London’s Calling

London calling

Earlier this year I was invited to go to London in September to speak at the World Health Organization’s 2010 Safety Conference regarding violence against children with disabilities. I was SO excited because Whistle and I have never been to London and it was definitely on our list of places we wanted to visit.

My retired service dog, Morgan, my husband, Franz, and I had traveled to Hawaii in 2001 and I was familiar with some of the rabies test requirements that we had conducted in order for him to be admitted into Hawaii. I had heard that the United Kingdom had relieved some of their tight quarantine restrictions for service dogs and that the new procedures were very similar to Hawaii’s requirements.

I immediately contacted my veterinarian and made an appointment to get the paperwork started. Whistle’s vet, Murt and his vet manager, Lisa, immediately went to work obtaining a serum blood sample to test for antibodies to the rabies virus. It is called the Titer Test and can only be conducted at Kansas State University. I paid the hefty fee and Whistle’s test was conducted on May 16, 2010.

Simultaneously, I was working with my amazing travel agent, Joan Diamond of Nautilus Tours & Cruises. Joan specializes in disability travel and she immediately contacted the UK’s Animal Reception Department for information regarding Whistle’s entry into the UK. The Animal Reception Department informed Joan that I needed about two months lead time in order to provide them with (1) an EU certificate (a form that Murt and Lisa would have); (2) a letter from my doctor saying that I have and I need a service dog; and (3) a copy of a certification indicating that Whistle has been trained as a service animal.

These items should be a piece of cake. I gathered all of these required documents, scanned them into my computer, and emailed them on August 5 to the contact person at the Animal Reception Department. On August 9, I received an email from the Animal Reception Department stating:

“I am sorry to tell you that Whistle is not eligible to enter the UK until 15th November 2010 under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) as six months must pass after the blood draw date before an animal can enter the UK. Whistle’s blood draw was on the 16th May 2010 so therefore he is not eligible for entry until 15th November 2010.”

I couldn’t believe it! I was in shock and disbelief. Here I am in the midst of celebrating National Assistance Dog Week only to be told that I have been denied access and am not allowed to travel to London with Whistle. Honestly, I am still in shock.

I contacted Joan and Lisa right away and they began trying everything they could think of but everyone they contacted said it’s the law in the UK and I have no recourse. Why didn’t they tell us that before I put Whistle through the blood test and paid the expensive costs to have the Titer Test conducted?

I responded to the individual that delivered this devastating email and am awaiting a response. I am also trying to contact the USDA Veterinarian in Albuquerque. However, I’ve been trying for days now and the telephone in their office just rings and rings but no one has answered as of yet.

I am at a loss as to what my recourse might be at this point. I was so excited to get the chance to go to London. As you know, it is so difficult to travel with a disability. Going to London was a dream come true for me and Franz but now it is bitter sweet because it looks Whistle and I won’t be able to travel together. We will be denied access.

How can this be happening in 2010 in a modern urban country like the United Kingdom? It is baffling and distressing to me. Unfortunately, I am constantly reminded that we still have a lot of work to do to advocate for individuals with disabilities AND the assistance dogs that contribute so much to their lives.

I thought London was calling (flashback to the old song by the Clash) but now, I’m not so sure.

Paws and Celebrate National Assistance Dog Week!

August 8, 2010 · Posted in Assistance Dogs, Puppyraisers, Service Dogs · 1 Comment 

Who would have thought that in six weeks we could create a new web site (, develop a tool box of free informational materials, AND get events planned in nine states which include three Governors signing proclamations declaring August 8-14, 2010 as National Assistance Dog Week? It just goes to show you what a few people can accomplish when they put their minds and energy into it!

I am so excited and humbled to be a part of National Assistance Dog Week! This is our chance to stop and reflect on all of the amazing animals that give so selflessly to individuals with disabilities each and every day. Another big part of this celebratory week is not only recognizing the animals, but also giving credit to the people who enable these dogs to do their life-changing work.

I’m referring to the service dog recipients, volunteer puppyraisers, professional trainers, veterinarians, groomers, prison program participants, funders, administrators, animal welfare researchers and advocates, and all of the other countless individuals who contribute to the training, maintenance, and well-being of these highly trained animals.

I would also like to acknowledge the family members, friends, and caregivers who live with, or spend time with individuals with disabilities who utilize an assistance dog. They know firsthand the impact these animals have on our lives. And, I want to thank them for the support and care they provide to both individuals with disabilities and their assistance dogs.

