Saturday, December 21, 2013

12 months.

12 months together.  365 days.  Go figure.

In honor of our 1-year anniversary, here are a few lists of 12 things about life with a service dog and and about Owen that I have learned along the way.

About living with a service dog...

1.  People will stare at you, every time you go anywhere.  Sometimes they try to disguise it, most of the time they will not.

2.  Even though I will look people directly in the eye, majority of the time they will ask me if Owen is a "seeing-eye dog".  I had one parent explain to her kids - as I was getting out of MY CAR - that Owen was a guide dog to help me see.

3.  Strangers will think you're a walking, talking show-and-tell exhibit.  Apparently walking around with a service dog entitles people to intimate details about my life.  I'll share details about my neurological disorder with strangers in the middle of Target when they want to share the results of their last pap smear/prostate exam.

4.  You will get to hear about everybody's dog that has died.  And everybody who has a Labrador (which no matter what color, looks EXACTLY like Owen).  And about everybody's dog.  And everybody's dog who definitely has the right temperament to be a service dog.  And everybody's friend who knew someone who had a dog...

5.  Even with 3 signs on Owen that say DO NOT PET, people still ask to pet and try to sneak pets without you seeing.  I think there must be fine print somewhere on the sign that says "this rule does not apply to you"...

6.  In a town like mine, where I am the ONLY service dog team, I have to be cautious of how Owen and I act at all times out in public.  It wouldn't be very hard for someone to find out where I worked.  This means I have to keep the snark under wraps out in public (though I cannot be held responsible for what is said in the Starbucks line before I've had my coffee).

7.  Everybody will stare at you.  All the time.  People will stalk you in stores and stop and stare open-mouthed at you.  People will talk about you right in front of you, as if you aren't there.

8.  Sometimes people will be angry with you for no reason.  Like when you don't want to stand in the middle of a busy grocery store to talk to them.  Or when you tell their toddler "no" while they look on, allowing their two-year-old to run up to the "doggy" and try to grab its tail.

9.  Somehow, even with a 75-pound Labrador, you will scare people.  You will be accused of being "sneaky".  Because my big galumphing Labrador is "sneaky".  The best is when you tell your service dog to "chill out" because "mom doesn't have time for this" and people think you're talking to a child.

10.  People become incapable of talking to you about anything other than your service dog.  I am so shocked in public when people ask me questions about me, that I don't even know how to appropriately answer them.  99.99% of my conversations with Owen go like this: "He is so cute." "Yes, he certainly thinks he is." "Oh, haha."  And repeat.

11.  People will stare at you.  (Did I mention this already?)  You will not be able to go anywhere without people staring; sometimes, they'll crawl under your table at a restaurant to see the "puppy".

12. Everyday is an adventure.

And about Owen...

1.  Owen knows about 40 tasks and commands.  He also knows the words "cute" and "handsome".  If you use them in his presence he will turn on the charm.  It's a con to get you to pay attention to him, try and resist.  Otherwise you are falling right into his trap.

2.  Owen has an attitude.  When he doesn't get his way he will sulk.  Sometimes I even get the silent treatment.  He can only hold out for about 10 minutes before he caves, so I'm not too worried.

3.  He has no shame.  None.  He will eat a textbook and leave the evidence on his bed.  And not even look guilty about it.

4.  Owen loves the airport.  Like, a lot.  To the point that, when we get to baggage claim, I don't even try to control his behavior.  It doesn't matter if 10 people are meeting us in baggage claim, or if there is nobody there to meet us, Owen is a dork.  You never know who you might find at an airport; he especially likes looking for my dad and will try to approach random guys who have my dad's same build/height in an airport (the last time we were in an airport, he was so frantically looking for my dad he had me convinced he was about to have a potty accident - he only wanted to see my dad, stinker held it until we got to my parent's house, an hour later).

5.  Owen loves getting to work.  After doing deep pressure therapy (his favorite), he races around the room with a goofy grin on his face, very proud of what he's done.

6.  Owen loves watermelon.

7.  While watermelon might be his favorite treat (that he's allowed to eat - popcorn would be the winner if he were allowed to eat it), everything on the floor has the potential to be edible, and if I'm not paying attention, he'll try it.

8.  Everybody in the world has the potential to be a best friend.  When I don't let him meet someone he wants to, it's like I'm standing in the way of the world's best friendship.  See point #2.

9.  When he is off-duty it is like he's never had a day of training in his life.  When we go to the dog park he pretends like he doesn't know who I am (but if he loses sight of me, he panics and I have to call him over so he doesn't freak).

10.  Owen thinks he's a 75-pound lap-dog, and he tries to convince me of this at least once a day.

11.  Owen also thinks that my new, pillow-top, queen-sized bed is his bed and that he allows me to sleep in it every night instead of the other way around.

12.  He finds some way to make me laugh every single day.

One year ago I had no idea what was in store.  I didn't have a job lined up for this year, I hadn't written my thesis, I didn't know where I was going to be moving to or how I would get there.  I couldn't imagine what life with a service dog would be like.  Now, I couldn't imagine life without him.


  1. Katherine,

    As a fellow touretter and educator. I want to thank you for sharing your experiences. They have impacted my decisions in finding and training a dog a great deal.

  2. So much of this sounds like my SD Isaac. Except he does not eat textbooks. I am so glad that the only thing he eats that he's not supposed to eat is cat poop.