Category Archives: Service Dog

Leaps and Bounds

As I sat last month and watched JD perform with his kindergarten class I couldn’t help but think once again about how much he has progressed.  I filmed his little show, zoomed in on his fidgeting and spinning, thinking it would be so fun to show all of you how well he is doing.  When I came home to put it online I somehow accidentally deleted all the video and was so darn upset about it I didn’t post anything at all.

With my nursing program starting at the university it hasn’t left much time for blogging.  I really do like to spend all my extra time with the kids.  Lets face it, if I don’t even do the laundry or clean house when I’m in school then things like blogging are really not going to get done.  I decided however that since we are halfway through the school year and our little guy turns 6 next week it is time to dust off the old blog page and post a quick update.  I can’t believe it’s almost been 3 years since that horrible burn but oh baby how we’ve grown since then.

Here’s the skinny on Deeds and Magpie:

Deeds is now as tall as some of his cousins were when they were almost 8 years old.  The sweet boy is really a gentle giant just like his daddy and I’m sure will one day tower over his mommy (and it’s not like I’m a small fry).  He has been liking LOVING kindergarten and academically he’s doing amazing.  A far cry from being told he probably wouldn’t be able to speak, now we can’t get him to stop and we love it.  He is an amazing big brother and while he still has some very autistic moments that little sister doesn’t understand they get along quite well and love to play games together.

Our latest bit of fun combines my love of Disney and his love of video games.  They got the Disney Infinity play set recently and Deeds loves to ask me to play with him.  It’s so fun to connect with him on a new and unexpected level.  It is really something I look forward too.  Even on days like today when I could only play for 10 minutes with him.

Magpie is still feisty as ever and such a good girl.   Since Deeds has been seizure free for a couple of months I think she was getting bored.  That is until I did respite for a family who had a special needs son and we had him at our house for a few days over the holiday break.  Magpie LOVED IT!  She followed his wheelchair around, responded to his seizures and was on her best service dog behavior the entire time.  It was fun to see her snap back into things.  She is quite the fixture at church and everyone is so used to her now she gets told hello as much as the rest of us do.  Lately we have seen quite a few dogs in public places that aren’t service dogs and it has caught her off guard when another dog barks in a store or something but she’s such a pro at this point it’s usually no biggie.  Sure she still has her teenager days, but most of the time she is her spunky self.

I hope it isn’t as long between updates next time, but with the fun of Nursing school I’ve learned that my life isn’t always my own right now.  Hope you enjoy the pic’s and know we still love and think of all of you often!  You helped our guy and changed his life, it’s something that won’t ever be forgotten by us.

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Service Dog article in the UVU Review

Walking into class at the University this morning I noticed the cover story for the school paper had an article about animals on campus so of course I snatched it up and read it.  I started to write a letter in response just pointing out a couple of things other than just the moral issues with passing your pet off as a service dog.  My quick letter got pretty long so I decided to just do a blog post too.  Lucky you guys, two posts in two days, and during a semester to boot!  Enjoy.

UVU Review article

As the mother of a little boy with a service dog I wanted to say that I appreciate your article and the obvious research you did on the subject.  My son has quite a few “invisible” disabilities including epilepsy and autism, if you were to spot him across the hall he would look like any other child but he has some major struggles.  His service dog Magpie has quite literally been a life saver for him and she is his constant companion, including when he is with mommy on campus or in the family study room of the library.  She has many tasks she can perform for him and having her has changed our life.

Deeds and little sister with Magpie

Deeds and little sister with Magpie

I do want to point out another danger of those who abuse the system and not focus on the moral standards.  Not only is it jeopardizing the rights of those with legitimate service dogs as well as future interactions they might have, but it can also be a safety hazard.  Dogs that have not been properly trained as service animals, even the best behaved pet, can put service dogs and their owners at serious risk.

If you have your pet on campus and they never cause a problem because they never see another dog you just can’t predict how they might react when someone with a service dog walks by.  Even a working dog, like my son’s that has been certified and working for two years sometimes gets excited when another dog is around in public.  They are dogs after all, and not robots.   These situations are rare, and usually so small others might not notice at all.  Once in the two years we’ve had her she was startled by a dog in a building that lunged at her and she barked.  When she starts to lose focus we have a simple command we use that she always immediately responds to and focuses back on her job.  Now imagine a dog that isn’t trained becomes startled or caught off guard in a building (school or otherwise).  The owner might not be keeping an eye out for situations like that and all it takes is one slip of the leash and barking lunge to trigger a huge problem.

