If you’ve been following the blog, Facebook, or any of the social media that my family and I have become involved in since I became a Service Dog team with Casper you know that we have shared with you just about everything that has happened in the past seven months whether it has been good, bad, or indifferent (if you weren’t aware, it’s true, I promise you). This is another one of my posts that I’m writing for myself rather than the Casper fandom and again I plan to leave it up to the editor as to if it makes the blog. I am well aware that I owe you perspective pieces from Casper but I just can’t seem to get there lately. The holdup is not that our boy has stopped being funny, he hasn’t; he makes me laugh on a daily basis. The problem, I think, is me trying to find his voice within me. I have other pieces in mind that haven’t gained much traction either; this is how I know the problem is mine to work through and trust me when I say I feel the discord that this causes. I feel that I have let our loyal readers, fans and friends down (not that you are not in all these categories, you are).I feel that this may have more questions than answers by the time I get through but I’m just going to write and see where the path leads. A writer writes. (Good thing I’m not a writer, huh?)
The blocks within me are to the point where I can feel them, quite literally, as physical pain. So maybe it’s time to try to share and see if I can clear some of it at the same time. I have been trying to correct a behavior that Casper displays toward children. The cause of the behavior is that he LOVES kids. The behavior is that he will reach out to them when they are close enough. His goal is simply to “kiss” them by pushing his face to theirs. He does not lick or even open his mouth, just putting his face on theirs is his desired goal. Casper, I remind you is a Dane, this means that he is usually at eye level with many children. I have seen this many times and a very high percentage of the times the child reciprocates the joy. This means as I correct I am also put into the situation where the kid and the family now want to say hello, pet and chat about our wonderful boy. <Training opportunity lost> Now, maybe this action self corrects as he gets older and is less exited about children but I feel the responsibility to try to correct each undesired action. Here is another problem with training the response I desire; I don’t have a group of random children at my disposal. I do have our own, so maybe we let him run some laps in a controlled area then take him to the mall, put him in a down-stay and work on his reactions to the in-door playscape? I figure I can ask the parents that are monitoring their kids if they could help me train.
All of this is now an “issue” for me because I had an “incident” with Casper some weeks back. The “incident” unfolded in this way. I was observing our children playing with two others from a distance. I saw no problem with the interaction and was set to walk away, with Casper, and then one of them came noisily running past us. As the child had run past Casper wanted to play so he pulled. I was pulled down but also told Casper to “down-stay” and he obeyed. When we left and were loading up in the car our youngest comes to Lauri, very concerned about Casper’s eyes. She said that the child had been shining a laser pointer in his eyes. Lauri immediately went back inside to find his mother and talk to her.
Lauri found her and asked if she could talk to her about her child. Lauri said that she thinks he might need her to talk to him about the job of a service dog and how important it is not to distract them. She assured her that we understand that kids run and can forget to behave around a dog, our kids included, but we should try to not run past the dog or tease him. Lauri then added it was especially important not to shine the laser in his eyes, not only for safety’s sake, but because it can scare him and cause him to pull Dan down.
The Mom told Lauri that the child knew not to shine the laser in anyone’s eyes then told Lauri that Casper had nipped. Lauri replied with confidence, that no… No he did not nip. Casper has played with multiple kids, with cats, with dogs (even dogs who have nipped him) and never once nipped. I do not think Casper understands that is even a possibility. He is an incredibly submissive dog.
The Mom called the child over to show his arms. Both forearms were red and it appeared to me that someone had been grabbing them and Lauri said as much. If Casper had managed to make red marks on BOTH his forearms there is no way it would have gone unnoticed. In fact, there is no way even a small nip could have gotten past me; I was kneeling next to Casper by that time. I was absolutely shocked by the accusation. Later our kids told us that the child’s sister had been grabbing him by the wrists and pulling him around.
As a result of these misunderstandings and seemingly white lies we have a meeting scheduled later this week to try to resolve the “issue”. My initial reaction is that we will no longer attend events at this establishment no matter the outcome of the conversation. The problem that I see with this reaction is that we could be saying good-bye to dear friends. I’m not sure what path this will lead to, but I do know that I will stand up for Casper as I would any family member. In my eyes this is not a legal issue; it is but another learning opportunity that I hope good springs from.
