So this past year has been very hard on me financially as I am still waiting on a decision from disability. I decided last month that I would go job hunting to try to make ends meet. I went to numerous interviews with Toki and nothing came of them. I since have had to make another hard step in my recovery; working alone without her. The only way I was comfortable doing this was leaving her home with Cory. Also, I knew I would not be able to handle dealing with customers or crowds because of my social anxiety. It narrowed my list down and my options became pretty bare. I ended up taking a job at a local book store doing stock at 5am -9am. I knew it would be super hard on my body getting up so early, but I felt better knowing Toki would be home with Cory and I would only have to deal with a few people and books during my shifts.
With taking on this job though, some people have come to think I can do anything without Toki and I should just leave her at home during the day when I am out places. I can not express enough that this step is one of the hardest in my recovery, first getting a job and now I have to be without her for 4 hours a day. I don’t want to work at all but I have to pay bills that are piling up until my disability support gets sorted out next year.
The only times I have ever been without Toki have been for her safety and she is always left with someone I trust and am comfortable with. I can not have my service dog getting sick or stressed out all day because then she can not work for me.
I think it is pretty sad that I have to justify why and when I have my Service Dog. It really isn’t anyone’s business but my own. I will not leave her home alone like other dogs that are pets because she isn’t trained to do that, she is trained to help me when I need her.
It’s been a lot of downs lately since starting this new job but I am just going to keep pushing towards my goal. Toki is still with me when I get home until I leave for work at 5am the next day. Not only have I had the stress of getting a job for the first time in 2 years but now I am learning to work on my own. I just wish other people understood how hard this is for me and that these are just baby steps.
Recently in group therapy I learned about being assertive. I never noticed how bad I was with speaking up for myself. I have noticed though that I am getting a lot better since having Toki. I used to get uncomfortable and get so nervous I wouldn’t say anything to the person distracting or petting her. I would always just let it happen and beat myself up after because I should not have let it happen.
Now when I am out with Toki I find it easier than it once was. I think I realized that I had to change my attitude to be more assertive so I could stop beating myself up and help Toki not get distracted. I think having Toki really made me become more assertive and it’s still strange to me. I still have some days where I don’t say anything but I have to remember I am working on myself everyday.
Just today I had two people in the hospital try to pet Toki and I stopped them both and explained she is working. I really wish people understood the “NO PETTING”/DISTRACTING” rule when seeing a Service Dog because it really makes a difference in Toki’s focus. Furthermore, it really upsets me when I am assertive and then people try to have me justify why they can not pet my dog. I really get upset because it really isn’t any of their business. I had a man reach out to pet her the other day and I said, “Please do not pet her she is a Service Dog.” His response was, “A Service dog for what?!” like he was all butt hurt or something. It really upset me because here I was being assertive and he just asked me to justify why I said no by asking personal questions (Some people…).
Sometimes I still find being assertive very hard but I feel that since having Toki I have become much better at it. I never thought I would be comfortable enough to tell people “no” or speak my mind. It still feels really good every time I stop someone from petting Toki and my fiancée still gives me a thumbs up or praises me for doing it. Here’s to working on being more assertive with things other than Toki. I just have to keep making baby steps and one day I will be there!
I just got back home from a good day out with Cory (my fiancée) and Toki. We decided to go take a walk around the mall and just browse the shops. I had a few interactions with people today that I would like to share, because I want to blog more about our adventures and public encounters.
When we finished shopping at a store we decided to take a seat on the chairs in the mall which were arranged nicely with little tables. I got Toki to lay down in front on my legs and proceeded to have a conversation with Cory. While speaking with him I did notice a few stares but the worst was when I looked over and saw a whole family turn around and them come over and point at me exclaiming, “Oh look it is a Service Dog!” I seriously watched a group of people come over and point at Toki and I like we were a zoo attraction or something. It really upsets me when people don’t stop and think what a person feels like being pointed out in public. I am someone with a disability who needs my dog and when you point and say things it brings a lot of attention to myself that I do not want. I know people want to point Toki out because she is cute and a dog isn’t seen everyday in public places, but they have to remember that there is a handler attached to that dog and they need them for a disability. I see it like pointing out someone who has a wheelchair or a hearing aid. You would never say something because you know it is rude to do so. The same etiquette applies with a Service Dog and handler.
Later on, we decided to take a trip into Chapters to look at some books because I am always looking for something new to read and I collect art books. Toki was very well-behaved and laid down while we were browsing, she even stayed in her spot when I went down the aisle for a book. I was coming around the corner with Toki when I saw a young girl and her father coming towards me and I knew they had followed me from the aisle next to me because I saw them earlier. The father stopped me and asked, “Can we see your dog?” I then explained that she is working and a Service Dog. He then said to his daughter, “See that is why we ask first.” and left with her. I heard him saying as they walked by that I must be training the dog for work. I don’t know why people assume I am training Toki, I have heard it more than once. It really upsets me because I don’t know why people think that way. Maybe because I am young and don’t look disabled but we have to remember that not all illness’ are visible. I need Toki to help me and she is trained for myself. I am not training her for an organization or for the needs of someone else. I kind of wish the father knew more about service dogs so he could explain why Toki is working or why she can not pet her. I always feel bad saying “No” to people who ask so nicely, but Toki has to stay focused on me in public.
After a long time in Chapters we then headed to Starbucks and had frappuccinos on the patio while Toki laid down under my seat. She saw some crumbs from a sandwich sitting next to her and did very well leaving it alone. Although a few people made my day feel uncomfortable, I still had a great day out enjoying myself with Toki and Cory. Toki did very well and is now lounging on her pillow-bed while I make dinner.
