My Service Dog, Jade

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Conversation With Neighbor Who Has New Pit Bull

     Well, I did it.  Yup, I had that conversation that I've been wanting to have with my neighbor who recently acquired another pit bull.  If you've been following my blog at all, you know that my neighbor just got another pit bull, after his former  one died fairly recently.  The former one was old, about 13 years, and my neighbor had to put him down. One day, most recently, another pit bull showed up in his back yard, barking and staring out the gate.  I've been wanting to have a conversation about this with him, in a very civil way (have to get along with neighbors), to ensure that we are all kept safe.  The reason for this is because his former pit bull, Zeus, had once gotten into MY backyard by jumping onto something he had stacked against the 7 foot wall, and leaped right over into my yard. I didn't have my dog yet at that time, and luckily my cats were safely indoors that night.  I won't name names, but for the sake of easier writing, we'll call my neighbor Joe and his pit bull, Blue.
     So, I've previously stated that the next time I see Joe outside, I'd plan to have a conversation with him about safety. I saw him outside this afternoon, bringing in his trash cans, while I was headed to training class with Jade.  So I took the opportunity.  I started with small talk asking how he's been doing and how he's feeling, etc.  Joe is also disabled.  We spent a few minutes on small talk and then I got down to it.  I said, "I saw you got a new dog, Joe." He said, "Yea, I need the companionship." I asked him why he chose another pit bull, and he said that he got it from his wife's son, who couldn't keep him anymore because he was moving. Joe said, "He was one of those young thugs, who just wanted to be tough by getting a pit bull, and then didn't know how to handle him....he abused him and treated him like crap, beating on him and punishing him....he didn't know what the hell he was doing, so I got him." I went on to tell Joe that I'm afraid of pit bulls and those dogs are really dangerous."  Joe said that he understood that, and a lot of people feel the same way.  He also went on to say that the media helps to instill that fear in people by always reporting about pit bull attacks and bites (the same old pit bull owner excuses, blame the media, bla bla). I said, "Yea, Joe, but did you see what happened to the elderly lady the other was on the news....she was brutally attacked and mauled....there are a lot of those stories, Joe! Those dogs are always attacking and hurting people and other pets." Joe said, and this surprised me, "They certainly have the potential, that's for sure....they're really strong dogs and you really have to know what you're doing to have one." I was so glad Joe said that.  It's usually excuses and denials about the power and potential that pit bulls have by their owners, so this made me feel relieved.  Joe also went on to say that he's had pit bulls all his life and he knows what he's doing.  I let him know that I am still afraid of it, and of all pit bulls and for good reason.  I said, "Please don't let him get over that wall into my yard, Joe....remember when your other pit got over that wall and into my yard? Please don't let that happen." Joe smiled and said, "No, he's not gonna get over there, I'll make sure of that." He went on to say how friendly his pit is, but then in another breath said that he was afraid of people because he'd been abused, which didn't make any sense to me.  Another walking contradiction of a pit owner.
     So we talked a little more and I repeated myself about not letting his dog get over the wall into my backyard, and he clearly stated that he wouldn't let that happen.  I told him that I'm afraid of pit bulls because they're always mauling and maiming people, even killing.  I also told Joe that his pit bull might very well "bite" him.  I said, "You better be careful Joe, because those dogs are known for turning on their owners.  He might just tear you up, better be careful." Joe replied with, "Oh, he's NOT gonna bite me!" Ok, we'll see.  I'm sure that's exactly what Darla Napora said too, right before her pit bull attacked, mauled and killed her, and her unborn baby.  Joe also said that he can't let his dog outside the front door, because when he opens it, the dog bolts running for freedom.  Just wonderful! He said he had to chase him a couple streets down the other day, but if he does it again, he might just let him be free and let the pound pick him up.  Wow! That's just great! If I see that dog out, EVER, I will call 911. If it comes in my yard, we're going to have very serious problems.  That's why I had the conversation with Joe; so if it does happen, there won't be any misunderstandings.
     The conversation with Joe, my neighbor has been had.  So we'll see how everything plays out.  Thanks for listening.

(Although this is not Joe's dog, it's a pit bull, and it's damn scary!)