Service dogs being attacked, or even threatened by other dogs can not only cause physical harm to the dog, or the handler, but can also cause emotional trauma that requires the dog to be retired prematurely.  A dog that becomes scared in public, anxious or aggressive cannot focus on the fulfillment of the medical needs it is trained for.  There is also a great financial repercussion to having to retire a service dog.  My son’s service dog cost $22,000 to train, and we personally helped raise over $13,300 of that for the non-profit we got her from.  In addition to the cost of the dog there was the cost associated with the two weeks in Ohio we spent being trained on handling her.  Other issues also include the time that the person with the disability will now be without a service dog, which is a piece of medical equipment for them.  For the pet owner the disruption to their lives might be minimal, for someone like my son the disruption would be tremendous.

Deeds and Magpie in the Library at UVU where they spent a lot of time during the spring.

Deeds and Magpie in the Library at UVU where they spent a lot of time during the spring.

It is not just the service dogs that are trained when they enter a person’s life, the handler is also trained.  A doctor wouldn’t hand you an oxygen tank and say “good luck” and it’s the same with a service animal.  A fantastic list of Service Dog Handler Etiquette is listed at http://people.umass.edu/ebarney/responsibilities.htm

The last thing I want to point out is how to act or what to do if you encounter a service dog in public, here are some great tips to remember as a rule of thumb:

  • Speak to the handler first before talking or interacting with the dog.
  • Do not aim distracting or rude noises at the dog, this has happened to us quite a bit and it not only upsets our son but it can really make Magpie lose focus.
  • DO NOT TOUCH the service dog without asking first, and if you aren’t granted permission then please do not pet them anyway.  Some dogs get distracted easier than others so their handlers might not ever allow touching.  I’ve also heard it put this way: You wouldn’t go up and start playing with someone’s wheel chair so don’t touch my service dog.  In our case it helps our son socialize with others, especially kids his own age.  If someone asks to pet Magpie we have them ask him directly and if he says it is okay then go for it!  If I’m trying to get through a grocery store on the other hand and maybe have kids with me and I’m rushing, OR Magpie might be having a rough day, don’t be offended if the answer is no.
  • Do not EVER offer food to the service dog, even dog food.
  • Do not ask personal questions about the handler’s disability.  Think your questions through before you ask them.  We commonly hear “What is wrong with your son?”  My husband and I don’t think there is anything WRONG with our son.   Sometimes we will still educate and share his story but it can be personal so think about what you are asking.
  • Don’t be offended if the handler does not wish to chat about the service dog.  Everyone has bad days, or can be in a rush.  Please be courteous.
  • Some service dogs wear a “Gentle Leader” that slips around their neck and then over their nose.  No it is not a muzzle, and no it does not mean the dog is not well-trained.  With Magpie we use it in areas where we know her focus might be distracted easily (on campus, Disneyland, etc) and it is just a reminder for her to pay attention and she can feel subtle tugs on the leash much easier.
  •  If a service dog happens to slip out of working mode and barks, growls or has a quick disturbance please remember that you should find out what happened before taking action.  Our son’s dog is black and there have been times she gets stepped on when people don’t notice her.  While she doesn’t bark when it happens I wouldn’t blame her if she did.  The dog could also be asleep and dreaming, or maybe someone provoked it.  Get facts first.
Studying with Mommy on campus

Studying with Mommy on UVU campus

If anything ever happened to Magpie it would break Deeds heart.  It has taken us two years to build a strong bond between.  It has not always been easy, especially for poor little sister who just wants to play with Magpie all the time but has had to learn the difference between a pet dog (which we do have at home as well) and her brothers working dog.  Please keep service dog teams safe and leave you pets at home.   Having Magpie in public with the children can be quite a daunting task, especially if I am the only adult there.  It takes a lot of focus from me as a mother, including extra preparations anytime we have to go anywhere.  Please help me out by not having your pet imitate a service dog.  If your dog misbehaves when you go out the next time we try to go somewhere as a family we may approach difficulties we weren’t expecting.

