Judah’s Journey Part 4 “Living Love”

This is part 4 of Judah’s Journey:                                   Living Love

Judah and I have been connected since the first day I brought him home.  He has trusted me in every situation he’s been in and I trust that he will always respond to me the way he should.  He was with me through a terrible broken heart, job changes, moving (and being homeless for a short time), new love and everything in between.  I always said that I love him more than anything but we didn’t have the closeness that I had experienced with my childhood dog, a big chocolate lab named Dakota.  Well little did I know that Judah had just been waiting for his opportunity to prove his devotion to me above all others.  Oh boy did he.

Here is where my diagnosis story should be inserted. (See my first post “Hello World” for my Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosis story)  After getting out of the hospital and going threw a lot of education and doctors appointments I was beginning to feel overwhelmed.  This is a lot to take in for everyone it happens to, I was lost and scared to be honest.  I had found part time employment at the local grocery store, I had worked there throughout my college years and my old boss was glad to take me on again.  I certainly wasn’t my dream job but we were struggling to live on a single income, especially through the cold winter months.  I can’t remember when exactly it started but about four months or so after diagnosis my glucose levels finally started to even out.  I was having fewer and less extreme spikes (though I was still struggling) and learning what it took to keep some semblance of control.  It was like the light was finally coming back.  Finally it was like I was getting some control back.

One very early morning I was woken up by Judah laying down on my chest.  He put his face right in mine and started pushing his head down on me until I got up out of bed.  This is a dog who doesn’t like to sleep on the bed (he doesn’t like sharing body heat it makes him too warm) and who certainly doesn’t jump up without being invited.  So I thought he was sick, I got up and went to the front door to let him out, he wouldn’t go.  This is another odd behavior for Judah, he always wants to go out, no matter the time or weather.  I invited him out, told him to go out, and even tried to coax him with a promise of play, nothing.  He just stood in the doorway looking at me.  Judah is very expressive, you can see his mind working right on his face, he’s always been like that.  He looked confused and stressed, I didn’t get it.  I offered him water and food, still nothing.  So I gave up and went back to bed, I mean it was 4 AM!  Judah spent the rest of the morning in bed laying on my legs staring at me.

This pattern continued for two weeks, nearly every morning around 4 AM Judah would jump up on the bed and demand that I wake up.  When it got to the point that I was ready to lock him out of the bed room at night so I could sleep a whole night through.  One of these mornings Marshall looked at me and said, “Why don’t you check your sugar?  I just don’t know what else his problem could be.”  I laughed.  I mean come on, I knew that there were alert dogs out there for diabetics but that’s with loads of training, right?  Well I checked and I won’t ever forget it, 275 mg/dl- whoa.
Could this really be happening?  Is he really that smart?  No way.  Well next morning, same thing, he wakes me up and I check, really high.  Well this springs me into action, time for some research!

I of course went to the trusty old internet.  Here I learned all about diabetic alert dog programs across the country and how their dogs save peoples lives, it’s beautiful and inspirational the bonds these teams share.  Then I found a youtube video about a lady in England who’s yorkie was alerting her to severe drops in blood sugar before her monitor could even pick them up.  This little yorkie had no formal training to be able to do this, he just knew something was wrong.  Alright!  So I’m not crazy, or at least this isn’t what qualifies me as crazy.  I continued my research and tried to reach out to people who could help me understand this more.  The research went on for a long time before I finally got a response from someone, a lady (who wishes to remain unnamed) that said she would give me a crash course in the scent training portion of this training.  She explained to me that the public access part of training a service dog is the most time consuming part and that the scent training was similar to most scent training.  (Please keep in mind, she only agreed to help after lots of e-mails back and forth confirming that I was in fact disabled, that my dog was in fact trained and socialized and that I was capable of taking on this project.  She did not offer up this information to just anyone who came calling, I explained that I was an uninsured diabetic with experience training dogs and a good head on my shoulders.)

Judah and I had done some scent training when he was younger because I intended to train him for search and rescue, so the principal wasn’t new to him.  Now instead of teaching basic scent discrimination I would train him to look for one specific scent all the time.  I was a process and as we went through it I learned that Judah was way ahead of me on the learning curve.  Our knew favorite phrase in the house became “stupid human” because Judah would alert and I wouldn’t realize what he was doing (yes he was doing it right, I was just clueless).  He picked up the scent training within the first few training sessions, before I knew it he was alerting on the regular, it was amazing.  I then returned to my work at the resort working on the recreation program as the assistant director, it was time to put Judah to work.  I knew this was the perfect setting for him to learn in because he was familiar with the place and all the staff we would be dealing with.  Plus auntie Beth worked with us!

