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What’s he for, anyway?

Hi Friends,

Just last week we had a co-worker ask we’ve never met in person ask about me. The question was “What’s he for, anyway?” It is a simple and decent question. Dad answered with the simplest and most distilled answer he can. He simply said he’s for stability. If there are no follow up questions he doesn’t provide any more commentary. I lifted my head with a tilt and gave him my best side-eye. The job is so much more complicated than stability. How about giving a Dane more credit than that? I know he does, but it’d be nice if he talked me up a bit more, right? I mean, I AM FAMOUS after all. I have countless fans all over! Dad said three words: humble, quiet, confidence; point taken. He explained later. It’s like when people ask what Dad does to earn the kibble and kennel money. Dad simply says he works with computers. He doesn’t go into details just to watch eyes glaze over and stare off to distant vacation memories.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. I’ve decided my job is a lot like Dad’s these days. When you start out working there is quite a bit to prove, you take your drive and show off a bit more just so everyone knows you belong and you’ve earned your stripes, or in my case my merle spots. As time goes on the credentials you used to display can be transformed into dependability. Dad says that it’s okay that I get to spend a little longer on the couch, or on my expensive dog bed, and I deserve it! Sure I miss going into the office every day and interacting with hundreds of people sometimes. Like Dad though there is value in being there to do a job at a moment’s notice.  His job knows he’s reliable and willing to step up day or night to help them. He helped me realize I have the same deal with him and the family. I forgot, this one because I was technically working for Dad, but one of the human puppies needed us to take her to the hospital. It turned out the symptoms were nothing too serious but we needed to be sure. That night I was his Service Dog, as always, but I also took on extra tasks to make sure the pup was calmer too. Every time the nurses came in and pulled the curtain between her and Dad I put my head under so I could watch and make sure the care was top notch. There was even a time where I received one of the highest service compliments. Two nurses came in rolling a beeping box with wand thingers on it. They were there for a bit, and one of them had a double take moment on the way out, and said I was amazing because she had no idea I was even there!

Most days when we’re home I don’t have to work hard, but I am always available. Some days it’s just to get Dad and his morning coffee to the couch without spilling. Other days, like today, when I wouldn’t normally need to help Dad called. I “came around” to his left and helped him out of a spot when he “locked up” (That’s what he calls it when his brain over thinks how to balance when he has something he’s carrying and he has to stop and stand still until he can move again.) with a sandwich and a drink in his hand. There are other times where I could stay home but we go out together even when we’re not getting out of the car. Dad just feels better knowing I’m with him even if it’s as simple as his hand on my shoulders and my side against his hip to get him to the car. If he falls I’m there to brace so he has something more than a stick to lean on.  I’ve seen him fall with a cane, he throws it out of his way, and then he’d crawl to it, even in the rain, like today. There’s no need to crawl for me. How do you explain this to people so they understand what a Service Dog does? Even if I had their ear for that long, they’d probably think of an emotional support peacock on a plane, or wonder why we had so much to say about an off-leash pet in a big box hardware store; yes it happened!

I don’t need everyone to understand. Dad does and that’s enough for me to be humble, quiet and confident. Stability can mean so much more than what you think.

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Short Stories

I need to share some (short?) stories. I’ll start with the fun one and I’ll separate out the not so fun. I’m posting as me because I’m not hearing Casper’s fun voice, I apologize in advance.

 

Story #1:

 

Every school night we go to bed around the same time. We also feed ourselves and the dogs, mostly the dogs, at the same time every day. Congratulations, we’re 100 yrs. old! – Anyway, I just wanted to point to the routines we and our dogs get into. Every night, when couch time is over, Lauri says “OK, Puppy bed-time!” This way the kids know to come out and take care of their last kitchen needs, and the puppies wake up, and I bring them outside, Wednesday first, then Casper. The dogs know this, and Casper waits on the loveseat for Wednesday to come in, and get led into the room she sleeps in before he even moves a muscle. Except for a couple nights ago, we broke that routine and Wednesday went to bed early, about an hour or so goes by and we’re ready to turn-in. Lauri turns off the television, I get up, and call Casper to the back door. He doesn’t move. I’m less than 5 feet from him. I call him to the door again, more stern this time. He picks up his head and looks at me, but doesn’t move. The 3rd time, I think before I act – I look at him and take a breath. I think to myself, he’s really smart, and he actually outweighs you, so the brute force will not work the way it did when he was a 90-pound puppy; talk to him. I had a funny thought, and grinned, kind of a ‘hold my beer, watch this’ to see what happens. I said, “Hey Casper, Wednesday already went out, and she’s been in bed over an hour, let’s go out and go to bed!”

Sure enough, he hops down off the couch and comes over so we can go outside. We laughed, and he looked at us as like we’re crazy. If you ever think that your animals don’t know what you’re saying to them, I can tell you with certainty, you’re wrong! Here’s how it works, communicate with words and full sentences with tour cats and dogs, they know. Your dogs will respond, and it may surprise you. Your cats, they will still understand, they will not respond, and this will not surprise you.

 

Story #2:

 

Last Monday, I was coming off of my on-call cycle for work and I decided I needed a day to run some errands and to have a lunch date with Lauri. We both work from home, mostly of opposite each other, unless I get paged for work. It may be weird, but even though we see each other virtually 24×7, it’s not always fun, or relaxing. It’s hard to explain, but getting out to lunch together, is a stress relief, at least for me. So I take care of some calls and emails first thing, and Lauri picks a lunch place we haven’t tried yet. It turns out the food was good, the waiter was funny, in that he was super interested in Casper’s work, and enthusiastically showed us pictures and shared stories of his new puppy. The pup was adorable, and as it turns out may be predisposed to service himself. He goes on to tell us how he thinks, maybe, the dog might be alerting to his low blood sugar and shares a story of why he felt this way. We assured him that it is quite possible, and asked that he watch the dog around the times he does his routine injections, and what happens when he’s a bit off his routines. We may just have another service team in the area, Go PUPPY!

Story #3

This one overlaps, as it started on the same day as story #2. We needed to go to a store called Menards, it’s another “big-box” with everything. This particular location is new, and as we enter we see a sticker on the window that states: “Service teams are welcome, please leave your pets at home.” We think, YAY! – As places like Lowe’s are stress inducing now with the number of pets we encounter. I’m a happy guy. I’ll go a few miles out of my way to not have a negative experience. We look around, get the item we went there to get and leave happy. As it turns out, I needed to go get a new kitchen faucet. Lauri picked one she liked online, and I asked if Menards carried it, rather than Lowe’s. She confirmed they both showed the same item, so I went a few more miles up the road. Sadly, not only did they not have the item, we ran into several barking pets in carriages. I exited, as quickly as I could, and looked up the closest Lowes. We get there, and that location also had pets barking at us, and no faucet (I wanted a specific model). We also ran into an official team, with a vest and four paws on the floor. Both dogs passed each other quietly, showing interest of course, but no drama. It was as if they said, ‘how about these pets? Geesh, go to college if you’re going to come in here!’ We left there and had to go to a third store. Finally, no negative interactions, and the faucet I wanted!

I’m really tired of having to share stories of pets in establishments where they don’t belong. It’s stressful before I even leave the house, and potentially dangerous for both of us. In recent years there has been a noticeable uptick in this behavior. It needs to stop, and I fear that it won’t because every time I confront a pet parent in a service environment I’m met with vitriol. Please, if you do this, stop. If you know someone who does this, talk to them and explain why this is unacceptable.

Yes, Menards will be receiving communication from me. I’m not angry anymore, I’m disappointed.