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Cara. Service Dog in Training

Throwing Cereal At Service Dogs Is a No-No!

February 8th 2010 12:19 pm
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Teaching Your Kids (staff, family, or friends) Proper Disability Ettiquette
From Kimberly at NoNo.html

I am a single Mom with multiple disabilities who utilizes a service dog. I am also a disability consultant and motivational speaker; I travel the country with my service dogs, to visit schools, scout troops, businesses and such; teaching about the wonderful benefits that service dogs provide for their partners with disabilities through a motivational speaking program that teaches people to believe in the beauty of their dreams.

I was partnered with my first service dog in 1999, after sustaining multiple injuries after a 1998 accident. I was forced to relearn how to read, write, walk and talk all over again. My service dog pulled my wheelchair, alerted to my seizures, and taught me how to walk again...most importantly, he taught me how to LIVE again!

I was disheartened to learn that while my independence hinged upon the assistance of my dog, and I was aware how special he was, that the general public was not as impressed. While out in public with my service dog, I've been yelled at, laughed at, had things thrown at me and my dog, and have had kids scream at the tops of their lungs because I have a service dog in a store/restaurant/movie theatre, ect...

But that's not the worst of it! With kids, you can kind of understand, cause after all; they're kids. From the adults, I've been illegally denied access to public places (more times than I can count!), sneered at, called names, snickered at, and was once even told (this is my personal favorite "Ah, you're faking it; you don't really need that dog or wheelchair! You just wanted to bring your doggie shopping with you!" And you thought we lived in a "tolerant" society, didn't you? Well, I can tell you from a personal perspective that today's society is anything but tolerant. But we can change all that! We're the parents of the next generation!

It's never too late or too early to teach disability awareness! My daughter once told a passerby who attempted to pet my service dog, "You can't pet Dawson; he's working"...she was three at the time.

I'm amazed at how willing kids are to learn about disabilities; and how they really grasp the concept of looking past disabilities to focus on the person's Abilities. They are more than willing to learn; we just have to make it a priority to teach them.

Age appropriate education and refreshers are very important to teach our children. Many kids with disabilities are being integrated into the mainstream of the public school system. In order to achieve a successful integration, it is important to implement disability awareness. In addition, today's children are our future; teaching them tolerance of those who are differently Abled now, ensures a more accepting society in years to come.

I'd like to share a few disability awareness tips that you can share with your child, and help open lines of communication.

1. Take a quiet moment at home to sit down and talk with your child about people who may be different from him/her. (Perhaps you could get a book from the library to help broach the subject and provide guidelines). Let your child know that while people come in all shapes, colors, abilities and sizes; and while we may look, sound, or do things differently; inside, we are all very much the same. Use specific examples, and positive "first person" language while keeping conversation open to questions (if you don't know the first person language, do a google search to learn more).

2. Let your child know that canes, wheelchairs, walkers, assistance dogs, and other medical assistive devices are an extension of the person with disabilities, and should not be leaned on, tampered with, stared (or pointed) at, or played with.

3. Taking the time to teach your child about peoples' differences at home can prevent a potentially embarrassing outburst in public! Remember, you won't be the only one to be embarrassed if your child yells out, "Hey Mommy, Why does that man only have one leg!?" or "LOOK, there's a dog in the store!" ... as a PWD, I can tell you that this type of unwanted attention can be quite embarrassing; on both sides.

That being said, all the preparation in the world may not sensor the excitement of a child seeing a service dog in a store for the first time! I hear so many parents who are abhorred by their child's outburst regarding my service dog, shushing their child; "Shhh! We don't talk about that like that!" At that moment, the damage is done; take the golden opportunity to stop whatever you are doing and get down on your child's level. Explain that that person has a dog in the store because the dog is specially trained to help the person do things that he/she has difficulty with.