You loyal readers probably already read about what happened in my last blog post, but I have decided to leave the details in here as well in case anyone missed it and does not want to go back.
I think it is very important that Dan shared this with you from his perspective. He has been very distraught over this. To be honest we all have. We love our boy more than I think you can imagine, more than we even imagined we would. We want to protect him from false accusations. We also want to make sure he is performing at his best at all times. This is difficult. Casper is about the equivalent of a 15 year old boy. Can you imagine having a 15 year old boy who NEVER makes a mistake? Not going to happen. But as a service dog he is held to amazingly high standards. In addition to that due to his size he is expected to act like a older dog, or by some people expected to be a menace.
It kind of reminds me of that movie ‘Jack,’ starring Robin Williams. He is a 10 year old boy in a grown man’s body; or maybe of ‘Big,’ with Tom Hanks. Casper is a young (though thoroughly trained and competent) dog who looks like he is much older.
Dan takes it personally, with good reason. They are part of each other so if you judge Casper harshly you are also judging Dan. And here we get into why I get so fired up about it. Those are my boys. Do NOT mess with my boys! (Or my girls!)
We will keep you updated about our experiences in this and in the meantime we ask for prayers. We need to find the rhythm of this and get through it peacefully to accomplish what is best for all involved.
written by DFS and LJS
Tagged: big dog, dane, dog, etiquette, family, great dane, leash, mobility, mobility dogs, puppy, service animals, service dane, service dog, service dog training, silly puppy, training
I believe that Casper has given you the opportunity to go places you may not have felt comfortable going before. I hope you don’t stop going to this event that you enjoy & have other friends there as well. Your explanation: Casper is a very important part of you. Simple.
Being a teacher, & mother as well, some parents will not accept responsibility for their children’s mis-behavior.
I do need to say on behalf of Dan that he never let CP stop him from going anywhere. Actually, there are placed we avoid now for Casper’s benefit that we would have gone to before since he is still a little nervous in very big crowds and with loud noises. He is getting better so eventually we will be back to doing those things. We love him so much it does not matter, we are happy to make our sacrifices.
I think you will probably have a problem getting the sister to admit she was pulling her brother hard enough to make marks. And since the brother didn’t say anything, he is probably afraid to.
All you can do is educate the importance of Casper as a service dog & that Dan always knows Casper’s behavior because they are always together.
I’m sorry you have to even deal with this problem. If it were my children (which would NEVER happen because they would never abuse an animal in any way) as a parent I would welcome the opportunity for an important lesson to teach & LEARN.
Your voice is important, to me & to everyone of us who love you.
Dan, all of your points are well taken, and your anxiety about the situation is obvious. I’m sure you are very well aware that you’re not going to be able to please all of the people all of the time. Based on the description of the incident, it seems wholly unreasonable for anyone to believe that Casper could have been the cause of the marks on the child’s arms. However, if that’s what you’re up against, this may not be one you can win. As long as you’re clear on what happened and what Casper did or did not do, that’s the most important thing. It sounds like you may be faced with a tough choice here, and on unfair grounds. I’m betting it’s not the first time. Wishing you much luck and the best possible resolution. You and Casper have many fans.
It is disturbing to think a child would lie….either to gain attention (which I suspect) or because he is just mean spirited. However, if Casper did indeed nip the child, there would have been definite red TEETH marks and/or teeth abrasions rather than the red marks you describe. Prayers are with you that all goes well and your way. Big hugs to all.
Dan and I are both ok with the fact that a little lie was told. Children do that. We both did it. I don’t know anyone who never did it. The problem is how far it was taken because of his mother.
I can only say that I am sorry this has happened to you. Unfortunately some kids will tell only what they want if it gives them attention. Big dogs get a bad rep for whatever reason. Casper is a well trained beautiful Great Dane service dog. While he is young and still learning he loves children. That has it good points but in the instance you mentioned how do you deal with it. Kids will be kids and a child with a laser light is not good for any animal. Parents have to teach their kids right from wrong just as you and Lauri have done. I hope that you find in your heart the right way to deal with this and do what you feel is right. It may take a bit of time but the soul searching to the right way will come to you soon.
