Tuesday, November 29, 2011

HEADLINE: Service Dogs Generally Well Accepted by Businesses

It's not a big problem to walk into the average business with a service dog, but you rarely see that fact in newspapers, Facebook, or other media. I hate to post material that mentions the difficult problems people do sometimes encounter without emphasizing the much greater number of times there is not a significant problem.  The other day I posted something about a problem business in Massachusetts, so let me give you the scoop on the many  businesses that treat us appropriately.

Just last week Maeve's Business Honor Roll added its 100th business. Note that this list contains only the businesses I REMEMBER to enter (I have significant memory and attention problems) and it includes only businesses Maeve and I have personally had a good experience in since we began documenting our good experiences seven months ago. These are not just local businesses that have gotten used to us either -- there are multiple businesses on the list from each of seven states.

Let me tell you about our experiences from today -- 100% positive in visiting six businesses and private medical facilities.  Our itinerary included:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

CT DMHAS NW Region is IN THE KNOW about Psychiatric Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

Maeve and I love working in the northwest region of CT. The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services staff are terrific and it's the location of a fabulous ICCD clubhouse -- Prime Time. We did an in-service for DMHAS staff (and at least one from Prime Time) last Thursday in Torrington CT and it was great!

While Maeve and I provided a lot of information to the attendees, we can take little credit for their enthusiasm about helping people with psychiatric disabilities get animals.  First, they love animals.  It's a good thing Maeve has thick hair -- she was petted so much she'd have bald spots if she were a lesser dog.  Second, they clearly love the people they serve. Their eyes lit up whenever we talked about them helping those people use their rights under federal law to get pets in no-pets housing without deposits or fees.

I was particularly thrilled by their response when I mentioned the author of my favorite essay, "Each time I recover enough, I borrow a dog," Larry Davidson, Ph.D. When I mentioned his name, they nearly cheered, "Oh yes! The Recovery Guy!"  I had just finished reading his book, A Practical Guide to Recovery-Oriented Practice: Tools for Transforming Mental Health Care. Until reading this book I had never felt comfortable using the term "recovery" to describe what I've done with my life since my  bipolar disorder became so disabling that I could no longer work. 

During the in-service, we talked about the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities to travel through their lives accompanied by their service dogs in virtually every place the public is allowed (under the Americans with Disabilities Act), to emotional support animals (pets) in no-pets housing without deposits or fees (under the Fair Housing Act). We also spoke about the rights of people with service dogs to bring them into hospitals and doctors offices, including the endorsement of this by the Center for Disease Control. I also talked about the impact that training and being accompanied by Maeve has made in my own life.  

There was one more bit of satisfaction I got during our presentation. Maeve and I did similar presentations last year for the members and staff of PrimeTime and for our Advocacy Unlimited mental health advocacy class in Torrington.  A staff member from Prime Time who was taking a Recovery University course offered by Advocacy Unlimited knew all the answers to the questions about the rights to animals granted by the ADA and FHA.  He'd just been tested on them in his RU course.  I hadn't been aware that this information had been incorporated into the Advocacy Unlimited courses and was thrilled to hear about it.

If you're involved with an organization that works with people with psychiatric disabilities, an educational organization that trains people to do such work, or any organization that might be interested in learning more about these rights, please see our webpage on our U.S. tour and our Contact Us page. We'd love to hear from you!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Psychiatric Service Dog Mistaken for Stuffed Toy

"OMG! It's a real dog!"

 We were in Cafemantic in Willimantic, CT. I was sipping a delicious ginger lemongrass infusion and researching lCCD clubhouses in Virginia for our 2012 Q1 cross-country tour. Maeve was doing her job--lying quiet and still  beside me with the lingering essence of a Trader Joe's gourmet peanut butter dog cookie on her tongue.

 After the young lady recovered her composure she got to meet Maeve and she and her companion peppered me with questions.  They weren't familiar with service dogs other than guide dogs for the blind.

 As soon as I finished with that I entered Cafemantic into into Maeve's Business Honor Role as our 100th inductee! They also got a Two Paws Up designation.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

We Love CT Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services ...

And they've asked us to do another in-service training in their NW Region. We'll be talking to their staff on November 17 about the rights of their clients/consumers to Emotional Support Animals (pets) in no-pets housing without deposit or fee and about Psychiatric Service Dogs.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maeve's Friend Indeed

Today was the one day out of 100 I absolutely need Maeve with me in the woods.
This is day two of a migraine. As expected, the pain and nausea were significantly less than day one's.
What was not as expected were the more unusual neurological symptoms. We were two and a half miles into a four and a half mile hike when I realized I shouldn't have gone into the woods.
Maeve handled it like the pro she is. She slowed her pace and led me down the trail. She trotted back to touch me periodically, which helped me ground myself and focus on the trail. Without her I would have been likely to walk off the trail or take a wrong turn.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Maeve Goes Walkabout

Maeve really earned her kibble today. This week has been hard. The new Maevemobile has been delivered to Freightliner, but they've had some difficulty doing their alterations. This means we're stuck camping in our minivan for a longer time. We had to come back to Connecticut from a beautiful weekend at the beach in Rhode Island a day early to make decisions about the work on the Maevemobile. The last two days in Rhode Island I had a migraine. Yesterday we went back to camping in Rhode Island, but it rained heavily again and again. This morning I woke with another migraine. I'm also fighting a swing into depression and I'd slept almost 12 hours--both a sign and an amplifier of bipolar depression..

