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!