Listen, Observe and Respect

As a Service Dog handler I hear constantly to “educate” people about Service Dogs and the laws.  As a community SD people try to help one another not to forget it isn’t about you it’s about the next SD team that comes to where you are now.  If you have an access issue we tell each other, “Stay calm, tell them the law, repeat yourself, give them a hard copy of the law, give the the 800 number for the ADA, educate, remain calm, think about the next team behind you- make it better for them” etc.  I try as much as possible to stick to this model, I carry little printed out cards that have the ADA laws, phone number and appropriate questions on it, I explain (often beyond the ADA required explanation) what my SD does and why I need him with me, often revealing personal information to do so.  Generally I don’t have a problem with this but what I do have a problem with is when people think they are entitled to this information because I have a SD.

The whole point of a SD is so that I can live my life as normally as possible.  While I understand that taking a goofy looking (I love him, but he looks like a cartoon character), dog in a vest every where I go attracts attention.  I explain it to other people who ask whether they should get a SD that when you are accompanied by a SD you carry with you an “attractive nuisance” much like a pasture full of horses.  Even if people aren’t invited and the fence is posted as electric, they will pull over and take pictures and/or reach through the fence to pet/touch your horses.  Well with a SD, even when your dog is labeled “Service Dog Do Not Distract” people will.  They will stare, talk to, touch, pet, push, step on, even kick your SD.  You have to be prepared to protect your dog whenever necessary.  They will stop you from what you are doing and ask questions (and yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question) or even demand information.  This applies to both businesses and “civilians” if you will.  People think that because you have the right to have this dog with you all the time that they have the right to know why, in full detail.  I try to keep a good attitude and explain that I have type 1 diabetes, he is a medical alert dog and he alerts to dangerous fluctuations in my blood sugar.  Often, this answer is like opening Pandora’s box.  Then people want to know how he knows, how he alerts, what numbers he will alert at, why I need a dog to help me with my diabetes, why can’t I take care of myself etc.  If I choose to not get into specifics with people then Judah becomes an imposter dog that I put a  fake vest on and I become a liar, all because I just want to shop like them and every other patron in the store.

Beyond all the complications of having a SD with me, it works for me.  He makes my control better, he makes me more confident and less afraid to drive and do things on my own.  Before Judah started working I wasn’t driving, wasn’t doing anything without a “chaperone” because I was terrified of something happening without help near by.  I don’t think a SD works for everyone, even some people who want a SD aren’t equipped or prepared to live and travel with one.  The cost money, they need to be clean, groomed and trimmed regularly, they require you to be attentive to the needs of another living thing while already having to be attentive to your own disability.  It’s a lot of work and responsibility every time you go anywhere or do anything.  This extra work would make things too complicated for some people, some people don’t like dogs, some people aren’t able to handle the care and constant training that comes with having a SD- so they don’t have one.  So when people say to me, “Well, so-and-so has diabetes and he doesn’t need a SD to deal with it” I really want to reply with something like, “Wow he so lucky!  I wish I wasn’t such a lazy shmuck who didn’t take care of myself” or “yeah well you know having random people stop me, interrogate me, take pictures or video of me (yeah that happens too), tell me I can’t go places, and tell me how to take care of myself is awesome, it makes me feel important. So I take my dog everywhere!”

Type 1 vs. Type 2 A simple, short explanation.

This brings me to my next point, I have type 1 diabetes, it is not the same as type 2 diabetes.  In fact, there really isn’t anything about them that’s the same except that they both effect the endocrine system.  I am not going to play the “my diabetes is better or worse than yours” game here either.  They both suck.  The easiest way for me to explain the difference is that one is an auto immune disorder (type 1) and the other is the result of many things including; a hormone released by belly fat that makes it difficult for your body to use insulin, the bodies inability to produce enough insulin (usually due to too much stress on the pancreas), and often is related to poor diet and too much inactivity.

Often type 2 can be managed through a great diet and exercise plan, it can even be completely reversed!  Type 1 cannot be reversed, it can not be managed without insulin, in fact without insulin I would die- so would you, your mom, your great auntie and you super in shape brother who is in the marines.  Insulin is necessary for your body to live, end of story.  Type 1 diabetes is when a person’s immune system attacks their pancreas (really it’s more like attacks their islet cells where your beta cells live) and it prevents it from producing the insulin hormone (along with other hormones) which is essential for life.  Without insulin your body can not use the fuel that you put into it, literally, I could eat everything in sight and would still starve to death.  The only way to live with type 1 diabetes is to inject insulin into the body from an outside source.