Who better than Betty White to help celebrate NADW? She took time out of her extremely busy schedule to stop by Working Like Dogs on Pet Life Radio this week in honor of NADW. This woman has truly dedicated her life and her resources to animal welfare. She really understands the unique bond between an individual and their assistance dog.

We are also grateful that Ali MacGraw visited with us on Working Like Dogs this week.  She told us about her animals, her support for Assistance Dogs of the West, and how she got involved in fundraising for animal organizations. Ali also performed a delightful reading of all three of Judith Newton’s children’s books about Nito the service dog.

NADW is an opportunity for us to join together to recognize the hard work and ongoing commitment that assistance dogs require and to educate the public about how assistance dogs impact the quality of life and independence for individuals with disabilities. As much as I am dedicated to honoring these dogs and the people that support them, I am just as committed to paving the way for future dogs and the individuals that they will serve.

We must be vigilant in our efforts to educate the public, preserve our public access rights, and protect our civil right to utilize a service animal in and outside of these United States. Thank you to everyone who have and who continue to support NADW and these amazing working animals! Together, we can ensure equal access and equal rights for all individuals with disabilities.

I can’t wait to hear how you are celebrating NADW in your communities, both this year and as we look forward to August 2011! Let’s spread the word about assistance dogs and all of their life-changing abilities!

Of course I want to go look at the snake! I’m a dog!

August 5, 2010 · Posted in Doggie Healthcare, Service Dogs · Comment 

NOTE: This is Whistle’s first blog post. Who knew he could write? Look for more posts from Whistle in the future. – Marcie Davis

My mom freaked out when she saw the big snake in the backyard this summer. I wasn’t even allowed to go outside to check it out! Bummer. I think it was just a bull snake, and they’re good guys who eat pests in the garden.

Just because she’s afraid of snakes, I’m not allowed to investigate! But I did hear her talking to my vet, Dr. Murt, at Eldorado Animal Clinic, and I guess it’s for my own good. Around the country, thousands of dogs get bitten by snakes every year. Out here in New Mexico, like many western states, we have rattlesnakes, plus other kinds of snakes around.

And well, yeah, I’ll admit it; even we working dogs aren’t always the smartest in our dealings with the slithery creatures. We just can’t help it! We’re curious, and just end up sticking our snout right into them sometimes, or poking at them with a paw. So I guess we can’t blame the snakes for being surprised and biting us.

The problem is, if you get bitten by a rattler or other poisonous snake, it is definitely an emergency situation. No ifs, ands or buts about it. You’ve got to get in to the vet, pronto. Even a non-venomous snake bite requires a vet visit, and fast!

So if you and your human partner might want to look into getting you the rattlesnake vaccine. Yeah, they have that now. It’s not on the main list like the distemper shot or anything, but you can get one. It doesn’t even cost that much. Just of fraction of the cost of the antivenom you’ll need if a rattler gets you. Man, that stuff is expensive!

Of course like any vaccination, there are some risks involved, but you have to weigh that against the risk of getting bitten without having been vaccinated. You need to look at your lifestyle. Are you often out in places where snakes live? Like hiking or camping in the desert or mountains, or brushy areas? Even golf courses (think roughs) are full of snakes.

Once you’re bitten, it’s hard to know how much venom was injected. And OK, this is gross, but snake venom can make it so your blood can’t coagulate. And then you can go into shock, and even die!

The rattlesnake vaccine was developed for the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. What we have here in Santa Fe is the Prairie rattler, similar enough that it seems to work. The vaccine stimulates your immune system so even if you’re bitten, the reaction won’t be as severe. You’ll still need to go to the vet right away, but your condition shouldn’t be nearly as bad.

At my vet’s office they said they’ve seen a lot of dogs get bitten and even seen a few die. They say that healing can be a long arduous process, depending on where you’re bitten and how much venom was injected. And, that rattlesnake bites can be very painful. Yikes!

You can get more info at Red Rock Biologics. I’m not the spokesdog for this company or anything, but just saying there’s some good info here, so check it out.

Big takeaway points here for you and your human partner: Try not to get bitten by a rattlesnake, but if you’re at risk, consider the rattler vaccine. Talk to your vet to help decide what you should do. If you do get bitten by any snake, get to the vet as fast as you can. Even if you think the snake was non-venomous, it’s an emergency. Well, I’d better get off the computer before my mom calls me. OK, bueno bye.