Judah’s Journey- Part 1 “Finding Faith”

I have always wanted to be able to tell Judah’s story in it’s entirety but never knew how to take that story on.  I’ve decided now that it is important to just start at the beginning and go forward.  That being said this will not be a short story if I tell it that way so I will break it into sections or “chapters”, this was you can pick and choose the pieces you read or you can read installments (it also will allow me to work on each part separately so I don’t go crazy).

This is part one:                                                                                 Finding Faith

Judah’s story starts before I even knew that I needed him, it starts before he was even born.  It starts with his mother and there are only parts of this story that I know.  The SPCA Montreal Emergency Shelter (Canada) had performed a “seizure” at what was said to be a sled dog operation.  They scooped up a golden retriever, a great dane, around 23 golden/husky mixes, and one small female husky.  (Here is the link to the pictures of the other dogs from this seizure: Husky Golden Seizure )  This tiny female (35 pounds) was tied to a tree just like all the other dogs on site but there was one thing that made her stand out from the others more than her breed or size, she had only three legs.  From what I have been able to gather (from talking to the rescue where I adopted Judah and reading the facebook posts and comments from the SPCA emergency shelter page.  (Though no one from this rescue has answered e-mails and messages about this seizure.)) it was a very recent and messy amputation.  Once the dogs were removed and assessed it was discovered that this little husky girl was pregnant.  Based on her size and an x-ray it was decided there were two puppies.

This little husky was named “Ginny” (a volunteer named her after “Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Clause.”)  and it was determined that she was too far along in her pregnancy to spay her.  They then went forward in finding her a place to go and have her puppies in a safe warm and not a shelter environment.  This is when Eleven Eleven Animal Rescue in Montreal stepped up and took Ginny in.  After only 10 days at Eleven Eleven Ginny went into labor.  The people at the rescue were surprised when after two puppies, Ginny kept working!  To their surprised it wasn’t two puppies, or three puppies- there were six!  This tiny emaciated little mama had successfully kept and nourished six little puppies even in her desperate condition.  All six pups were in good health and Ginny was a champion, taking it all in stride and meeting all her pups needs.

Ginny with her litter (the sixth pup is in between her back legs).

Don’t forget that Ginny, pregnant with six puppies, weighed in at 35 pounds.  Post puppy Ginny’s prefect weight worked out to be around 40 pounds.  This is absolutely amazing to me all in itself, what a determined and loving mama!  These puppies were then nurtured by their mother and the loving hands of those working with Eleven Eleven.  These amazing people understand the human animal bond and also understand that sometimes the best thing a person can do is step back and let them be taught by their own kind.  I find this amazing group of people to be an incredible force, they love and never judge these animals for what they are or where they came from.

Now as this story is unfolding in Canada I had my own story unfolding here in New Hampshire.  I had spent the last year in an on again off again relationship that when it was good was the best thing I had ever had and when it was bad broke my heart into millions of pieces.  I am not an easy one to get a handle on, and I am definitely one to allow myself to be open.  This man had worked very hard for a long time to gain my trust and convince me that it was safe to fall in love with him.  As I saw it, as soon as I gave in and stopped fighting- he ran.  After all the work that he had put in, all the time and patience it took to get me to even consider the possibility of a real relationship, then after all the work it took after that to make me fall in love, how could he just run?  I am not a confident person- at least not when it comes to my self worth, my value as a partner in a relationship.  This man had pushed me to find myself and become a part of this relationship and when he ran I was crushed.  If he couldn’t love me after being willing to do all that work… what was I supposed to do?  After some time had gone by and I hadn’t been able to move on my friends were tired of hearing about it, and tired of watching me fall apart.  I made a decision, I needed motivation.  Not the kind of motivation that took my own initiative but the kind that was bigger than me.  I needed someone to depend on me with no other choice for love and life.  I needed a dog.  I’ve lived with dogs my entire life, even when I was away at boarding school and college dogs lived in my dorms and I was always borrowing them for walks and bonding time.

