Now, I had gotten the information I needed to understand the process of having a service dog. What started with a question, “Could Crash be a Parkinson’s service dog?” brought me to “Interview with a Parkinson’s service dog trainer” and now has lead me to the final part of my series, the wrap-up.
I reached out to the lovely Renee Le Verrier, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the World Parkinson Congress 2016 in Portland. When I first saw her, I could help but notice her Parkinson’s service dog, Tommy. I did exactly what you shouldn’t do, which was walking up to Tommy with arms open, speaking in this high-pitched baby voice, saying… “Who’s a good boy?… you are… yes you are!”
After talking to Renee recently, she made it clear by saying, “You wouldn’t come up to my wheelchair and pet it. “ I thought, “no, that would be weird,” but that was exactly what I was doing with my reaction to seeing her dog’s sweet face. The way that I was acting, could have possibly distracted Tommy, which ultimately could have put Renee in a dangerous situation.
Renee understands that her beautiful companion can draw attention, but she says that one of her biggest compliments is when no one even notices her dog. Just like when she is eating at a restaurant, and Tommy is quietly resting underneath the table. When they get up to leave, people are shocked that her pup was there the whole time. Now I know, there’s no way that Crash could do that, even with training, I feel he wouldn’t be able to just blend in.
It was the big day. Crash was going to meet David Utter (dog trainer) and I was curious how it was going to go down. David brought bait… an adorable baby greyhound he was currently training. After demonstrating some corrective movements that I could use with Crash, it was time to dangle the bait. To my shock, within minutes, I had Crash following my commands and making eye contact. But could he be my service dog?
My journey to find more information about owning a Parkinson’s service dog was coming to an end. What have I learned?
-There is a difference between an emotional, therapy and service dog.
-Service dogs have rights and are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which defines housing and traveling accommodations.
– People are only allowed to ask the following questions about your dog:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
-Service dogs are trained to your individual needs. Think of them as an aid or a caregiver, helping with specific tasks.
-Service dogs can be expensive but there are programs that can help.
-Your dog must be under control, not defecating indoors, showing no aggression towards other people or animals and not begging for affection or treats.
-Although there is no certification or license required to own a service dog, it’s not cool to take advantage of this detail and slap a vest on your untrained dog just so you can take it with you everywhere.
-Demonstrate self-control when you see a service dog …or any dog for that matter. Ask the owner first if you can pet their dog and don’t be offended if the answer is “no, they’re working.” Avoid the urge to use a loud squeaky voice while running up to that lovable furball shrieking, “You’re dog is so cute, I just want to eat its face off”…guilty.
I hope that my experience has brought some light to a topic that doesn’t get a lot of attention, Parkinson’s service dogs. I have come to acceptance that Crash can’t be my service dog, because I can’t trust that he would act appropriate in every situation and truthfully, I don’t have tasks that he can help me with at this point in my Parkinson’s life. So for now, he will be my emotional support dog, which requires no training and his only job is to love and be loved.
Here are some resources to read at your leisure: