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Demo Tape: Service Dog And Seizure Education By Me!

While we at The Band work tirelessly to bring you expert resource pages, sometimes the best advice is from someone who has been where you’re standing. What follows is a mixture between a resource page and a post.

I introduce to you, The Band, a Demo Tape.

Take what you need and leave the rest.

I have a quirky sense of humor, coupled with a southern gal’s disposition, so brace yourselves for impact. This will be a bit of a rant, but it’s been building up for awhile, and sometimes ya need a rant to get the point across.
When I moved to West Virginia, I had no idea how downright painful it would be to deal with the uneducated public when they encounter me, my service dogs, and (possibly) one of my seizures while I’m out trying to live my life. It’s as though the burden of WV service dog education has fallen squarely upon my shoulders.

And that? SUCKS!

On behalf of all people with service dogs in WV or elsewhere, listen up:

No, not EVERY service dog is a seeing-eye dog. I am NOT blind.

No, I am NOT training my service dog for another person or a blind person.

No, it is NOT okay for you to talk/whistle/call to my service dog for ANY reason. You are distracting him from his job, and my safety depends upon him doing his job to the very best of his ability. You wouldn’t walk up to and pet, whistle, praise, talk to, or feed someone’s wheelchair, cane, or walker. Don’t do it to my dog.

No, you may NOT pet my service dog. He is WORKING at keeping me safe in what can be a very dangerous environment for me – please respect my needs. My one dog will avoid people who try to walk up and touch him by moving to the other side of me, yet people STILL try to touch him past that. The dog will sigh loudly if someone tries to pet him, yet people find that adorable. Pay attention to the dog’s body cues!

Yes, he is my service dog! I am not just walking around with a random person’s service dog for kicks. It isn’t easy to have such a requirement.

Yes, I NEED a service dog. Even though you cannot see what’s wrong with me, I am disabled. No, my health issues that require a service dog are not something I have ANY desire to speak about in public with a perfect stranger.

Yes, it IS rude to start with “But you don’t look sick” when you ask me why I need service dogs. In fact, I may haul off and punch you if you do so. The blatant disregard and disrespect which runs rampant here is getting old. I’m tired of being judged by my outside ALL of the time. So just stop it. I don’t judge you for wearing your pajamas to the store.

Yes, it IS extremely BAD for your kid to walk up to ANY dog they do not know, let alone tackle a service dog. It’s not the dog’s fault if it bites your kid when it’s your kid who ran up to the dog. The dog is defending itself and its handler. TEACH your children – they are your responsibility. I keep my responsibility on a leash.

Do NOT smack my dog or jerk my dog from me to shove something into my mouth, with the intention of preventing me from swallowing my tongue. STOP BEING IGNORANT. I will NOT swallow my tongue – it’s an old wives’ tale, a person cannot swallow their tongue.

My service dogs are my lifeline; they know more about me and my seizure disorder than you EVER will. Let them do their jobs. Touch my dogs or my person and you risk getting the arse-whoopin’ of your life when I come to. Just ask the well-meaning idiot who broke one of my back teeth with a spoon (a tooth that I still don’t have the money to repair). She slapped my dog and slung him off me, not realizing that I could have choked to death on my own vomit. Not OKAY! I will never be a victim to a random person’s stupidity ever again. Someone should have stood up and stopped her – no one did. Well-meaning idiots are still dangerous idiots. Do NOT be a well-meaning idiot – educate yourself!

*breathes deeply*

Okay, allow me to begin again.

Hi, my name is Tearanny and I have two wonderful service dogs, Drachon and The Fatkid. Drachon is a 7-year-old German Shepherd that loves to swim and play ball at every opportunity. The Fatkid is a 15-year-old chocolate lab cross that loves tummy scratches and anything food related.

We all enjoy time outside together whenever my health and the weather allow. Both are extremely territorial of their yard and their Momma. They are very loving, loyal, and exceptionally well trained to take good care of my special needs.

My boys are both certified and registered Seizure Alert & Assistance Service Dogs. I have left temporal lobe epilepsy which generalizes.  It is a brain disorder that results in seizures that cause me to lose consciousness and hurt myself in the process. When these seizures occur, my service dogs sense the chemical changes in my brain chemistry and warn me long before my body presents an aura – pretty amazing by anyone’s standards.