This is Judah working hard, keeping an eye on me while I am teaching water skiing at the lake. If I remember correctly he alerted to a high sugar, I gave insulin and he refused to go back to his bed until my sugar came back down. So he decided to “hide” behind the skis to keep watch on me. Sunset Beach, Purity Spring Resort, East Madison, NH

The truth is that Judah isn’t the one that needed to be trained in this situation.  He has always understood that when I’m working he is supposed to hang out, the only difference now was that he had his own job to do while hanging out.  He was a pro from day one, though I did find that when we first started the scent training he became more sensitive to strong odors for a while.  He would react strangely to freshly applied sunscreen and things of that nature.  After a short time he moved passed that and began to realize that these were not the things he needed to put his nose to work on.  The real ones that needed training were me and my co-workers.  Most of these people had known Judah for most of his life and it was hard for them to see him as a working dog.  It was a change in relationship that everyone had to get used to, including me and Beth.  I think it was harder for her than anyone, she was he second mom and it was hard for her to see him as a tool while he was working.  After some time everyone fell into stride and realized how important Judah’s job was to me.

Well needless to say Judah has proven his ability to take care of me.  He now alerts to both high and low blood sugars and can catch fluctuations before they even register on my meter.  There are times when he alerts and my meter reads that I am perfect so I think he’s wrong, then in fifteen minutes he’ll alert again and I will have dropped or spiked to an extreme.  It has taken some time for me to realize that I can trust him, and that he is right.  It still amazes me every time he does it, which is everyday (with very few exceptions).  He will retrieve my “kit” which holds my testing supplies and insulin and he knows how to get me juice from my purse if he has to.  He is extremely persistent, and will not take no for an answer.  I he tells me to check and I don’t he will continue to harass me or even begin to alert the people around me (which can be awkward if I don’t know them).  He has also gone so far as to force treatment upon me.

One day while my co-workers and I were setting up the climbing wall in preparation for the scheduled activity Judah alerted to a low blood sugar.  I checked and he was right (of course) and in the process of praising him Beth asked me a question.  I walked off to answer her question completely spaced that I needed to correct the low glucose.  Well Judah got up from his “place” and tried to come over to me again, I sassed him and sent him back to his place.  He followed my command and as soon as his belly hit the ground he was back up and coming over again.  Well again I corrected him, sending him back to his place.  After several of these interactions he got up again and ignored my command to go lay down.  He proceeded to rummage through my bag until he found my juice bottle.  He pulled it out, brought it over, dropped it at my feet and before I even realized what happened he was back on his place with his eyes closed.  Well even Beth was shocked and proud of our little man!  I have heard this process called “intelligent disobedience”, meaning that they intentionally disobey you to do their job.  I was told that this is the hardest thing to train into them.  Well as soon as Judah realized what his new job was he had that from day one (he has been waiting his whole life to be right all the time!)

People often ask if he will alert to other people’s glucose levels.  The answer is he has.  The first time was right when he first started working with me and it wasn’t a clear alert but he was clearly distressed.  We went to the “main office” to check in on a schedule change and visit with the office ladies, and there was only one lady working at the time.  She was also a diabetic and we often spoke about our health and disease together.  I gave permission for Judah to go and greet her (we say “go visit” for his social release command, he knows he is still working but will interact with people actively) and he sat down in front of her and just stared.  I made an observation about how strange he was being a few minutes later and she laughed.  She told me her sugar had been high all day and asked if perhaps he was alerting to her, at the time I wasn’t sure but now looking back on how his alerting has evolved I would say with confidence that he was.  The other time I have had Judah alert was in a Wal Mart standing in line at the pharmacy.  I was in line behind a old lady who asked me about Judah, she was kind and respectful of not distracting him so I explained what he does and how he came to be my SD.  While we were having our conversation Judah kept getting up (he was in a down stay) and trying to walk behind me in line.  After correcting him repeatedly he began to show me obvious signs of being stressed.  I asked “What is it?” (our signal for him to distinguish between a high or low) and he tried to get up and walk away again.  After voicing my surprise at his behavior a woman from behind me in line came around to my side.  She said, “I’m sorry but I overheard you explaining what your dog does to that lady and I think I know why he was getting up.  My daughter is diabetic and she just had a hypoglycemic attack.”  I looked back at her place in line and in her cart was a tiny little girl.  I couldn’t believe that, really?  “Well, good low Judah.  Good boy!”  Now this is what he was looking for!  He wagged his tail and then settled back into his spot.  The lady smiled and said, “He’s amazing.”  All I could reply was, “He’s a special boy.”  And he is!

