When I decided to write this blog on working/service dogs, I had no idea how little I knew about the subject. As a child, any thought of a working dog brought images of either a sheepdog watching his sheep (Sam Sheepdog with Wiley “Ralph” Coyote as they clocked in and out of “work” each day) or a Great Dane helping a bunch of meddling kids unmask the villain (you all know who that is). Probably, like most of you, this was the limit of my knowledge of working dogs.
As I delved into the research for this project, I have learned that there is a difference between a service dog and a therapy dog with legal ramifications that would surprise you. A service dog is allowed to go everywhere and anywhere with its human while a therapy or emotional support animal (ESA) is not. They are two different things. First, only a dog may be recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as a service animal. This grants that animal all the protections of the ADA. An ESA whether a dog or not may be prescribed by a doctor if the doctor thinks the individual would benefit from having a pet. According to www.servicedogcentral.org, some of the psychological benefits of having a pet are reduced stress levels, less loneliness, and better mental health overall. A doctor can write a request that the animal be allowed in residences where no pets are allowed. The animal can even fly in the cabin of an airplane even if it normally would not be allowed but that’s the limit. It can’t go in stores and restaurants with you. The rest of the world simply views your ESA as a pet.
Are you all indignant now? Upset and thinking that this just isn’t fair or right? Well, don’t be too hasty. This distinction is made to protect you, Joe and Jane Public. Let’s look at service dogs for a minute. What do they do?
” Effective March 15, 2011, under the Americans with Disabilities Act,
Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability…The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition
Service dogs have very specific tasks and are highly trained. For certification they must receive a minimum of 120 hours of training. That’s more hours than it takes to become a certified nurse’s assistant in the state of Indiana. And like a CNA, a service dog must pass a test to be certified. Part of that test is to have a big, juicy raw steak thrown at his feet and the dog has simply ignore it. Try that with your dog and let me know how it goes. This is to make sure that when you’re out in public, the service dog doesn’t lunge across the table to grab that ribeye off the next table and get little Timmy in the process. Emotional Support Animals (ESA) on the other hand only need to yearn for that ribeye from outside the restaurant. They actually need very little training. They have to be housebroken, non-threatening to others and not a nuisance (barking, destructive behavior).
For more information on the training that service dogs undergo, visit the link below:
Since I have grown up, I have seen many more working dogs than just Sam and Scooby. Some good, some not so good. One that recently impressed me was at a convention on the convention floor. This dog stayed right next to its partner surrounded by hundreds of people and simply stared up at his human the whole time. The dog was wearing a service dog vest, I don’t know what his job was, but I could see that he was doing it diligently. NOTHING could distract this dog from what he was doing and what he was watching for. I was awed by such devotion and by a work ethic that hasn’t been seen since the 1950’s.
On the flip side, my mother told me about a convention she recently attended with a blind group. She used to take my grandmother and since she has passed away, my mom continues to go with her blind friend. My mom’s friend has a seeing eye dog who we shall call “Jazzy”. (Name has been changed to protect the innocent. The dog is the only one innocent in this story.) First, let me say that a service dog can be treated as a loved member of the family but only by the family and only at the direction of the dogs human partner. You see where this is going? My mom and everyone else in their group is always petting Jazzy, talking to her, etc. and Jazzy’s human allows this happen. This takes away Jazzy’s “edge” and dilutes what she has been trained to do by shifting her focus. At the convention, when it was time to head up to the rooms for the night my mom’s friend headed off with Jazzy. My mom happened to follow shortly behind. It was lucky she did. Jazzy led her partner to a downward staircase rather than to the elevator. It was really only a matter of time before it happened.
How you treat a service dog can have huge implications. When you come across one, you must remember that it is working. If you have small children, please instill this in their minds now while they are young. Never do anything that will interrupt a service dog while it is doing its task. Since you never know what that task is, like the dog I saw staring at its human, then please follow these simple rules:
Only speak to the person.
Do not touch, make noises at or even look at the service dog
Never ask if you or your children can pet the dog. Many people are just too nice to say “no”.
Never offer the dog food.