3. Keep in mind that not all disabilities are visible. I'm a case in point; I have a traumatic brain injury & MS. While I spent a period of time "on wheels" while recovering from my accident in 1998, I'm able to walk most days (and on really, really good days, I can even country line dance...but that's another story. There are many days when a stranger would not know that I have a disability because I "appear" fine; when in reality, I may be struggling with crippling cognitive dysfunction or might be in a world of pain that absolutely exhausts me.

On the days when people with hidden disabilities are struggling, and request additional help, (or use a service dog, use a handicapped stall in a rest room, or park in a handicapped parking space); the worst thing they can hear is, "But you LOOK fine!" This implies that a person is "faking" it, or making more of their disability than they should. This sort of thing happens all the time, and I can tell you from personal experience; it is downright hurtful. Such statements should be avoided out of respect. Just because someone has a disability that cannot be seen, doesn't mean that they don't have a disability; and all of the challenges that come with it.

4. On the subject of service animals; be sure to let your child know that if they approach a working dog team, they should always address the person first; it's just good manners. It's is okay for them to say, "I like your dog," or "May I ask about your dog?"

Remind them that no matter how cute a dog may be, when he/she is in public, they are working and should not be disturbed. Teach them to be quiet and not make sudden movements around a dog, explaining that the dog is there to do a very important job, and if it gets distracted, the person they are supposed to be assisting could be hurt.

If your child is afraid of dogs, be sure to explain to them that assistance dogs are specially selected and trained to be calm, friendly and safe around the public; and all of them have been tested around children and will not bite. (I've had a terrified child throw boxes of cereal at my dog in the supermarket, screaming at the top of their lungs because their fear and the surprise of seeing a dog in a store overwhelmed them. Proper education prior to ever meeting a service dog would have prevented this). Poor Dawson---he never even looked in the child's direction, and doesn't really care for cereal! ;-(

5. Encourage your child to include children with disabilities, to play. If the child cannot play the same as other kids, come up with innovate ways to accommodate the child's challenges. Making up games can be lots of fun!

6. When talking to a person with disabilities who may have speech or hearing impairments, talk normally, and face the person to make lip reading possible. If you didn't understand them, don't pretend that you did. Ask them to repeat themselves slowly and/or louder.

7. Lead by example! Be sure to check yourself the next time you encounter a person with disabilities in public. I never realized it before being wheelchair bound myself, then partnered with a canine companion; but people tend to ignore you and act as though you aren't even there, even if you speak directly to them!

If someone doesn't know how to act around someone with disabilities, chances are they will avoid them; it's only natural. But by learning about the different ways to communicate with PWD, and viewing PWD as feeling, caring individuals, focused on their Abilities not dis abilities; you, as a parent, will be setting a great example of tolerance for your child.

8. Teach the golden rule; Treat others the way you would want to be treated--you can never go wrong by doing that.

I hope this information has been helpful. There is such a huge need for parents to teach their kids these simple, yet very important tips! Often, we get so busy and don't even think about these issues until they crop up; or we think our kids will react appropriately and are surprized when they don't act as we expected...and that's okay. Hey, we've all been there! What's not okay is if we know the problem exists, we know how to fix it, yet choose to do nothing about it.

On behalf of all PWD, please, take your child aside today and teach them that though some people may look, sound, or do things differently, inside, we are all very much the same. Thank you!

NOTE: While children are specifically pin pointed in this article, these helpful tips can be applied in any setting (business, family, staff, ect...) Please take the time to share this with the people in your life.

Thank you, on behalf of all people with disabilities.

Kimberly & K9 partner, Dawson--together, we are Canine and ABLED!



September 2nd 2009 10:24 am
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My daddy has finally excepted going places with mom and me. Sometimes he seems to enjoy having me there. No matter how many times mom tells him not to, he still sneaks me treats at the table when we go to restaurants so I love going with him. He'll tell people I'm a medical alert dog and tell them I'm allowed places too.

Mom sent in an application to teach about service dogs at next year's Legal Nurse Consultant conference. Unfortunately they said "no". Mom was pretty disappointed. If she can find the energy and self-discipline she may try to write a journal article then maybe she can teach in 2011.