The search was on, and knowing that I wanted a puppy and a challenge I went online to petfinder.com to find exactly what I wanted.  After weeks of searching and never being totally struck by any dog I was beginning to think perhaps the universe was telling me I wasn’t ready.  Then one day I came across a cluster of pictures of two week old husky puppies.  I knew it!  I’d found them, the exact thing that I needed.  I wanted a high drive breed that would challenge me and force me to work hard and be present, and we all know a husky fits that bill.  I have a lot of experience training dogs and knew that I wanted to work for it this time.  There were six tiny little puppies on this sight, only one of which did not have at least one blue eye.  My favorite characteristic of the Siberian Husky is the amazing blue eyes, that being said there was something strange attracting me to this little brown eyed boy, he looked so different from the rest of his siblings.

This is the picture that made me fall in love!

This is where the work began- now I had to find out if they would adopt to me (in another country), and whether they would consider me a fit home for this little guy.  So the emails began.

After many emails back and forth I was informed that they did in fact do adoptions to the United States and that it would be possible as long as I could convince them that I was prepared and knowledgeable.  After more emails and references,  talk about training methods and beliefs, adoption applications and me moving (the place I was living in at the time had a dog that was not totally dog friendly) I was approved!  There wasn’t a whole lot of time to get him over the border before I would have to wait until after all his vaccines were completed.  Well I certainly didn’t want to wait!  I filed for a passport card, expedited it and paid my adoption fee.  I bought oodles of toys (I was working at an awesome specialty pet supply store at the time) a crate, chews, treats, collars and leashes, and a bed.  I was ready for my little man and we made plans for me to pick him up once my passport came in.  I was on my way to my new motivation- thank goodness!  I was finding my hope, my heart and my faith.

Part 2

Service Dog Etiquette- for them and you.

I often am questioned or at least indirectly questioned about whether my service dog is legitimate or not.  I will now declare this for all to see, he IS in fact a “real” service dog.  He is a medical alert dog that tracks my blood sugar and alerts me when it is too high or too low.  He does this through scent, for training samples we use saliva samples.  When I have a low or high glucose I put cotton makeup squares or cotton balls in my mouth and then keep the samples in empty test strip vials and freeze them.  I use vials that I have not been reaching into, I dump the strips into a reused vial and keep the fresh ones clean for samples.

That being said, I do understand that because I have no visible disability that people will be skeptical and it doesn’t help that Judah is not your typical looking SD.  He is a mixed breed and is predominantly husky, not exactly the average retriever type.  What gets me more than anything is that even after answering the ADA approved questions (Is that a Service Animal?  What tasks is he trained to perform?) people are still very full of doubt, and it usually very obvious.  Now sure, the law limits a business owners ability to clearly root out imposters in the SD world, but the true tell is the animals behavior and how the handler deals with those behaviors.  Judah is an “owner trained” SD, this means he didn’t come out of a program, I trained him myself.  This is also a reason that I can be met with resistance, even by other SD handlers.  A lot of people think that an owner trained dog is a pet in disguise, this is simply not the case.  I am not saying that it doesn’t happen, because it does, but I have 3 dogs- only one is a SD.  I have no reason to lie just to bring one of my dogs with me, just to leave the others behind.  And the truth is, any SD handler will tell you, it is not convenient to bring your dog everywhere you go.

Bringing a SD with you is a lot of work and responsibility.  You have to remember your dog, his gear, water, bowls, poop bags, food,  towel (for rainy days) and you have to be prepared to be challenged in your simple daily tasks.  Though the ADA has been in place for over 20 years there are still plenty of people and business owners out there that don’t know the laws and don’t know anything about SDs other than for the blind.  You have to constantly educate, deal with questions, staring, rude people, scared people, rude kids, loud kids, skeptics, and idiots.  You have to be ready to protect your dog from being stepped on, hit (yes people actually do that), or otherwise hurt (perhaps by glass on the ground etc.).  For some of us this is a necessary evil for us to be able to operate independently.  So when in doubt observe before you decide:

1. Attention:  While the level of attention that a dog needs for it owner to perform it’s tasks vary any service dog should not be engaging actively with the people around it.  Some dogs need to be observant of their surroundings it’s their job!  PTSD dogs are trained for veterans and help to take that soldier off of high alert.  They do this by taking the need to scout from the person, they will make sure their handler knows when people approach, helps to keep people out of their space etc.  These dogs look like they are scouting around- because they are, that is their task.  In my case, Judah often observes the surroundings but is not permitted to scout around, he isn’t doing his job when he does that he is looking for something to be distracted by.  Any dog labeled a SD that is reaching out to people, barking or growling (unprovoked), snapping, tasting things, excessively sniffing at things, is either in training or not a SD.

