Cue FoodLady Rage

The first time I heard about him was from a friend of mine who runs a vet clinic, she had approached him and begged him to let her give him two collars and two leashes because what he was doing to his dogs was abusive. She explained to me that he had HEAVY chains tied around the two dogs’ necks and was walking them around with long chains on the hot concrete with no water being offered.

I didn’t like him then, but hadn’t seen it.

Then someone else told me that he walks around with these two dogs and declares them to be service dogs. Oooookay? Well, that’s interesting. It can’t be, can it?

I still didn’t like the concept of him, but hadn’t seen it.

Then I saw him and his two service dogs in the post office. The chain made me sick to my stomach but hey, I didn’t want to get involved and start a scene. The dogs were fairly healthy. Sure, he is not doing anything correctly regarding service dog work – but at least they seemed okay.

I still didn’t like him.

Yesterday I spoke with a policeman who wanted to understand the rules regarding service dogs. I gave him the spiel and laws differentiating between service dogs and emotional support animals and he mentioned that they keep having to cater to this person because he says they are service dogs and they keep getting calls because he keeps siccing his dogs on chickens and he is suing a number of local businesses for not allowing his dogs access.

And I now LOATHE him.

He *is* the problem. He is someone who is not following what few freaking rules there are for service dogs AND he is being abrasive and litigious about it. Are you freaking kidding me?!

So, to any business being sued by this human I am happy to work with you, your employees, your lawyer, and even testify in court about the intricacies of service dog law including what you are legally allowed to ask a person with a service dog, what a service dog is allowed (and not allowed) to do, and when you can legally require someone with a service dog to leave your establishment.

Because, as someone who had a wonderful service dog that I still miss every. damn. day.; this miscarriage of justice is unfair, wrong, and just pisses me off.


Two Years

Two years ago today I lost my soul-dog, my diabetic alert dog Herbert. He was not perfect, but he was perfect for me. I still miss him, but it no longer hurts every day and I can finally look at photos of him and remember happy times with laughter and smiles instead of soul-crushing despair – huge progress for me. My blood sugar control has not been better without him as he really made a positive difference in my health; but I’m working on it.

I still miss him so much; but I’m going to be okay.

Went Low – whoopsie. 

So, scared the bejeebis out of the new husband Saturday (sorry honey!), I was (am) getting over a cold and as all y’all know sick = ⬆BG = more insulin to bring things closer to normal. But when ya start getting better, more insulin can make ya low. I don’t know how low I was, I just know I felt really warm (in air conditioning) and walked out to make something to eat, and then I felt really tired and sat down in front of the open fridge and apparently decided to take a nap. Next thing I remember is drinking some disgusting thick nasty liquid (a coke) through a straw and realizing how much I need to clean under my (as before unviewed and apparently nasty) stove. Thanks for the assist my love! 

So, for any of y’all who has ever wondered how much insulin could kill you? The answer is probably more than you have available and no matter the dose, is just as likely to leave you with severe brain damage as kill you. 

So, it was the time I woke up in the front yard in 2012 when I finally decided that I was going to train Herbert as a diabetic alert dog because I lived alone and was pretty darn sure I was going to die alone and be eaten by cats. It was a lot of work, but worth it and no matter how hard his loss has been on me the hard-won knowledge I gained during the training process has been invaluable.

Also, it may be time to invest in a t-shirt that says, I’m sorry for what I said when I was low. 😚😜😉😘

Dear Ziesa, *so close*

Dear Ziesa, this morning you were almost (so. damn. close.) interested in going to work with me. Alas, you were completely nekkid (no collar, no harness) so I left you outside while I zipped inside to grab leash & collar. In the minute it took me to return, you had changed your mind and grunt-stomped your stocky butt back into the house.
While you may be on the slower end of becoming a service dog, you are awfully damn cute (and grunty.  and stompy).
*praying for patience*

Back Dat Azz Up!

Today was a difficult day, but don’t worry ’cause even though there’s a bit of sad and difficult, there’s also some  funny. As you all know, losing Herbert (diabetic alert service dog) was one of the most devastatingly heart-breaking events of my life. I grieved, I was doing okay, one step at a time and all that crap.
Well, now it’s my busy time of year at work and I never really considered how damn memorable he was to everyone – this week alone I have been asked by over 50 well-meaning people many variations of, “where’s Herbert?” And every single time it feels like my heart is being stomped into gravel by a large boot. This morning on my first flight to St. Thomas without him, the memories of so many island-hopping flights with him became pretty overwhelming and tears just sort of rolled down my cheeks. After landing,  work was busy and after a long day where I was only asked about him 5 times, it was time for the flight home. It wasn’t as bad, but this time my friend caught me sniffling and gave me a hug (she loved him too!) and then asked me what music I was listening to, very logically assuming I was listening to a sad song about loss, etc. That question caused me to crack up laughing and I was thrilled to be able to tell her I was listening to a deeply emotional rendition of, “Back Dat Azz Up”. This will never not be funny.
So when the very nice lady who holds the arrival door open at the airport asked me where my Herbert was (thankfully my last boot stomp of the day), I filled her in on the tragedy. She eventually asked if I was going to have another service dog and I explained about Zisa and she is excited to eventually meet her.
Zisa-girl, you have some huge pawprints to fill.
Let’s get to work. ❤

Herbert – the endoscope.