I'm generally so good in public, but my mom wonders if I could ever pass the public access test as I just don't want to be away from her side for a second so I don't like to do sit/down stays no more than a couple seconds. I'm not great at heeling either (you would think a "blue heeler" would heel better). When we're out walking she doesn't really ask me to heel 'cause if I'm close she likes to trip over me.



September 2nd 2009 10:11 am
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I have become quite the traveler now. I have been on eight plane flights now (counting transfers). Mom and I went to Vegas in July for an educational seminar. I checked out many casinos (we just walked through, mom doesn't gamble, except for $1 just to say she did it) and we went to the aquarium at Mandalay Bay. The fish were fascinating. I was especially interested in the rays and sharks. It was hot but we only walked around in the evenings.

My "sister" Heather went along. I really got to know her better. She knew her way around Vegas so we saw the best sites. No time for any shows though. I also rode on the monorail, the tramways and in a cab a couple times. We were stopped twice by security guards. One was okay after mom identified me, I was just wearing a scarf because of the heat. Another guard gave us a bit of a hard time and was a little rude. My sister actually did most of the talking. My mom gave the guard a SD card from SitStay when we were done.

The meeting rooms were small. I was so good the first day that mom just let me loose on the second day so I wouldn't tangle my leash. I pretty much just slept under the table. One time when I woke up I got up on the wrong side of the "table" and felt a little lost for a few seconds until mom called me. The ladies in the class and the instructors really liked me too.

On this trip I also learned to ride on moving sidewalks and stairs. I still don't like them but I don't argue about it anymore. I just grin and bare it and jump when it's time to get off. Almost pulled mom over a couple times in the beginning.

We went to Wisconsin to see my grandparents in August. I may tell you about that later. That trip wasn't much fun.


Our trip to Phoenix and other stuff

May 3rd 2009 12:51 pm
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Mom and I had a great trip to Phoenix. I copied this from one of her e-mails.

Cara and I went to the Legal Nurse Consultant conference in Phoenix (Glendale actually) April 21st through April 24th. We had a great time. Cara exceeded all my expectations.

I was constantly answering questions about service dogs to the point of contemplating doing a seminar for next year's conference and writing an article for our journal.
She became the unofficial mascot. I wouldn’t have taken the initiative to meet near as many people if she hadn’t broken the ice first. Impossible to be a wall-flower with a service dog! I was disappointed on how many nurses asked if she was a seeing eye dog though. I thought nurses would be a little more observant.

Cara flew like a trooper. I was afraid she might freak out from the engine noise on take-off and landing. She looked at me nervously and I gave her a treat, that was it.
We flew out on United and home on US Airways. They were both great to us, bulkhead seats, not filling middle seats (as they weren't needed) first on, first off and offered Cara H2O (we carried our own).
I felt no need to tell anybody Cara was a psych SD. Technically, bi-polar is an organic disease, anyway,so I figure that makes her a medical alert dog, too. I did have a note from my psych Dr, just in case, but never needed it. I had also contacted customer service from both airlines and had made copies of their policies from their web sites on service dogs. It was a good idea to speak to Customer Service, though, as they were able to book the bulkhead seats in advance. NO questions asked what so ever. In fact, US Airways customer service had told me if anybody asked any questions, they wanted me to notify them because they were not supposed to.

One flight attendant took a picture of Cara and I in our seat. My seat partners enjoyed sitting by Cara, especially the guy who got to go on first, ahead of us as he was sitting by the window in our seats. He was a civilian contractor coming back from Baghdad. Phoenix was his last stop. After 25 hrs of flying he was more than happy to get a seat a little bit sooner. The other passenger said she was hoping she would get to sit next to the dog! I'll post some pics on Cara's Dogster Page, eventually, but don't hold your breath.