Judah and I finally found our connection, he couldn’t give it to me before because he wasn’t getting what he needed.  He needed a job, not that he wasn’t happy, he was, but he wasn’t fulfilled the way he is now.  When I tell people his story now I always say that “The worst thing that ever happened to me was the best thing that ever happened to my dog” and it’s true.  It isn’t that we weren’t connected before, but he needed the right way to prove it to me.  He found it on his own, and he knew it before I did.  I met a lady recently who after I told her about Judah told me that her sister had died due to a hypoglycemic seizure.  She got a little teary eyed and looked up at me while petting Judah and said, “He saves your life a little everyday, that’s really special.”  I couldn’t help but shed a few tears when she said that, he does save my life a little everyday, but he did that before I was diagnosed.  He is a very special boy and everyday he reminds us of that.

Here Judah is sleeping under the table at the Stone Church Meeting House in Newmarket, New Hampshire. We were there because, Nori Stir, Marshall’s band was opening for Crushed Out.

Judah didn’t just give me my independence back, he gave Marshall his independence back too.  We live out in the middle of no where, Marshall was always worried that something would happen and no one could get to me in time.  With Judah he doesn’t have to worry, someone is watching me, and making sure that I am taking care of myself.  Because I have unawareness I most often don’t feel symptoms of changes in my glucose and this is what gets me into trouble.  With Judah I know before I would even if I did feel the symptoms.  He is my life saver, my best friend, my independence, my pancreas, my living love.  He’s my special guy.

Judah’s Journey Part 3 “A Long Road Home”

From the first day that Judah came home we started on a routine.  6:30 AM walk (starting with a mile and working up as Judah grew), next breakfast and playing outside, then into his crate and I’d go off to work.  Beth (my friend who lived upstairs) was m built in puppy sitter, she would let him out of his crate about an hour after I left and then work with him during the day on house training and crate training (I was very lucky to have her around).  I was very strict with how Judah would be dealt with.  No couch or bed, no people food, no jumping, no barking, teach him patience and respect.  I knew that having an arctic breed would be work and I was determined to make sure that everyone doubt would be put to rest.  Beth was an amazing help to me and she was very hungry for the knowledge about dogs and training.  She is a big part of the reason that Judah turned into such an amazing dog, thank you Beth- you are the best auntie out there!

11 weeks I believe.

Judah was a dream, potty trained in two days, not mouthy, totally respectful, fun, smart (so smart), very expressive and cute as can be.  We had one issue, he didn’t stay in his crate… ever.  The first day Beth went to the apartment she said he was sleeping on the couch, weird because I know I had locked him in.  After a couple days of this I finally witnessed him unlocking the door of his crate.  No problem, I just put a carabiner on the latch, now he can’t slide it over right?  Wrong, he learned that he could slide the carabiner up and then slide the latch over (I saw this with my own eyes).  Next I used a snap to close it, he opened it, so I started using a screw closed ring.  Well When I got home that day Beth told me that when she came downstairs he was again sleeping on the couch and the crate was all folded up.  Yes, he did that.  He folded up his Midwest collapsible crate and let himself out in the process.  Wow.  On the advice of my boss at the pet supply store I began to zip tie the crate together.  Well now that Judah couldn’t disassemble his crate he ate it.  Yeah, we went through a few of those until one day I came home and his face was swollen so bad he looked like an alien.  (I assume that he had gotten his head stuck trying to escape)  That was the last day Judah was ever crated and left alone (please remember I have never had a dog that wasn’t crate trained).

As he got older his coat changed a lot, do you see his blonde Mohawk?

As time passes I again fall back into the on again off again relationship that had broken me so bad (Should have known better, you don’t have to tell me!).  I wish I had realized the time I was wasting.  Before Judah turned a year it had fallen apart again, I had left my job (avoiding my ex at all costs), gone back to the job I had before college and started bringing Judah to work with me.  He was a dream to have at work (in fact his only real issue other than that husky drive to move was that I couldn’t confine him) he was polite and respectful of all the guests (I was working at a family resort).  I moved back into my parents house eventually and life went on.

This is Judah and my parent’s dog Dudley :) Judah was watching the fish in the water, eventually he fell in off the shore trying to reach them.