Maeve decided we needed fun. She started lobbying me as I made my morning coffee.  First she came up and leaned on me to get some affection. Then she kept pawning my knee (which is how she tells me she needs something). I tried taking her for a short walk so she could poop, but she was having none of it. She jumped, twirled, bit the leash, and started to growl and "attack" me.  This is her way of saying, "No, stupid Joanne. We need POODLE FUN!"

I made her wait while I had a second coffee to help tame the migraine. I put on my pack and we headed out to the Walkabout Trail that begins and ends at the George Washington campground in Rhode Island.. While the CCC worked in this campground during the Great Depression, we were going to benefit from the work of idle foreigners. The Walkabout Trail was built in 1965 by a shipload of Australian sailors who were waiting for their new vessel. It's a 6-mile circle trail, but has several trails that cut through it to allow shorter circuit hikes. I fully intended to use one of these trails to shorten our hike, but Maeve "talked" me out of it. We did the whole circuit.  There were almost no hills, but we had to hike through several swamps where the trail was flooded due to all the rain we've had.

I'm physically tired and my hips are aching, but as a result of our "Walkabout" I had the energy to cook my favorite dinner and to write this post  tonight. Thank you Maeve!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Going From Emotional Support Dog to Service Dog

What's the legal difference between an emotional support dog and a service dog under the ADA? Two things: the dog must be public access ready and it must be TRAINED to do some service specific to its handler's disability. Training your dog to do something specific to your disability is the easy part.

View and sound from our mobile office 9/16/11

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Three Strikes and You're Dead

Maeve and I were trying to get back to our campsite today when I was violently reminded of how the Fair Housing Act's recognition of emotional support animals can save lives. In honor of suicide prevention week, I ask that you read the following:

In the late fall and early winter of 2009, I was living on Cape Cod temporarily while I waited months for a bank to decide whether my full-price, no-conditions offer on a short sale was acceptable (don't get me started on the insanity of the banks during the housing collapse). My lease in CT had ended and a friend had a summer house that would otherwise be empty for most of the off-season. He lent his house to me until I could close on my house.

Strike One: In early September, I had received a very generous offer from a breeder in Texas to donate a 9-month-old standard poodle to be trained as my service dog. I had asked the breeder to give me a little time as I was in the process of buying a house and currently was living in no-pets housing. By the end of October (when my lease was up), the breeder was getting antsy. Unfortunately, the house on the Cape was not a good place for me to have a dog either. The breeder let me know she couldn't hold the dog any longer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

View from our mobile office

Rainy day on cape cod.  Outside the office door is a small tarp and a reasonably dry propane cookstove.  The world above and beyond is just plain soggy.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Waterfalls and Mental Health

 Here's another "today's view from our mobile office."  Have you noticed I like to park and work near water -- particularly moving water and more particularly waterfalls?  I find water very calming to see and even more so if I can hear it. It also helps me work productively on something that requires significant attention and focus, like writing. Today I was triggered  into an angry, hypomanic mood. The event that triggered me would have made anyone mad, but I got the anger with truly racing thoughts about what I should have said or done, what I will say or do,and all the incidents in both recent and ancient history where this person has treated me and others in a similar way --  not to mention crushing pressure in my chest.

 You can't eliminate all bipolar symptoms, but you can learn to deal with them. Here's what I did:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Don't Restrict the Right to Service Dogs!

I wrote a guest post on Maeve's blog the other day.  We keep running into well-meaning people who think the ADA should restrict service dogs by requiring certification and/or professional training.  Here's why that's not true:  http://servicepoodle.blogspot.com/2011/06/why-professional-training-or.html

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Service Dog on the Trail

Maeve and NY Mountain Laurel along the Appalachian Trail
Hiking is the primary reason why I decided to get a service dog. Memory and attention problems caused by my illness and past treatments have made it much less safe for me to be out in the woods by myself, but hiking was very helpful in controlling my bipolar disorder and anxiety. On a good day, I'm quite competent in the woods. On a bad day I might tend to make wrong turns because I'm not paying attention to the trail markers. On a really bad day I don't make short-term memories for a while. This means I could end up in the middle of nowhere and not even remember anything I walked by. Worse still, I don't always perceive that I'm having a bad day until I realize I've screwed up.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

May SPOT Outdoors Report

This was NOT the best month for outdoor activities  (unending rain, scores of bloodthirsty ticks, tornado warnings, migraines, and family troubles), but we got out every day except for one anyway.