For those that do not know, an “aura” is a distinctive feeling or some other warning sign that a seizure is coming. My boys help me lie down, turn me onto my side, and lie on me to keep me on my side throughout the seizure activity. They can bring me my medication and my telephone upon request, or if either feel that it is necessary at any point.

My boys will lick my face to calm me as I begin to stir from my seizure activity – I’m in a postictal state, a “flight or fight” response immediately after a seizure, and then an extreme exhaustion sets in.

My dogs are a deep emotional support after seizure events. They help me keep my balance as I make my way to the bathroom and bed after seizures or on days when my balance is still affected by bad seizure events. They never judge me for being too sick to brush my teeth, cancelling plans, or failing to change into something fashionable the day after a seizure when I’m too sore to move. They love me unconditionally and I owe them to be worthy of such devotion – they are my shaggy blessings!!

So, if you see us out and about, or anyone else with a service dog, here is the skinny on how to act:

Service Dog Etiquette

Never pet, call, talk, feed, whistle to, or otherwise distract a service dog for ANY reason. To do so can potentially injure a handler and earn the dog a correction; even the most well trained dogs can be distracted. Be kind, considerate, and thoughtful – if you are sincerely a lover of animals, respect the dog’s job and his handler.

Ignore a service dog; it’s truly what the dogs PREFER. Remember, they are NOT pets; they are trained to do a very important job that they take EXTREMELY seriously. A person’s well being is completely reliant upon that dog’s work drive – respect that dog’s drive.

If you feel you must pet a service dog, ASK first. But don’t feel offended if the handler says “No.” Service dogs need to be released from Work Mode to interact with someone; this can be a SEVERE hazard to the health of the handler. The dog (or handler) might be having a bad day, or might be in a hurry. Ever tried to make it through the store when 20 people are asking to pet your service dog and all you want to do is get your groceries and get home because you feel awful? I have, and it is less fun each it happens.

Train children to never waltz up to a strange dog – ANY dog – without first asking permission. Teach them to follow your lead, and make sure your lead is worth following. Teach your kids about safety around dogs and then teach yourself about service dogs.

Speak to the person, not the assistance dog. Most handlers do not mind talking about service dogs and their dog specifically, if they have the time and you are respectful with your inquiry.

Never make assumptions about the individual’s intelligence, feelings or capabilities. Offers of help are appreciated, but ask first. Usually, the human/dog team can get the task done by themselves.

Don’t be afraid of the service dog. There is no need to be afraid of a service dog. They have been professionally trained to have excellent manners and skills. Always approach an assistance dog calmly and speak to their human partner.

If you happen to see me when I’m having a seizure and my dogs are with me, leave us alone. Let my boys do the job they were born and trained to do. I will ask that you keep the well-intentioned idiots away from my boys and me until the floppy-fish dance has concluded. When I come back around, I will call my folks or a friend to pick us up to take us home. Pretty simple, eh? No reason to hit my service dog and break my tooth!

Business Owners and Service Animals

Some customers and employees may be anxious or nervous about an assistance dog in a business establishment. While I reassure them that my service dog is thoroughly trained and has a legal right to be there under the ADA, it gets old repeating myself each time I enter a new establishment. Here are a few tips for business owners:

–Businesses may ask if an animal is a service animal OR ask what tasks it has been trained to perform; however, businesses cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person’s disability.

–People with disabilities who use service animals cannot be charged extra fees, isolated from other patrons or treated less favorably than other customers. People with assistance dogs deserve the same respect as any other customer. However, if a business such as a hotel normally charges guests for damage that they cause, a customer with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.

–A person with a disability cannot be asked to remove his or her service animal from the premises unless:

(1) the animal is out of control and its owner does not take effective action to control it (for example, a dog that barks repeatedly during a movie), or

(2) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. In these cases, the business should give the person with a disability the option to obtain goods and services without having the animal on premises.

–Businesses that sell or prepare food must allow service animals in public areas even if state or local health codes prohibit animals on the premises.

–A business is not required to provide care or food for a service animal, or provide a special area for it to relieve itself.

–Allergies and fear of animals are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people with service animals.

–Violators of the ADA can be required to pay money damages and penalties.

See you around town!