service dog and yoga

October 11, 2012

Yoga Dog

Outing #2: Yoga Class How We Did: Sir Thomas, a natural yogi, got into a down-dog pose before class started. He found it difficult to relax into savasana, though. He popped up a few times from his down-stay. I realized that he was listening to me as I guided the class through poses, my voice the same tone as when I cue his commands. He couldn’t rest easy because he kept  waiting for a word he knew. I hadn’t anticpated his focus on my voice; he hadn’t experienced being in a down-stay with a string of unfamiliar words. What I Learned: Bring a chew toy not only to keep him busy but to emphasize that during class, he’s on call not on active duty. Pleasant Surprise: He’s a quick learner: By the end of the week I was teaching my third class with Tommy in attendance. He fell sound asleep. […]
November 15, 2012

Talk About Bullying

Sir Thomas’s brother lives with a twelve-year-old girl and her family.  He goes to school with her, both of them navigating the hallways of lockers, onlookers and, unfortunately, jokers. This girl’s story of life with her service dog winds its way around my heart not only because our dogs are related. In some ways, our stories are, too. When blood vessels burst inside my skull, I was twelve-years old.  My left side stopped moving and I spent a third of the seventh grade undergoing brain surgery, relearning how to walk and sleeping in the den (my room was on the second floor and managing stairs didn’t happen for a while). Each night, I willed back at least some of my long hair. A shaved head  might have been cool to my classmates. The U-shaped scar left over from the surgery, however, looked like a trap door to my gray matter. It was […]
November 29, 2012
What’s in a Name?
When I applied for a service dog, I prepared myself for much that I figured I’d face with my furry, four-legged cane. I never factored in the need for aliases. Not for me. For him. Names are special. Remember in kindergarten, when you stared down at the chunky crayon letters you wrote and it spelled your very own name? And how important it felt to see your name on labels throughout the classroom: on your cubby, lunchbox, folders? Names are personal.  Ask any parent, there’s likely a story behind the children’s names. And on the flip side, names carry adverse personality traits. We’ve all known a [fill in the blank] who rubbed us the wrong way and makes us shudder whenever we hear it. Tommy’s name is special in its own way. He learned it early on. Part of training the pups involves coming for a treat when the individual’s […]
March 29, 2013

Take Care

I interrupt the regularly scheduled Travels with Tommy trip update with a view from the morning: Out on the still chilly deck, I watch the predawn sky transform from gray to opalescent pink. Red-winged blackbirds begin to trill and robins sing out their early greetings. The sound that drew me out here, however, was not that of spring but of the unmistakable heaving of a dog about to vomit. The sight interrupting this pastel scene is of a neon yellow streak of bile across the deck. It’s the color of a highlighter, the shape of a slash underlining something important. Among the bits I’m learning about life with a Dane is that this gentle giant has a giant stomach. If it goes too long without food – as long as from dinner to breakfast, sometimes – it gets upset. I suspect it is akin to the churning that can happen […]
August 19, 2013

Vacation Surprise

Routines rule. When a schedule runs as planned, a sense of control washes over the daily shifts-and- takes of Parkinson’s. I feel as though I’m in charge: Me, alpha; you, disease. Sir Thomas likes his routines, too. Same food, same time and no surprises (particularly of the projectile kind).  He gets a regular walk. I’m consistent with the vocab I use when he’s working. I feel as though I’m in charge. Me, alpha; you, service dog. Vacations disrupt routines. With one fast approaching, I prepared for the changes afoot – well, four feet, actually. Plus one giant head.  With his schedule in flux, I figured I’d establish a holiday routine. It will help ease the transition from being home. His and mine.  By weaving the same-old, same-old habits into the day – meds at regular intervals (mine), outdoor breaks at the expected times (his), standard exercise and meals as usual […]
October 13, 2013

Turning Heads in Montreal

Of the 3,300+ delegates attending the 2013 World Parkinson Congress, 2,300+ were dog lovers. Sir Thomas turned heads along the cobbled streets downtown as well as on the carpeted stretches between presentations at the conference center. Cameras flashed, comments flew in more than one language: Mon Dieux! C’est un cheval! Does he have a saddle? The paparazzi aside, people also stopped us not just to ask what breed and whether I rode him to the conference, but what service he provided. I was among others whose balance is challenged and their curiosity sprang from experience. Many came to the Round Table I co-hosted on Service Dogs – for anyone who missed it, the presentation slides can be downloaded here.(Special thanks to Carolyn Weaver — and Selma — for sharing their expertise.) The yoga sessions were well attended and the creativity panel was fun. The poster sessions drew a crowd – those, too, can be […]
June 1, 2014

540 Good Dogs and Counting

  After a year to-and-a-half together (already!), it seems impossible that Sir Thomas and I could come face-to-face with anything we haven’t already seen or heard. Together, we’ve encountered a wide variety of situations, including unleashed dogs, scorns of disapproval (What’s that dog doing in here?), toddler tail-grabbing, airport security pat downs, surprised drivers (cabs and ferries) and many friendly souls (including a chef at a rather upscale restaurant who delivered a plate of chicken she’d cooked up for Thomas when she saw us arrive). We’ve attended yoga classes (Tommy loves relaxation poses) and art classes (cerulean blue paint is a challenge to wash from white fur). We’ve experienced people who hold the door for us (and one woman who held the door for only Tommy, letting it slam before I passed through), people who take pictures of him, people who insist he’s one breed or another (but certainly not […]