Now, when people suggest that if I had led a better life then I wouldn’t have to deal with this in the first place it makes me the closest to homicidal I have ever (and hopefully will ever) been.  I couldn’t have stopped my immune system from attacking my own body, that’s what autoimmune diseases are- when a persons immune system attacks their own body for an unknown reason.  So, when people who know me (or who don’t know anything about me) tell me that I shouldn’t take insulin and that I should eat some special diet and exercise more it takes everything I have to hold my composure and try to explain to them that no matter what I do, I have to take insulin.  I send them to definitions and resources so they can see the difference between the two types (there are more than 2 types but most confusion centers around 1 and 2), explain that there has been type 1 diabetes for much longer than we have had fast food restaurants and TV dinners (There is documentation of diabetes as early as 1552 BC*).  Trust me, if I could “cure” my diabetes by running everyday and eating more veggies and protein I would.  Yes, a better diet and more exercise helps type 1 patients to stay healthy, reduce their insulin requirements (exercise makes you more insulin sensitive), and regulate fluctuations- no denying that!  BUT, no matter how perfect we take care of our disease, we still must take insulin, or die. Period.  I have had a “friend” tell me that I am “stupid for taking some medicine a doctor tells me to take, just because he told me to take it”, that if I did more research I could find a better way to treat and cure my diabetes!  Well shit sign me up!

I find it exhausting to try and educate people who have clearly already made up their minds about these things long before they have ever met me or Judah.  Some people will get the message, will step back and listen.  These people will also walk away thinking, they will get home and google some things, read articles and educate themselves.  The “other” people will argue with you, call you names and won’t allow themselves to learn a damn thing.  At some point you have to accept that this person is ignorant and doesn’t have any interest in talking to you and not at you.  So for those people I am glad that there are laws on the book to protect me, but at the same time how can I be satisfied with leaving the conversation as so unsuccessful?  I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve decided; if I can walk away from the conversation having kept my composure, not having used derogatory language, listened to said ignorant person’s opinions, and didn’t stoop to their level then I have successfully navigated that interaction.

We type 1’s don’t choose to operate this way, we don’t choose to stick needles in our stomachs over and over again just for shits and giggles, we choose to live.  I am so tired of people telling me I am wrong, that I can do better, and that I am silly for taking the “easy way out” by using insulin (yes, I’ve heard that one too).  I use insulin because I love my family, my boyfriend and my life.  I use insulin because while not using it might be the easiest diet in the world (OOooo I was SO skinny when I got diagnosed, I’d never been a “skinny” girl before!) it will also kill me, slowly and painfully.  I use insulin because I have pets (and a SD) that I committed to taking care of for the rest of their lives.  I use insulin because I haven’t finished saving dogs from uneducated hands and bringing them back to a happy balanced life yet.  I use insulin because I want to make sure that I can see to it that people who don’t know anything about my disease are taught everything they should know.

I use insulin because I am not finished here, I have a message to send and a difference to make.

*http://www.defeatdiabetes.org/about_diabetes/text.asp?id=Diabetes_Timeline  <– This is a cool timeline of the history of diabetes!  Check it out!

pictures in this post are NOT my own, they are the result of a google search.

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89 thoughts on “Listen, Observe and Respect

  1. This is an amazing story. Its truly inspirational how just having a dog can help you live your life just like any other with only the help of the dog. Thank you for sharing your story

  2. It’s amazing how Judah lets you know whether your sugar is high or low. It’s shocking how people give you and Judah so much disrespect and demand why you need him, when it’s really not their business to know. I hope you and Judah have a long and happy life together!

  3. I think with your service dog, it’s probably really annoying when other people bother both of you. I find it disappointing that your friends tell you to find a way to cure your diabetes. Your story is very different, but in a unique way. It must be pretty cool that your dog can alert you when your blood sugar is too high. Thanks for your story.

  4. Thank you. I had no idea what the difference’s between T1 and T2 diabetes were. The service dog. I think it is really cool to have a SD. I feel really bad for the people that stop and take pictures and video’s of a animal helping a human. I love how you stick up for yourself. Telling people it’s not okay for other people to take pictures of you and SD. Thank you for helping me understand.

  5. I think that it is amazing how her story is about how it is hard and not always the easiest thing to have to adjust to a whole new life style!! i love that you don;t always have to be scared of being alone and that you have an amazing dog that helps you. I wish that i could have a dog that is so help full in the time of need. I think i am going to try and train a dog like that or be in that type of thing so i can help others! Thank you for sharing your story will us!

  6. I love the fact that you got to share the stories with others and show them how much dogs are smarter then people believe they are! Judah, is quite an amazing dog you have! I would absolutely love to train my dog to do amazing things like this!

  7. I think you did a great job explaining what diabetes is, and how it effects you. I have never fully understood what diabetes were and how it happened, but your story has really helped me understand what diabetics go through everyday. I think that it is really amazing how Judah can tell when your blood sugar is low and stuff like that, you’re very lucky to have him.

