Is age just a relative thing?


IMG_1219Sam here…mom’s busy doing heaven only know what tonight so I thought I’d take over the blog (it being Thursday and all so she’s probably watching Scandal, the slacker). We recently had our semi-annual checkup/evaluation at the hospital where we get tested twice a year to make sure we’re still good and can handle the whole hospital vibe thing-it’s good to measure the dogs regularly so everyone knows they will continue to do well with the patients. But I think sometimes they need to check the humans more often than us but that’s a story for another time.

I was patiently waiting for my turn when I spied Truffles! No not the yummy treat kind, the chocolate-brown Newfoundland dog kind. I have such a crush on Truffles though most of the time she doesn’t pay much attention to me. Any-who…there I was, there she was and my name was called and I started bouncing up and down to go see her and her mom, Lyn. The volunteer vet was a nice enough lady, she smiled and giggled at my bouncing and her and Lyn both were ooh-ing and ah-ing about me. I love Lyn almost as much as I love Truffles because she always has a nice word for me and some great treats. So the vet was checking my heartbeat (it must have been going pitter-patter like crazy!) and I could barely contain my enthusiasm. I was focusing all my attention on that gorgeous brown girl. Hubba-bubba! When all of a sudden, I hear: “So I see that Sam is a senior, any problems?” Wait. What?! Senior? Are you kidding me, I’m the spriest 9-year-old she’ll ever see! WTH does that mean? I mean here I am bouncing like a cotton-picking jack rabbit to impress my girl and the vet’s calling me a senior? Oh puleez. I’m as young as any 4-year-old and I can bounce and hop with the best of them. Truffles kind of rolled her eyes and turned her back toward me.

Wait-no, don’t listen to that stupid vet. I’m a real dandy, in fact a super catch. Just look at this handsome dog! I got my poms all groomed, my toes nice and trimmed, nice conformation, even my whiskers are all waxed into place. I’m a mean, clean, fighting machine! How could she not be taken in by me?

DSC00065Apparently Truffles listened more to the vet than to my whining and pining over her. She kept her back to me and laid down. Egad–noooo, not the cold shoulder! My little heart was crushed. I couldn’t understand why the vet would sabotage my chances with Truffles. I’m trim (no spare tire on this killer bod), sharp as a tack (well ok, sharp as an ADD pup can be), why I’m a veritable stud muffin with no health issues. What is this senior thing? It sounded so derisive and judging from Truffles’ reaction, not a good thing. 🙁

The vet finished checking me out and gave me a clean bill of health saying I was good for another 6 months so I pranced and danced around trying to impress the Truffles girl. But alas, she wanted no part of me. But I’m not giving up just yet; there’s always the next exam or the summer get-together when I’ll see her and boy, I’ll totally be all ‘Rico Sua-ve’ when she does. Meanwhile, I think I’ll practice on a couple of the ladies in the ‘hood,’ just to keep in practice. Wouldn’t want to get rusty like a senior now, right?

So what exactly does ‘being a senior mean’ when you act like a teenager all the time? Is age a relative thing with us dogs?

Live, love, bark! <3

A Very Real Scandal

There’s a real “Scandal” out there but it’s not ABC’s Thursday night political TV thriller starring Kerry Washington (but can I just say, huge fan?!). Nope, the real scandal that no one is talking about is the proliferation of faux service dogs.image

While I’d love to be able to take Sam with me everywhere I go, in good conscience I just can’t do that under false pretenses. Oh sure, I’ve thought about it. I mean, after all, who’d be hurt by a sweet goofy, Standard Poodle wearing a vest whenever I go out? It would only take a matter of visiting any number of web sites (my Google search for service dog vests for sale showed over 56 million hits with some priced as low as $37!). Just pay the fee and viola, I’d be the proud owner of a ‘service dog’ that could go anywhere and according to the American with Disabilities Act, not be denied legal access. But we all know that Sam, sweet as he may be, is no service dog by any stretch of the imagination and even though he provides comfort and emotional support he simply does not qualify as a service animal under the definition in the ADA but the people who’d be hurt most would be the disabled themselves and I can’t do that.

So why is that a problem? People with real disabilities are increasingly being denied access. Recently a couple of stories of veterans who were asked to leave restaurants surfaced setting the ‘Net ablaze in the disabled community. See: Subway restaurant and Minnesota incident for details. Stories like these are beginning to highlight the tip of this scandal iceberg. Estimates suggest there are probably around 20,000 or so legitimate service dog teams yet hundreds of thousands of vests, certificates and IDs are sold every year and the kicker here is…it’s all perfectly legal to buy and possess them.

When I travelled to Hawaii last year, a woman with a very small fluff of a dog was trying desperately to get a ticket agent to allow her to bring her dog on board. When she finally screeched that the dog was her ‘companion’ dog and she absolutely had to have it with her, the agent relented probably because of the kerfuffle being created (and the fact that the dog would easily fit under the seat I suspect). While it seemed like a sweet (albeit nervous) little dog, that dog was no more a service dog than I am.

Service dogs are NOT pets. They are however important working resources for the disabled that allow them to deal with a semi-normal day-to-day life and as such they are a necessity, not just a ‘gee I’d love to take my dog with me everywhere just because’ thing. The ADA’s policies relating to service dogs are enforced through the states but only 16 states have specific laws regarding the consequences of misrepresentation of service dogs or identifying oneself as disabled so enforcement is often hit or miss under the guidelines. Sadly, there’s nothing to prevent anyone from strapping a vest on their pooch and walking through their local mall posing as a service dog team. The ambiguity with a lack of central governance and certification seems to have created loopholes in the system and fixing it is not going to be easy. The backlash associated with challenging a disabled person is nothing most large businesses want any part of and it could be difficult to know the difference between the real deal and a fake based merely upon appearance. One aspect that especially contributes to this ongoing fraud, is that it is illegal to ask about a person’s disability, require seeing medical documentation, identification card or training documentation for that matter. And that’s kind of the heart of this problem. It’s obvious that relying on an honor system (both in people offering to sell these vests and those who buy them) isn’t working to resolve this scandal or make it easier for those who really need these amazing creatures to make their lives more positive.

These fake service dog teams are creating additional and unnecessary discrimination toward the disabled who already suffer institutionalized discrimination due to the mere fact they are disabled. As the stories reported earlier mentioned, some find it can be a constant and uphill battle just to survive in an increasingly difficult-to-fit-in society when you’re disabled. We all profess to ‘support our troops’ but sometimes when the rubber actually hits the road, it’s a whole different story. In the meantime, more and more self-absorbed people continue to order service vests so they can take their dogs to the movies or restaurants with them…because they just “want” to have their dogs with them all the time-not because they really need them as a service dog.

What do you think about faux service dogs? Have you seen this scandal in action?

Live, love, bark! <3

P.S. Since publication of this post, I have found a report that really explains it all in detail. It can be downloaded here.