One smart dog,
By Darcie Gore

What a joy to present this column by Darcie Gore, my good friend and one of the fine minds behind Food for Thought. Darcie’s an inspiration to me, and I trust she will be to you, too. Doni

 Bailey, a whippet, has been with me since she was 10 weeks old.  She is my second whippet service dog.  I had a stroke, and as a result of that brain trauma there are a number of medical issues that Bailey is able to mitigate.

These are common things people say when I am out in public with Bailey:

Is that a service dog?  Yes (hint: that’s why she has a red jacket that says “service dog”).

What are you training her for?   She has completed the minimum training but continues to learn.

Can I pet her?  Thanks for asking, but no, it does distract her.

Oh, what kind of dog is that?  A whippet. It is possible for any breed to be a service dog. 

You don’t look disabled.  Hmmm, never sure how to respond to that one.

What’’s wrong with you?   I always feel uncomfortable with this one, too.  Why would a perfect stranger ask me such a personal question?

Does she ever get to just be a dog? Of course (she loves Benton dog park).

Is she really shy?  No, but she is supposed to be focused on me when she is working.

What does she do?  She has been trained to perform specific tasks that assists or alerts me to medical condition/issues/concerns so that I can take the necessary action for my health and well being.

Can I give her this treat?  No, she is on a special high-energy diet and again, it distracts her from her job.

Wow, it must be nice to have your dog with you all the time, how can I do that?  Again, what am I suppose to say?  While I love being with Bailey,  I would rather be independent and have the all abilities and mobility I had before the stroke.  I am sure most disabled people feel the same way.   

People will start a conversation with, “my, friend, neighbor, sister, father, co-coworker, etc., has a service dog.” Then they launch into a long-winded story about that  person.

Please don’t get me wrong,  I love talking about Bailey and talking to other people about their dogs.  However, when Bailey is with me and she is “dressed” in her red service-dog jacket, she is working.  It also means I am trying to get some errands or shopping done independently.  It is usually not a social setting for me.  I know there aren’t that many service dogs in this area and people are just curious.   If these questions were only asked a couple of times a day it wouldn’t be so hard.  The reality is that any time I go out with Bailey, those same questions are asked dozens and dozens of times.  I have had people interrupt my conversations with clerks, tellers, cashiers or companions to ask about Bailey.   Not only is it disruptive, it takes much longer to do routine things, like grocery shop.  It saps my energy and patience and makes it harder for me to focus on the task at hand and for Bailey to focus on her job.

bailey-300.jpg

So today, I would like to share some guidelines when you encounter a service dog:  

• Always speak to the person first. Do not make distracting noises to the dog.  
• Always ask before you pet and then only when the service dog is resting; not working.  
• Never feed or offer food to a working dog.  They are well fed (even if they are skinny whippets).  
• Do not let your dog initiate contact with a working dog while it’s on duty. 
• Do not ask personal questions about the person’s disability or otherwise intrude on his/her privacy.

Doni’’s website provides a wonderful opportunity to ask questions.  I will try to answer anything about Bailey or service dogs in general.  In addition,  I am partnering on the creation of a website with resources about service dogs at http://www.servicedogsforliberty.com/

Darcie has a master’s degree in social work and has always been involved in the community and social services. Having been married to Jim for 36 years, she has learned about computers by osmosis, starting with key punching his first computer programs at Cal Poly. She is often seen with her service dog, Bailey.

   

earned a master's degree in social work and enjoyed working with diverse populations for over 30 years. She is a stroke survivor and is assisted by Bailey, her service dog. Darcie has been married to Jim since she was 17 years old. They have two grown children.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

18 Responses

  1. Sheila Click says:

    Hi Darcie,

    Congratulations are in order to you and Bailey.

    I realize how difficult writing this item must have been for you as I have had a stroke too. Others may not realize that although we don't look different, we tend to be a little slower than we were before the stroke.

    Your family does know how far you have come and love you for the progress you have made and continue to make.

    God speed to you and Bailey.

  2. Jan Maurer Watkins says:

    Way to go Darcie!

  3. Suzan J says:

    Thank you for sharing your candid insight, Darcie.

  4. Karen Calanchini says:

    Very educational for the general public….nicely done, Darcie. I'm so happy to learn that you have Bailey as your helper and buddy. Does Bailey want to be an Rx: Pets partner, as well?

  5. Darcie says:

    Thanks for your comments, Jan and Susan. I know that this is a safe place to write about my experiences and hopefully shed some light on the subject of service dogs.