We went to state parks, a national forest, and rivers in three states. We saw dozens of varieties of wildflowers (including two varieties of wild orchids), encountered innumerable birds (including a black vulture who was quite interested in Maeve and whom Maeve decided to chase), gathered 11 pounds of morel mushrooms,  and visited waterfalls (all that rain had to be good for something).  On days where the weather was too bad, I was too sick (or too lazy), or we weren't organized enough to go out and do something more interesting we played outside with our favorite toy--a Kong Frisbee.

The effect? It was a difficult month and full of triggers .While I suffered a fair amount of anxiety, my moods were more under control than in any month in the years since my illnesses left me unable to work. I even had some symptom-free days--a real novelty.

May SPOT Outreach Report

Good News: In the first month (roughly) we were able to add 43 businesses in 4 states to Maeve's Business Honor Roll and more than half earned a Two Paws Up.  We had only one unpleasant incident and even that was just annoying. 

Good News: We happened upon at least a few people in three states with psychiatric disabilities who didn't know they had the right to have emotional support animals (pets) in no-pets housing without deposits or fees. (We only count those who disclose to us that they or a family member suffer from a mental illness so it may have been significantly more.)

Good News: Despite everything that went wrong, we had a good interview on Dog Works Radio. Read all about it and/or listen to it.

Good News: We talked to many people in grocery stores, restaurants, malls, parks, and on trails in four states.  Almost always we disclosed that Maeve is a psychiatric service dog. Often we disclosed that Joanne suffers from bipolar disorder and a slew of anxiety disorders. Usually we talked to people about rights under federal laws to emotional support animals and to psychiatric service dogs. In addition to getting the word out about these rights, this serves to fight stigma. We also remind people that they almost certainly know a number of people with psychiatric disabilities.
Good News: We attended the Annual Canine Convention for Autism in Montgomery sponsored by and New York State Mental Health Association and a Candlelight Vigil for Health and Wellness in Torrington, CT sponsored by Advocacy Unlimited, the NW Region of CT's Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Primetime House.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Business Honor Roll

We've decided it's time we started celebrating the very large number of businesses that treat a psychiatric service dog / handler team appropriately.  As we continue the Service Poodle Outreach/Outdoors Tour, we'll be updating this Honor Roll with more businesses and recording the successes of our return visits to places already on the Honor Roll.

Monday, May 23, 2011

We Break Murphy's Law in Our Internet Radio Debut

We made our first virtual stop on the Service Poodle Outreach/Outdoors Tour yesterday.  We had a great interview on Dog Works Radio, with Michele, a service dog trainer from Boulder, and Robert, an animal behaviorist, in Anchorage.  Literally an entire continent apart, cell phone and internet technology brought us together.  There was also a fourth participant, but he was silent.  Murphy, of Murphy's Law (everything that can go wrong will), demonstrated his presence throughout the interview without having to say a word.  However, his many attempts to hijack the interview failed.  We had a great time and it's a good show.  Listen to it and let us know what you think.

Here's what Murphy threw at us:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

As I searched for the body of my service dog . . .

She was not responding to my calls. Enough time had passed that fear of the two dogs who had bullied her into panicy flight would have subsided enough for her to seek me. She'd not been alone this long since she was 7 months old and she needed me almost as much as I needed her. I knew it was time to start combing the underbrush, looking for an unconscious or dead body.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

SPOT Update: We'll be on Dog Works Radio!

We'll be interviewed on Dog Works radio (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/dogworks) on Sunday, May 22.  This will also be available as a podcast and we'll post a link to the podcast when it becomes available.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Candlelight Vigil, Torrington CT, Wed., May 4, 2011

Candlelight Vigil for Hope and Wellness at Town Hall with one of our favorite speakers: Probate Judge Magistrali.  We'll be there with other Advocacy Unlimited people.

First Date for SPOT! Sunday, May 1, 2011, Montgomery, NY

 To kick off  the Service Poodle Outreach/Outdoors Tour, Maeve and Joanne will participate in::

See SPOT; see SPOT run

Beginning May 1, 2011, Maeve and her human, Joanne Shortell, will  formalize their campaign to educate people about the rights of people with psychiatric disabilities to emotional support animals and to service dogs,  to fight stigma, and to demonstrate the effectiveness of non-medical interventions in diminishing the symptoms of Joanne's bipolar disorder. The campaign is called SPOT -- short for Service Poodle Outreach/Outdoors Tour. Joanne and Maeve will be going to as many places as possible to talk to people about these issues. In addition,  they'll try to get outdoors as much as possible to demonstrate the positive effects of nature, exercise, and her service dog's assistance on Joanne's bipolar disorder.