When Herbert was dying and my vet was desperately trying to figure out the underlying cause, he purchased a fancy new endoscope. Sadly, it didn’t make it in time–but the scope was named Herbert as a memorial.
I just read an email from my vet that caused me to become quite teary-eyed:

“So- “Herbert” saved a life today.  Our biopsies last week stained for protothecosis.  It wasn’t even on our radar, and no way would we have diagnosed it without biopsy.  And the patient wasn’t sick enough yet to justify a surgical biopsy.  “Herbert” allowed us to get samples early in the disease progress, and diagnose our patient with minimally invasive means.”

There ya have it, my beloved butthead alerting before it got too horrible–his life’s work continues…

Oddest Service Dog Conversation I’ve Ever Had…

Yesterday I had the strangest conversation about service dogs that I’ve ever experienced. There are currently four dogs in my canine pack, but only one that I’m actively working towards training as a public access service dog – Zisa.



That’s her earlier this morning, resplendent in her “puppy ugly” age of 5 months. Anyway, this person and I were discussing Zisa and the rather unfortunate fact that she may end up, like many St. Croix dogs, short-legged. She is not anywhere near corgi level of short-leg-ed-ness, but she may be just a wee bit odd looking as an adult–we shall see.
This person asked me,

“well, will she still pass as a service dog then? I think you should use Humphrey, he looks more like a service dog…”

The sad part is, my brain didn’t fully process this question until after she had left, and then I was just flummoxed. First of all, here is a Humphrey:


And here is a Humphrey next to a 3 month-old Zisa:


Don’t get me wrong, he is a handsome boy! He is incredibly loving and strong and had the universe been kinder, he would have been mine after spending 12 weeks with his mother and siblings growing and learning some REALLY important things (bite inhibition, appropriate play, belonging to a pack, and a whole bunch more) and then he would have received training, healthcare, good food, and a very important job. Unfortunately, the universe had it planned that he be taken too early as a puppy (I know this because the loving doofus doesn’t understand the difference between a nibble and a crunch) and then, when he grew, “too large”; spend his life chained to a fence for their “security” (wtf?!). Being a dog, he was bored and stressed and to help with that he did the only thing he could – he chewed his chain and seriously damaged his teeth. Four years later the universe realized it was being an asshole, and moved a lovely older couple in next door to Humphrey’s fence. That couple couldn’t believe the deplorable conditions this dog was kept in and went about things the best way they knew how. Even though this was not their dog, they fed him, watered him, built him a doghouse, and even walked him daily….but Humphrey, being a big dog with absolutely ZERO training, was too much for them and he was getting very good at getting off his chain and heading directly to the road to chase cars. The older couple knew it was only a matter of time until he got killed, contacted me, and eventually Humphrey got to move to FoodLady’s house (aka dog shangri-la). So now he is being treated for his horrible heartworm infection, he will be having dental surgery soon, and he has learned the joys of pack, play, and toys. He’s not too fond of baths, but he puts up with it and would really prefer to be with his people 24-7. We are working on basic obedience, but it is incredibly challenging. Dogs are incredibly smart….at being dogs. But they learn by building on what they have learned before–the younger you begin, the easier it is. Humphrey learning that the washing machine was not, in fact, trying to kill him was a HUGE step. Humphrey learning to chase a tennis ball?! Holy Crap! That was a great milestone day! I’m incredibly proud of him and his progress. However, I would never want to attempt to train him as a public access service dog! Could it be done? Yes. With great effort, stress, training, and cost….it could be done. I would never do that to him. Why? Because it wouldn’t be fair to put him through the stress of it; his health would be adversely affected and with heartworms–that stress could kill him. When Zisa learns to alert me to a low and high blood sugar – she then has to be able to do it while walking in traffic, on an airplane, and while I’m attending or even teaching a class. At the same time she has to remain impeccably behaved, confident, clean, and unwavering regardless of surroundings. That’s a hell of a lot of work!
So, what does a service dog look like? To me, it looks like years (literally years) of training. It isn’t something chosen to be done lightly or halfway and it sure as hell isn’t about what the dog “looks like”. If Zisa ends up looking like an English Mastiff set upon 4-inch legs (dear universe, please no.) but alerts like a rock star regardless of surroundings while remaining healthy and happy – then she’s a working public access service dog. If she ends up looking like the most stunningly beautiful dog ever put upon this earth but has absolutely no interest in alerting – well then, she’s a much-loved very pretty dog. 
Okie Dokie, rant over. *hugs*

Emotional Support Dog (ESD) Information

Back in the day I knew so little about service dogs or emotional support dogs – let alone the differences between the two. It took me years, but I am now confident in my understanding of the applicability of the many laws that apply to each type of dog. The first thing I want to get across is that Emotional Support Dogs (ESDs) are NOT service dogs. There are service dogs categorized as psychiatric service dogs – but they are not the same thing.  I will write more about those in a different post. Anywhoodle, here is some stuff I have learned about ESDs – I hope it helps!

