Thursday, May 29, 2008

Service dogs & paratransit

When I spent a week in the hospital this month unexpectedly, someone from HandiDogs surprised me in my hospital room with a visit from a working dog. She strongly suggested I consider it given the rate of my progression.

I thought the timing was interesting and possibly a blessing in disguise. I have an 8 year old Yorkshire Terrier; at hardly 5 pounds Wolfie wouldn't be able to do much when it comes to helping out! However, in early March we went to the shelter to adopt a Cairn terrier posted to their website late the night prior. Thankfully we were there when they opened and the phone calls started pouring in to get him (little dogs never last long) and we got our 10 pound spaz of a 12 month old stray Cairn, Gizmo.

What surprised us more was that while adopting Gizmo, we were taken by a beautiful Rodesian Ridgeback (well by far extremely Rodesian and very slightly German Shepherd) named Shelby, also about 12 months. She was an owner drop off and terribly abused. We have never had a big dog before but something attracted us to her instantly and we simply couldn't leave her there. She has become the most trusting, good-natured sweetheart and amazingly intelligent.

We were afraid of going from 1 to 3 dogs in our 1200 square foot house with two small children, but it just felt right. The HandiDogs person said they have trained many Rodesians and love them.

I wonder if this is why Shelby came into our lives with such surprise?

I am considering applying for a scholarship, as this would be the only way we could participate. They train the patient and their dog so that the patient's specific needs can be addressed. The training process can take 2 years to complete, including for the dog to certify.

I just wonder if anyone here has a service dog and can share their experience, whether with training, certifying, how they help you, and life with them in general?

It occurred to me today to start taking note of Shelby, Wolfie, and Gizmo's behavior when I start to get hit with my seizure precursors, now that I have them pretty figured out. Today I couldn't help but notice that all 3 of three of them became rather suddenly clingy, instead of the typical 1 at a time sticking to my side. I had Wolfie and Giz against me in the recliner and Shelby literally across my feet on the floor.

I want to thank everyone for standing by me during this time. Your notes and emails of encouragement and prayer are very special to me and give me strength. I also feel incredibly blessed, as does my family, for the help received from our ASAP & CA-based friends of faith. I don't know if I would be here without it. I thank God for all of you.

I received a call today from the ADA transit people and they did decide after reviewing my application (thank you DH) that I meet the ADA requirements and thus will be able to receive Paratransit/VanTran assistance. This is the transportation system for people with disabilities who cannot use regular transit. For one, the service doesn't come all the way out to where we live (the city bus I mean), and even if it did they don't consider be able to use that because of the inability to know if there are any "environmental barriers" at any locations; basically none of us can know ahead of time if there are serious issues at locations such as lack of sidewalk and curb cuts that would prevent me from getting around in my scooter.

I hated putting in for it but am thankful and relieved now that if unable to find a ride, I can be picked up in my scooter at my house and be taken to doctor appointments, etc. The cost is pretty much the same as bus service.

I had hoped that our insurance cost would go down if we took me off the policy since I am no longer legally allowed to drive, but apparently not. It's a household policy or some such thing so it makes no difference that I'm not a driver any more. Ah well. It is very good to know I can get reliable paratransit service when needed.


  1. Great news Keesha, it sure seems to come in spurts huh? Glad we can help you, you have helped us all tremendously, we should be able to give it back to you when you need it.

  2. First off congrats on getting a dog or should I say two! lol. Also congrats that you have passed the ADA Paratransit. I too use the paratransit system.

    I have taught all four of my service dogs using an OC with positive re-enforcement method. I am legally blind and have chronic back pain due to herniated disks. In which I taught him to not only stop at different levels but to also counter-balance, brace and we are working on actually pushing those elevator and open door buttons. Along with many many other tasks.

    As for certification under the ADA it's not an requirement to have to gain access into public places, transits, etc. However the requirements of a service animals is that they must be individually trained to perform tasks to benefit the individuals needs or they are not consider service animals. And service animals are only allowed to be with a person with a disability or trainer when going into public places.

    It sounds like all three of your dogs have the ability to alert/respond to your needs. I would start using their ability to teach them this method or modify. You said you use a scooter so first think of what would be most beneficial to you for them to alert/respond. That would be safe for you and your dog. I find it's easier to enhance their behaviour then to try to change it completely.

    My collie he has the ability to herd and likes to walk on an angle in a herding style then straight. So instead of me trying to correct this behaviour and make him walk more straight I enhance his curving style by having him walk two steps out instead of one.

    Hope this helps and if you have any more questions do not hesitate to ask or visit my forum