I must write a blog post about Service Dogs. It has been quite the weekend. A year ago a friend of mine introduced me into the world of Service Dogs. He trains them from puppies til they are old enough to be task trained and then he trains them for he specific person they are going to and what tasks they need. He submerged me in information and then I did my own research.
I found out that if you are disabled; An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. You can utilize a Service Dog that is either owner trained or trained by an organization to do tasks to mitigate your disability.
In August 2015 I was airlifted to the U of I in Iowa City, Iowa for what they thought was a stroke at the age of 28. I spent two days in the hospital to later find out what I had was not a stroke but was a Hemiplegic Migraine.
Hemiplegic migraine is a rare and serious type of migraine headache. Many of its symptoms mimic those common to stroke; for example, muscle weakness can be so extreme that it causes a temporary paralysis on one side of your body, which doctors call hemiplegia.
In August 2015 was the scariest time of my life and since then I have had three more attacks. The more attacks I have the more of a chance I have of having a stroke.
Along with having Hemiplegic Migraines I also have major depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, major anxiety, panic disorder and fainting spells. All of those issues significantly limit me in my daily life. They can be debilitating to say the least and so I thought to myself, “Hmm wonder if a Service Dog would help me?”
Well fast forward to current. My Lola who is almost two is now my offical Service Dog. She knows all of her basic commands. She stays in a “sit stay” and a “down stay” perfectly. When my heart rate elevates for any reason, which could mean anxiety, panic attack or an early sign of a possible migraine that could come and she knows to pin up against me and she insists on it. Won’t listen if I tell her to get down and she pins herself as hard as she can until my heart rate lowers. She has also been trained during a panic episode to show me the exit. She will run closer to the exit then back to me and then closer to the exit and back to me and so on until I follow. Those are her two offical trained tasks but we are also starting to task train her to pick up dropped items and to go grab my medications for me on demand. We are getting close.
I do not know where I would be without Lola. I remember last year when she wasn’t officially trained and I couldn’t call her a Service Dog and so I couldn’t take her everywhere with me. I wish she would have been because we went to our family reuinion and an issue happened and I went into one of my worst panic attacks. Couldn’t breathe, my heart rate was really high and I was close to fainting. I wish I would have had her. She could have probably stopped it.
Anyways for the past year or so I have been in a few Service Dog communities on FB. They have helped me out alot with the laws and whatnot. I have had some access issues with Lola and turned away from areas by law I am allowed to take her to but thankfully not too many but enough that made me do alot more research. Those communities I am in take it very seriously. I will post a photo with the persons name blurred out for privacy. But some SD handlers take access issues and their rights within the ADA and their Service Dog very seriously. They will take it as far as court. And I know one person who has gotten a business closed down due to issue after issue. I don’t do that. I just educate and advocate the best I can. For maybe the business just doesn’t know the current laws and hopefully just talking them through it and pointing them in the right direction for the current laws is enough for the next person doesnt have the same issue.
I still don’t take Lola with me 100% of the time but if I know I’m going to a situation where I know I will need her, you bet she’ll be with me. But once I get more confidence in my SD Handler status I am sure she’ll be with me all the time.
Psychwards don’t usually let SD’s and they don’t have to because the handler cannot leave the unit to take care of their dog but I did have a victory and whenever I am in one she is allowed in there with me when my husband visits she is allowed to stay with me during visitation hours. Others dont get that opportunity. But I educate and advocated til I was blue in the face.
Anyways, please educate yourself on Service Dogs. I am a handler and Lola is my lifeline and she will be with me and there will come a time where I won’t go somewhere if she is not allowed with me.
I love you Lola Humphrey!