  • List of  important stuff to understand about ESDs:
    • ESD laws are only relevant for air travel and, to some extent, housing.
    • Many folks are going to really dislike you and your dog.
      • I am 100% certain that your dog is awesome and if I were traveling near you would joyfully chat about your dog. There will be a few people that will be supportive of your need for an ESD, but the universe doesn’t tend to allow those people to be seated anywhere near you on a plane. I have seen ticket agents actively search for loopholes to try to keep you off the flight. I am not trying to dissuade you, I just want anyone who is preparing to use an ESD to understand all of the requirements and to prepare yourself mentally for a certain level of loathing from people throughout the process such as airline special services, airline ticket agents, airline gate agents, flight attendants, and even other passengers.

  • List of important stuff you have to DO before you fly with an ESD: 
    • Be realistic about your dog’s behavior.
      • Socialize them, train them, take them everywhere. Don’t take a dog who has never been outside of their yard on a plane as an ESD – they will be so stressed that it could really do them harm.
    • Obtain a licensed mental health professional or a medical doctor’s letter that is dated within one year of your scheduled flight.
      • I have a good example letter listed below which includes the required wording. I recommend making it as easy on your doctor as possible and bring a copy of this letter for your doctor to use as a template – remember it must be on the doctors stationary!
    • Call the airline. a lot.
      • special note to anyone calling the airline from a VI 340 phone number – find a friend who still has a stateside number and call the airline using their phone. For some reason, when I call American Airlines using my 340 phone I get sent to a different region’s help center that is just not overly helpful.
      • write down who you spoke with, the date and the time of every contact you make with the airline. Yes, I am serious. This is very helpful information I have often needed.
      • Regardless of when you call, you will have to leave a message and a contact number so that a “special services” representative will call you back. You will then have to provide the letter to them via email or fax. They may tell you that you are “all set”; don’t believe them.
      •  48 hours before your flight – CALL THE AIRLINE. Ensure they  have a reservation for you and your ESD.
    • Take dog to the vet:
      • obtain a health certificate within 10 days of your departure flight
      • obtain a copy of your vaccination records – most especially your rabies vaccination information.

  • Travel Day
    • have your paperwork handy! This includes:
      • human travel ID
      • human ESD doctor letter
      • ESD health certificate
      • ESD vaccination records
    • comfy towel/blanket/dog bed – something that will keep him warm on the floor of the plane. It can get down to 40 degrees F on that floor for flights that are very high up. An uncomfortable dog is a dog that can’t settle down and rest.
    • you should lightly limit food/water the night before a flight – I have never had any issues not limiting food or water, but to be safe make sure they don’t get any new/strange foods that could cause gastrointestinal upset.
    • bring a “puppy pad” just in case. You know those “family bathrooms” at the airport. Those are the BEST when you are working with a SD or an ESD. You go in, lock the door, put a puppy pee pad on the floor and if they have to go – they’ll go. Don’t be shocked if your dog doesn’t go to the bathroom in a strange place, but go ahead and give them the option as well as offer them some water.
    • a harness that says “working dog” or “emotional support dog” isn’t technically necessary – however it does seem to help people understand that the dog is there to work.
    • If you have an ESD or SD, you are not allowed to sit in the emergency exit row. When you arrive at the airport, you want to ask the agent (if special services hasn’t already done this) to move you to the bulkhead. That is something that is considered normal when traveling with an animal. Additionally, you want to request pre-boarding; this is also considered normal by the airline when traveling with an animal.

ESD Medical Doctor Sample Letter

(on professional’s office letterhead)


(Patient’s name) is currently under my professional care for treatment for a mental illness defined by the DSM-IV. His/her mental impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities. I have prescribed an emotional support animal as part of the treatment program developed for (patient’s first name). The presence of this emotional support animal is necessary for (patient’s first name)’s mental health during air travel.

I am licensed by the state of (state) to practice (medicine/psychiatry/therapy–choose applicable). My license number is (license number).

Please allow (patient’s full name) to be accompanied by his/her emotional support animal in the cabin of the aircraft, in accordance with the Air Carrier Access Act (49 U.S.C. 41705 and 14 C.F.R. 382).

(doctor’s name and title)