Not Just Cute

Recently, I’ve had some conversations regarding the current marketing theme for many non-profits that provide Service Dogs – the cuteness of the dogs and pups. Our culture, particularly the socialmediasphere (yep, all one word), is obsessed with cute animals; my Facebook feed is blasted with memes of sad puppies, videos of babies and dogs singing together (it’s had more than 8 million views on YouTube), and canines wearing glasses. Continue reading

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Silver Oak School Makes it PAWsible

Last Thursday, Bright and I had the pleasure of presenting to about 700 elementary schoolers at Silver Oak School in San Jose. We were invited because the whole school is participating in an ingenious fundraiser for CCI called Make it PAWsible. Mr. Laraway, a 5th grade teacher, has personal ties to CCI through his sister who received multiple dogs and dedicated much of her time to volunteer work for CCI.

Did you ever do service learning projects when you were in school? The general purpose is to allow students to practice organizational skills and often teamwork while introducing them to some sort of social responsibility. When I was in school, we did things like cleaning up public parks and collecting gently used clothing for donation. Continue reading

Cute Fix

Visit us every Thursday at noon (PST) for more fun!

Carlo III, age 16 months, doesn't like to swim but he will float on his raft for hours.  Puppy Raisers: Gail Griffith and Gary Begeman

Carlo III, age 16 months, doesn’t like to swim but he will float on his raft for hours. Puppy Raisers: Gail Griffith and Gary Begeman

Visit every Thursday at noon (PST) for your cute fix! Want to join in the fun? Send a picture and caption to helponfourlegs@gmail.com, and you just might see it on Help On Four Legs next week!

Fake Service Dogs on NBC

As many of you know, Bright and I were interviewed by Vicky Nguyen from NBC for a story about the issue of people pretending that their pet dogs are Service Dogs. Reactions to the story have been overwhelmingly supportive, and I’m excited to see where things go from here. 

The issue raises one big question, though, and it seems that the SD community is divided on the solution. I’d like to hear what you think:

Should the US have a standardized system by which to train, certify, and identify Service Dogs? What would be the advantages? What would be the drawbacks? 

Click here to read the article, Fake.

Click here to watch the story on NBC.

Click here to see what makes Service Dogs special.

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Hot Dog

Welcome to a series of posts I’ll do whenever I have an entire day to devote to creating an infographic. (Seriously, it’s my first one and I worked on it for like 9 hours, so please, be kind.)

There are two things going on here: (1) I’ve been looking for an excuse to practice design and illustration and (2) It’s summer and a lot of dogs get hurt when we take them out and about. Continue reading

A Public Service Announcement

My life with Bright provides me with some unique opportunities to educate people about Service Dogs and life with a disability, and also to teach common sense. These opportunities come in many forms, but there’s one situation in particular that blows my mind every time it comes up.

I grew up with dogs. I had a Westie when I was little, and got my first big dog when I was 13; one of the first things I learned was that it’s dangerous to surprise an animal. Dogs don’t like being the last ones to find out that someone’s about to touch them, so I was taught to always approach them from the front and give them a chance to sniff me out.

Apparently, there are a whole lot of children out there who were never taught that lesson. Pretty frequently, in fact, I hear parents and children approaching me and Bright from behind, and parents saying, “Look at the puppy! I bet it’s soft – why don’t you go and pet it?” Then, inevitably, I see a little hand in my peripheral vision, reaching out to grab Bright’s tail or touch a back leg.

I’m very happy to say that I’m confident that Bright will always respond appropriately, but I’m always shocked at the lack of respect people – especially adults with children – have for the power of a canine’s jaw.

Bright has lots of experience with babes.

Bright has lots of experience with babes.

Consider this post a Public Service Announcement:

Never Approach an Animal from Behind

Dogs are not people. When people are surprised, our reaction is usually fear in the form of a yelp or laugh, and maybe a little jump. But we’re past the point in our evolution where we’re constantly on the lookout for predators (although, maybe we shouldn’t be…), and dogs aren’t. When surprised, they often go into fight or flight mode, and in most cases, fight is the most viable option for them. While the jumpiness can be overcome through breeding and training, which it is in the case of a true Service Dog, that’s not the case with most pets.

