Saturday, March 21, 2009

Invisible Disabilites

"Laurel" as drawn by Luke

I knew that having a service dog in the family would inevitably bring with it a portion of PR but I never realized how much. Even in central Pennsylvania where people are, for the most part, very knowledgable about service dogs in general, we still get lots of attention when we go out. Usually it is all well and good, but there are some things that I am just not quite used to yet.

The most frequent question that we are asked centers around whether Laurel is in training. The very fact that we are asked this question relates to the title of this post. People most often associate service dogs with those that are physically disabled. The very fact that none of us are physcially disabled leads them to assume that Laurel is only in training. I am frustrated by these questions because I don't have a good answer for them yet. Most of the time the conversations are very brief but I always feel that I have answered them inadequately. I want to have some eloquant, conscience answer that sums it all up but I don't.

Please don't get me wrong, I like when people ask about Laurel but there are times when it can be awkward. And then there are the people that don't talk to you, but cause problems just the same. On Saturday we were in Walmart and were having a particularly difficult moment. I was trying to look at something and Luke wanted to go in a different direction. He was trying to pull Laurel to go with him which is precisely why she is still attached to me at the same time. A lady came up and without saying a word to Luke or I stopped her cart and came over and got down to pet Laurel. I was completely speechless. I guess she just thought we were 'training' the dog.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Today Laurel and I went to PawsAbilities. Unfortunately this is not the type of event that Luke would last very long at so he did not come along.

Laurel and I saw lots of people and dogs that we knew. She was very excited to see her birth mom, Mabel, and her sister, Hazel. She also saw Steele, Nokie, Brom, Scarlett, and Joplin as well as many others whose names I don't know. She saw her puppy parents and her puppy raisers as well as the SSD trainers that she knew very well. I'm happy that she got to see her 'friends'. I talked with many people that I have learned to know as well which was a good feeling. Everyone associated with SSD is so friendly!

There were many dog-related vendors there today and I picked up some equipment that I needed. First and foremost was a hands-free leash that Laurel's puppy raisers told me about. It is by far the most useful leash ever invented! I also bought a 2 foot leash for Luke to use. Normally it is not an issue when Laurel is in harness since Luke has a special handle there that he uses. But when she is not in harness, Luke has this thing about only holding onto a leash by it's handle. It doesn't work too well when there is a six foot leash between him and the dog. This new leash seems to do the trick! I also bought a dumbell to try to teach Laurel how to pick things up. Apparently she missed out on that part of the training while she was learning how to search for Luke.

It's been a busy weekend for us, but fun none the less!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Hello, and welcome to our blog!

Our journey began two and a half years ago when we applied for a service dog from Susquehanna Service Dogs for our son, Luke. Luke has Asperger's syndrome and life can be a challenge for him. He is easily agitated by his environment, whether it is sights, sounds or just circumstances. He can be physically and verbally agressive and run off with no thought of his own safety.

We were notified of our match to SSD Laurel in November of last year. We participated in team training just a few weeks ago and we officially became a working team on February 25, 2009. Our team is a threesome instead of the typcial twosome partnership. For a variety of reasons, Luke is not able to pass the public access test alone right now so I am included in the partnership.

The quality of life improvements we have seen so far have been good. Luke is sleeping much better at night with Laurel right next to him. Just a day or two after Laurel began living with us, when it was time for bed, Luke got in to bed and Laurel was with him. He looked up at me and said, "See you in the morning, Mom." I've never heard those words from him before. It is a complete turnaround from the desperation that I typically hear from him when it is time for bed. Overall, I expected Luke to be much more aware of when Laurel is with him – but what I am noticing is he most often notices when she is not with him. What I hope that this means is that she is having a calming effect on him, even if he is not yet realizing it.

Through this blog I hope to record our triumphs and trials as a team. For everyone who is raising puppies or is waiting for a service dog, I hope this blog will be encouraging to you along your journey.