past the point at which I should have been hospitalised months ago. Thankfully, I did get relief with the help of an outstanding speech language pathologist and the continued support of my medical team of specialists and my GP.

However, today I read the best description I’ve ever read on why, as a disabled person, being labelled matters to me.

Sparrows and Penguins

I don’t know if it’s true for all disabled people, but for some of we often do identify by our disability rather than as a person with a disability. I’m not a woman who happens to be deaf. I am a deaf woman. Being deaf permeates every aspect of my life. It is core to my identity.

So like “Candidly Autistic” I’m proud to be a penguin. I might be a different kind of penguin than “Candidly Autistic” but there is relief in no longer trying to be a sparrow.

Such a pretty boy….

So we both survived our time apart, Kai came home looking very handsome. However, he’d caused some concerns while being groomed as he’d peed pretty much constantly not just when I arrived to pick him up.

So today we headed to the vets. The good news is that Kai doesn’t have a bladder infection, nor does he have diabetes. He does have a touch of staining between the pads of his feet and the tip of his penis from licking. Apparently there’s something in a dog’s saliva that can turn white hair red. Nothing serious though as the skin underneath wasn’t inflamed or infected so I just need to watch for excessive licking and most likely his hair will go back to being white in those places in the summer when he doesn’t have ice and salt to lick off.

Sorry Kai – looks like winter boots for you more often next year!

My thanks to the new groomers for their concern. However, unfortunately we think it was a reaction from the bad groom and being at a strange groomers. Hopefully, next time it won’t be so new to him and he’ll relax. However, as he hasn’t continued with the uncontrollable peeing since I picked him up and didn’t pee in the vets office we’re pretty sure it was more like a little kid peeing themselves when they’re scared.

That’s mixed news. I hate the fact that he had a bad groom that caused it. Especially as the groomer used had been grooming him since I got him and had always done a great job before. It must have just been an off day. However, I won’t risk him there again. So I’ll let his coat grow out a little longer this time before his next groom and hopefully all will be OK.

He certainly looks like a handsome boy today, even upside down!

Oh, as for me. I was right, one fall, a few bruises and a couple of mild asthma attacks. The lung rehab. program staff commented on how much more off-balance I was without him and how much more I needed to hold on without him providing counter balance for me. It’s amazing to think how much more restricted my life would be without him. I’m so grateful for his love and presence in my life. Good boy Kai!

On my own today….

Kai is getting a well deserved rest today and going to the doggy spa for a bath, groom and to have his feet and teeth cleaned. He usually loves going. However, at his last groom they must have used dull clippers and he came home some what unevenly cut with razor burn in a number of places. I was not at all happy!

The problem is that Kai likely never reacted to being hurt. Part of his Service Dog training is to stay calm while being trodden on, pinched and pulled at. Much as I watch out for him so that these things shouldn’t happen, sometimes they do and he has to react calmly. So he’s unlikely to have let the groomer know how much he was being hurt.

Today, he goes to a new groomer. Who will have very explicit instructions to use new blades on him and to check him closely so that he doesn’t get hurt again. She’ll also be warned that he loves toothpaste so don’t leave it in his reach if she wants any left!

Lastly while he’s virtually grown out of his excited peeing, his last bastion is to not pee when he sees me after our being apart. So I’ll be warning them to expect the flood, Much as the mess isn’t that much fun to deal with; there is something kind of sweet about somebody being so excited to see you that they can’t control their bodily functions 😉

My vet thinks that this will be the last element of the excited peeing to go but that he still needs to mature some more for us to see it happen. Interestingly, even when his excited peeing was at his worse he has never, ever peed when working except when commanded to do so.

Anyway, so today I have to get by without my other half for part of the day. I have extra anxiety medications to take to help curb the panic attacks at being out without him. He’s my safety backup in so many ways. Even at rehab. I’ll have to remember to stand closer to hand rails and walls as he won’t be there to provide counter balance for me. I’ll need to monitor my own breathing and the staff will be monitoring my Blood Pressure and heart rate more frequently than normal, just to be on the safe side.

Service dogs provide such great independence that sometimes we forget just how much they do for us. Until a day like today comes along and you have to manage without them. Then we are harshly reminded how much harder life is without having them along to mitigate our disabilities. The chances are that I will fall, bruise and have at least one asthma attack while he is away at the groomers. All of which are issues he would have prevented. Likewise I’m sure that I’ll offend somebody talking to me as I won’t have Kai’s cue that they’re speaking to me

It’s going to be a tough day but one that Kai and I will be better for. He’ll be nice and clean and have had a complete break from working for a few hours and I’ll get by. Though even now I’m counting down the hours until I can pick him up again and he hasn’t even been dropped off yet!