For example, my mom grew up with her aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents all living on the same block. There were lots of animals – chickens, cats, dogs, rabbits, even a pet skunk named Flower. She knew how to behave around dogs, and she was still injured by one when it was surprised. I remember her telling me the story of the time she was standing next to of one of the neighborhood German Shepherds, petting his back, when a cousin tugged on its tail. Since she was within striking range, my mom ended up with a hole in her hand when the spooked dog reacted to what it perceived as a threat.

To be clear, this kind of behavior is different from aggression – notice I said the dog bit her hand. It didn’t attack, maul, or instigate a fight unprovoked; it just reacted to what it thought was danger. While this kind of reaction to fear isn’t acceptable for a Service Dog, most pet owners don’t know enough about canine behavior to avoid situations like the one my mom experienced.

Fortunately for the kids that come up behind Bright and yank on her tail, they won’t end up with holes in their hands. I love that I get the opportunity to talk to them about safety with animals, but my heart’s a little afraid for kids who learn this simple lesson the hard way.

An Invitation

Parents: If you’ve read my blog before, you probably know that the most important part of etiquette with Service Dogs is that you ask before petting. That always applies, but I personally rarely say no to a young child or to you as a parent because it gives the you the opportunity for a teaching moment. You can walk your kiddo to the front end of the dog and explain why it’s important not to sneak up, pull tails or ears, or poke eyes. It seems like a small thing, but you could be saving your child serious injuries and trauma in the long run.

I love dogs. I’m comfortable with them, and I enjoy learning and teaching about them. One of the most important lessons we can learn is that dogs aren’t people, and if we want to understand them, we can’t apply human psychology. Respect the differences between the canine and human worlds, and please teach your kids to do the same.

Cute Fix

Meet Wise, CCI Puppy in Training. Those big brown eyes just melt your heart, don’t they?

The places they go - Wise on the train.

The places they go – Wise on the train.

Visit every Thursday at noon (PST) for your cute fix! Want to join in the fun? Send a picture and caption to helponfourlegs@gmail.com, and you just might see it on Help On Four Legs next week!

Cute Fix

Buffy, affectionately known as Buff Puff by her Puppy Raisers, who happen to be the same as Bright’s, is now a full fledged Service Dog. And apparently also a big traveler.

Buffy getting ready for her return trip (yes, I said return) to Disney.

Buffy getting ready for her return trip (yes, I said return) to Disney.

Visit every Thursday at noon (PST) for your cute fix! Want to join in the fun? Send a picture and caption to helponfourlegs@gmail.com, and you just might see it on Help On Four Legs next week!

Loving our Community

Over the last several weeks, Bright and I have gotten to participate in several events to raise awareness of or benefit CCI, and we’ve just loved it. To give you a little idea of what we’ve been up to, here are some photos of the events!

March 26, we visited 5th graders at a school in Saratoga.

The school had a full day of special programming in the form of a Health and Science Fair. Presenters came from many different kinds of organizations and institutions. CCI was asked to be there in order to represent a very unique cross-section of health and science, where assistive technology meets the animal kingdom. Continue reading

Ugly

Dogs sure are ugly. Just kidding. If there’s one universal truth, it’s this: Dogs are always cute. Always.

Welcome to the second happiest place on earth (obviously nothing trumps Disney): Help On Four Legs’ weekly post of ridiculously cute pictures of Service Dogs and Puppies in Training doing awesome stuff. Visit us every Thursday at noon (PST) for another!

Does your dog carry the groceries? Mine does.

Does your dog carry the groceries? Mine does.

Want to join in the fun? Send a picture and caption to helponfourlegs@gmail.com, and you just might see it on Help On Four Legs next week!

Crazy. Part Two.

Consider this the sequel to the last article I posted. Crazy. Part One. was about the nutso things that people say to me just for having a disability. Brace yourselves, folks, because this one brings in a whole new level of crazy. Dog People Crazy.

Like it or not, dog people are whacko. I’m a dog lady. I totally get it. We see those fluffy, furry, sweet bundles of doggy love and we forget our manners. But there’s manner-forgetting within reason, and then there’s totally-insane-what-planet-are-you-from behavior.

If you haven’t read Crazy. Part One. yet, go do that before you continue.