In closing, I’m going to take a minute to recognize one special working dog who represents the working dogs of the police and the military that we didn’t discuss. Those that risk their lives every day.K-9 North retired on July 20,2014 after serving 8 1/2 years as a dual purpose patrol / narcotics detection dog. North, a black Czechoslovakian Shepherd and who is now ten years old, was forced into retirement due to recent health problems that affected his mobility. K-9 North, affectionately known by his fellow officers as “South” began active duty with his handler, Officer Mike Johnson on February 5, 2006. North’s career included over 1,000 drug arrests in which he was utilized for traffic, residential and school drug searches. North also made several felony tracking apprehensions of fleeing suspects sought by the department. He played a valuable role to the police department in the area of public relations by performing hundreds of K-9 public demonstrations for numerous school and civic groups.
By the way, I wasn’t slamming Certified Nursing Assistant’s (CNA’s) and certainly not specifically ones from Indiana as I was both. The work is hard, the pay is meager, that thanks are few, and the training I received was piss poor but that was also 22 years ago. I was just using it as a comparison.
Recently, I ran into an male in his early 40’s who was wearing a shirt bearing an image of a sight reticle from the scope of a rifle. Above this image was a slogan that read. “One Shot, One Kill”. Out of curiosity, I asked him if he was a pretty good shot. He said that he was, in fact, he had recently hit a beer bottle from 700 yards with his 30.06. Knowing this sounded pretty absurd, I asked “700 yards”? He replied, “Yes”. I asked him what power of a scope he had used. He responded that he hit it using open sights.
After 23 years of service, I have had my fair share of marksmanship training, and consider myself to be a decent sharpshooter though not anywhere near the expertise of a sniper. But I know that for someone to have hit a beer bottle at 700 yards, using open sights, then that beer bottle must have been 15 feet tall. I was afraid to ask the next question that immediately popped in my head, but I did. “Were you in the military?” I asked. I was expecting him to respond that he had been a sniper in the Marine Corps or United States Army and that he had 4,000 confirmed kills with a personnel file considered “Top Secret”. I was shocked when he responded that he had never been in the military at all. Feeling somewhat relieved, I told him to have a great day.
Although I felt his story of hitting a beer bottle at 700 yards using open sights was extremely exaggerated, he could have compounded it worse by telling me that he had been in the military along with some wild stories of hunting Osama Bin Laden, but he didn’t. Because there are individuals out there that have never served a day in the military yet try to pass themselves off as veterans; with Bronze Star’s, Silver Star’s, Purple Heart’s, Medal of Honor’s and other awards for Valor, Qualifications and Achievements. These individuals are known as Posers. Better yet, in the eyes of the law, many of these individuals are known as criminals. The Stolen Valor Act was created and signed into law by Congress to punish those individuals who are presenting themselves as something they are not.
The topic of Stolen Valor is a hot topic, particularly amongst veterans. There is an organization that has been a leader in publishing the actions of these posers. They do so on their Guardian of Valor website. (http://guardianofvalor.com) They also have a Facebook page entitled “Stolen Valor”. On their website, you will find their Hall of Shame. This area is reserved for some of the worst posers. The majority of the public that has never served in the military might not understand, but stolen valor is a hot topic amongst veterans?
During my 23 years of service, I never served one day in a combat environment though I served faithfully and honorably. I was part of a burial detail that conducted military burials for almost 5 years. I’ve seen the pain displayed by the family members of lost service members. To give one’s life in the service of their country is known as giving the ultimate sacrifice. I have had several brothers and sisters, with whom I served, deploy to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Panama, and Bosnia. Some gave the ultimate sacrifice, others are still suffering from the wounds they received. My own sister served in Kuwait during Desert Storm. Because of her service over there, she is still suffering medically. She has spent numerous weeks in VA hospitals trying to find out what is wrong with her. Finally, after years of pain and suffering, they have made a medical determination and she is receiving disability pay.
Understanding the pain and sacrifice so many have made is easy for me to grasp. When someone who has never spent one day in the military puts on a uniform and portrays themselves as a veteran, they are committing a criminal, fraudulent act in my eyes. They never spent a single day in a foxhole, never carried a 100 pound pack on their back during a road march, never ducked or jumped for cover with incoming rounds landing all around, never held the hand of a screaming soldier who had a leg blown off while waiting for a chopper, they’ve never faced the enemy in hand to hand combat and they have never even spent a year or more away from their family.
