Getting My Service Dog

I went through the application and interview process with Freedom Service Dogs and was so happy and grateful when I was accepted. The next step was to wait on the waiting list until they called to tell me they had a dog that they thought matched with me.

What this means is matched for personality and needs. I was asked to come meet my potential service dog. It was love, he was awkward, silly and had a beard that made him look like an old man. It was summer when we met so I was wearing a dress and he got his head stuck in it and all confused trying to get out. It was hysterical. At the end of the meeting they asked me if I was interested in him and I jokingly said he could either be my service dog or they would have to chase a disabled person with a dog to get him back.

Freedom Service Dogs did all the training prior to when I started working with him. He had all the tasks I needed ready in his brain. Now, it was my turn to learn the commands, hand signs and him to learn about me. We had several weeks of training, several weeks of bonding and more than two years later I cannot imagine my life without him. Some days going out is kind of like having a toddle in toe, because you have to get them dressed, make sure you have treats (aka snacks) and know that it will take longer doing whatever it is you’re doing because people will stop you and ask questions.

All of that is worth it though, I don’t have to focus on my feet anymore because he does that for me. If I drop something I know he will pick it up, I know I have my own little support system when I am alone, because he is there to help me.

He is allowed to go everywhere, so if you have a service dog, know the laws in your area. The US has ADA laws that allow you to go everywhere the public goes and bring your service dog along with you. Do not allow people into bullying you not to be somewhere.

The laws, rights and trouble I have run in to will be my next service dog post. So if you are interested in knowing more about that, keep an eye open for that.

FAQ About Service Dogs

Service dogs are smart and they are used for many things now, PTSD, Mobility issues, Autism, Diabetes, and Seizures. I cannot speak for everyone with a service dog, but here are some of the most frequently asked questions I get about my service dog.

Q. Can I pet your dog? (ALWAYS ask for permission. Regardless if you think the dog is being trained or not you need to ask for permission. Distracting a service dog from its job is actually a misdemeanor offense.)

A. Always ask, if you ask me I am much more likely to give permission than not. It really depends on the day, how bad my symptoms are and what I am doing. Do not get offended or mean to people who tell you no. Each service dog has different tasks and their owner may not be able to put their dog in a situation to be distracted for one second.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Also, do not approach people with service dogs in places you would not approach people without a service dog. I have had people stand next to me and talkĀ  while I am trying to make a transaction at an ATM and while trying to give prescriptions to a pharmacist. Do not put your hand out to have a service dog interact with you, this is a distraction and you are encouraging them to misbehave. Do not just pet a service dog in public without asking, regardless if you think you are seen or not. I have had girls follow me around the grocery store petting him every time I go to take something off the shelf. It’s not only annoying, but it’s disrespectful.

Q. Are you training him?

A. No, he is my service dog. (Please don’t ask people who don’t look disabled if they are training the service dog that they are with. Personally, I feel bad enough about myself for needing a service dog at such a young age, your question that seems innocent just reinforces those feelings.)

Q. Are you a Veteran?

A. No, I was not, as frequently as this question and the one above are asked it makes me feel as though I need to justify my disability. I don’t though, and I don’t really feel like telling strangers how damaged my body is everyday so please be mindful.

Q. Does he ever get to be a dog or is he always working?

A. This question is easy, he works when his vest is on. When he’s not wearing his vest and we are at home he gets to be a dog, play with our other dog and the kids. He does still help me around the house without his vest on because he enjoys working. When we are out, he doesn’t have to wear his vest at the pet store, dog park or vet and he LOVES going to these places. People can pet him, he can sniff dogs and just be a dog.

Q. What does he do? (Legally, unless you are the owner of a business, we don’t have to answer this question. I usually do unless I am having a hard day or the question comes off a rude rather than interest because I don’t always feel like talking about the medical reasons I require a service dog.)

A. My service dog is for Brace and Balance. This means he has been trained to keep me walking up right and watches to make sure I do not fall down. He can also help me get up if I am on the ground, usually from sitting on the floor with my kids. He is trained to do so much more than this though. He helps me take the clothes to the laundry room, he picks things up off of the floor when I accidentally drop them. He can open doors and the fridge, he can bring me things, he is trained to find someone if I fall at work and need help. He also centers me when my anxiety and PTSD are impacting what’s happening around me. He wasn’t trained for this task but because of our bond he started doing it on his own.

Q. Can he go on a plane and does he get his own seat?

A. Yes he can go on a plane, ADA laws in the United States require that he is allowed everywhere I go unless it’s a surgical room. No, he does not get his own seat, he actually curls up into a ball on the floor in front of me. He does not like flying though so if there isn’t a bag under the seat in front of us he usually tries to fit under it.

* I have had numerous people tell me that they were thinking about getting a vest for their dog so they came bring them places since they are calming. Therapy dogs are not protected by ADA laws like service dogs are. Service dogs must meet certain standards to have that legal privilege. People who bring misbehaving dogs into places with a vest or claiming they are a service dog actually makes it more difficult for those of us with actual service dogs. Please do not do this. Whenever I hear about this I hand out ADA law cards to the businesses because they need to know their rights as much as I do mine.

When Your Child is Sick for No Apparent Reason

I think as a parent with a chronic illness that can be passed down to your children it always sits somewhere in the back of your mind. For me, as a mother who was not diagnosed until after I had both of my kids I am in a frequent state of concern about my boys.

For the past few months, my youngest who is six, has been more clumsy than usual, complaining of headaches, stomach aches and other vague feelings of being unwell. I always ask about the last time he ate, or pooped, or had water. Try to think if the leg wobbles are from growing pains, or other normal things before I let the slight panic set in.

I know the likelihood of him having MS, especially at six is low. Though I had it when I was 13 they say to me now, because the health issue I had that started during my freshman year of high school has been linked now. After denial for a few weeks and he started asking me if I could make a doctor appointment for him. Normal kids don’t ask to go to the doctor, I told him I would, but that they may need pictures or blood if they weren’t sure what was wrong. He said ok, I knew it was serious because he was both ready and willing to have his blood drawn in order to figure out what was happening.

I’m going to skip over the first attempt at the blood draw at the pediatrician’s (who agreed, tests should be run) and move to our visit to CHildren’s Hospital after days and days of extra hydration before our second attempt for getting his blood. Deep veins are a problem I do not have, but my sweet little boy does. This makes it even more challenging when trying to assist the techs in holding a child who is sobbing from the pain of the band wrapped around their arm.

They eventually got the blood, and the techs were not enjoying the steps it took to finally get the blood from the rolling, deep veins so I will spare every mother the torment I went through sitting there with my youngest, but I will tell you, I hope to never have to go through that again.

The next day, the results were in the portal, having had blood tests done so frequently I know what is and is not normal for my body I was anxious at the results. A few things were flagged as high but I know that children’s blood work is different so I managed to stave of my panic a little longer before I called the doctor on the 3rd day.

Our pediatrician is great, they hadn’t received the results yet but the nurse logged into the portal, got the results and spoke with the doctor before calling me back. Over all, the kid is in good health, the few numbers that were high, in relation to all the other numbers was not a concern. At some point my little boy had EBV (mono) which is super weird if you ask me but apparently 95% of the world’s population has antibodies for this virus. His vitamin D is low, but that is hereditary and I have the same issue. Knowing that low vitamin D is linked to MS you better believe both my boys take supplements now, also advised by their doctor so I know the actual amount that will help them.

The next step is to set an appointment for him to see a Pediatric Orthopedist. Honestly, I am procrastinating this one because I hate the thought of putting this little human through so much medical testing already, but I know as his mother I will do whatever I can and need to in order for him to feel better.