Category Archives: Magpie
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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.
Magpie did much better with trick-or-treating this year than she did last year. I’m sure it’s because she has been with us for longer than just a couple of days unlike last year when we were in the middle of training in Ohio with er. This summer Deeds decided that he wanted to be Hercules and then proceeded to say what everyone else would also be from the movie. Little sister was Meg, Magpie was Pegasus, mommy was a Muse and poor daddy got stuck as Hades. By the end of the summer, thanks to ebay we had all the costumes set and it was really fun. Granted no one really knew who we were but the kids didn’t mind explaining to them.
In Halloween’s past we have learned that Deeds loves the holiday but it can be incredibly overstimulating for him. His favorite thing to do was to make sure people shut the door so he could then ring the door bell and even if it was obvious no one was home we couldn’t keep him from continuing to go up and ring the door bell of each and every house. This year was a bit different. We went with some of his cousins and soon our group got separated. Deeds, Magpie and I headed off with the older cousins while daddy and Gwen hung back with the younger.
At first it was great, lots of fun and laughter as the boys ran from house to house but soon Deeds would lag behind and then start to melt-down when he realized the boys were already at the next house. Even when they stopped to wait for him he was getting pretty upset. Finally I figured out that it was because once at the door people were often letting the kids just pick out their own candy. This became quite time consuming for Deeds because he would put a lot of thought into which piece he was going to pick and heaven forbid they then told him to take another.
At one point apparently Deeds wasn’t a fan of any of the candy in the bowl and I overheard him saying “Do you have any candies? I just really don’t like any of these kinds in here.” I quickly stepped in and tried to explain to him that it’s not polite to say and you should just take a piece anyway and say thank you. We intentionally go trick-or-treating in grandma’s neighborhood where they all know Deeds and Magpie just in case situations like this arise. Thankfully they were quite nice to my little dude and he was soon racing off to the next door.
As Deeds gets older we see some amazing progress in how he is doing but then there are times where the more autistic tenancies come to the surface. Holidays have become a bit of a dance for us and while we never know exactly how something is going to go from year to year we are thankful for an amazing supportive family (including his fantastic cousins) that always rolls with the punches and helps us out.
One year ago today our lives changed.
Friends, strangers, and family touched our lives and helped our little Deeds. Each day he grows and with Magpie by his side he is more confident and we can’t even remember life without her. We always say a prayers of thanks for all of your support both emotionally and financially as you helped this happen for Deeds.
Today we remember that first magical day we met Magpie. We can’t believe it’s been a year and we hope there are many more to follow!
I have so many pictures to share with everyone. We’ve been trying to pack in end of summer fun and all our “to-do” list before school starts for Deeds and mommy. I’ll start with pictures from going bowling with the kids today. Just check out the captions to get all the fun info.
Here are some random pic’s from the last week:
Summers in Utah can get very hot. We live in a desert climate so while it is often “dry” heat with little humidity still very hot. When I lived in Florida I learned what a difference the humidity made. I learned that it can be a lower temp and still feel like 106 degrees in the shade. In Utah if it’s 106 degrees it’s probably because it is literally 106 degrees. This past week or two there have been multiple days with temps reaching above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This has led us to become much more aware of Magpie and her needs due to the heat.
Here are the tricks we have learned to help us brave the heat with Magpie.
- Water, water, water. I don’t get out of the car anymore without a bottle of water just for Magpie. I don’t always take the travel bowl since I can cup my hand and she can still drink but it’s imperative in the heat that along with everyone else she stays hydrated.
- Asphalt. I grew up walking around by the pool all the time because of swim team. I remember sprinting across parking lots barefoot because of the blistering heat and it’s a good reminder for remembering that Magpie doesn’t wear shoes. We pay close attention to if she starts pulling or high-stepping due to hot surfaces and we get her off of them asap if she encounters them. I’ve even tested it with my hand a few times to make sure she would be okay.
- Scope out the shade. We always find the shady spots at the parks and pools for Magpie. There is also a beach umbrella in the car just in case there isn’t any easily found.