There was another SD, Mocha, at the hotel! She was also a psych SD for her mom’s chronic pain. Cute little chocolate colored Cock-a-poo, well trained. Her mom and I chatted at the pool over the course of several days. Mocha, however, was very leery of Cara and they never did become friends. The first time we went out by the pool, Cara saw Mocha on the other side of the pool. I had her on a ten foot leash at that moment. Well, Cara had no idea what a swimming pool was, so she bolted, running toward Mocha, and went right into the pool, vest and all. It was like one of the cartoons where the character is running in mid-air before dropping like a stone. Cara was very quick to turn tail and scramble to get out. She didn’t try to go in the pool again even though she was often in reach. Boy, wish somebody had been videotaping for AFV!

We were briefly challenged by the hotel manager (she hadn’t checked us in) and a Walgreen’s manager only until they realized Cara was a SD.
A waitress in a restaurant said Cara had to sit under the booth so she wouldn’t scare patrons, I said “No she doesn’t” and she said okay and that was it. Cara always does go under the booth and did then anyway.

We’ve gotten two Service Dog neck scarves from Suzydidit Designs (NFI)'re very nice quality. I wanted something cooler for Cara to wear in AZ besides her harness. Unfortunately we didn't get them in time for our trip. So I made one while in Phoenix with my Holiday Inn Express iron. Cut the size out, (Michael’s has small pieces of cloth for hobbies in the sewing section that are just perfect), used fusible webbing for hem and iron on letters. Came up with the idea of using snaps, the kind you pound on, handy rock outside hotel, rather than tying scarf. This worked very well. I'll put up photos of these too.

There is an Australian Cattle Dog (ACD),
on-line magazine that has 3 stories of ACD SDs. Check out ACD Spotlight. The articles start on page 60.

That's it for now.


April 12th 2009 11:06 am
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I graduated from my basic obedience class. I do fine in public but mom wanted me to get formal training too and my CGC. My instructors Carol and Kathy (Ru's mom) were great. Carol thinks I can go on to advanced now although I need work on consistency. I'm easily distracted by the other dogs and a little nervous in classes but mom figures if I an get good there I will be good anywhere.


How I Got to Aurora, Colorado

December 29th 2008 4:05 pm
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I'm a full Australian Cattle Dog (ACD). My original name was "Dog" when I was abandoned at the animal shelter in Grand Island, Nebraska. The story is that I was brought in to the shelter with one of my puppies after being found wandering around. A kid, from the farm where I supposedly lived in the barn, came and got my puppy and left me all alone to die. I was going to be "put down" the next morning. Somebody from NE/CO K9 Rescue let people know on the Australian Cattle Dog List that I was going to die. Mommy talked Daddy into fostering me. She said my eyes looked so sad in the shelter picture, she later found out it was allergies but it worked to my advantage that day.
I got to Aurora because several wonderful people drove "legs" of mileage to get me to my "Forever Home". My mommy decided she wanted to keep me after I stayed there just a week. She said I was just too sweet to give away and I got along (I just didn't want to fight with Miss Prima Donna) with me big sister, Niki.
I also didn't chase the cats; when she was looking :-)
I was just happy to have a warm home and a loving family, even thought Niki is STILL a Prima Donna) and I have a little sister, Penny, who worships her. Oh, and even the two cats Lassie and Rascal, I guess. Throw in two parakeets, Blueberry and Lemon Drop, they're noisy, and it is a busy family, too.


Which Celebrity is Your Pet?

December 22nd 2008 9:38 pm
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American Queen

Come on, let's just face it: We are living in a material world, and cara is a material girl. So go ahead and thank your lucky stars—cara is the one and only Madonna!

Always desperately seeking attention, cara is multi-talented and savvy, not afraid to get her paws dirty and experiment with new methods of getting into the groove in order to reach her peeps. She commands respect everywhere she goes, a sophisticated traveler who insists upon the best—and more often than not, she gets what she wants. Appearance is everything for your true-blue diva and while her look may change as often as the Pellegrino in her water bowl does, her commitment to exercise is unwavering. cara's in tip-top shape, which makes her age in pet years a non-issue. Despite the hard fur and the no-nonsense approach, she's a softy when it comes to her devoted owner. It's fair to say that cara is, yes, crazy for you.

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