Ignorance and Awareness. Two things that I hope to bring about, the change in the perception of a Service Dog. Please help by sharing this story…..
More and more dogs are being used as Service Dogs for ‘invisible’ wounds: for Autism, to detect seizures, to sniff out levels of glucose for Diabetics, for anxiety/panic attacks for PTSD, and many more functions. In our realm, we are working to train a class called Psychiatric Service Dogs. Being a fairly new classification we are stepping above the lack of laws that define this and setting our new standards. Donna has been working very hard and I am proud of the success we have already achieved!
Upon many conversations with our Veterans, one single thread remains, the anxiety of going into public places. We hear this time and time again. Each veterans is also concerned with how they will be treated when going into these public places. We explain the ADA (American Disability Act), which gives them the right to be accompanied by their Service Dog anywhere the general public is allowed! Period. However, the ignorance of some people regarding this can make the difference between success and failure for our dogs and their Veterans.
Last night I received a call from our Veteran Ben. Stella and him were being rewarded for passing their CGC test and needed some one on one time away from The Barracks. We sent them to a local hotel for the night. I made the reservations and called ahead to make sure there were no problems. I received a call from Ben, sitting in his car, telling me they didn’t have a dog room available! I immediately made the call to the Hotel, talked to a young girl who completely didn’t understand, even when explained that this was a ‘Service Dog’. She put me on hold to talk to her manager, and immediately picked up full of apologies and rectified the situation. Causing some stress for Ben and Stella, but their night went great regardless!
The same time I was talking to Ben, my phone was clicking through with a call from Terran (our other Veteran paired with Hershey). Terran was visiting a friend at a local out patient Hospital. Terran was asked to leave, not by one person, but three different people who worked there. Terran explained, patiently at first, that she was his Service Dog. They then sent the friend he was visiting out to tell Terran that they HAD to leave. Terran was beyond upset and I tired to remain calm to help him. My blood was boiling…are you kidding me?
Terran and Hershey have grown so much together in their first few weeks of Deployment together. Terran had taken Hershey into more places than initially anticipated. Because he is working hard for a fundraiser we are having, Terran took it upon himself to take Hershey with him as he asked personally for donations. This is what we are all about, the progress Donna and I hope to see and the changes in Terran that were already taking place. Until now…until I received an email later than evening from Terran. His confidence shattered as he explained he couldn’t go through that again. It was humiliating and he is contemplating not taking Hershey into public places for that fear….
My heart stopped and a few swear words flew from my mouth. I will fight this battle for you, for all the Veterans and others who have a Service Dog. Public Awareness needs to be made, children need to be educated and the ignorance needs to stop! Yes, Donna was immediately at the facility to talk with their supervisor and Human Resources. Of course, everyone then had a different response and was very concerned for what they did wrong. To late, the damage was done for Terran and Hershey, but hopefully we paved the way for someone else….
I am happy to say Terran took the night to sleep on it. He is still nervous and hopes that it will be awhile before something like that ever happens again. I can not reassure him that it wont happen, but we are doing everything we can to try to limit this in the future. We ask for your support. Please pass this along, please spread the word, please help others who may have a Service Dog.
Terran and Hershey are driving across the country as I write!!!! Terran is helping a friend move, from Michigan to Arizona, a man and his dog on a road trip. My heart jumps with excitement for them and the time alone they will get together. My mind races with worry, that someone somewhere, might not fully understand, and I pray that they don’t have a repeat situation. I am filled with pride for Terran’s determination with Hershey, and this big step he is taking now. For them to get back home, they will be flying! Yes, Terran will be taking our first Stiggy’s Dogs in air, as they fly home with Delta! Bulk seating and priority boarding……..I called Delta, Sky Harbor Airport and almost every hotel form here to there!!!!
Best of luck on your adventure Terran and Hershey! We are all rallying around you for a safe and undisturbed trip. Thank you for being on the front lines for other Stiggy’s Dogs Veterans and a spoke man for Service Dogs!!!