Saturday, March 8, 2014

Stupidity: The largest Service Dog Access Problem

   “Education is the key to Service Dog access. People in all walks of life need to know what Service Dogs are, what they do, and why the Service Dog must not be removed from the handler.”
There we have it, a perfect blog intro.
     “No mom it’s not perfect.—in fact, it’s watered down and not making the correct point.”
     “Hello Goodee the Service Dog you see your mom the human is working on the blog.”
     “I see your trying mom but not doing a very good job.”
     “Okay, Goodee the Service Dog, just what would you say is a good blog intro?”
          “UHHHM here it goes mom…”
     Stupidity is the largest barrier to Service Dog access. Thousands of people are totally dependent upon Service Dogs to help them with the most basic skills of life. The Americans With Disabilities Act, guarantees people with service dogs access to public places. Many employers make sure their employees know the law by providing Service Dog sensitivity training to their employees, then there are some individuals who make no effort to know or understand the law and that creates the largest problem for service dogs and their handlers—Not knowing the law, being dense, refusal to understand, AKA: STUPIDITY.
       “Goodee the Service Dog you have written a near perfect intro. Do you mind if I join in?”
        “Oh no mom anytime.”
     As Goodee points out Service Dogs and their handlers are to be given access to any area that is normally accessed by the public. In our nearly seven years together Team Goodee has experienced challenges to access in:  hotels, gas stations, restaurants and office buildings. We do our share of education. Usually misunderstandings are cleared up once people understand that Goodee the Aussie is also Goodee the Service Dog (a medical device under the ADA). Sometimes we have called local police, or members of management for further clarification and things get ironed out.—however, there are times we will never forget that require much more effort on our parts.
     “Come on mom tell it like it is: There are times that we have to waste way too much time and energy explaining things because people are being STUPID!”
     “Oh yes Goodee the Service Dog, you are always good at being direct. Sometimes people are just plain STUPID. If you have never been dependent upon a Service Dog you may not realize just what one instance of Stupidity can do physically and mentally to the Service Dog Team.
     “Let’s insert our best example here.”
     “Yes that’s a good idea Goodee.”

     My mom was recently hospitalized due to  heart AFIB and a related fall. . At age 88 she often tries to do more than her body will allow. She was release to our home with specific orders from Medicare that she was to receive regular visits from a nurse. I welcomed someone looking after my mom’s well-being.
Goodee the Service Dog had kept my life “normal” she assisted me in walking across surfaces so I could do the shopping, banking, cooking, and laundry. When migraine triggers suddenly presented themselves Goodee would help me get meds, or a better position for my head. Life for Team Goodee was “normal” but going at a strained  pace due to the things needed for my mom. The nurse called and demanded that he come during a specific time frame. However, I was ready to get help for my mom’s medical needs. I truthfully did not think about my Service Dog because she is just a part of me.—like a leg or an arm, she is a body part.  Little did I know I was about to come upon the largest access issue I have had in the history of Team Goodee. – Here it comes the largest barrier for anyone with a Service Dog.—what’s that word again Goodee.—STUPIDITY!
“Thanks Goodee, yes Stupidity, meaning a lack of intellect.
     When the nurse came to the door I was working on a three-day stretch of two hours of sleep per night. Goodee the Service Dog was vested and leashed at my side. Goodee barked at the first sign of a stranger at the door but soon stopped when requested.
     “I’m afraid of dogs.” the nurse said backing up a bit.
     “Oh I’m sorry she is my Service Dog,” I said, through a closed door, showing the “SERVICE DOG” –patch on Goodee’s vest, right next to the one that says, “ACCESS REQUIRED.”
     The nurse bristled saying “I don’t like dogs anywhere around me, can you put the dog away?”
     I was genuinely sympathetic to the situation and kept the door closed.
    “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding I can’t be without the dog but could you send someone who will work with dogs?”
     “I will call my supervisor,” the nurse said, leaving the porch.
    “Oh well I will clear this up with the supervisor and they will send someone else,” I thought to myself.
 Simple right?
     “WRONG MOM!”
     "Oh hello Goodee the Service Dog, glad you are still around. Do you remember what happened after this?

         " Well mom you had a big “melt down"  because you were trying to explain things but no one was listening.”
     That’s it in a neat nut shell yes Goodee. It wasn’t pretty.
     My cell phone rang and the supervisor said “I don’t understand what’s the big deal, what could it possibly hurt.  just put the dog away for an hour while the nurse is there.”
I was then informed by the RN Nurse Supervisor that she would not send another nurse that I was being “unreasonable” and she would not have her nurses go where they didn’t feel safe.
I tried several times in the conversation to point out that I was just requesting a nurse that would work with dogs being present in the home. I went on to disclose specific medical details as to why I needed the dog (something not required by law but I felt would be nice to provide). I tried to explain the dynamics, mom and I share a house, mom needs me, I need the dog, and the dog is a SERVICE DOG a MEDICAL DEVICE, a TOOL NOT A TOY.”
     “Yes that’s how it happened mom and in real life you were shouting in the all caps parts. You shouted so loud that our friends could hear you all the way down the driveway.”
     “Yes Goodee I was pretty upset.”
     For years I struggled to stand, walk and do things. Now with the right medical team in place and Service Dog Goodee I am able to do things and actually be there for my mom when she needs me. With Service Dog Goodee I have the freedom to be normal but now I encounter the barrier of unnecessary STUPIDITY. These people are as my niece so correctly stated “Uneducated ding-dongs.”
The supervisor finally agreed to send a nurse who got along fine with Goodee the Service Dog.—For the home health agency the problem was resolved but I  was left with a large amount of anxiety due to the encounter and Goodee the Service Dog also experienced anxiety of her own due to my extra needs during the days following the event.

This event illustrates the most unnecessary barrier to service dog access. –The initial barrier that is perfectly preventable. It takes such a small amount of time to LEARN THE LAW. Every walk of life will be touched by the thousands of Service Dogs in use.
     When an administrator called me about this event she was nice but the damage was done.
     “It’s such a learning curve for us,” she told me. While I am glad they were open to education, it saddens me to find out first-hand how under-educated the medical profession is about ADA Service Dog Laws.

We would like to thank our friends and family who keep us going and our friends in the Service Dog Community who know the shoes we walk in and the struggle we face.

     Team Goodee appreciates communication by email and Facebook. When you see us out and about we will likely say: “Not Now We Are Working.”

---DD & Goodee 

We offer the educational links below for further reading and welcome the sharing of our blog.

Service Dog Resources

FAQ Service Dog Access

DOJ: Service Animal Briefs

Federal Policies on Service Dog Access
Service Dog Education for Law Enforcement & Business Owners
Service Dog 411
Shepherds for Lost Sheep, Inc.
A non-profit organization dedicated to helping Veterans through the use of Service K-9’s

 Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him 
By Luis Carlos Montalvan & Brent Whitter
A best-seller must read about a warrior and the life-changing effects of a Service Dog
Available in many formats

Coming Soon
Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and His Service Dog by Luis Carlos Montalván, Bret Witter and Dan Dion (May 27, 2014)