2. Closeness:  Most SDs perform their tasks immediately to the side of their handler.  I say most because a lot of mobility assistance dogs need some distance to perform their tasks, like retrieving dropped items, pulling a wheel chair etc.  A dog that wanders away from the handler, or is constantly a the end of their tether, pulling from one place to the next (with the exception of mobility, vision and balance assist dogs) not typically a SD.

3. The nose knows:  Judah uses his nose in the performance of his job, so his sniffer is often seen working (we knew he had a great nose from the beginning).  He is not permitted however to excessively sniff at his surroundings, he can’t reach out and touch/sniff closely at things in stores or people.  He is a SD, an extension of my being, I don’t go around sniffing and sneezing on everything, neither will he.  At the grocery store he isn’t allowed to “troll” while we go down the aisles or by the meat case.  He does have one area in the grocery store that presents a challenge for him and it’s not what you would think.  He has the most difficulty with the produce section, particularly sweet potatoes.  In this situation I keep an extra eye on him and usually keep him in a down while we are stopped in the produce section, conditioning him to do this on his own.

4. Friendly but not social: SD are generally dogs with very nice and personable dispositions.  This does not mean that they should be seeking out the attention of passers by while they are on the clock.  They should not reach out to be petted, lick people as they go by or otherwise seek out attention.  If attention is given to them they should be friendly but not lose their attentiveness to their handler or leave their working state of mind.

5. Handling: A true SD handler is aware of their dog and is constantly communicating (not always verbally) with their partner.  They work to keep their dog out of the way and try to blend into any situation (as much as you can with a dog in tow).  They don’t draw extra attention to the fact that their dog is in the store.  They will hold the dog accountable for his behavior and either correct or redirect behaviors that are not appropriate.  They know that strict standards that they and their partners must live up to so as not to make it more difficult for the next team that comes through.  They are (or at least should be) respectful of the people around them.  We don’t want to punish you because we require a little extra hand (or paw).  I make an honest effort to recognize if people are made uncomfortable by Judah’s presence and to try and give the extra space when I can, I also don’t expect any special treatment because of my service dog.  I don’t expect to be the exception to a rule or policy that is standard procedure (unless it’s an access issue or the safety of my dog).

Now how should you behave around a SD you ask?  Well you bet I have some suggestions!

1. Talk to me and not my dog:  Judah and I are a unit, we are one being that needs to be whole to live life.  While Judah does have his own identity and I do respect the dog in him, when we are in public- he is working and he is me.  I HATE when people talk to my SD, read the vest people, “DO NOT DISTRACT I’M WORKING”.  It happens often that people approach and start cooing and talking to Judah without ever even looking at me. Seriously?!  People pet him, talk to him, make kiss kiss noises, coo, and a slew of other rude and inappropriate interactions.  Talk to me, the half of the team that shares your species and language.  I’m the one who can tell you his name, what he does and any other silly questions you feel the need to ask the dog.  Yes, staring at my dog and catching his eye is just as bad as talking to him or reaching out to touch.

2.  Respect my privacy, please:  Most often I am very willing to answer people’s questions about my very special guy, but don’t expect all SD handlers to want to take the time every time.  We are just like you!  So sometimes we are in a hurry, having a bad day, not feeling well, or maybe our dog is having a bad day (yes it happens for them too).  Also keep in mind that the more you drill me about my SD the more personal (medical) information you are asking for.  I am most often drilled about what kind of SD Judah is (I assume because people look at me and I appear fine) and people often are not satisfied with the answer of “He’s a medical alert dog”.  As a dog person I understand the curiosity and excitement but I have also never inquired about someone’s SD before.  I know that by having a SD I have an attractive nuisance all the time, but I still have the right to be as normal as possible.