Good Deeds

Deeds has been going to his morning preforming arts kindergarten and the afternoon public school kindergarten for about two weeks now.  The first week with just the afternoon was a bit rough at home so it was good to know we made the right choice to enroll him in the extra mornings too so that he was still on the full day schedule he has been used to for the past two years.  It has been really fun to hear him talking about singing, tae kwon do, and even dancing.  He is one of only two boys in the morning but it doesn’t seem to phase him in the least.  The other afternoon he even told me that at dance he learned how to sashay.  I asked him to show be and he threw his arms out to the side with wild abandon and took a large sweeping side step.  I clapped and told him good job and the look of absolute pride on his face just melted my heart.

While numbers are a strong point with Deeds it’s been a bit of a battle to get him to learn to read and write.  He can, he just doesn’t really want to take the time to do it.  He aced his first spelling test, spelling the words “I”, “red”, and “am” correctly (ah, kindergarten spelling rocks) but like most other kids he likes to flip letters a lot but I’m sure he’ll get there.  Two of the most common flipped letters for kids learning to write are J and D… so sometimes when he comes home the name on his paper can be all kinds of basackwards.

When picking him up this afternoon from the public school I asked his teacher about the IEP he is on since we’ve never gotten communication about if they started it or how it was going.  She said they have been coming into the class but she was wondering how we would feel if we changed it to a consultation, only when he needs it basis.  I asked if he was doing that well and she smiled at me and said he was one of the brightest in the class and was making friends like a champion!  I told her that if she was seeing him focus and do that well that I was okay with only pulling him out as needed, when he was overstimulated or needing extra time.    Honestly it took all the willpower I had not to burst into tears and hug her right then and there!  She has NO IDEA how far he has come but her enthusiasm and encouragement was just the boost this mama needed.

Our little guy has not only tackled many of his challenges, but he has hit them so hard they shatter.  He is a great example to us!

For those wondering about Magpie.  I know I haven’t really mentioned her a lot on here lately.  She is still doing great.  A little bored again when he is gone all day and so getting into some mischief at home that we are having to watch for, but she is still a miracle worker and sometimes I just need to remember she is a dog, not a robot.  I can’t leave that fresh loaf of bread on the counter to cool and leaver he downstairs for an hour and not expect her to devour the entire thing.   It was never an issue before but now that she’s gotten away with it a couple times she is being a stinker about it and so the retraining begins.

Deeds has been seizure free for a while now so she hasn’t had to do alerting, and he also hasn’t wandered lately so that is awesome too.  Maybe wandering looses its magic when you know a big black dog is going to track you down and slobber all over you when she finds you.  😉

We still use her for meltdowns at home and in public and anytime we are out and about he wants her right there next to him.  We’ve started to bump into a lot more service dogs in public and at first that caught her off guard since I think she assumed she was the only one allowed, but now she listens when we tell her to just ignore them and keep working.  She is just so playful and so when another dog is around it takes all the focus in her furry body to stay on task and not go bounding over barking to play!   I needed her a bunch last week when Deeds decided to start chewing the skin off his thumb at church.  I didn’t notice till he was almost bleeding and so I kept having her do behavior disruption with him and it really helped.  Hopefully the chewing on his own hands doesn’t become an issue.  He did it to the thumb he still sucks when he is upset, and he couldn’t suck it for a while without a lot of pain so I’m honestly hoping that discourages him from gnawing on any other appendages.

Our little family is doing great.  We are in full blown school mode and getting ready for our little cabin weekend, halloween (our costumes are going to rock) and sister’s upcoming 4th birthday party.   We’ll keep you posted!

Doggie Doctor

It was time for Magpie’s checkup and shots for sisters doggie Max so we headed to the vet yesterday. They entire office staff is still so excited to see her everytime we go in and this time we talked about how we couldn’t believe it has been almost two years since we almost lost her to the snail bate. It’s because of their quick thinking and skills that we still have her and so we will go there forever now!

Both dogs did great with their shots and got clean bills of health. Yay!

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Rodeo? Rode-no.

We’ve attempted the local rodeo in the past with Deeds and it hasn’t ever gone well.  We thought maybe this year we’d take Magpie and try once again.  I love the rodeo that is put on for the annual Strawberry Days Festival and really wanted to be able to enjoy it again.  We told Deeds there would be fireworks after and he said he would go.