That first summer Judah had proven on many occasions that he had an exceptional nose and we used scent games to keep his mind working along with teaching him a plethora of tricks.  Life went on as it often does around here, rather event-less and slow.  The winter of 2011 I moved once again to a house with some friends (this house is affectionately known as the “hippie farm” amongst our friends) and around the same time started dating, pretty casually, a friend of mine.  This was both of our first step out after  turbulent and intense relationships, so I’m not sure we expected it to work out.  (It did though!)  I was working waiting tables at the resort and just trying to stay afloat.

As Marshall and I grew closer we began having one issue, Judah.  Marshall has a yellow lab named Jordan, a super laid back guy that is generally more of a throw rug than a dog.  The problem was that Marshall was under the impression that he could treat all dogs like Jordan- like a child.  Well that is simply not the case with my Judah, he’s very much an animal.  I raised him that way, I wanted him to very in touch with his “dogness”.  I train dogs on the side and needed a helping paw so to speak, Judah was raised to speak dog and only dog.  He is my right hand man when dealing with dogs, especially ones with behavior problems, he reads them well and lets me know what he thinks about them.  Well Marshall couldn’t understand why Judah was well, the way he is.  After countless arguments about my dog I finally sat him down for an explanation, it went something like this:

Judah is a dog, and he’s all dog.  He doesn’t speak our language you have to speak his.  He’s not like Jordan, he’s not a lab, he’s a husky.  He is a lot closer to his primal self than Jordan is.  The issues you have with Judah are because you guys are speaking two different languages and no one understands what is being said.  He is sending you all the signals you need and you are missing them, he isn’t just any dog, he’s a dog’s dog.  Judah will react to how you feel every time, not what you say, that doesn’t matter to him.  You need to respect what he is and not expect him to be something else.  He’s not broken because he isn’t a snugly dog, he not that kind of dog, he wants to be with you, not on you.  He was here with me before you and he will be here after unless you try to understand and build a relationship on trust and respect.  If you don’t give it to him he wont give it to you either.

This is how I know that Marshall wasn’t planning on going anywhere, from that day forward he completely changed his relationship with Judah.  They began to communicate and respond to one another, it was exciting to see.  Doesn’t everyone know that the way to a girls heart is through her dog?!  Well Marshall figured that out!  Now they have to most amazing relationship and he is the only person that I know has a true relationship with my boy.

The boys sharing a nap in the back seat of Marshall's car. :)

When the warm weather came I moved back to Madison for a while, by the kindness and grace of my former landlady who took me in knowing I needed a new place to live (She is an amazing and inspirational person, thank you Jenn).  Marshall and I started spending more time together and it quickly became us against the world.  At the end of that summer an opportunity presented itself to go to work at a local horse farm (I grew up working on farms with horses) and I jumped at the chance.  I had lost a lot of weight recently and adding this manual labor to my daily routine made me the smallest I have EVER been in my life.  In October, Marshall and I signed a lease and moved in together.  It was a big step and an exciting one!  We were on a great path to the rest of our lives, or so I thought.

Part 4

Judah’s Journey: Part 2 “Wolf Totem”

This is part two of Judah’s story.  We have come a long way from where we started, and everyone wants to know how we got here.  So here is our story.

Part 2:                                                                                                           Wolf Totem

After sending away for my passport the anticipation was killing me.  The only thing that kept me going was the constant updates from the pup’s foster mom.  She sent me messages and videos almost everyday, I was always getting updated on his size, socialization and fun puppy moments.  I received pictures and videos and even the birthing video of his first entrance to this world!  The people involved in Eleven Eleven Animal Rescue are incredible and dedicated individuals who are in it for purely the knowledge that they have saved a furry (or feathered) life.  Inspiring and loving these people deserve a lot of appreciation and commendation.

Suddenly my passport came in!  A week earlier than expected, I contacted the pup’s foster mom (Joanne) and told her I would come and get him on my next day off, she agreed that this would work.  It just so happened that my next day off was a Thursday, April Fool’s Day and the day that he turned eight weeks old.  It really was meant to be.  I had tentatively picked a name Judah (which I obviously kept), it was from a TV show (Weeds on HBO) and ever since the first time I heard it on the show (before ever deciding to get a dog) I had fallen in love with it.  The anticipation of going to get my new “clean slate” puppy (as I began to call him, a product of rehabilitating so many rescues) was killing me!  My new room mate was very excited for me as well and we couldn’t wait to get him home and add him to the dogs already living in our apartment and up stairs in the main house.  I had made plans with Joanne for her to meet me just over the boarder around eleven in the morning.  Needless to say I didn’t sleep AT ALL that night.

