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Doggone it!

Over the past couple of days, I’ve been really sad, and I feel like I need to ask permission to be, in this case. See, I’m not sad for me, or even my family. I’m sad because some of the first handlers that took time with me are facing or have recently faced the retirement of their pups. I remember sitting with them and talking about life and how life changes forever when you bond with your dog. I thought I knew what that was like because I’ve had pets my entire life. Pets are wonderful, and I bond with animals in unique ways, but they were right; it’s different, a Service Dog/Handler bond is unique squared.

As I’m examining how I feel, now it’s not sad, or that is to say, it is not just sad. It’s more complicated than that. There is a whole host of emotions that really don’t need to be listed in order to convey them. We all know that the only thing that is constant is change itself, so whatever change means to you, I guess it’s that.

I’m happy too. Many handlers have made the decision to be handlers for life and that means that they will experience the roller coaster of emotions that comes with working with multiple partners. Some will be fabulous failures, while others will be exemplary and earn their graduation patches. How fantastic!

I’m not sure I’ve ever posted this, but I’ve made a different decision. I know that I don’t feel that I can continue to be handler once Casper decides he’s put on his vest for the final time. I love my dog more than most can imagine, more than I ever imagined. I know what kind of commitment it is, what kind of commitment it needs to be in order to train a successor. I just don’t have it in me. I don’t see that as a weakness, and I honestly don’t give a rip if someone else does. It’s about the relationship and commitment between a good handler and an honest to goodness service dog. I’m of the opinion that if you can’t give all of yourself to the process it’s not fair to expect that effort from your partner. I suppose that view goes well beyond dog and handler for me, it extends to every aspect of my life.

So I’m sad about the closing of chapters because I’ve read that book. I’m excited for them because I know there are other books in series, and only time will tell how the new stories will unfold. I’m also conflicted because I feel like there is a piece of me that wants to honor what Casper has given me by allowing him to help me train his legacy before he retires, and it feels selfish of me to make the decision I’ve made. But, I feel like I’d dishonor him more if I failed in some way to put the appropriate energy into what would be my next partner; and I know that I love him too much to dishonor him and myself in that way.

Now, before you ask, Yes Casper is happy, healthy and shows no sign of slowing down in any way. He loves to work and wags the entire way. But, we both have greys in our muzzles now. We both know how the chapter ends; I find myself now being ever watchful. I keep flipping ahead making sure we have at least a few more chapters before the hero has to make exit.

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Just because you can doesn’t mean you should: A story of home maintenance, disability and access

This story begins about a year ago and includes everything AND the kitchen sink. Our kitchen has stone countertops, an under mount double basin sink and garbage disposal, with a single handle brushed nickel faucet and a separate matching sprayer.

Last year water started leaking from the sprayer handle. So I went to a big box home improvement store to find a replacement gasket set. The store had an assortment of kits so I picked one up and headed home feeling victorious. Then I proceeded to attempt to take the sprayer apart. It turns out the previous owner cross threaded the plastic base into the handle. This meant another trip to the store. This time I had to go to a specialty plumbing supply store because the big box only had white or black generic sprayer kits. I remember because I thought the easy route would be to buy the whole assembly but nothing matched close enough. I believe this was in the middle of an attempt to sell the house so the need for matching parts is quite important.

So we load up into the SUV again. The specialty store had the same kits as the big box! I was able to convince the employee to find me a silver/gray kit that I could use to reassemble the one I had at home after I used pliers to work the sprayer off. This was a win of sorts because working under the sink is nearly impossible based on the design choices of the builder. We finally got home and for the second (or third) time. I was able to make it work with the least amount of interference from my disability. (Insert mental happy dance here)

Fast forward to yesterday when I turned on the faucet and heard a quick pulsing thump as the water ran. I thought “geez, that sounds like there’s air in the water line”. I turned off the faucet, looked under the sink and everything was normal and dry. So I tried another sink, and heard nothing, so good it’s only that sink. Hmm. Okay, but air in a line should mean water everywhere, and nothing. Then this morning I hear from the kitchen, “Uh, we have a leak somewhere.” Wouldn’t ya know, it was the sprayer? This time the hose was split near the nut under the sink. The impossibly tight, no way to move the handle of a wrench, half an inch of clearance area.

Great, off to the store to find a wrench that will get into the tightest spots and a new hose. Lauri reminded me that it’s a Saturday and asked if I wanted to bring Casper on account that the big box turns a blind eye to pets in the store. Of course, I take him, because we’re a team.

Not two minutes into the store and we encounter a small dog in the child seat of a cart that promptly growls at Casper. The handler did a good job of correcting the behavior, the dogs sniffed each other as they passed, and we carried on. We found a new hose, and we exit the aisle. AS we do, two isles away we encounter a barking dog and 3 foot of lead – No handler, no vest, no composure. Casper wasn’t sure what happened, so he started to play bow. Please remember, his primary task is to ensure I am standing. If he bows, I lose balance. I requested him “up” and we moved in the opposite direction. An employee saw the interaction and commented that we did that well, and very quickly! As we moved on I replied that “we’re professionals”.

We continue to the tools, as we weave through people who have no idea that others exist in their world and seem amazed that actual service dogs do too. So, we worked with some nice guys who found me what I needed and we headed to the register. The checkout attendant complimented Casper; I assume because she sees more pets than service animals.

We get home and I have to ask for help to get the old hose off the sink. Then make up the new hose, with the old sprayer. I needed help there too, because well, motor skills…Then Lauri and I work together to get the new assembly on and tested.

There are no longer leaks under the sink, but there does seem to be leaks in service animal law enforcement.

It’s difficult to call fake vs justified service animal but just because you can take a pet in public doesn’t mean you should. Even the most basic of tasks can be exponentially more difficult with a disability. Not only can people who are uninformed be hazardous, but time-consuming. If I didn’t have a project in the mix I would have involved management because the potential for personal injury is great, and while I’ve always been able to recover, not everyone will be so fortunate.