On a recent trip to Olympia, Washington, I noticed as we settled into our hotel room, that Whistle was chewing on his back foot. My husband, Franz, and I got him on the bed to inspect his foot. To our surprise, there was a blister in between the pad of his back foot.
The blister looked pretty angry and Franz and I both felt we should get a vet to look at it just to be safe. We had busy outdoor vacation plans and we wanted to make sure Whistle was up for the week.
The next morning, I located a veterinarian’s office online, Hawks Prairie Veterinary Hospital (www.hawksprairieveterinaryhospital.com), which was close to our hotel. I called to make an appointment and fortunately, they were able to get us in right away.
The vet inspected Whistle’s foot. She and her assistant cleaned and debrided the area and shaved the hair from around the spot. The staff was so friendly and helpful. They prescribed a topical antibiotic cream and a solution to keep the area clean.
The vet also suggested that we consider purchasing Whistle a set of booties. She was concerned that perhaps the blister was the result of the summer time asphalt or a hot rock that got embedded in his paw. Whatever the cause, we wanted to make sure that Whistle’s foot would be protected, remain clean and heal properly.
She directed us to a wonderful local dog supply store, MudBay (www.mudbay.us), in close proximity to the clinic. We went over to check out their line of booties. The first pair we tried were very rigid and durable for all types of terrain. Whistle was bewildered about these foreign objects and he was behaving pretty dramatically.
We decided to try another brand, Ultra Paws Traction Dog Boots. These booties were much lighter and surprisingly Whistle adapted very quickly to them. With the encouragement of a few yummy treats, he was quickly walking around the store and hardly even acting like he was wearing booties.
Another bonus was the price. These booties were much cheaper than the original pair he tried. For about $20.00, we were on our way and Whistle’s feet were protected. From there, we were ready to continue on our vacation.
We began the beautiful drive from Olympia, Washington up to Mount Rainier National Park. We stopped in for lunch as we entered the park. I must say that I was not prepared for the response Whistle received regarding his booties. Literally everyone we encountered wanted to know why he was wearing them, where we got them, and how we convinced him to wear them.
I have been partnered with an assistance dog for almost 20 years and I am used to people’s curiosity. But this was a whole new experience.
Whistle glided throughout the entire trip with his new slippers. I am happy to report that his foot healed quickly and I will definitely continue using the booties during the summer for hot pavement and in the winter time to navigate on snow. Actually, I anticipate Whistle will be wearing his new booties quite often!
Recently, an article in the American Association of People with Disabilities Newsletter (January 3, 2011) about a Northern Virginia elementary school denying 12-year-old Andrew Stevens the right to bring his seizure alert assistance dog to school caught my attention.
The newsletter gave a link to this article written by FOX 5 Reporter Stacey Cohan which reported that Andrew and his family waited two years and raised $20,000 to get his assistance dog. The family had hoped that Andrew’s assistance dog would provide an array of services to him, including reconnecting Andrew with his peers. Instead, Andrew had been denied the use of his assistance dog at school. The school had created yet another barrier for this young man and his family to overcome.
I do not know all of the details surrounding this situation. However, as an individual with a disability who grew up as a wheelchair user, it is all too familiar. It so disheartening to hear Andrew’s story and to imagine the struggles he and his family are enduring on a daily basis.
If you grew up with a disability then you know the endless number of barriers that can be placed in our way as we strive to gain an education and begin to make our way in this world. Being fortunate enough to receive an assistance dog can be a great opportunity to relieve some of the daily pitfalls and struggles.
Public schools are supposed to be a resource and a place of security for all children and youth. It is a place where our most valuable asset, our youth, learn valuable life lessons and gather the skills necessary to enable them to move forward into their adult lives. It is so sad to think that this elementary school is playing such a negative role in this young man’s life. Unfortunately, their bureaucratic actions are reinforcing inequality, vulnerability, and downright unfair treatment of children with disabilities.
What lifelong lesson are these public officials teaching Andrew, his family and perhaps more sadly, his peers? I hope Andrew’s parents have the stamina necessary to finish this fight. I hope they will be able to teach the school district administrators that they cannot discriminate against a student with a disability who needs an assistance dog. And more importantly, I hope it will teach Andrew that he is a valued as much as every other student at his school and he has the right to have his assistance dog by his side.
