Some little things that always make me smile –
- The way pine tree branches sway and bend in the wind
- A cat’s paws flexing in and out while they purr
- The smell of pot roast and carrots in the crock pot
- Christmas Eve night
- Snow falling right before bedtime
- Extra soft teddy bears
- Buying a surprise gift for someone
- Twenty candles lit around a scented bubble bath
- Starbucks coffee on a cold winter night
- Goose down pillows
- Camp fires
- Low rolling thunder
- Puppies playing
- Robin’s egg blue
- Lincoln Continentals jet black & fully loaded
- The stillness at 3:00 am
- Candy apples from the fair
- Roses, especially cream and white
- Shooting stars
- Hush puppy shoes
- Yellow rain slickers
- French braided hair
- French doors
- Huge gold jingle bells on a wide velvet ribbon
- Soft flannel shirts
- Teeny sweet pickles
- Happy people
- Deviled eggs with helmans mayonnaise
- Fresh washed hair
- A baby’s giggle
- Kittens spanking a shaft of light
- Leather journals
- The way a person’s butt dances while sharpening a pencil
- Shopping with a hundred dollars to spare
- Creamy soup in bread bowls
- Big wooden decks
- The scent of lavender
- Horses running with their mane flowing
- Singing to yourself
- Wind chimes
- Homemade tacos
- Doubly ply, extra soft toilet paper
- Deer grazing silently in a meadow
- Sweet cold watermelon
- Dogs lips blowing out while sticking their head out a car window
These labels can be very confusing if you are not familiar with the jargon of disability world. They are not only quite different but are not treated equal under the law. The definition of service animal was changed July 23, 2010 defining only dogs and miniature horses as a category for service animals. People are always surprised to see that miniature horses were approved as a service animal. While not common, they have earned a reputation as an alternative to traditional service dogs. They can be house broken, a requirement for service animals under the ADA and their life span of 30 years is a much longer working life span than dogs. Typically, people using dogs as service animals must find a new dog every 10 years as their service dog ages. For many reasons this can become an emotional trying experience. The miniature horse must be a docile, intelligent temperament even in the hectic urban environments just like the dogs are expected to be.
To be considered a service dog they are required to perform a “task” to qualify such as fetching a cell phone, opening or closing doors, taking garbage out, pull a wheel chair up an incline, etc. The task performed is based on the individual needs but they must perform one to qualify as a service dog.
Emotional support dogs assist people with mental impairments. They are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Needing glasses would be an impairment not able to see it all is the disability. This distinction is why a person using an emotional service dog is not protected under the ADA since the most important criteria is that the person has to have a disability according to the ADA definitions. However, there are provisions under the Fair Housing Act that allows them in HUD housing if proper paperwork is filed.
Psychiatric service dogs on the other hand can be taught to do tasks similar to mobility service dogs. Examples would be retrieving things dropped because on certain medication bending over would cause dizziness to the person, reminding or redirecting people with OCD to stop behaviors, alerting to smoke alarms, door bells, tornado warnings. They are a huge help for social phobias and much more so you can see how psychiatric service dogs would qualify because of the “task” they perform and the person’s status of disabled.
To clarify there is NO certification required by law. There are many organizations that are very good at training service dogs to accomplish tasks but it is not required. However keep in mind a service dog must act like a service dog. They should be socially trained to not only perform tasks but know their place in all situations so that’s the great benefit of the organization that knows their stuff and can instill that training in the service dog. An average training process for these dogs is typically 18 to 24 months, a huge investment of time and money.
If a service dog is not socially trained and barks and bites or growls or disturbs other people the business you are visiting can ask you to leave and not bring your dog in again and it would b their complete right to do so. These service animals’ open doors of freedom for people with disabilities that were once closed. They fill many roles such as companion, helper and unconditional love but they are also a tool when working and must follow regulations in order to have access to all the places a person wants to go. For more information visit the website http://www.swcil.org a nonprofit Center for Independent living and request an advocate to assist you with the current laws and compliance in your state. .
While shopping for Christmas last year, a sticker on one of the windows caught my attention. It said “Guide Dogs Welcome”. I had noticed a similar sign a few months ago while in Denver on vacation. I don’t know where these business owners even found the signs. Maybe it was before 1990 when ADA was passed, who knows? The law states all service animals are to be allowed in any business serving the public. There is no law stating they must be certified and no one can require the individual to disclose their disability in order to justify the service animal. They are only allowed to ask if the animal is an assistance or service animal. And the misconception that guide dogs are the only service animal certified as an assistance dog is erroneous. As more doors open for people with disabilities the duties of service animals constantly broaden to accommodate new freedom of independence.
Almost everyone is familiar with guide dogs for the blind. They have been around since post WWI when they were developed and trained in Germany for veterans who were blinded during the war. Now, they exist all over the world. They are easy to identify with their harness and handle. For the visually impaired they supply independence, freedom and companionship. Sixty years later we have advanced with training methods to assist many more disabilities. Most, however, are not familiar with the extensive variety of these highly trained and specialized dogs. Some people mistake them as pets and do not realize that years of training have gone into these valuable dogs. I have attempted to list the most common service dogs but training methods advance constantly and I am sure someday there will be a service dog for almost any disability.
With the success of the Seeing Eye programs, trainers began to explore other disabilities that could benefit from the dog’s amazing ability to help people. The next step involved developing a hearing dog. These dogs are trained to basically convert noise into touch. They respond to everyday sounds such as the telephone, the doorbell or even the owners name being called by rubbing, nose nudging or even tugging on its owner. In an emergency such as a fire alarm, the dog will respond by giving more agitated alerts, such as actually jumping on the owner. The hearing dog can also be taught sign language.
Service dogs assist physically disabled people by performing all sorts of assistance tasks such as opening doors, turning on lights, assisting in transferring by bracing, even pulling their owners wheel chairs up steep ramps. You can often recognize them by their backpacks full of useful items for their owners.
Seizure detecting dogs are the newest assistance dogs. These dogs are trained to recognize behaviors associated with an individual’s seizures. The dog can be trained to get help or stay with the person if needed. Alert capability is a natural occurrence where the dog “alerts” the owner that a seizure is about to occur. True alerting behavior is usually the result of the dog and human developing a very close bond. This alert capability enables an individual with seizures to locate a safe place before the seizure actually occurs.
Therapy dogs improve emotional and physical health simply by interacting with a person. Health care professionals have found that petting a dog can reduce stress and lower blood pressure and pulse rates in some individuals. There are many volunteer organizations throughout the country that help train volunteers to take their dogs to nursing homes, hospitals, mental health centers and prisons on therapy missions. These programs allow access to animals for a segment of the population that otherwise may not have access to animals.
There is even a class of service dogs called “combination dogs.” These dogs are trained to assist people with multiple disabilities that include visual impairment. In addition to work as wheelchair support dogs, combination dogs act as hearing dogs and guide dogs. They are trained to identify barriers to mobility like traffic, cracks in the sidewalk, overhanging branches and obstacles in the path of the owner. And, of course the guide training can also help the owner locate many items using the “find” command (find the door, find the elevator, find the comb).
I would like to share a few last words on some do’s and don’ts when you see someone with an assistance dog. While it’s perfectly fine to talk to the person about their dog, refrain from petting or talking directly to the dog. It will distract the dog from its work. The same holds true for feeding treats or attempting to play. Once the dogs are home their owners have built in play and cuddling time for them. Being an assistance dog is a job that these dogs love to do but keep in mind it is a structured training that has taken years to accomplish.
If you have a disability or know someone who does that would like additional information on how to acquire a assistance dog, or a copy of the law pertaining to them, call your local Independent Living Center.