I really hope to share some more adventures with you all soon!
Please do not point and bring attention to a Service Dog as it brings unwanted attention to the handler.
This past weekend Toki, Cory and I packed up and moved back to St Catharines from Niagara Falls. It is only about a half hour away but it is nice to be back where I feel at home and with friends.
When I was moving Toki spent a lot of time with my Nana and loved every minute of it; as I am sure she was given a few treats here and there. I was worried about leaving her while I moved things back and forth to the new place. It is always hard when I have to leave my Service Dog behind anywhere. I have gotten so used to having her with me all the time that when she isn’t with me, I feel like I am missing a piece of myself. It did make me feel better though knowing she was with someone I knew and trusted. I would never put her in a situation that would stress her or put her in danger. I have to remember that just as my health and well-being is important, so is hers.
Now that we have our belongings here, the task of putting everything away begins. The place we moved to is a lot bigger than what we are used to so it has been fun trying to figure out what to do with all the space we have. Toki seems to enjoy just laying on the couch and watching me as I put things away. She is such a lazy butt at times but she deserves it because of all her hard work. She also enjoys our large balcony in the shade and because we are on the second floor, I am not so worried bringing her out with me.
Since moving, we have been attending group therapy for myself and she seems to struggle with the sitting still for an hour and thirty minutes, which I can understand because I have a hard time too. We start every group session off with mindfulness and Toki started off not knowing what was going on and trying to get my attention (she makes sure I am focused on my surroundings) so she would lick me or put her paws on me. She now has learned that mindfulness is a good time in group and settles on the floor. I always tell the instructor that he did a great job because Toki is passed out. The other issue she is having is putting her cold nose on people when they are sitting close to me in group. I had a guy sit next to me and noticed that Toki was fussing and the guy was looking down at her. I looked down and saw Toki licking his leg like it was the tastiest treat. I was mortified that she was doing this so I corrected her and apologized to the man. Thankfully, he did not mind because he loves dogs, but this is something I have to work on with Toki- she loves to touch and lick people. I can not get upset because she has come a long way in her training and this is just a small bump in the road. I have to keep reminding myself that she is a living animal and just like myself she is going to have slip-ups. Other than the few issues I have had with her she has been doing great in group. Next week is our next session and I am excited to bring her with me because she makes it easier as I am less anxious around people.
I am hoping to be back on schedule and all moved/put away within the next week or so. I miss updating my blog and keeping up with projects. I look forward to the new adventures Toki and I will have here.
Here is a photo I snapped of Toki amongst the boxes in my living room. What a cutie!
I am sharing this photo with all my dog loving friends. I found the photo floating around on-line but do not know the actual source of it. However, I thought it would be something every dog owner should consider when spoiling their furry friends. Toki loves to eat apples but I always keep her away from the seeds!
Today was a very hard day and made me realize how much of a routine I am in with Toki. I attended my group therapy session at the local hospital and Toki was left home with a relative. I have gone days without her before due to health precautions for her (the beach is very hot) but I have always had friends with me. Today I was alone and had to try my best to function enough to attend my group.
It all started when Toki found herself into a bag of Mini Wheats on the weekend. I don’t think anyone’s stomach could handle half a bag of fibre, let alone a dog. So yesterday was quite the adventure andif you don’t like poop stories, I suggest you stop reading now.
I was driving on the highway yesterday morning when I smelt something foul and checked the back seat where Toki was laying. Well she was not laying there any more, she was haunched over pooping right on my car seat with the nastiest case of diarrhea I have ever seen. I could not pull over because the stretch of highway had no real shoulder to stop on so I tried my best to just open the windows and get her to stay still. You can probably imagine how hard that was to do on a highway and alone. When I finally got to the gas station about five minutes later, the heat was already at 37 Celsius and the poop smell just stuck to everything. Toki then jumped into my front seat where she dragged a whole lot of poo all over the car. I managed to get it cleaned up enough to get home and made sure she was settled before making the ten minute drive back. When I finally arrived home I immediately went to cleaning everything I could manage to clean, but the smell still lingered and I was so sick to my stomach at this point. Toki stayed at home while I went to pick up my fiancée who took the car in for a professional cleaning. Needless to say, Toki took one expensive poop all over the car and ended up costing $170. After having the car cleaned we went back home to deal with Toki’s belly issues. She seems back to her normal self now and I am so happy I don’t have to clean up after a sick doggy any more. It was an expensive lesson to learn but we know now to keep all cereal away from Toki- especially Mini Wheats (which I will probably never eat again).
Moving on, the story I just mentioned was relevant because it ties into why I was alone today in group therapy. Toki spent the day resting with Nana and she seemed to have a great time unlike myself. I never really noticed how much happier and alert I am when Toki is there with me. All day today I felt like I was in a nasty haze and not paying attention at all. In group I felt like I may even have a panic attack and it was so scary knowing she was not there to help me. I am proud that I was able to get through my day alone but I am so relieved to be back with my service dog. My facilitator mentioned that she never thought about dogs having to take time off because of being sick. I don’t think many people realize that service dogs are living creatures and they will get sick just like we do. As a handler it was up to myself to decide if I wanted to go alone without her today and although I was so nervous, I am so proud I was able to do it alone. I am now back home with Toki and am at ease now with her on my lap; she is thankfully feeling like her normal self so I think a walk is in order now.
Sometimes a handler must go on without their Service Dog.