The Battle is Over!

Good news has finally come to me as of yesterday. I was finally approved for ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) after waiting 2 years and going through mountains of paperwork. I am so happy that I don’t have to worry about my financial situation now. It’s always nice to get a lump sum of money that is deserved too and be able to take care of the bills I have had piling up.

However, there was an issue that was brought up while I was filling out the paperwork with my caseworker. ODSP offers an amount to help with the care of service dogs. The amount is something like $75/month to help and would be helpful with caring for a Service Dog. I was pretty happy about this until I found out that it is only available to “certified” service dogs. That means only dogs that have come from a school or organization are eligible for the credit. However, to have a service dog in Ontario there is no “certification” required. Service Dogs in Ontario can be owner trained and all that is needed as proof is a doctors note/prescription. So the whole situation is really messed up and I think ODSP needs to look into the actual laws as to what a “Service Dog” is listed as. I would appeal the decision but at this point I am so tired of dealing with lawyers and paperwork. The $75 is not worth me getting upset over but the principle of the matter is. I have heard many other owners having to go through this battle and it is quite sad. I thought I would mention this though so other SD owners can read into the issue.

Going forward, I am quite excited to see what the future has in store for me now that all this is over with and I can breathe a little easier. Toki has made my life so much better and I hope she knows that.

Here is a little photo from the other day. We now have an instagram you can follow us on!

https://www.instagram.com/toki.servicedogdiary/

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Being Assertive

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!

waiting patiently for group to start.

A Great Day Out at the Mall!

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!

All ready for a car ride!
A pooped pup!

Please do not point and bring attention to a Service Dog as it brings unwanted attention to the handler.

Moving In with Toki

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!

FAQs

What breed is Toki? 

She is a Rat Terrier.

Where did you get Toki?

Toki was adopted from Just N Time Rescue in Barrie,ON and was a rescue from a hoarding situation in Ohio. It is hard to believe how far she has come since then and I thank Just N Time for her everyday.

How old is Toki?

An estimate of her age is between 4-6 years old and an exact age is not known because she was a rescue.

Is Toki a certified Service Dog? 

Toki is not a ‘certified’ Service Dog but that does not mean she is not a Service Dog. She is not from an organization but has been trained by myself with the help of trainers, to my specific needs. Service Dogs do not need to have certification to work in Ontario,Canada but proper paperwork is needed from a treating physician.

What makes Toki a Service Dog and not a pet? 

Toki is trained to help me with any issues related to my medical condition. She is trained on queues and body language to assist me when necessary. She is brought into stores with me because she is needed for me to function daily. Toki is not just a dog out for a walk and fun time, she is a trained working dog.

What Does Toki do for you?

I do not feel comfortable going into specifics but Toki helps me with my daily life. She helps me when I need assistance with my condition. Toki is a PTSD service dog and that is all I really feel comfortable with people knowing. What exactly she does for me is really personal and when I am asked, I find it very rude because it really isn’t anyone’s business but my own.

What does PTSD stand for?

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Does Toki know any tricks?

 I have not trained Toki to perform any tricks because I feel it is not relevant to what she is needed for in my life. Don’t get me wrong though, she can make a whole bowl of food disappear!

Does Toki go everywhere with you?

Toki goes everywhere with me including stores and restaurants. The only time Toki does not go with me somewhere is if it is not good for her health/safety. She stays home with my Mom during these times. This would be places like the zoo due to the possibility of her catching something from the animals or the beach because there is a risk she can get heatstroke. I always put her health and safety into account before I take her anywhere with me.

Can I pet Toki?

No, please do not pet or distract my dog as she is working and needs to focus on myself. If Toki is not working, than she can be pet but please always ask first.

Toki’s Trip to the Cottage

Toki is a working dog who helps me with my everyday life and when I am on vacation she is with me. Toki does not work every second of her life and she does take some down time when off duty at home or when I am with family.