Just a thought, but perhaps you should get Carlene involved?? Or, at least, contact her for some advice? Maybe Casper needs to go back to SDP for some refresher training. We all know that he is a good boy; there will always be someone out there who doesn’t understand service dogs. I know you try and educate them; do you ask them to turn on to SDP? Maybe that will help educate them. I wish I knew the answer….I guess trial and error which is a learning experience for all. Prayers are coming your way for peace and tranquility. Love to you all….<3
We have not felt that SDP needed to get involved about this. It was a misunderstanding. And Casper is not needing any refreshers. He is currently still learning a few things: not getting too excited around kids and the same around other dogs. It is a perfectly natural behavior that a typical pet would be fine doing. He is just judged more harshly because he is large. He will learn.
I can COMPLETELY understand how you both feel and agree with your reactions and feelings. I’m actually upset as well at these folks and would like to have a ‘chat’ with them if I could. You ALL are a wonderful family and example to everyone you come in contact with – so keep up the great efforts and living your lives in the most exemplary ways. Hugs to you all – including the human puppies!
Dan, I feel your anxiety in the way you have explained the situation with Casper. All you can do is present a positive case on behalf of Casper and his behaviour. Before you decide to stop attending events with this group entirely, consider the fact that it likely wouldn’t matter if you were talking about a child or a service dog. People will believe what they want either way. Casper is a great dog and of course, he is friendly! He, like the rest of us two and four legged creatures, need some retraining from time to time. Lots of prayers, good thoughts, and hugs coming your way…
Don’t you EVER feel that you’ve let any of “us” down! You share so much of yourself, and we are all learning along with you. Please let us know how the meeting goes… Hugs to all!
I don’t know if it is possible, but could you get a group of kids and parents to attend a meeting with you and your family and talk to everybody together and explain these kinds of things-show them examples:maybe have you trying to walk to do a task and have one of your children constantly in your way–make sure they see that you cannot do this very well with the distraction and explain that this is how Casper feels-you could even shine a flashlight around the room and see how many of them are distracted…I think you get the point. As it gets warmer you might be able to schedule a “play” time in your yard so they can see that he is a dog and not a toy…Maybe an assembly at school…Might help in your neighborhood and by word of mouth it will eventually get out there and educate more and more people. Dan, just remember nobody is ever going to be pleased all the time with everything. Take a deep breath, do what you can and it will all work out. (And give Casper a hug for me)
Dear Lauri and Dan, Having worked with kids my entire adult life, one thing I know for certain is that any kid, no matter how ‘good’, will naturally choose the path that keeps them out of trouble. You have to be a Sherlock Holmes sometimes and work it down to get the truth and some of them are tough little nuts!!
If Casper had ‘nipped’ the evidence would be there. The ‘both forearms’ tells the story. A dog cannot simultaneously ‘nip’ both forearms. If a child has a laser, he’s (she’s) going to use it. (Why would anyone give a child a laser????? What possible use could they have for it????) From the sound of it, this child has already learned a lesson from his (her) mother so I don’t know how this is all going to work out. I think the laser should be turned over to the authorities as part of any compromise you work out. You can certainly let the store know why you will no longer be frequenting their establishment – they have the right to know if one of their customers is causing problems for other customers, too!!! You’ll most likely discover that this is not the first complaint.
I do wish you well in all of this. I know most parents are willing to work with you, but some just insist their darling child can absolutely never ever do anything wrong. I believe I’ve said this to you before – karma can be a real beeyatch: I cannot tell you how many times I see the name of one of my former cherubs in the news, years after parents, child and I met to solve some transgression. If you don’t solve the issues children have when they are younger, those issues often become police records when they are older. (…and leave a parent asking, “Where did I go wrong?” Well, I could tell them….)
As I kept reminding those parents during our meeting: “It’s not the child that I disapprove of today, it’s his choice of BEHAVIOR that we are here to discuss. Choices have consequences. We can deal with this now or YOU’LL have to deal with it later.” Kind of sad, isn’t it?
I’ll keep my paws crossed that all goes well.
I can’t add anything to this because everyone shared my thought but said them better than I could.