He lasted until the cow wrangling and he was DONE.  I knew when he was bouncing and rocking when they started with the Bronco’s at the very beginning that we’d be lucky to make it till the end.  He turned to Jeremy and I at one point and said he wants to do the rodeo backwards.  When we asked what that meant he explained (like we were idiots) that it meant the fireworks first, and then the rodeo.  He tried really hard but I started to see the little signs that we get prior to a big meltdown so we made a break for it.  Too many people, too much cheering, just too much for Deeds.  We’re contemplating trying again next year in the handicap seating with headphones with him but I’m guessing it’s not going to happen. I’m thinking maybe on rodeo nights Daddy (who isn’t a big fan, even if he is from Texas) and Deeds stay home while the ladies go with the rest of the family to the rodeo.

Once we got out of the crowd  we decided to do some sparklers at home since he was really disappointed about missing the fireworks.  Honestly with school in the morning, the fireworks might have been too late for him anyway.  I guess at least we didn’t have to fight traffic on the way out.  😛

The two things I learned tonight with Magpie at the rodeo are:

  1. Those stadium seats are not service dog friendly.  She slid from one row to another at one point and I was glad we were sitting pretty close to the front so we could get out easier.  We should have sat in the Handicap seating with her but it was limited and I didn’t want to take up space that might be needed for a wheelchair.
  2. She is not a fan of the Mutton Bustin.  In reality it may be the sheep she wasn’t a fan of.  We walked right past all the horses and cows and there wasn’t  a problem at all.  When those little ones came out riding the sheep she was not a happy camper.  Live and learn.  Maybe she was worried about the kids, I’m not sure.

We did the sparklers and then within minutes of going to bed both kids were out.  I’m glad that through the roller coaster of Autism with Deeds we’ve learned a few warning signs to watch for issues.  Its kind of nice to know that we probably avoided very big and very public issues by just leaving, even if mommy did miss the bull riding.  I got my strawberries and that is what really matters!

Strawberrry Days

5 minutes of fun!

I have a little desk in the corner of our room where I do my homework.  The old MacBook pro that bit the dust during a meltdown last year is propped up on it, perpetually open with a lovely crack going down the middle of the screen.  Honestly it works perfectly and I have gotten to like my little corner of the bedroom.  It helps me to waste time on pinterest and Facebook  focus for my online classes and still be home with the kids and not at the library.  I have a final this week that I forgot about till last-minute (eek) so I’ve been slaving away for the past couple days.

Just a couple of minutes ago Deeds came bounding into my room with Magpie.  At first they just jumped on the bed.  Then Deeds got this sudden burst of energy and was dancing around like crazy.  The entire time Magpie kept looking at him, then me with this “I don’t know that kid” look on her face.  They shook hands for a minute then in a flash he was gone again, leaving Magpie laying on my bed alone.  She snorted and then looked at me one last time and the expression on her doggie face cracked me up.  I think she was miffed that he didn’t take her with him when he sprinted back out of the room.  The entire exchange didn’t last more than 5 minutes.

Moments like this are why I love my little desk in the corner of the room.

Deeds and Magpie Kisses

Cabin Again!

A couple of nights ago we decided to make an impromptu trip back up into the Uintas, to the cabin while my parents were still there.  Since Jeremy had to work I just headed up with the kids (and dogs) after Deeds was done with school.  We enjoyed helping with the cabin, relaxing, movies, games, hikes and fun.  The only incident we had is when sister accidentally threw a rock that hit Deeds in the eyebrow.  He’s probably going to end up with a little bit of a black eye tomorrow but he was pretty good about the ordeal.

This evening when we got home we headed to go swimming with some cousins and as we were leaving Deeds started having the biggest meltdown of the year.  He’s been doing so well lately it’s like his autism just wanted to remind me what happens if he is tired and overstimulated.

All in all it was a nice break if I just mentally block this evening from my memory.  The easiest way to do that is to gaze upon the fun pictures from the past couple days.

Summer 2013 Kickoff

Even though Deeds still has school for the summer we decided to have a fun little kick off yesterday and I drove him and Gwen up to the cabin for the night with my parents.  It was their week and I’m thankful that they shared the evening and day with us.  My dad has a fishing buddy named Harry in his 80’s that was also up there and Deeds loved him.  He now says that Harry is one of his “best friends”

How did Harry become his new best friend.  Well, he taught Deeds how to play Domino’s.  The child is now obsessed and Harry loved that Deeds not only grasped the concept quickly but could even hold his own against the older men.  It was really adorable to watch.