I am always asked if Toki is happy with working and if she gets tired of working all the time. I am pretty sure it is hard work and she does get tired but she does not work all day-everyday. When she is home she is just like any other dog and enjoys treats and fun in the backyard.  Her favourite past-time is to chase her 4 cat-siblings around the house. She knows when the leash and vest are on that it is time to work and help me out with my day.

This past weekend was my first time away at a cottage with Toki. We were invited by friends and I was super nervous at first about having Toki with me. She has never been on any sort of vacation with myself and I was not sure what to expect. I decided that Toki would be off duty and enjoy herself while at the cottage with friends and another dog. Off-Duty meaning she was able to be off leash and play but she was still there if I needed her.

She had never been on a boat before and we had to take one over to the island the cottage was on. She seemed to enjoy the boat ride and even provided me with some comfort because I was really nervous. When we got there we were greeted by a big dog named Bruce who Toki seemed to really get a long with. I was afraid that a big dog would just see her as a toy to chew on but he was very well behaved with her. I think it was love at first sight because those two were so good all weekend together.

The next day we all strapped some life jackets on and went canoeing and Toki joined in on the adventure. She was a little hesitant at first but eventually made her way into the canoe and settled down. We canoed for about half an hour before making it back to shore where we decided to swim on the other side of the island. This was where Toki had her first swim with me and she did not like it at all; or so we thought. Later on in the vacation Toki actually came into the water on her own and swam to me. It was super cute to see her enjoying herself and it made me happy knowing I had her there with me. She also liked running around the island with Bruce and playing with him. They would chase each other from one end of the island to the other. Toki was a dirty mess from all the water and dirt so once we were back home it was definitely bath time.

I was very happy to be able to bring my Service Dog with me and have her go on a mini vacation herself. Now that we are home it is back to work for her with helping me out in public. Who knows, maybe another vacation will be in-store for us.

Some  Service Dogs do not have to work 24/7, it depends on their handler and their needs. 

Is Toki an Actual Service Dog?

This is a question I get a lot with Toki and usually I reply with “Yes, she is.” It seems the public believes that only dogs coming from organizations are “actual” Service Dogs.  I am here to put that myth to rest and let everyone know that any dog can be a trained Service Dog no matter what the size or breed.

JD Serada Photography

All breeds can be trained to be a Service Dog if the dog fits the right demeanour. Just because a certain breed has a bad reputation does not deem them unfit to work or define their ability to perform in public. Toki looks a lot like a Jack Russell so people automatically assume she is a hyper mess. Well not all Jack Russells are crazy when trained properly and Toki is not even a Jack Russell; she is a Rat Terrier. She is a dream to train as Rattie’s are very trainable and she also has a very docile personality which was perfect for myself as her handler and trainer. She has been trained in obedience and the services she provides me with. Small dogs are usually used for tasks that do not assist with mobility or standing. This is because they are low to the ground and require the handler’s ability to crouch down to them. Toki is not used to assist me with my mobility so being small is not an issue for myself. She can still jump up if she is needed and I can get close to her when I need to.

On numerous occasions I have been asked if Toki is a “real Service Dog” and i have always been so confused as to what a “real Service Dog” was.  Toki is a “Service Dog” so I am unsure what people are defining as “real”. I would never ask anyone with a medical device if it was real and it is actually quite rude to ask.  It does get very annoying to have to explain to people she is a trained Service Dog and that Service Dogs do not have to come from a special organization. Toki is used to assist me and what she does for myself is really no one’s business. She is used to help me with my daily living and that is all you need to assume when you see us.

Please know that any dog big or small and any breed can be used as a Service Dog and what they do for their handler is very personal and not really anyone’s business but their own. As people we should not be asking about medical history or diagnosis’ when we see someone with a medical device; which is what a Service Dog is. Just know that when you see a Service Dog they are helping to make their handler’s daily life a much better experience.

Any dog can be a Service Dog no matter the breed or size.