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!
Toki enjoyed her first Christmas with us on Friday. She seemed quite nervous and unsure of what was going on in the morning when we woke up to open our gifts. I managed to snap a shot of her in front of her adorable stocking before she got into it. She got a new fuzzy pink sweater with teddy bear ears on the hood, one of her favourite treats and a grumpy bear toy. She had a great time opening her gifts and watching the rest of the family with our gifts.
We spent the rest of the day out visiting family and she was well behaved the whole time. Everyone commented on what a good little dog she was and were surprised that she did not beg for food when dinner time came.
I am looking forward to many more Christmas’ to come with my little girl and I know she is looking forward to them as well.
The other day I bought some cute Christmas fabric while shopping and thought it would make something cute. I needed something to do today and decided to sit down and make an adorable bandana for Toki to wear during the holidays. It was pretty simple and I think next time I will make adjustments so it sits better on her neck but other than that I think it turned out pretty cute and festive. I am hoping to make her some more to wear everyday while working.
A routine is something that has been recommended in my group therapy to help with stress and my mood disorder. I never realised how much of a difference it makes in my daily mood, it’s nice to know what I am going to do with my day.
Toki and I have been going to the park everyday now (when the weather permits) to get in some sun. I also make it a challenge to say ‘hello’ to every person who walks by us. Toki is getting her daily exercise and is also learning to be more social with the other dogs. She has met so many dogs on our walks and is less nervous than she used to be around them.
I have also been put into an acupuncture group through the hospital and I go with Toki every Monday. It seems to be helping with my mood and I also look forward to having something to do on Mondays. Toki likes to sit on the floor and sleep while listening to the relaxing music that is on. Everyone in my group always comments on how quiet and well behaved she is.
I am looking forward to our next trip to the park and coming up with other things to do during the day.
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.