  8. My grandfather has diabetes. I don’t know if its type 1 or 2 but I do know that its hard for him. I don’t know myself what it is like but my grandfather has to eat at certain times a day to keep his blood sugar normal. I also have a dog named Buddha and his brother Oriley is now a rescue dog for a blind teenager. Its really incredible how dogs have that sense to us humans and how they can alert us! Your very lucky to have a SD like Judah!

  9. Hello, Thank you for sharing your story with us. It is very saddening to think of all the people that have diabetes and can’t go or do things they want. Even though people are mean and tell you that you can’t have Judah, you obviously need him. And I think if more people saw this, they might change their minds about Service Dogs and might not give you such a hard time.

  10. Thank you for sharing you story. It was cool to learn about the differences between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. It was inspiring that you just ignore some peoples ignorant comments.

  11. After reading this story I believe you have made a difference just by writing this, I didn’t really realize there are so many unaware and ignorant people.

  12. Thanks for sharing your story. I learned a lot about the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It must be frustrating to go out in public and be scared that people will judge you for having a service dog.

  13. I like your story, it was cool and informational at the same time. I think that it is amazing how much you and Judah have to trust each other and cooperate/communicate.

  14. Very inspiring story, for keep going and wanting to help out in the world. Good for you for not giving up. I respect that a lot, I think you are doing a wonderful job on keep going and trying your best. Reading this made me realize just how amazing and strong some people really are. I would never have thought it was so hard to live with type 1 or 2 diabetes.

  15. I find your story very inspiring! I think your doing a great job and you shouldn’t let what people say or think effect your life your a true roll model and they way you present your life is great! Keep doing what your doing because its a wonderful thing! It’s truly amazing how you can get through the roughest of times and always know somebody is there for you. Your a strong woman keep it up!

  16. Why do people kick your dog! Is that what they really do? Judah is adorable by the way! Judah is an amazing SD, he is really really smart if he can tell if your blood sugar is high or low!

  17. Your story is very interesting and i never really knew the difference between the two different kinds of Diabetes. And when you mention ed what people do to your dog,l do they really kick him? And people that say those mean things to you are just idiots, ignore them and keep your head up high.
    P.S your dog is cute.

  18. You did a Good job on not letting anyone tell you you are wrong. Your story is interesting and i didn’t know there were different types of diabetes. Your dog is so cute. Why would anyone kick him. And ignore what people say.

  19. I thought your story was interesting because I can relate to your story. My grandmother had type 2 diabetes and I sometimes helped her do things around the house. I never knew how big the difference was between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Judah seems like such an amazing dog to me. It must have been hard to train him so well. Again, I thought your story was very interesting and thank you for sharing it.

  20. I find your story very interesting (I read it all, and some parts made me want to scream and yell at the people not believing that you had a service dog for diabetes. I believe you!)! It is amazing how you have overcome this problem using your dog, Judah. I am amazed at how you are able to have a dog aid you with your blood sugar level! You have made me look at diabetes in a whole new way. Now I completely understand how type one and type two are different, and see how you can overcome one but live forever with the other. Thank you again for sharing your story! It touched my heart!

  21. Through this article I now understand the pain you are going through for your diabetes, social interaction and peoples opinions. Maybe all people with diabetes type 1 or 2 don’t necessarily “need” a SD but I now understand that having and SD is just a friendly, accurate and friend who helps you through rough times and reminds you of you blood sugar. I also know that many people very misunderstand the major difference between T1 and T2 diabetes. My grand mother had T2 and that was her goal to exercise and eat healthy but since shes was around 70 that was very hard for her. Your story not only educated me but also connected me to you and others with diabetes.

  22. Great job with the blog! Thank you for telling me the difference from T1 and T2. I can relate to this because my old friend had type two diabetes and he understands the pain you go through. My friend didn’t have an SD but he still struggled at times. I learned how much stress and pain people go through with this, and how much a SD can help and they are very smart. Thank you For the Information it really helped!

  23. Reading this I became very inspired. I wouldn’t think have T1 diabetes was so difficult, not only that but having to worry about people taking pictures and videos of you and your SD. Now being a student I know what can be frustrating but after reading this…my frustration compared to yours are like a paper cut to a broken finger. I think that having this site, inspiring others is a great way to think positive and to not get caught up in things, and to have a loyal dog there by your side that can help you in life threatening situations, a dog that can save your life by putting his paws out, well you are a very lucky woman. Thanks for inspiring me and keep your head up (:

  24. I love how educating this story is. I never knew there was more than one type of diabetes, that people can get diagnose with. You are a very strong woman for blocking the people that give you negative comments! That truly inspiring!

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