Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Sick Day in the Life of a Service Dog

Our free dispersed camping site
I found myself suddenly wide awake this morning at 3 a.m. That rarely happens to me unless I'm well into hypomania, yet I had no other symptoms at all. Maeve was absolutely quiet and still curled up in the driver's seat as usual.  I tried all my tricks to get back to sleep to no avail. At 4:30 I gave up. As soon as I started to move, Maeve came over to my bed and stared at me. She needed out--more than four hours earlier than usual. Once I got her outside it became obvious she was ill. I couldn't believe she'd been able to wait for me. We spend the next hour and a half going in and out of the van -- often in a BIG hurry. I think I actually sensed Maeve's silent distress and woke up because of it. I only wish I'd gotten up right away.

Contrary to all the assumptions about psychiatric service dogs, Maeve and I don't have a Mommy/Baby, cuddly relationship. We're tightly bonded, but not lovey-dovey. Today was an exception. By the time the sun
came up, the stomach distress was slowing down. It was in the forties and it was clear we couldn't go anywhere yet. I turned on the heat and shared my sleeping bag with her. Both of us slept pressed up against one another for the next two hours.

When we're on the road and she's sick it means we cancel all her work, cut down on our driving, make frequent rest stops, and find a quiet, private campsite to wait it out. Cancelling work isn't as benign as it sounds.  Some things get cancelled altogether, like our reservation for the ranger program on a pontoon boat. Others can't be cancelled easily. I needed some groceries and I really didn't want to stay in the campground where we were for another night.

You might guess that I suffer a bit grocery shopping without Maeve. We're normally like twins co-joined at the leash -- we're almost never apart for more than 10 minutes. Grocery shopping without Maeve takes me longer than usual, even though there's no one starting conversations with me about her and her hair. I'm disorganized, distracted, and just-below-the-surface anxiety makes me crave food I don't usually buy or eat. I wander the aisles alternatively looking for goodies and trying to talk myself out of buying them. I waste a lot of time and ultimately lose the battle big-time.

Maeve suffers as well. Even though she's clearly not feeling well, she's upset that she's not going shopping and I'm going without her. Maeve has gone with me to probably more than a thousand stores across the U.S. and she loves it. She knows what a store parking lot looks like. She bangs her front paws against the van door when I leave and gives me "the look" when I finally return. Once we're on the road, she's clearly relieved at each rest stop when I take her leash and ask if she wants to go with me, even if she doesn't need the break.

We were supposed to spend the night in a National Park Service campground, but they're often high-density and full of distractions and stressors for a dog. In the NPS campground yesterday and again last night we were charged by a deer which had clearly lost all fear of dogs and people. It happened again this morning during one of Maeve's emergency trips outside.

I broke out the Gunnison National Forest map and we headed for an area that allowed dispersed camping (free camping off the side of a dirt road). We find a great site in an alpine meadow. There's no requirement that Maeve be on a leash so I can leave the van door open to let her come and go at will. We have no neighbors. I get a view that can't be beat (see photo) and it's sunny and 69 degrees because of the high elevation.What a great place to take a break and let her recuperate.

Joanne Shortell, Maeve's Service Human

servicehuman@servicepoodle.com
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call us using "call Maeve and Joanne" at http://www.servicepoodle.com/contact-us

Joanne Shortell, Maeve's Service Human We would LOVE to speak to your group free of charge



Joanne and Maeve (her psychiatric service poodle) help people with psychiatric disabilities discover their rights to emotional support animals in no-pets housing without pet deposits or pet fees and their rights to service dogs

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