Field Training At The Mall

     Jade and I had a field outing with the trainer yesterday and today we are attending the training class again. Since we went out of town, we missed a class and a field outing, so now we are making up for lost time.  No buggy though, I love spending this quality time with Jade, and she has a great time too.  We've actually missed two weeks, since Jade was sick the week before and last week we were out of town. Jade had come down with an upper respiratory thing, which I believe she contracted from me, since I'd been sick as well.  Who knows? The Vet said although there have been studies done on whether dogs contract our illnesses, they are not conclusive, so it's still questionable.  Anyway, we are making up for lost time, and Jade is doing great.  Yesterday the field trainer met us at the mall, and we did some different things to see how Jade would do.  We got on and off a couple of elevators, and Jade was great.  It's just funny the way she looks at the floor when the elevator starts or stops moving.  :)  She just looks down at the floor, like she's thinking "why is the floor moving?" It's pretty funny.  She wore her harness yesterday and is doing great with it.  She knows the purpose of the harness now, and she understands it is for supporting me, bracing and  helping me with balance.  I can tell she understands this because of the way she uses the harness.  She's such a champ! The trainer was impressed at how well she did at the mall, which is actually a pretty strange environment for her, as she's only been inside one other time.  
     People are usually pretty friendly when they see us together, and a lot of people ask questions about how she is being trained, how she helps me, etc.  Most people are good about it accepting us into their stores and restaurants, but there are some places that are not as service dog friendly, although they don't have a choice, really. I did talk to the trainer about the episode we had while on vacation, with the other dog that approached Jade nose to nose while she was working. We talked about Jade's defensiveness with other dogs that get too close; although Jade is not always like that.  It really depends on the circumstances under which she is approached by other dogs.  The trainer and I agree that it has a lot to do with how I am reacting in that situation.  When that incident happened in Santa Fe, I remember the dog coming up to Jade and sniffing her nose, and me thinking "Oh my God, NO! Here we go again!" and tightening up on her leash.  That is most of the problem.  I know because we've had other instances just like this one, where I relaxed the leash, took a deep breath, and thought "It'll be ok," and it was! It really is amazing how much our dogs react to how we feel! The trainer really didn't issue any homework for Jade on this subject, but for me.  She told me to think of something that really helps me to relax, a happy thought, to use when this sort of thing happens, and to relax the leash.  I'm sure she's right, and I'll have to work on that. 
     Otherwise, Jade did wonderfully at the mall, on the elevators, and with the trainer rolling suitcases in front of her, and dropping food on the floor in front of her (which she didn't touch).  It took a while for Jade to get that one.  :)  Jade is definitely motivated by food, as most Labs are. She learned not to touch any food that falls on the floor, and not eat anything unless it's given to her by hand, and I okay it.  The training on this isn't over yet, though, we're still working on it, but she's doing well.  I really want Jade to be a bomb proof service dog, but I do know that no dog is perfect, and they all have bad days.  She will have her certification test out in the public somewhere and I want her prepared to pass it with flying colors.
     The trainer and I also discussed those websites that are selling vests and such, in order for people to put on their dogs, and call them "service dogs," for the purpose of getting around the law.  My trainer expressed her disgust with these websites and the people who impersonate the disabled and have their dogs impersonate a service dog, for this purpose.  It really is a disgraceful act! A lot of studies have been done in the past about lawbreakers and criminals, and it turns out that most people do in fact, try their very best to obey the laws.  The people who do these sorts of things fit the definition of criminals, and definitely fit the definition of disgraceful! The laws on this are full of holes, and are very vague, and basically don't stop people who do this disgraceful practice, but the ADA regs are written that way for a protect the disabled.  It's hard to say what needs to be done in this case. 
     Jade did great at the mall, and the trainer was happy with her, as am I.  We will attend class today and catch her up on anything she missed.  I'm betting that they want to work on Jade's responses to loud noises again today.  Although Jade is definitely getting better with that, she still has some anxiety with a lot of prolonged loud noise.  She will get it though, I have faith.  She will get to the point that none of that bothers her anymore.  Let's hope it happens quickly. Thanks for listening.  

Here are some links below, that are great reads for anyone who just loves dogs in general.  Check them out!

If you love dogs, all kinds of dogs, and want to see what they're doing for their people....check out this link below.

The story of Danny, A Service Dog Who Saved A Life