We went on a hike today and with the snow still melting in the mountains it was much muddier than Deeds would have liked.  Poor little guy stepped in a puddle at one point and begged me to carry him back to the cabin.  Instead we took a little break and had a snack and then headed back.  He weighs so much and is growing so big that there was no way I could have carried him all the way back so I’m really glad he didn’t dwell on it for too long.

Magpie had an amazing time.  The minute we pulled onto the dirt road that leads to the cabin her head popped up in the back and she proceeded to make her way into the empty front seat next to me and wouldn’t budge till we let her out at the cabin.  Both her and Annabelle wore themselves out running and swimming in the creek and it didn’t take long for the kids and dogs to fall asleep once we got back home tonight.

They can’t wait to go back, but our week to visit again isn’t till September.  I know the time is going to fly but to such young kids they are sure it is an eternity away.

Kindergarten IEP

Today is the first time I’ve ever left an IEP meeting without wanting to cry.  It’s not that they have ever been that  bad, I mean I have heard nightmare stories, it’s just I always second guess things.  We thought they were actually going to simply mainstream Deeds into kindergarten next year with no back up services and it had us a bit apprehensive.  While our little guy WILL be able to go into a typical classroom (WAHOOOOOO for progress) he is going to get just a little support during the transition.  We were thrilled and left feeling really at peace with him going to public school next year.  We will miss the amazing teachers, staff and small classrooms at Giant Steps but we are excited for Deeds to get a chance to interact with the other “neuro-typical” children in the neighborhood and start making friends there as well.

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While looking over all the testing that’s been done in the past three years since Deeds has been diagnosed with autism it is really shocking how much he has progressed.  He is an inspiration to us and it’s amazing to see him now, and to see how far he has come.  Our little man is a true success story, showing how early intervention, therapy, hard work and supportive family can really change some kids on the spectrum.  Change isn’t even a strong enough word, transform is better.

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After the IEP Jeremy and I decided to hang out in the classroom and volunteer for a couple of hours.  With the last semester of school keeping me busy all the time it was nice to be back in his classroom and seeing him work hard.  He was a bit silly since both parents were there but the real treat for him was that Magpie got to come too.  She loved it and snoozed in the corner during APE.

It amazes me what a good dog she is.  I know that sounds weird but sometimes at home she is like any other pet would be.  You catch her snatching toast off the counter, chewing on something she shouldn’t (all our seedlings for the garden) and then in public she is the worlds best behaved service dog.  All business, and it shocks people when they see the silly lab at home versus the professional working dog in public.  Just like anyone she has days where even in public she isn’t on her game, but even during those days she is typically fantastic and just takes a little longer to pay attention.

I am really hoping this summer we can get some fun blog posts up since I’m not at the school full-time.  I know some people still check often to get updates on Magpie and Deeds so I hope to keep you all more informed.  Many supporters have turned into extended family for us and we appreciate you all.

OH and one more bit of amazing news for everyone, Deeds has been seizure free since December!  We are thrilled, and so is his neurologist.  We hope this means we’ve figured out his medication for the time being and it continues for a while.

 

Disney on Ice

How can you tell mommy is in the middle of a crazy semester of school…. she never blogs for Deeds and Magpie.  I can’t believe the last post was from Christmas, but hey, it’s spring break for me now which means catching up on everything from doctors appointments, oil changes, yard work and even blogging!

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Last weekend we were given tickets to Disney on Ice by an old friend of mine.  She even surprised us with third row seats and the kids were in heaven.  Since a Disneyland trip this year isn’t in the books I was hoping this would quench a bit of their Disney thirst but I think it may have added a log to the fire instead.

It was very cold waiting for the train in the morning.

It was very cold waiting for the train in the morning.

Hear no evil, speak no evil?

Hear no evil, speak no evil?

Waiting to get into the arena.

Waiting to get into the arena.

We decided to take the train up to Salt Lake instead of driving and it was a huge hit.  Magpie wasn’t a big fan at first but like the pro she is, she quickly relaxed and enjoyed the ride with the rest of us and then slept her way through all the ice skating commotion.  I did have to laugh at one point when Jeremy was standing with Deeds and Magpie while I was purchasing a drink for the kids.  I turned around and there were no less than 5 little girls, all dressed up like princesses, talking to Deeds and petting Magpie (who was loving all the attention).  Deeds was incredibly overstimulated during the show but despite it all we had a great time, spinning and flapping included.

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We did get a lot of great pictures that are pretty self explanatory.  Deeds favorite parts were when Rapunzel and Flynn flew and when the horse was ice skating.