If you’ve already read it, read on and enjoy. Continue reading

Crazy. Part One.

Having been born with a visible disability, I learned at a young age that just the sight of me raises questions for lots of people. Society has a pretty specific idea of what a person in a wheelchair looks like, does (or doesn’t do), and how he or she thinks.

Something about seeing a person with a disability disarms some people to the point that they forget everything they’ve ever learned about manners, etiquette, and common courtesy. When you add a dog, all kinds of crazy happens. Let’s call this article Part One of that story, though, and focus on the kinds of things my friends and I hear just for being in wheelchairs. Part Two will be full of stories specifically about the kinds of questions, comments, and suggestions our furry friends elicit. Continue reading

Jackpot!

I have a FANTASTIC story for you all:

For Valentine’s Day weekend, Bryan, Bright, and I had a little staycation. We hadn’t gotten away from work since moving to California in late October, but the budget only allowed for so much so soon after the big move, so we took Friday off and had a really nice little weekend in San Jose.

Bryan’s accumulated about a gazillion Hilton Honors points through work, so we spent some and stayed at the Hilton downtown, just to get away from the nagging to-dos that would surely distract us from fun. Almost everything we did over the course of the weekend was because there was a Groupon or other special offer, and man, did we milk it. Continue reading

I Believe I Can Fly

If you don’t know that R. Kelly reference, click here. If you do, you’re welcome.

Traveling by airplane with a Service Dog is one of those things you do because you have to; not because it’s fun. And let me make this clear: It’s not the dog’s fault that it’s usually not fun. Nevertheless, I love to travel as much as the next guy; whether you’re a Service Dog Partner, a Puppy Raiser, or an innocent bystander, this article will be, at the very least, entertaining, but hopefully also helpful. Continue reading

Fake

“I’ve been thinking about getting my dog one of those vests so I can take him everywhere!”

The other day, a guy approached me while I was working and said, “I’ve been looking into getting one of those therapy dogs like you got there. I figure I can buy one somewhere, then I can have a buddy with me wherever I go just like you!”

Yeah, that actually happened. I bit my tongue and refrained from responding with, “Would you like an injured spinal cord to take with you everywhere you go, just like me, too?” Continue reading

I Could Never Do That

The last article on Help On Four Legs really focused on the labor of a Puppy Raiser. I sang their praises, and thanked them for their hard work and sacrifices. It’s like being a surrogate parent; Puppy Raisers care for these little hell-raising fur balls just until they start to act like civilized adults, then they give them back.

“I could never do that.” 

 When I tell curious strangers about the process, the 5 words above are almost always the first they utter.

Ok, so you could never do that. There’s a lot you can do, though. Continue reading

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

If that title didn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will.

There’s a question that I get asked a lot, and I never feel like I have enough time to do the answer justice: Did you train her yourself?

I’m going to give you a really quick overview of the journey of a CCI puppy from birth to retirement, but my plan is to spend the bulk of this article paying homage to the people behind our four legged life savers.

So for starters, No. No, I did not train my dog. Continue reading

She Had An Accident

This post was inspired by the day I had with Bright on Friday. It started like any other day; we got up at about 7:30, had breakfast, hung around the apartment for a couple of hours, then headed to work for a 12-9 shift (I hate those). About an hour into our shift, she barfed all over the floor with no warning whatsoever, then again about four hours later, then two more times about two hours after that. Then we went home early.

For all of you that are concerned about her health, fear not. She’s fine. Continue reading

Traveling Light

Traveling. One of the most exciting, and potentially stressful things I do.

I love to travel. I love seeing new places and meeting new people. I especially love seeing places I’ve only seen in movies and on TV before. The first time I went to New York City, I just had to get to the diner from Seinfeld; it felt so crazy walking around and arriving all of the big landmarks that I’d only ever known on a screen.

As it turns out, traveling gets more complicated as you get older. If you’re a wheelchair user, you understand the need to pack light; if you can’t carry it on your lap or strap it to your back or chair, you can’t take it. When I was in college, I’d visit my boyfriend, who lived halfway across the country, and I’d pack for two weeks in a 20 liter backpack. I never checked a bag, and I was very proud of my low-maintenance status. Continue reading