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Tag Archives: etiquette

Dan’s View on the Incident

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.

**Editor’s Notes**

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
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PSA Monday: Do you have what it takes?

We had a few very INTENSE training opportunities this weekend for us and for Casper. I am sure later this week Casper will give you his own input about how things went down. We had a couple of successes and a lot of failures. It’s fine… those failures are learning experiences for us all and worth a LOT more than any success is. However, it is exhausting and frustrating for all those involved. For my part I have decided to write about what it really takes to be a service dog because I don’t think people have any clue, even people who know a lot about these dogs. I want to put us all in their place and imagine working under the same circumstances these dogs do. First I will let you know about our greatest issue this weekend so that you understand what is prompting this post.

We went to Salem, MA this weekend. We LOVE Salem! Casper has been there before during the off-season. We go a few times a year. Usually the first 2 weekends in October are busy, but manageable so we thought we would give it a shot. Of course, the gorgeous weather turned to drizzle by the time we got there and there was traffic so we were already in kind of poor spirits, but we soldiered on. As I think about the things we encountered I think it might be best to just make a list, so here we go:

1. Due to the government shut down the Visitor’s Center was closed which is where the best public bathrooms are. This means that the place was full-out port-o-johns instead. Try imagining getting a Dane in one of those. Most shops do not have restrooms for patrons and restaurants require you to purchase to use one. AND…those places are TINY and hard to navigate. We know of a large and very convenient bathroom in a cafe we frequent. The patio was full of yipping dogs that made Casper pull Dan down and then he was turned away from the restroom for not being a patron. (One a side note…as we left that day the Salem Fire Department, right next to where we were parked, let Dan and Casper use their restroom.)

2. The place always has lots of dogs. At least half of the dogs there this day were very poorly behaved and should not have been allowed in a crowd like this.

3. Kids are everywhere. You know Casper loves human puppies!

4. People are wearing weird costumes and masks.

5. Shops are TINY and hard to navigate and no one wants to step aside and let Casper get by. Yet, he is a pro in these tiny spaces and manuevers so amazingly. Never knocks something over. (Tiny hallways are different. They make him nervous and usually we can’t go down them. For example, to go to the bathroom at the back of some places.)

6. He apparently does NOT like voodoo dolls. You know, Salem in October. We found some at a shop and he would NOT move forward. Honestly, I can’t blame him.

7. Big booming drums and “here ye, here ye” makes him shake as badly as bagpipes.

8. No one seems to know (especially adults) that you DO NOT just pet someone’s dog. Service dog aside, you don’t just pet a person’s dog without asking. And you DO NOT go at their face squealing. Again, adults were doing this. Some were asked more than once as they approached to please not pet because he was working and they still advanced. One squealed and rushed at Casper (who was already nervous, see number 7) and I almost clocked him with the bag in my hand. This was the first time I actually yelled at someone for trying to pet him. We try so hard to be polite, but give me a freaking break!!!!

9. If you see a dog who is excited about another dog (service dog or not) and his owners are trying to hold him back that does not mean “he needs to learn how to do his job better.” That means that he was already beyond distracted and doing his job was next to impossible at that exact moment. You try doing you job in the same circumstances, lady!

10. All of this happened within about 40 minutes. Dan was only pulled down once and Casper was immediately back in his control. Every incident that was less than acceptable on Casper’s part was 100% brought on by people who do not think at all about anyone but themselves.

Ok, so there you go. Again, Casper will tell you more detail, but you really needed to know this for what I have to say. And remember that this was just in 40 minutes of one day. We encounter some of these things and others daily. (For example grocery story freezers and fridges make a hum that makes him nervous, but we get past that. Or he sees a squirrel or something. You never know what might happen.)

Now bear with me while we explore most of these issues from a human stand point.

We will start with the bathrooms. Size is a huge issue. Dan has to use the handicapped bathroom with Casper. And even individual bathrooms might be too small, have a narrow hallway or even have a very strong air freshener that really bothers him and he won’t go in. Imagine you are with a friend. Maybe the friend needs you help because they sprained an ankle or something, who knows. That friend wants you to squeeze in a tiny bathroom, or worse, an outhouse. Would you be happy, or even willing, to go in there? Imagine if it smelled just HORRIBLE to you. Is if fair that you be forced to go in, especially if you could just go to a better bathroom down the street or on another floor? Not really. We don’t consider this to be a training issue. It is just not fair to require him to go in a tiny smelly space when it is just a little extra work to go elsewhere. (Another thing to keep in mind when you are wishing you could take your dog everywhere with you.)

Now imagine you are working, whatever you do whether it is in an office, a school, driving a truck, and throughout the day (or even just once) someone brings a dog in. Do you stay focused on your job? I know I wouldn’t. I would be pretty excited about playing with that dog!!! Or maybe it is a mean dog. This barking nasty dog comes in and is nipping at you. Do you stay calm? Probably not. So, then why would we assume a service dog should? (But you know, so many of them learn to work despite this and Casper is better everyday. I would never learn to not get excited about a dog!!!)

So, you are concentrating on your work and a parade of screaming, giggling, running kids surrounds you. Can you concentrate?

Is there something that scares you? Clowns? Chucky? Honey BooBoo? Try working with that popping in and out unexpectedly.

You are focused, really hyper into your work because you know someone is depending on you. Maybe your job, like mine, means you are trying to troubleshoot over the phone with someone. Or maybe you are giving a presentation. Suddenly a HUGE booming starts just by your head. How well are you concentrating now? Maybe its bagpipes. In fact, let’s think about this one. A dog has super hearing. I tried to imagine what these super loud to me noises sound like to him. My best comparison is my smoke detector. I HATE that sound. Imagine it is going off and it is RIGHT NEXT TO your ear. Do you jump? Does it hurt? Can you work effectively?

What would you do if a random stranger came up and started stroking your hair or just got right in your face? Working or not you probably would not react well. Or maybe it is someone you know well and it is a wonderful shoulder massage. Are you concentrating well during that? What if that stranger in your face seems threatening to you because of their approach? Yeah. Probably not doing your work ethic a lot of good.

Now let’s add another angle to this. You chose your job. Whether you like it or not you chose to do it. A service dog did not. He is born into it. And he does it because he loves his handler.When they are working they are happy. This is what they are made to do and they love their job and their handler. If they don’t feel well they still work. If they don’t want to be somewhere they still work. They work 24-7. It is like being a mom. You just don’t get to take vacation.

Almost everything I mentioned above is eventually overcome by a service dog after they reach a certain point in training. There is usually one or two issues they will always struggle with (often seeing other dogs or getting pet) but they are still doing better than I ever would. So when someone says he needs to learn how to do his job I get mad. Really mad. He is amazing for how young he is. He still has some room to grow and so do Dan and I, but how do we learn if we stay at home and worry about whether he will be perfect. If I was worried about perfect behavior we would never take the kids anywhere. Or me for that matter!!!

And here is out boy drinking from the water fountain in the middle of Salem. He was a photo op for a LOT of tourists!

I bet we could have trained him to step on the pedal himself if given time!!!

written by LJS