3. Don’t pet the dog:  Service dogs are working, often they are the difference between no life at all and a full life of everything you want.  When you distract them from their job you are taking them off task, changing them from their working state of mind and putting their handler at risk.  It is important that you understand that, these dogs are very special and they are a lifeline.  Every time you reach out and pet a SD without permission you are causing harm that you can’t even see.  You are working against all the hard work and training of this team, you are interfering with this dog performing his tasks necessary for his partner and you are breaking the law.  It may seem harmless but when a SD is working it is important that they remain focused, for the health and safety of everyone.

4.  Don’t make assumptions:  Just because I don’t look disabled doesn’t mean that you should assume that I am lying about the validity of my SD.  We are TOTALLY compliant with the ADA and Judah’s public access is very good and appropriate.  My disability is responsible for killing millions of people and they didn’t look sick until it was too late.  There are A LOT of short and long term complications to diabetes.  I am a type 1 diabetic, it is an autoimmune disorder (nothing I could have done to prevent it) and will forever plague the rest of my life.  There are SD for many “hidden” disabilities as well as the more “obvious”.  There are medical alert dogs that alert to blood sugar fluctuations, seizures, migraines, blood pressure problems, panic attacks, and many other conditions.  SD are also trained to help people with autism, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, anxiety disorders, psychiatric conditions, allergies, and more.  This is in addition to the more well known service dogs; guide dogs for the blind, alert dogs for the deaf, balance assist dogs for people with neurological and degenerative conditions, mobility assistance dogs for people with walkers, canes and wheel chairs, etc.

Shit People Say To Service Dog Handlers     I found this video on youtube and I’ve loved it ever since, it just shows the kinds of things we deal with being a SD team.

Don’t forget that you can’t always know the truth just by looking, but you can probably find out more by observing.  When in doubt ask, as service dog as defined by the ADA is:

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

*from http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT

SERVICE ANIMALS IN PLACES OF BUSINESS

1. Q: What are the laws that apply to my business?

A: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.

2. Q: What is a service animal?

A: The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

_ Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.

_ Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.

_ Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.

A service animal is not a pet.

3. Q: How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?

A: Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. However, an individual who is going to a restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, such documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. Although a number of states have programs to certify service animals, you may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.

4. Q: What must I do when an individual with a service animal comes to my business?

A: The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.

5. Q: I have always had a clearly posted “no pets” policy at my establishment. Do I still have to allow service animals in?

A: Yes. A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires you to modify your “no pets” policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. This does not mean you must abandon your “no pets” policy altogether but simply that you must make an exception to your general rule for service animals.

6. Q: My county health department has told me that only a guide dog has to be admitted. If I follow those regulations, am I violating the ADA?

A: Yes, if you refuse to admit any other type of service animal on the basis of local health department regulations or other state or local laws. The ADA provides greater protection for individuals with disabilities and so it takes priority over the local or state laws or regulations.

7. Q: Can I charge a maintenance or cleaning fee for customers who bring service animals into my business?

A: No. Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition to allowing a service animal to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets. However, a public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities if a service animal causes damage so long as it is the regular practice of the entity to charge non-disabled customers for the same types of damages. For example, a hotel can charge a guest with a disability for the cost of repairing or cleaning furniture damaged by a service animal if it is the hotel’s policy to charge when non-disabled guests cause such damage.

8. Q: I operate a private taxicab and I don’t want animals in my taxi; they smell, shed hair and sometimes have “accidents.” Am I violating the ADA if I refuse to pick up someone with a service animal?

A: Yes. Taxicab companies may not refuse to provide services to individuals with disabilities. Private taxicab companies are also prohibited from charging higher fares or fees for transporting individuals with disabilities and their service animals than they charge to other persons for the same or equivalent service.

9. Q: Am I responsible for the animal while the person with a disability is in my business?

A: No. The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of his or her owner. You are not required to provide care or food or a special location for the animal.

10. Q: What if a service animal barks or growls at other people, or otherwise acts out of control?

A: You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on your past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually.

Although a public accommodation may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises.

11. Q: Can I exclude an animal that doesn’t really seem dangerous but is disruptive to my business?

A: There may be a few circumstances when a public accommodation is not required to accommodate a service animal–that is, when doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business. Generally, this is not likely to occur in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities. But when it does, for example, when a dog barks during a movie, the animal can be excluded.