My alarm went off at 4 am that Thursday morning and I sprung out of bed.  I through my clothes on, grabbed my bag, I had packed it the night before with snacks, extra clothes and the new leash and collar (Lupine of coarse!) and headed out the door.  I was living in Madison, NH at the time and headed out over the Kancamagus Highway.  This is a scenic byway from Conway to Lincoln over the mountains, it is a beautiful way to get from one area of the state to another.  I have lived in this area my entire life and know it very well, I’ve also driven over the “Kanc” (as us locals call it) countless times.  I have never seen anything like I saw that morning, never.  It was still pretty dark outside when I took off from my apartment and headed out over the Kanc.  As I listened to the radio and tried to shove the butterflies back down into my stomach the sun began to come up and light up the sky.  Driving my little VW New Beetle through the woods I came to an area with open space on both sides of the road before the forest began again.  Out of the corner of my right eye I saw a flash and took my foot off the accelerator as I turned my head.  After realizing what I saw I slammed on the breaks and prayed I wouldn’t slide.  It was a wolf.  I know, I know, “we don’t have wolves in NH anymore”.  I have been around K9s my whole life and have even had the pleasure of meeting wolf hybrids in person, I know the difference.  It was a wolf.

He (I obviously don’t know if it was really a he) was absolutely huge, and white.  This was not a dog, this was not a pet that had run off, this was a creature of this wild earth.  He came from the right side of the street and was crossing in front of me soon after.  As I slammed my breaks on he was in front of my car, he was so close that my headlight on his shoulder (yes SHOULDER, he was that tall) was a small circle of light not bigger than a tea cup saucer.  He didn’t even hesitate, he looked up at the windshield ( it felt like he looked right into me) he dropped his shoulder towards the car and braced himself for impact.  He managed to cross in front of me and make it to the other side of the road.  Here he never looked back he continued over the open space and headed up into the woods.  I immediately pulled off the road and grabbed my cell phone, I opened it and damn!  No service?!  I wanted so badly to call my room mate and tell her what I had just seen, alas no such luck.  I grabbed my camera and jumped out of the car, I was hoping to at least see some tracks to take a picture of as evidence.  As I searched the shoulder of the road and then up into the field area I stopped, what was I doing?!  I had places to be!  I was disappointed that I had no way to prove what I had seen, no one would believe me, but I had the new love of my life waiting on me!

I jumped back into my little Bug and continued down the road, I was still trying to wrap my mind around what I had just seen.  Unbelievable.  To this day I still am amazed by what happened that early morning.

I didn’t really follow directions on my journey, I followed a map and decided that it was important I was in a good state of mind when I met my new companion.  This meant (for me) that I would travel North and then West traveling along the border.  It was beautiful and a rather uneventful trip.  After crossing into New York I began to get closer to the border and had to start reminding myself to remain sane.  Just before the border crossing I stopped at the “last stop before the border” store and changed from my sweatpants into a skirt.  I threw the sweatpants into the small crate that I had buckled into the back seat of the car.  I was early so I sat in the grass trying to quell my excitement (rather unsuccessfully to be honest), and watched the fluffy clouds in the sky.  Finally it was close enough eleven and I jumped back in my car.  I pulled up to the customs check point and presented my passport card.  The woman doing the checking asked where the dog was that belonged in the crate in my back seat, and I explained that I was going into the country to pick up my new puppy.  Next she asked how long I would be staying, I smiled (the excitement started to get the better of me again) “I am going right over there, picking up my puppy and going home.”  She tried to hide a little smirk and told me to have a nice day while handing me back my passport.

I made it across the border and texting back and forth with Joanne and finally getting our wires wrapped the right way we met at a small hotel (I believe) within view of the border crossing.  I pulled into the parking lot next to Joanne’s car.  She smiled and shook my hand and then opened the back of her car, there in a crate was my boy!  He was all tongue and ears!  He was covered in drool and was screaming a delightful (that is a sarcastic delightful) sound out of his little eight week old body.  She scooped him up and I snapped his collar on, then she put him straight into the crate in my back seat and we went inside to fill out the paperwork and make it official.  After paperwork and a quick hug I jumped in my car and headed back out on the road.  Thinking back on it now part of me wishes that I had insisted on walking him before he was put in my car, but with Joanne’s concern about him not being vaccinated made me not want to push it.  He was screaming.

