It is one of my favorite things when Judah does his job. I like it even more when he does his job in front of other people. I don’t get out much these days so it doesn’t get to happen with an audience much. People assume a lot about a seemingly perfectly healthy person with a service dog, either the dog is in training or I am pretending that he is a Service Dog. I have lived in the same town for most of my life (with the exception of high school and college) so people are used to seeing me, when they all of a sudden see me with a service dog it’s only natural they would be suspicious. It certainly is even more difficult for people who knew Judah before he began working to see him in that context and not at least question the validity of our partnership. I am a dog person, there is no question there so I think there are people out there who wonder if Judah is simply coming with me everywhere because I want him to. Well BAM, proof is in the pudding people!
Last night my oldest nephew (5 years old) had his Christmas concert at school. I am always ready to stand up for my ADA rights and prepared to fight for my equal treatment with my service dog. However, I don’t enjoy making a scene and there are certain situations where I like to give a heads up before I show up with a dog in tow. This was one of those circumstances, the last thing I want to do is cause a scene at my nephews school concert. So, my sister spoke to the principal- telling her that I would be coming to the concert with my service dog. I don’t know how the conversation went or where it went after my sister spoke to her but I can tell you that they knew who I was as soon as I walked through the door. A woman (no idea who she was) saw me looking slightly lost and confused after I came in the door and she said, “Your sister, she’s your sister right?”
“She is right down there.” She gestured down the hall way and I thanked her and headed the direction she pointed. I made my way down the hall and began poking my head into classrooms and asking if they had seen her or my nephews (there are 3). All the teachers seemed neither surprised or put off by Judah’s presence, so I assumed they had all been informed that we would be there. The only person I ran into that seemed a little put off was I believe a parent. She seemed a little bothered when I began heading the direction of the bake sale portion of the “Elfin Fair”. She didn’t exactly stop me, but her body language was pretty clear (clear enough that another parent told me he noticed). She sort of stood in the middle of the hallway and told me Shawna (my sister) wasn’t down there (turns out, she was) and sent me down another hall instead. When I wandered back to the “crossroads” in the hall she was still there, giving off bouncer vibes, so I waited. Once Shawna came out into the hall I could identify her by the brood that surrounded her (her 3 boys and 1 little girl that she babysits for a friend). The boys saw me down the hall and as they came scampering up to me Shawna called out behind them, “Don’t forget, Judah is working. You can’t pet him right now!” (My sister is so good at that stuff)
D was so excited to show me his crafts and class room and we wandered through the building as he told me stories and showed me things. Parents were all very well behaved about the service dog and most did a great job of explaining to their kids why they couldn’t run up to the dog they saw in school. Judah worked very hard to stay focused as kids came screaming through the halls waving art projects and dragging coats behind them. He was certainly more alert than he usually is in a working setting but didn’t require a great deal of correction or redirecting. We ran into a few people that Judah (and I of course) knew before his working days. He did pretty well even when he saw all his favorite kids. A little squirmy and more attentive than he probably should have been, but he wasn’t reaching out or being pushy. With kids he had no history with he was excellent, so I think once we start being around “his” kids more while he is working he will move on from it very fast. Well as my sister, L (a family friend) and I were standing to the side of the classroom chatting Judah began to get restless.
At first I could just hear him sniffing, but it quickly progressed to refusing to sit and being generally unsettled. As I looked around the room trying to figure out what his issue was I began to take an inventory in my mind,
-kids, loud and fast
-toys making LOTS of noise
-traffic in and out of the room
-MANY other people in the room, it is very possible one of those people was having blood sugar issues (he has done that before)
My sister and L both began to notice his fidgety behavior and asked what was going on. I replied that I wasn’t sure, that he hadn’t really alerted but was acting odd. Shawna pointed out that there was a class guinea pig across the room. I really didn’t think that was it, the only domestic small animal that Judah can’t really contain himself around is a bunny- can’t keep it together for a bunny. We have ferrets and we go into pet stores that have small animals often and a guinea pig has never made him behave in a rude way. As we continued our conversation and watched the kids, there it was… bump, bump Judah begins to almost frantically poke me with his nose. In the leg, in the knee, in the hand, then licking and poking. “What is it?’ He hits me with one paw (high, which would make sense I had a PB&J right before…), two paws, two paws, one paw, bump, and then he stood on his two hind legs and hit me in the chest with two paws. That seemed pretty definitive to me, I was low. How could I be low? I had eaten a sandwich with peanut butter and plain old, full-of-sugar grape jelly! I had given myself a pretty conservative dose of insulin too! Perhaps Judah was just wound up by all the extra stimulation and that would explain all the back and forth alerting.
I handed the leash to my sister and knelt down on the floor in front of Judah to test. While the meter processed the sample my brain was still whirling, it had to be high- or at the very least fine. Beep, beep, 74. Alright so it’s a little low, nothing to be so frantic about. I took the Capri Sun out of my bag (after praising Judah, who was totally not interested in being praised- and was poking my bag) and began to sip on it while continuing to talk to L and my sister. Judah started bumping the hand that I was holding the juice in and even getting (quietly, sort of under his breath) vocal! I looked down at him and said, “I am, you need to wait.” He sat back down with a sigh, but continued to fidget and whine at me. After I finished my juice Judah continued to be concerned and to act as though I had ignored his alert all together.
After about ten minutes he began to get frantic again. To the point that L told me to sit down and test again. By now it was about 15 minutes post juice (17Carbs) and knew my sugar would be fine, if anything on the high side. I was barely low and drank the whole juice. I pulled out my kit and Judah sat down next to me and watched me test again. I waited for the results, 73- what the fuck? I can honestly say I have NEVER corrected a low and continued to drop after. It wasn’t a big drop but generally a full Capri Sun would have put me nearly out of range on the high end coming from a 74. I didn’t have another juice… my sister took the two bucks I had in my pocket and went to the bake sale for some cookies. Judah continued to alert and actually began panting because he was feeling so stressed.
My sister returned, exasperated (she gets wound up easily), with two sugar cookies that had frosting AND sprinkles on them- perhaps overkill? She handed them to me and I picked one into little bites and ate it while getting a classroom tour from D. He showed me his cubby and his projects, his play area, reading area and the class guinea pig (with virtually no interest from Judah). Judah spent the whole time watching me intently, with honestly very little interest in what was going on around him. Ten minutes later it was time to head to the gym for the concert- bump, bump. No way. Bump, “What is it?” Of course, now it HAS to be high… right? Nope, two paws right to the chest, shit. I sit down in one of the miniature chairs at a tiny kindergarten table and tested again. Test strip in the meter, prick the finger, apply blood, beep, wait, beep beep, 78 mg/dl.
Alright so Judah clearly had a better handle than I did on what was going on… I ate the other cookie my sister had given me and made my way down the hall trying to figure out why I was still so low. Too much stimulation? I had magically missed all the carbs in the jar of jelly? My body suddenly became way more insulin sensitive than it has ever been…? After the concert got started I tested again and was at 88 mg/dl, that’s better. Before it was over however, he alerted again- I had fallen back to 80 mg/dl. Thank goodness we left soon after and I was able to get home and get some real food. From all that correcting I did, I never went high. Looking back at it I still can’t figure out why it all happened like that, but at least I had my secret weapon with me. Plus he got to show his talents to the people there and perhaps even convince some haters who were in the classroom(including the lady who was playing defense at the entrance to the bake sale, showed her). For all the work it takes to have a service dog I can’t imagine what it would take to do all this without him…