If you have further questions about service animals or other requirements of the ADA, you may call the U.S. Department of Justice’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

*http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm

Something else to remember is that there is no certification or registration process for service dogs.  People who carry Service Dog IDs (unless they are from the training program) are generally not real SDs.  People who carry their plastic Service Dog ID listing them as “certified service dogs” have gone onto the internet and paid fees for this ID, they are not required to prove they are a SD team or prove legitimacy of the dogs ability to perform their “tasks”.  This ID does not make them a valid team, behavior and the reaction to questions are generally the most telling way to know.  There is no certification for Service Dogs.  There is usually a penalty under the law (state by state) for misrepresenting a pet as a SD, but this is a civil law so there needs to be accusation and then a trial before penalty can be put into place.

I hope this has answered questions and educated a little more on the world of Service Dogs.  Please feel free to ask any questions you have!

Umphrey’s McGee, Dancing Hippies and Beer

Last night (Saturday November 3rd) we attended the Umphrey’s McGee (known from here on as UM) show at the State Theater in Portland (Maine).  This is the second time I have seen UM, the other time also being at the same venue, and I had NOT been diagnosed yet.  I haven’t been “out” very many times since being diagnosed and only the second time we’ve gone out to a music event.  The first event was much smaller at a bar venue rather than a concert hall and we were sitting at a table that even had a long table cloth on it.  It was a much simpler situation than the one I presented Judah with last night.  (I will try to do some back blogging (I just made that up!) to give more back ground information on Judah and how he has gotten to where he is today but I think I am going to try and blog new experiences as soon as possible also.  I am new at this so try and stick with me if you are interested in our adventures!)  I also am still new enough to the Service Dog (known from here on as SD) community that I get nervous about possible access issues when we are going some where that I REALLY don’t want to have to walk away from.  The truth is that I have only ever had a true issue at one place and I should not be so concerned but I worry about things!  Add to this that we were running very late (not even our fault, for once) so I was concerned about needing to rush through the doors and being held up about the service dog at a big show.  I knew that he was capable of doing this, otherwise I never would have considered it, but I also knew that the odds of things going wrong was higher because of the situation.  Live (loud) music, a lot of people, drinks (and other concert recreational activities), people he knows, people he doesn’t know, normally none of these things would concern me but all together in force… I mean only one way to find out!  To add to it all Marshall’s phone died and he had forgotten his charger before we even got half way there.

Neither Marshall or I are terribly familiar with Portland and we both HATE driving in the “city”, which is really anything with too many traffic lights and grid pattern streets.  We are really just more comfortable where animals out number people and you can’t see your neighbors house, sorry city folks, I’m sure you feel the same way about being out here in the “woods”.  So as we were running terribly late and driving with no navigation or communication into the unknown landscape of Portland, Maine tensions were running high.  We were both anxious (the coffee I had pounded had given me terrible jitters, proof, Marshall says, that I am getting old…) and we were driving aimlessly it seemed and getting nowhere fast.  After asking for directions several times in a period of fifteen minutes we finally got ourselves onto Congress Street and fell upon the same parking garage we had parked in the last time we went to this venue.  We hurried to a parking spot and grabbed tickets, IDs, and I of course grabbed my kit (insulin, glucose meter and all the fixings), and my SD.

We hustled down the sidewalk and I tried many times to get Judah to “do his thing”, if you know what I mean, but he is also a country guy and the idea of going to the bathroom out in the open is appalling to him.  After some coxing I was able to get him to pee on a small area with a little tree and some ground cover plants surrounded by wood chips then sidewalk.  I left out the best part, there were lights surrounding it pointing at the tree, so of course Judah’s wonderful satellite dish ears caught the edge of the light being cast up and drew just enough attention to make people laugh at him, which always makes him happy, but also makes him not want to go the bathroom anymore.  Judah is very private, he doesn’t like being watched when he goes to the bathroom, he can deal if he really has to pee but poop-no way, not without at least a bush to stuff his butt into.  I was secretly excited that he opted out of the public poop because I had no way to pick it up, forgot the bags in the car… stupid human.  I was worried that he would ask to go out during the show however, there policy is once you go out you can’t go back in.  All of our friends that heard me voice concern about it said they would probably let me back in because he was a SD and had to go out, but I really don’t think it would have been fair if they had.  That’s another topic for another day though- thankfully Judah is amazing and never asked to go to the bathroom.