This was not a confused puppy crying, this was a dog convinced he was being tortured screaming for his life.  It was unreal, and honestly it made me nervous.  Of coarse getting back into the United States had to be a longer wait, just my luck now that I had a screaming passenger.  After a couple minutes sitting in this line trying to ignore and correct the screaming puppy in my back seat I realized that people were looking at me.  In fact everyone was looking at me, people were even rolling down their windows to get a better listen to the chaos.  I began to realize that people probably thought I had a kidnapped child in the car with me and suddenly felt a sense of urgency to get over the border and to take this dog on a walk.  As I finally inched my way up to the customs window the man inside looked concerned and confused until he could see inside enough to realize it was a puppy, not a child screaming for his life in my car.  I handed the customs officer my passport card and Judah’s documentation he looked at my passport card and said (rather loudly so I could hear him over the shrieking of my dog) “Where in the heck is Effingham, New Hampshire?”  I couldn’t help but laugh, now that is a question I am used to-when I was in Elementary school we had to do a project where we found our town on a map, Effingham wasn’t on the map, we’ve come a long way.  “It’s in the Mt. Washington Valley area, near Conway, Madison, Freedom.”  He laughed and while handing me back my paperwork said, “Wow, have fun on that long drive home.  Good luck!”  Then he waved me on and I was back in the U.S.  I drove to the first place I found with grass and pulled in, it was a gas station that had a little pond with grass around it.

I took my little man for a walk around the pond and then we sat and took a little nap in the grass.  First picture of Judah  After we had some time to bond we made our way back to the car.  Our next stop wasn’t until Vermont where I snapped my first pictures of my little man.  At the rest stop, away from the excitement on the border, I was able to really start to understand my knew companion.  The crate was causing him a great deal of stress so from the first stop on I left the door of it open so he wouldn’t feel so confined.  This seemed to make him feel a lot better and only once did he make the choice to climb out without being invited, even then he curled up on the seat right next to the crate door.  At the rest stop I stepped out of the car and flipped the seat forward to invite him out.  He wasn’t totally sold on the idea, still a little confused about what was really even going on at that point he seemed to feel that the car was the safest place for him.

I decided that there was no point in pushing him past his limit, I had plenty of time.  I sat on the ground outside the door and just spent some time with him, the first thing I noticed was that his nose was working, hard.  It made me feel good that his first instinct was the right one, so often dogs forget how to be dogs and even from young puppies can lose even the basics of K9 communication.  It should always be nose first and he definitely had that right, all on his own.  My first real clean slate dog, that was mine to mold, all mine- Ha ha!

Eventually he slid off the seat and moved towards the door, he stopped and looked at me- I couldn’t believe he was doing all these basic respectful things right!  Puppies generally have to be taught all their boundaries, especially when they have been raised by people.  We get so caught up in cuteness that we smother them with love and never set any boundaries for them, this leads to wild unruly beasts.  Judah however clearly had been raised by his mother and she knew exactly what he needed to know.  Also, clearly Eleven Eleven Animal Rescue knew what they needed to do as well.  I invited him out of the car (on leash) and we walked around for a while, exploring the landscape and learning about each other.  When we had a good line of communication open we headed back to the car and I coaxed him to jump into the back.  He did so and nestled into my sweatpants in his crate.  For the rest of the ride he was easy going and always gave a little grumble if he needed to take a pit stop.  Had I just gone to pick up the perfect dog?

It was a long trip home (I took the scenic route) home and we made our first visit to my sister’s house, she had a young baby and a small child and I wanted to make sure that Judah was exposed from the beginning.  By the time we made it to her house he was exhausted so really it couldn’t have been a better interaction.  From there we stopped into my mother’s house for him to meet her dog Dudley, also another fine success.  Next we finally made it home, where we met my room mate, her dog, and her sister (who lived above us with Jenn their mom).  It was a short night, we were so tired and Judah emptied his toy basket and then went to sleep.

He was the cutest puppy ever, he had that floppy ear for only the first few days I had him.

Enjoying his toys or the basket more?

Crashed puppy.

The next morning all us girls gathered up stairs in Jenn’s kitchen and chatted about my adventures the day before.  I told them the wolf story telling them that I know no one would believe me (my dad had already told me the night before he thought I was out of my mind), but I knew what I saw.

Jenn smiled and looked up at me and with no hesitation she said, “It’s your totem, it means you were right where you were supposed to be.”  Little did I know that this dog would change my life, in so many ways and none of it would have happened without him.  As the years have gone by I have grown to believe Jenn’s statement more and more, I was definitely where I was supposed to be.

Part 3

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!