Service Animal Relief Areas at Airports

July 26, 2010 · Posted in Public Interaction, Service Dogs · 10 Comments 
Relief area, please!

Have you traveled through an airport since the U.S. Department of Transportation required airports to install service animal relief areas? Whistle and I flew to Washington, D.C. last week. We traveled through the Chicago Midway Airport and Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C.

We had a three hour layover on the way to Washington, D.C. in Chicago. I was so disappointed to see that the relief area was outside the secured perimeter at baggage claim. My caregiver took Whistle out and they had to go through security. We asked security if they could come back through the line any faster and were told they would have to go through the normal line. This was awfully time consuming and even though we had a three hour layover, we barely made our next flight. The security line was extremely long.

On the way back, Dulles did have a fenced in dog relief area. However, it too was outside of the secured perimeter and requires handlers to return through security. Once we landed at Chicago Midway, the security line was so long that we felt my caregiver would not have enough time to take Whistle out to the relief area and return through the enormous security line.

We asked a TSA official and a Chicago police officer and they both informed us that she would have to return through the security line with Whistle. They made no attempt to assist us and they didn’t really seem to know what I was talking about when I asked about a service dog relief area.

What we needed was a TSA security escort as a reasonable accommodation to get Whistle to the relief area and back through security so we could access our gate in a reasonable amount of time. That’s not what we received.

Poor Whistle did not have the opportunity to relieve himself and he was desperate to go out once we landed in Albuquerque. The Albuquerque airport does not have a specific dog relief area either. There is a grassy area that is unfenced and located outside the security perimeter where he relieves himself. And of course, there are no baggies or readily available trash bins.

I am contemplating filing a complaint with all three airports regarding their lack of compliance with the Department of Transportation requirement. I do not like to file complaints but I fear if we don’t self-advocate, this lack of responsiveness will continue indefinitely. Have you had any airport experiences with service dog relief areas? Did you file a complaint?

Courthouse Dogs Help Ensure Justice is Served

July 5, 2010 · Posted in Public Interaction, Service Dogs · 2 Comments 

Have you heard of a courthouse dog? They’re not legal experts, but these specially trained dogs are being used in the criminal justice system to help provide support for crime victims and their families, and even for social workers or other staff members.

Increasingly, courthouse dogs are being used in states across the country. Although they’re called courthouse dogs, these dogs often work not only in the courthouse, but in facilities like child advocacy centers. Courthouse dogs are typically therapy dogs; however, some of these working dogs may have more advanced training as assistance dogs and can even work as medical alert and response dogs.

Daisy is one example of an advance trained, assistance dog pulling double duty as a courthouse dog. I had the privilege of interviewing Lori Raineri and Cameron Handley about Daisy, and her role at the Yolo County, California Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center (MDIC) on Working Like Dogs at (please feel free to listen in to their full interview).

Lori personally trained Daisy as her assistance dog. She loved Daisy so much that she felt compelled to share Daisy’s talents with others. Lori reached out to her local District Attorney, Jeff Reisig, about creating a courthouse dog program. Reisig loved the idea and connected Lori with Cameron, the director of the MDIC. Through their joint efforts, the Yolo County pilot courthouse dog program was born!

The program’s goal is to reduce the trauma a child goes through when dealing with the stresses of the criminal justice system. Daisy helps calm the children and others participating in the process. She also helps them begin to trust again and to start the healing process. For professionals in the system, Daisy provides some relief from the emotionally draining situations they deal with day after day.

Daisy is there at the Center to greet the children when they arrive, and if they want, she can be with them during interviews, medical exams, and in court. Daisy knows a large number of commands, even in multiple languages. She can do tricks to break the ice, but then gets down to business, just quietly being there, comforting the children and their families during a tough time.

You can listen to the complete interview to discover more about how this public-private partnership was developed, all the tasks Daisy performs, and even how this unique government worker commutes to the office. You can also get ideas about how you might be able to start a similar program in your community.

I was so impressed with the work Cameron, Lori and Daisy, are doing together. I hope you are, too. I was also excited to see that the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners ( are including a session on Courthouse Dogs at their upcoming Conference to be held September 25, 2010 in Seattle, Washington.

National Assistance Dog Week August 8-14, 2010

July 1, 2010 · Posted in Service Dogs · Comment 
National Assistance Dog Week

We are so excited about the upcoming 2010 National Assistance Dog Week. And, to celebrate this special week, we decided to create and to launch a new web site dedicated solely to National Assistance Dog Week ( As an assistance dog lover and partner, it dawned on me a few years ago that assistance dogs needed recognition for the countless ways they enrich people’s lives. As a result, National Assistance Dog Week was born!

As I tried to imagine the perfect time of year for such a celebration, I reflected on growing up in the South where we experienced the “dog” days of summer every August. And, I thought what a great time that would be to celebrate these amazing dogs! So, the second week of every August is now National Assistance Dog Week!

This year, I am so excited that we had the opportunity to create a new web site dedicated to National Assistance Dog Week. I realized that many people and non-profit organizations don’t have a lot of time or resources to develop press releases, proclamations, and other plans. So, we thought we would help them out by creating a web site that would provide this information for FREE!

The site was created as a resource for individuals or organizations who would like to celebrate assistance dogs. Anyone can download free materials and templates to help them plan, organize and customize their own event(s). There are sample press releases, proclamations, ideas for events, and even a sample public service announcement. Everything is free for the taking.

There is even an opportunity to promote your local activity on the site. AND, there is a contest for the best event. You can enter your NADW 2010 event and win a special plaque and gift certificate.

In New Mexico, our Governor will be signing a proclamation declaring August 8-14, 2010 as Assistance Dog Week in New Mexico. We will also be holding an Assistance Dog Fair at Zoe & Guido’s on August 14 from 10:00am to noon. So stay tuned for more exciting information about the activities we’re planning.

National Assistance Dog Week and the new web site are all about raising awareness about how assistance dogs touch the lives of so many individuals with and without disabilities. Assistance dogs selflessly demonstrate their love and dedication 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And, for one week out of the year, we have the opportunity to celebrate these amazing canine partners.

So have fun and PLEASE let us hear from you about how you plan to celebrate National Assistance Dog Week! Who knows, you just might win a prize for it!