Service Dog

March 24, 2013

Travels with Tommy

Act I: Leaving on a Jet Plane Entering the airport felt like stepping onto a movie set. Heads turned to catch a glimpse of the celebrity. Cameras flashed. Oohs and aahs escaped the lips of other travelers who slowed their hurried pace as they passed by us. In addition to this ‘puparazzi,’ all that is crazy-busy about airports drove Tommy’s sensory gage toward the red zone. I used my soothing voice to reassure him as neon lights blinked from all directions, suitcase wheels rumbled from behind, beeps rung out from unidentifiable sources. And the smells. Multitudes of smells. Still, my star companion listened to my cues as I directed him through the scene. He stayed in his service role despite a nervous start and in the end, gave a stellar performance. The Team Tommy Travel Awards Excellence in Boarding: Tommy Practice paid off. I’d been backing and tucking Tommy between […]
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 […]
April 5, 2013

No Ordinary Service Dog

So there I was, driving to a weekly yoga class I teach at a local hospital.  Same time, same route, same station wagon. During this regular trip to a standard appointment, I checked the rear view mirror. Tommy’s big head filled most of it as he lay in his typical car position: curled up with his snout resting in a sunbeam on the narrow ledge of the back window. He looked so comfortable. This comfort of his has moved beyond snoozy. He’s in tune with me, understanding our routine, sensing when I need him, patient with people endlessly commenting on his size/beauty/good manners. And at that very moment, as though his reflection triggered some kind of inner reflection, this was no ordinary-kind-of day. Not with that extraordinary (snoring) being with me.  
May 1, 2013

A Cane with Personality

Youtube video for mobile devices Youtube video for computer Tommy and I in our submission to the World Parkinson Congress (WPC) Video Competition. For more info on the WPC see
May 15, 2013

Can I Pet Your Dog? A Lesson in Trust

— Maybe — No — Yes — All of the Above Maybe My first dog, a stray from the SPCA, loved kids, other dogs, watching TV, banana bread and the UPS delivery man who left her a cookie with each package. Her eyes lay somewhere under a shaggy mass of gray and white wiry hair, the white often times a dirty shade of gray. Jessie swam in puddles, rolled in dead stuff on the beach and hated baths. The scruffier she got, the more friends and strangers wanted to pet her. Though she was the ultimate Family Dog, I’d alert anyone asking to pet her that hand wipes might be needed. No The next dog to come home with me hailed from the same shelter but couldn’t have been more different. This German Shepherd cross had a smooth dark coat, my-what-big-ears-you-have ears and an ability to launch himself at the […]
June 5, 2013

Why the Service Dog Vest Says “Do Not Pet”

Three minutes. One video. A full explanation. “Feet at Work” (an Honorary Mention winner in the 2013 World Parkinson Congress video competition) explains. 2013 WPC Video Competition Thank you, WPC. Woot woot! (and woof, woof!)
July 6, 2013

Tale of Two Soldiers (and a Service Dog)

In the tiny Buddhist country of Bhutan, dogs are the sacred cow. Not only can dogs return in future reincarnations as humans, they also serve humans in the afterlife by leading them to their reincarnations. With a beacon on their tails, dogs light the way for humans to to follow into their next life. Follow the light. Follow the dog. Follow to a new life. The tail of the service dog in this Tale of Two Soldiers twinkled right here in the present life, leading a war veteran to a new life.
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 […]
August 29, 2013

Hats Off to Creative Thinking

When relatives visited recently, we spent one sunny afternoon wandering through our small town. My sister-in-law and I donned our big straw hats and joined the family stroll. With Tommy by my side, we meandered along the cobblestone walks lined with shops and cafes. As usual, Tommy drew interest along the way, about his size, his elegance, his size, his calm demeanor, his size. Various picnickers, other dog walkers, people on park benches said something as we passed. Once we stepped onto the boardwalk, my son declared, “‘Is that a horse?’ is definitely the most popular.” He’d been counting the comments. “Second is ‘You could put a saddle on him.'” Fifteen minutes into our walk and he’d noted as many equine references. Six more as he was telling us about it. He continued his tally as the rest of us all paused to gaze out at the boats. The breeze picked […]