After crossing the street toward the entrance to the theater I started hearing the whispers, “Look a dog”, “Is that dog going to UM?”, “Are they going to bring that dog inside?”  Now I have a general policy when dealing with big crowds and my SD, I don’t look at people’s faces.  This helps me to not be concerned about peoples reactions, and helps to cut the number of invasive questions way down.  I know that Judah picks up on my energy and it’s important that when I bring him into a new situation that I make sure he feels confident and secure.  So I tried to calm my concerns about being hassled at the door as we weaved our way through the crowd in front of the theater.  As we made it to the door one of the doormen scanning tickets smiled and reached out to scan the two tickets in Marshall’s hands, he opened the door and we were in!  Thank goodness!  That was out of the way, after getting our wrist bands for the bar we headed further inside into the crowds of concert goers.  I continued hearing the surprised whispers, gasps and coos of people who weren’t expecting to see a dog in their adventures on that night.  I made my way to the bathroom and found that the ladies room downstairs had a HUGE handicapped bathroom, that is actually a room all it’s own and not a stall.  PERFECT.  It was the perfect place for us to have a minute in relative quiet so I could really get a feel for how he was feeling and where his head was at.  I went pee (sorry for the detail but it’s important to the story!) and Judah came over and bumped my knees.  This is Judah’s signal that “something is up”, so I asked “What is it?”  Well Judah swung a foot up onto my lap (signal for high blood sugar), I couldn’t help but laugh.

Let me be honest I was NOT expecting Judah to alert at all in this environment, not his first time out.  I intended on focusing on the behavior aspect for the evening, teaching him to deal with all the chaos he would be experiencing.  So, when he gave such an obvious and clear alert I was surprised.  I washed my hands and checked my sugar, 150 mg/dl.  Ten points higher than it is supposed to be, not a bad alert at all.  I chose not to give insulin because I figured once the show started all the stimulation would bring me back down into range.  I made my way out of the bathroom and met Marshall out in the hall way, he had the same reaction as I did when I told him about Judah’s alert, he laughed and told him he was a good boy.  We made our way upstairs to the balcony seating area.  Thinking back to the last time we were at this venue we had decided it would be the best area to watch from as it tends to have fewer people and a little more space with aisles and seating on a couple different levels.  We made our way up the stairs and found our way to some seats right on the aisle after wondering around a bit.  Before we sat down we had our first (and really the only) encounter of the night that didn’t go perfectly.  Judah was perfect of course but a man (who had clearly been enjoying his night a lot already) jumped up and came over.  He reached out and began to pet Judah while asking what it is that he did as a service dog.  In all reality that wasn’t bad at all, but he did pet my service dog without asking… we were at a concert- I say forgiven.  We sat down and Judah tucked himself under our seats.  I found that most of the excited concert goers walking by were completely unaware of the fact that he was even there, this was looking better and better the longer we were there.

When the lights came up and the crowd started screaming Judah sat up and looked around, he was panting a little and I started to get a little concerned.  When the music started and the lights (UM always has a great light show) started moving around the room Judah started to watch them.  He made it through the first few minutes and the panting was continuing so I brought him out into the hallway thinking that he was stressing out.  He has heard plenty of live music before but nothing this loud or on this scale, and of course UM started off hard, loud and proud.  Once we went out in the hall and I had some light and a little more space to asses where he was at that moment I realized he wasn’t nervous at all!  He was hot, he’s a husky or course he was hot!  The difference with Judah is very clear, he is extremely expressive and doesn’t hide his feelings well.  If he was bothered I would have known once I got him into the light of the hallway.  We had come from outside which was barely 40 degrees into this building full of people, he needed time to adjust to the temperature, we headed back to our seats and he had stop panting before the second song was even over.  It wasn’t long before he was back to laying down half under our chairs poking out into the aisles a little bit.  We just tried to make sure that he was never sticking out more than our own legs were.

(This isn’t my video but it is from the show we were at in Portland at the State Theater.)

