Friday, March 25, 2011

More about our service dog named Tomlin

Service dog
Here are some photos of Tomlin through his growing up years. The trainer we first worked with said that some dogs don't come out of puppyhood until they are 5 years old and didn't want to raise our expectations too fast.

Service dog as a puppy
To even need a service dog you must have a qualifying medical condition that limits one or more major life activities.

Conditions like the epilepsy that my daughter and I both have, along with uncontrolled asthma and diabetes, time loss from my head injury - any one of these health challenges can be reason enough to have a service dog.

You can't just put a cape or jacket on him and introduce him to the world as a service animal.Training is specialized and requires lots and lots of practice. The dog has to be able to reliably perform tasks that help you. Training is not an overnight process.

He is not a pet and cannot be treated like one. In some ways, having a dog around is easier when it's a pet. They have to be loved, but not insured. Pets are less expensive to buy and keep healthy and require less training.
My daughter and her service dog.
We didn't have the thousands of dollars needed to obtain a pre-trained service dog. We couldn't have trained Tomlin without the help of a trainer and a friend who had a K9.

His training began on day one and will continue indefinitely. Sure, he knows the skills but they have to be practiced regularly - like solving math problems at school. Practice! Practice! Practice!

At first, we had resistance from people who questioned our need for one. The negative judgement was tough to deal with!

Society has this misconception that if there isn't a wheelchair there isn't a disability. People don't understand how debilitating epilepsy, asthma or other health challenges can be. Fortunately, the ADA guidelines help cut through some of the issues.

Tomlin can:

Pick up dropped items.
Carry items.
Sit at a curb until it is safe to cross a street.
Act as a brace to help steady you.
Go get a cordless phone.
Get another person in the household.

I have the health challenges listed above and a few others. Although originally for my daughter, Tomlin helps me too. After getting out of the hospital with pneumonia, he became my self-appointed guardian.

When I got into breathing trouble and couldn't get my nebulizer going, he "fetched" John to come from the other side of the house to help. When I dropped by water bottle, he dashed down to bring it to me.

A service dog makes life better in many ways.  For us, having the help and love that Tomlin brings is more than worth any adjustment that we have to make. I can't imagine what we would do without him.

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