We must unite to dispel the myth that children with disabilities should not have the services and equipment necessary to make them as independent as they choose to be. We must clearly communicate that this school district’s staff response is not acceptable and there are consequences in Virginia and the United States for this archaic, discriminatory behavior.
I just found out that after Andrew and his mother appeared on the TODAY show yesterday (January 4), the school officials decided to let Andrew have his service dog with him at school, at least on a trial basis. My concern is that three to six weeks may not be long enough, and that they should allow more time for a fair test.
Andrew’s story has received nationwide media attention. My hope is that it will help educate more people about the benefits of highly trained service dogs.
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 (www.assistancedogweek.org). 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!
Hats off to the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) and Merial® for conducting the 3rd annual National Service Dog Eye Exam Event throughout the month of May 2010. Through this event, more than 170 board certified veterinary ophthalmologists in the U.S. and Canada will provide free sight-saving eye exams to thousands of service dogs including guide dogs, assistance dogs, detection dogs and search and rescue dogs who selflessly serve the public.
The ACVO website indicates that to qualify, dogs must be active “working dogs” that were certified by a formal training program or organization or currently enrolled in a formal training program. The certifying organization could be national, regional or local in nature. Specific service groups are listed on the website at www.ACVOeyeexam.org.
Owners/agents for the dog(s) must FIRST register the animal via an online registration form beginning April 1, at www.ACVOeyeexam.org. Registration ends May 16th. Once registered online, the owner/agent can locate a participating ophthalmologist in their area and contact that doctor to schedule an appointment, during the month of May. Appointment dates and times may vary depending on the facility and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. To learn more about and to register for the ACVO®/Merial® National Service Dog Eye Exam Event, visit www.ACVOeyeexam.org.
This event has a special place in my heart because it directly impacted my, now retired service dog, Morgan. About three years ago, Morgan developed severe problems with his eyes. I took him to see Dr. Kennard with Eye Care for Animals in Albuquerque, NM. Dr. Kennard quickly diagnosed Morgan’s degenerative condition and literally saved his eye sight.
Without Dr. Kennard’s rapid response, Morgan would have completely lost his eye sight. If that wasn’t enough, when I checked out of the clinic, I was presented with information about Morgan’s condition and medication to treat his eyes. What I did not receive was a bill for their services.
When I asked about the bill, the staff proudly told me about the National Service Dog Eye Exam Event. I can never thank Dr. Kennard enough for what he did and continues to do for Morgan and for the work he and so many other ophthalmologists are doing every day to protect and save the eyes of our devoted canine partners. I am forever grateful and I am now acutely aware of the importance of regular eye exams.
I had the opportunity to visit with veterinarian and pet behavior specialist Dr. Jeff Nichol (www.drjeffnichol.com) this week on our radio show, Working Like Dogs at www.petliferadio.com. Dr. Nichol brought up some interesting points about behavioral issues that working dogs can exhibit. Some of these hit really close to home for my current service dog, Whistle and past service dogs, Morgan and Ramona.
One of the issues that Whistle shows is excessive digging. Whistle loves to dig a huge hole in our yard. However, quite frankly, my husband and I are not too thrilled with this behavior.
I asked Dr. Nichol what his thoughts were on excessive digging in working dogs. He said that Whistle could be communicating a couple of things with his digging.
Perhaps one issue might be that he isn’t getting enough social interaction with other dogs. I found that really interesting because Whistle is on the go with me all the time and from my perspective, he gets plenty of social interaction. But, this is something I need to pay attention to. Dr. Nichol suggested taking Whistle to a dog park for some extra exercise and interaction with other dogs.
Secondly, he said that Whistle might not be getting enough exercise. Once again, from my perspective, he is on the go all the time and seems to get lots of physical activity throughout the day. Plus, he’s lean and is always full of energy.
I think energy might be the key here. Whistle is definitely a high energy dog. He is always ready to go to work and ready to play. I need to be more aware of his social needs to interact with other dogs and to get enough free, play time.
Dr. Nichol also talked about unruly barking and fearful behaviors such as aggression. Keeping Whistle healthy and happy is my priority. I learned a lot from my visit with Dr. Nichol and I look forward to future discussions with him about the behavioral issues that working dogs develop as they age.