As people walked, ran, danced and flew (if you know what I mean) by us I began to get more and more comfortable with the situation.  Before long I was dancing in my seat (and out of it even) and Judah never left his spot under the seats.  A friend brought Marshall and I each a beer (IPA I couldn’t say no) and more of our friends found us up on the balcony and began to congregate.  My friends expressed a lot of excitement and even seemingly pride in the fact that I had my service dog (who they have all known since he was a puppy) at this concert and that EVERYONE was being so appropriate about him.  I wasn’t sure how they would all react.  I hadn’t had any great talks with any of them about Judah being a working dog now, we just went for it.  I was so happy that they were so supportive.  I have never been much of a drinker but since being diagnosed I am a one drink wonder for sure. As people moved around and beer was spilled on me, Judah and the floor, Judah decided his new service would be clean up man.  Marshall even let him have a few laps of his beer… drinking on the job!

After probably 3/4 of my beer the intermission came, I poured the rest into Marshall’s glass and Judah and I headed to get some water.  Of course by this time there was a lot more movement in the hall way, people were heading to the bathrooms and bar in droves at this point.  We wove through the crowd in hopes of slipping into the bathroom so I could rinse and fill my beer cup with water.  The line of ladies coming out of the bathroom was kind enough to let us slip through to the sink.  As I filled my cup a woman on the phone next to the sink made the observation, “Oh there’s a dog here, oh he’s a service dog!”  I smiled and headed back into the hallway.

I found a place next to a small table in the hall to place the cup on the floor and let Judah have at it.  I was approached by a young man who asked if he could pet Judah, I told him yes.  *Now on a side note, my answer it not always yes, there is a lot to consider making that decision.  In fact when we first made it through the door a man had tried to pet him and I asked that he not do that.  It is completely based on Judah’s focus, state of mind and the particular situation we are in.  Marshall had told me earlier in the night that he thought I should have a little leeway with the rules tonight (as long as Judah was behaving) because we were at a show and well, everyone deserved a little fun.  I was skeptical of the idea at first but seeing Judah performing perfectly I decided there was nothing wrong with that idea.*  As the guy knelt next to Judah we shared a conversation and I explained what Judah does and how he was taking the whole experience.  As we continued our conversation I explained that I was given a great deal of freedom back when Judah started alerting me to fluctuations in my blood sugar.  That’s when he told me that he had a friend who had been in a car accident because of a hypoglycemic attack she had while driving, then he smiled, looked at Judah and said, “She needs a friend like you!”  Turns out the girl in the bathroom on the phone was this guys girlfriend, so we waited for her to come out so she could meet Judah too.

After the first cup of water I went and filled it again just to be sure he had all he needed.  While he drank some more he made a great deal more friends most walking away explaining what he does to their friends with great excitement.  When we heard the music start again we rushed back to our seats.  Marshall asked where I had been, and I explained we were educating!  For most of the second set I stood, dancing and enjoying the amazing show (second set was definitely better).  Judah laid in front of me under a hand rail again, tucked totally out of the way and went largely unnoticed.  After about half of the second set Judah began alerting again, high.  At first I wanted to wait until we left to check and deal with it but Judah wouldn’t take that as acceptable.  He began to alert Marshall and even tried alerting the event staff that was standing near to us.  I finally sat down and checked, by then it was 217- damn.  Then I realized that I had forgotten to take my Lantus (long acting insulin), so we took a trip to the bathroom and I gave myself my dose.  Even then Judah seemed bothered and continued to periodically remind me that my sugar was in fact still too high.  As the encore started Marshall and I knew we had to head out to get to the garage before they closed.  We gathered ourselves up and said goodbye to our friends.  We headed downstairs and out the door where we ran into a couple of Judah’s “friends” he had made throughout the night and they all wanted to say goodbye.  We briefly made friends with another shepherd mix on the sidewalk and then headed to the garage.  We got there just as some of our other friends were pulling out.  As I surveyed the garage there was no one else around so I took of Judah’s vest and collar thinking he would want to run around a little bit after all that seriousness.  I tried to get him excited and send him off toward the car.  He just shook, trotted to the car and sat down at the door.

He slept the ENTIRE way home, and it was a PERFECT ending to the night, I would say that it was definitely a successful night!

An A++ to the State Theater in Portland, Maine for accessibility for me and my service dog!

An A++ to all the concert goers that night too, thank you all so much for being respectful and kind!

I can’t wait until our next grand adventure!