Why do these posers do it? For the most part, I think most of them do it for personal gain. The Stolen Valor Facebook page has a quote from George Washington that says “Guard against imposters of pretended patriotism”. That is what the Stolen Valor Act does. Want to know the saddest fact? Some of the posers don’t even bother to read the regulations to know how to wear the ribbons, medals, or other distinctive insignia correctly on the uniforms. You would think that if someone was going to try and commit fraud, they would want to do it right. Some of them look absolutely ridiculous.
Who are these posers? You wouldn’t believe who some of these people are. Candidates running for public office, and there have been several, are the ones that surprise me the most. If you’re running for public office and you are presenting yourself as something that you are not, wouldn’t you be concerned that your fraudulent act would be discovered? There have even been TV personalities on some of the survival skill reality shows that have been exposed.
Believe it or not, there are also posers within the military as well. I served with one such individual early in my career. About 10 years later we both ended up in the same unit again. This time he was wearing a Ranger Tab. I asked him when he went to Ranger School. He responded that he went in 1986. He even told me that he had participated in Operation Just Cause in 1989 with the 75th Ranger Battalion. I had my suspicions, but I let it go. One day, when we were getting ready to clear from a Field Training Exercise, I was collecting weapons and asked everyone to clear their weapon. As he approached me with his M16, he removed the magazine and pointed the rifle towards the ground and pulled the trigger. A round discharged. Immediately, I screamed some curse words and a brief investigation initiated. I began to question his Ranger Tab. I approached my First Sergeant and told him what happened, and that I did not believe this Staff Sergeant was, in fact, Ranger qualified. After contacting the Ranger school at Fort Benning, Georgia, this Staff Sergeant was called in to the Commander’s Office and in front of the Commander, First Sergeant and Battalion Sergeant Major, he was ordered to remove the Ranger Tab.
Every real veteran that has served honorably knows what he or she has done in their career. Every real veteran knows what they have sacrificed. Every real veteran knows what it takes to serve honorably. Every real veteran knows what blood, sweat and tears they’ve shed. As for this veteran, when someone commits this fraudulent act, and they are exposed, it is a slap in the face to me and those that I served with. It is a slap in the face to those family members I remember seeing at the funerals, as we buried their loved one, and it is a slap in the face the one who gave that ultimate sacrifice.
In 1969, Ruth’s husband was killed in Vietnam. In her memoir, she describes her struggle to overcome her loss from a war that no one wanted to even talk about. After many years, she began to feel a compulsion to write down her story. Ruth found the process of “writing her memoir and looking for her personal ‘truth’ immensely restorative.”
Ruth has become a firm believer in the effect writing can have on healing from loss. Currently, she holds writing workshops for members of the Gold Star Wives of America. A Gold Star Wife is one who has lost her husband to combat as Ruth did. By her own statement, Ruth will be using the new book Expressive Writing: Words that Heal as the textbook for her upcoming workshops.
For more information on Expressive Writing: Words that Heal and the healing power of expressive writing, click below:
To view the very powerful and moving trailer for Ruth’s book, please visit youtube and search for thosewhoremain.
Every veteran suicide just breaks my heart and makes me angry. I’ve been hearing recently that some in the medical and military communities are claiming that those coming home with PTSD must have been damaged in some way beforehand. I don’t agree. I think a lot of our soldiers coming home with PTSD had gentle, kind hearts to begin with that are now heavy with fear and guilt. They can’t help it. In America, for the most part, we all have kind, gentle lives. We aren’t war torn. We really don’t know what it’s like to fear for our lives and those of our children every day.
The military takes these basically kind people and puts them through basic training. They are all treated like dogs regardless of whom they are or where they come from. Once they are all at their lowest, the drill sergeants begin to bring them back up together to make them one cohesive unit, equal on all terms. This is necessary. Continue reading and add your comment
It seems unfair that one person can stop a hearing on a measure that involves research. Research that may show once and for all if marijuana is an effective treatment for PTSD.
The federal government has approved the purchase of marijuana by the University of Arizona so that the university may begin their study into whether or not marijuana actually helps those with PTSD.