This Saturday Toki and I geared up for Hamilton Comic Con. I knew it was a busy place so I made sure to keep Toki’s safety in mind as well. We steered clear of crowds as best as we could and I had Cory with me to pick her up for me when I was nervous of situations where there were larger crowds (especially in high traffic areas like enterances). I was a little uncomfortable at first with people pointing at me or saying things to each other about myself or Toki. I eventually learned to ignore it and just have fun with my day as best I could. The one thing that really upset me though was the number of parents who just let their kids run up to my dog and pet her. I had one kid in particular who when I was stopped looking at something, decided it was a good time to sit on the floor and start petting Toki. His mother was completely oblivious to the situation and was over looking at something else. I tried to explain to the child that my dog was working and to please leave her alone. The kid decided to just look at me and then continue to pet Toki. I really was on the verge of screaming at the kids mother but instead just left the situation. It really annoyed me with the amount of parents who seemed like my dog was there for their kids entertainment. I will say though, there were a lot of parents there who made up for the others. I could hear them explaining Toki as a working dog and I even heard a few kids sound super excited to have seen a working dog. It definitely made me feel a lot better knowing that most people understood her role. We stayed for a few hours and even bought a few things. It was a great time and I look forward to our next adventure together. For now we are enjoying a relaxing Sunday!
While I am at work from 5am-9am there is a small period where Toki is left home alone. It is usually from 20-30 minutes. What she accomplishes in that time is pretty extraordinary. I have tried to crate train her but she barks non-stop and I live in an apartment. I feel it’s bad enough leaving her home alone when she is so used t being with me. I think Cory and I just have to put any sort of cardboard in the trash. I love my little monkey but she can be bad sometimes. I thought I would share this video evidence with you for a nice giggle.
So Toki and I were bored at home yesterday and we decided to take a walk to the pet store which is an hour walk away. Toki took her time to sniff everything on the way so that added another half hour. After cramped feet and sweating like crazy, we made it. I was quite proud of myself because I hate going outside alone and especially down a main street for that long. I also have a pain condition so I was not sure I would make it but I did and I am actually quite proud of myself. I made sure to give Toki lots of treats at the pet store. Thankfully we did not have to walk back because Cory met us there. It was a fun adventure!
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.