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.
Last weekend was our first large convention together and we had a great time. Toki and I have been to smaller conventions but Anime North is a much larger convention. Anime North is an anime convention held in Toronto,Ontario (Canada) and is held once every year in May. The demographic is a younger audience and is always a fun event filled with lots to do and see. I decided that this convention Toki would be on ‘semi-duty’; meaning I allow people to pet her and she would only have her vest on when inside the convention center. The majority of the convention is outside and everyone hangs out together so I thought it would be good exposure for myself and for her too. I even managed to make her a few costumes for the event so we could both enjoy the fun together as I cosplay at many conventions. I have broken up our adventure into sections just because so much happened that weekend and I want to share it all!
This convention also meant staying in a hotel for a weekend. The hotel we stayed at was very accommodating and even allowed Toki to be without her vest when we walked her for bathroom breaks. I had to fill out some paper work and have them photo copy my notes so they knew she was a Service Dog and could be allowed access to the hotel. They even explained she could come to the pool area when I asked about it. I was so nervous I would have to explain myself to them and make a scene in front of people. It was nice to not have to feel anxious and stressed out about the experience. Toki loved the hotel room too and we had a great time with friends staying in the hotel room with us. It was a nice experience and Toki was very well behaved by the pool while friends and I swam and had a great time.
Toki had a great time and even had her photo taken numerous times at the convention. People seemed to really enjoy seeing a dog in cosplay at the convention. I took the opportunity to explain that Toki is my Service Dog and what she does for me. It was nice having people truly interested in her work and not judgmental at all. I even managed to help some people who were interested in Service Dogs for their own mental health as Toki is a PTSD Service Dog. It felt really great knowing I was respected and so was Toki. I only had a few incidences where people pet Toki without permission and she had her vest on but I was very calm and explained that they needed to ask as she is a working dog. It was an amazing experience and I am happy I took the time to educate people on Service Dogs. Next year I am hoping to have business cards made for my blog because I had so many people interested!
It was very hard to maneuver the Dealer’s Room as it was very busy and crowded. The main issue was that Toki is a small dog and no one bothers to really look at the floor when they are walking and shopping. It got so bad with people kicking or stepping on her that I had to have my fiance pick her up. I found it very hard to stay in there very long as my anxiety was very bad because of the situation. I could only imagine how hard it was for people in wheelchairs or with other mobility devices. I think that is one thing that conventions seem to not be very fun for and I wish they could make accessibility easier for for people who need the assistance. I was thankful to have my fiance carry Toki but I felt bad for people who did not have a choice. I think people just need to be more aware of their surroundings. I did manage to find a few things to buy; including some new Toki Doki charms for Toki’s vest and a Toki Doki button as well. So the stress and anxiety was worth it in the end I suppose.
Outside & Sun!
The weather this year turned out to be sweltering on the Saturday and Sunday and this meant lots of breaks for water and shade. Toki was in her sunglasses and doggy sunscreen and we made sure to hydrate her as much as possible. This is one thing I can not stress enough to people with dogs. Dogs can get heat stroke and become dehydrated just like humans can. They are also able to get sunburns too and they need to be protected. Look into doggy sunscreens and also purchase a pair of Doggles for your puppy. The Doggles are not only functional and great for protecting your dogs eyes but they are also a fashion statement too. Toki had so many people in love with her sunglasses and I made sure to explain that they are needed, especially because she does not have eyelashes or fur around her eyes due to a skin infection when she was young. So remember to keep your dog whether a Service Dog or not, out of the sun or provide them with the protection they need. I always am sure to keep a bottle of water for my dog with me and it really helped Toki at Anime North with the heat wave that we all experienced.
Here are some photos of Toki’s costumes which I made myself and went along with the costumes I was wearing for the day. The crowds of people seemed to adore the costumes on her and she seemed to like the attention and wearing them. It also gave allowed me to talk to people about her and her job. I love educating people on my Service Dog!
I cosplayed Fionna from Adventure Time so Toki was LSP!
I went as Nora from RWBY so I made Toki a shirt that said “Boop” from the show.
We both had a great convention and we can not wait until next year to do Anime North again. The next convention we will be attending is this weekend at Niagara Falls Comic Con!
Service Dogs are not always at work and can enjoy some play time too!
I decided to write this post because of an incident I had recently while out at a fast-food restaurant. Let me begin by telling you my experience.
It was dinner time about a week ago when my fiance and I decided to go for a bite to eat at a local fast-food restaurant. Toki was put in her vest and we proceeded inside where I found a seat that was out-of-the-way and in the corner where I was most comfortable. Staff members acknowledged Toki as I sat down and got her into a comfortable position under the table. As my fiance left me to order our food I noticed a young woman standing in front of the washroom, waiting for someone. She looked at me and said, “I am surprised they let your dog in here.” which I then explained that Toki is my service dog. After I explained myself to the woman, she than started calling out loudly to her son to come see my “puppy”. She then started talking to my dog as if I was not even there. Thankfully, as her son came over; so did my fiance with my food. It stopped the woman from distracting my dog and calling out to her son. She then left towards the table she was dining at. I was left in shock and having to explain to my fiance what the woman did. He was quite upset about it too and we both wished children were taught more about Service Dogs and that they are working.
So here I am now writing the post I wanted to write to let parents know that teaching their kids proper etiquette is the best thing they can do. I always feel bad having to tell another person’s child that my dog is working and they can not pet her. It makes me feel better when I hear parents explain to their kids that my dog is working and to leave her alone. It really doesn’t bother me if a child sees my dog and acknowledges it. What bothers me is when a parent lets their child come up and just pet or distract my dog. It also makes me feel terrible when parents get upset when I say “no” to their kids with my dog.
Please parents teach your children and friends that Service Dogs are meant to work and perform a duty for their handler. Know that not all dogs are for kids to pet and play with. Just kindly let them know that the dog is working and to not distract them. I have even seen parents make a game of being quiet around my dog; which I really appreciate. Please make it fun and a learning experience for your children.
Teaching the younger generation about Service Dogs, makes a brighter future for the handlers who use Service Dogs.