- Hot, hot, hot. I have learned that Magpie reaches her heat threshold at the same time I do. Since I have a bad heart the heat can really make me feel incredibly ill. I don’t know if Magpie picks up on my feeling sick or just starts to have problems with the heat at the same time but she will stand up and refuse to lay down if we’ve been outside too long on a hot day. The kids have learned that it means play time is done and we all head back to the car or inside for some air conditioning.
- Take the vest off. If she starts getting hot I take her red service dog vest or harness off. Legally she doesn’t have to have them on, we do it to avoid questions and educate people but I’ll just carry it if she shows signs she is struggling to cool down. Poor black doggie doesn’t need an extra layer on her back in the heat.
- It’s okay to leave her home. If we are going somewhere where I am worried she might not be okay due to the heat it is okay, and better for her if we just leave her home. Yes ideally I’d rather have her with JD as much as possible but not at the risk of her health or her not wanting to go anywhere because she is miserable.
- NEVER leave her in the car. This is just common sense. You would never leave your child in a hot car, same goes for Magpie.
- Brushing. You wouldn’t necessarily think it but brushing her more frequently has helped a lot. Poor Magpie sheds a LOT so we are usually quite good at brushing her but making sure we do it even more often in the summer keeps her coat thinner by pulling up all the hair that’s falling out.
We hope everyone else also has a fun but safe summer and remember a lot of these tips would be great for your pets too. We are so thankful for all Magpie does for Deeds and we plan on taking good care of her through the years so that she can continue to be his constant companion.
Yesterday it was so hot we decided to take the kids to a local splash pad where they could play in the water and cool off.
Magpie wasn’t so keen about having to stay out of the water while her boy ran around paying. We couldn’t stay too long since we didn’t want Magpie to get too hot. Even with bottled water for her and an umbrella for shade it was a scorcher yesterday.
My mother’s side of the family has a cabin in the Uinta mountains. My great grandparents started building it in the 1950’s. The past couple of years my parents have been going up every weekend during the summers and fixing it up for all the generations of the family to be able to enjoy it again. The past couple weekends I went up with the kids and Magpie to help out and this weekend we even got to take Deeds cousin from Houston with us.
We have never taken Deeds up before because I was terrified. Loosing him in a public place is frightening but you can usually enlist a lot of help to look for him. Loosing him where there is nothing but vast wilderness and no cell phone coverage to call for help was something that I wasn’t willing to risk. Now that we have Magpie and Deeds is getting older we decided it was time. We even did a practice track while we were there to make sure Maggie could still find her boy out in the woods.
The kids had a lot of fun playing games, doing puzzles and watching Disney movies while we were inside. We would go for walks outside and it became quickly apparent that Deeds is not a huge fan of the great outdoors. He never wanted to go for walks but once we got down to the water he would always have a lot of fun with Magpie playing fetch or throwing rocks into the creek.
One day another family was also down by the creek and Magpie thought it was Christmas since they had two dogs and she got to play with them for a while. She hasn’t been able to run and play that much since we were at training at 4 Paws. Every once in a while I would randomly call out a command to make sure she was still aware we were still there and she would come bounding back with her tail wagging. I’d praise her, Deeds would giggle and give her a treat and then we would let her jump back into the cold water to play some more. It was a really great weekend.
On the way home we took a little stop by the Provo River Falls. They are beautiful and I promised Deeds cousin she could get some pictures by them. About a half an hour later in the car as we were driving Deeds started to scream that he couldn’t find his blankie. My heart sank and I pulled over to look around the car. Sure enough it wasn’t there. I could flip through the pictures on my phone and see exactly where he had it one second and not the next. We turned around to drive back and prayed it would still be there. My little guy was beyond upset and I was dealing with a great deal of anxiety about it myself. Lucky for us someone had found it on the trail, folded it up and placed it on a rock. I’ve never seen such a look of relief on Deeds face. There is a new rule that the blankie doesn’t come out of the car unless mommy or daddy has it. Since it’s what he hides under when he is overstimulated it’s more than just a comfort thing for him. I’m so thankful that someone was nice enough to pick it up for us and set it somewhere we would see it.