    Karen, I am scheduled to have Bailey go through the evaluation for Prescription (RX) pets in a couple of weeks. I miss seeing you and the rest of the pet partners. For those that don't know, Prescription Pets is a wonderful pet visiting service to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and soon the libary with the new READ program.

  6. GrammaLyn says:

    Thanks for the information, Darcie. I am familiar with the proper guidelines for approaching a service dog, but I think it is very important to share. I know it is hard for folks to resist a handsome pooch, so hopefully your article will educate them.

    By the way, is Bailey reading DoniGreenberg.com on that computer? He IS a smart dog!

    ~Lyn, your bread-making companion~

  7. Leon C. Nelson says:

    Hi, Darcie…

    I have several friends with service dogs and your dilemma is experienced by them, too.

    Suggestion: Why don't you have some "business-card size" notes printed that have a simple message on them? Something like this comes to mind: "Thanks for asking about Service Dogs. I like having people know correct information about these remarkable animals, and for that reason suggest that you visit the website – http://www.servicedogsforliberty.com/ There, you'll not only be amazed with what you'll learn, you'll have a way of sharing what you've learned with others, if the occasion ever arises to do so." Glad to help. Leon

  8. Budd Hodges says:

    A very interesting article Dear Darsie. Keep up the good work and have a nice summer, ya hear. :>{)

  9. Marilyn says:

    Darcie:

    My son, a big guy of about 6ft tall and about 210lbs (and single) has 2 whippets, which he runs daily. At first he was teased about the dogs, but

    then his friends realized what wonderful, smart dogs they are. I never thought of them as serivce dogs, but why not. My daughter had CP and she had a Chihuahua service dog. The most gentle, loyal dogs in the world.

  10. Darcie says:

    Greetings GrammaLyn and Leon,

    Doni's bread making class was a blast, GrammaLyn, and it was great to meet you there. You have a good eye, the laptop computer Bailey was viewing was on donigreenberg.com. I told you she was smart!

    Leon, that is a great idea for the cards.

    I do have cards for businesses and employees that question access rights for service dogs. Those cards describe the law and refer to additional resources.

    I am pleased to say that while Bailey has accompanied me on airplanes, in motels, stores, restaurants, movie theaters, buses, etc., I have only given out two. One card was given to a young hotel clerk that wasn't sure what to do when we checked in – as the hotel had a no pet policy. The second was to a checkout clerk in Sacramento that kept questioning me as to my need for the dog.

    By the time I finished shopping and was checking out, not only was I exhaused, but I felt so bad about him holding up the people in line behind me.

    I agree with you, most people are just curious and want to know more about service dogs and what they do for their partner. That is exactly why we started http://www.servicedogsforliberty.com. In addition to being a resource for dog partners, we are happy to speak to groups or provide free in-service training for employees about service dogs.

  11. GrammaLyn says:

    I'm sorry Bailey … I assumed you were a boy doggie. My apologies!

  12. Darcie says:

    Marilyn,

    I think you hit on a good point about what breeds of dogs make good service dogs. It really does depend on the individual personality of the dog and their temperment matched with the tasks performed. I bet that Chihuahua was a blessing to your daughter.

    By the way, is your son (the one with the whippets) in Redding? I only know of a few whippets in this area but I am sure there are more. It would be nice to get together with other owners and let the dogs play. Yes, service dogs get to play too!

  13. Todd Gandy DDS says:

    Your dog is not only a hard worker, but appears to be interested in Dentistry as well (judging by the expert article on the computer).

    Great article and very informative.

    Little known fact… it is illegal for a Dentist to clean a dog's teeth (unless the Dentist has a prescription from the dogs Veterinarian!).

    Todd

  14. Darcie says:

    Dr. Gandy, that is so interesting about not being able to clean a dogs teeth. Bailey does love your articles; but she has to wait to read them until after she gets her teeth brushed in the morning:))

  15. Canda Williams says:

    Darcie, This is such a good article. You brought up things I had never thought of regarding service dogs. Now I won't have to be one of those annoying people in the check out line! Thanks for the info. I also think Leon's idea about cards is a great one, and a nice way to educate and inform people. Take care!

  16. Kelley Sue says:

    I will definitely send people back to this article. Too bad I cannot in some way incorporate it into my Aussie's jacket! Sigh… We have one man that has ruined things here where I live for people like me who have a Service Dog that is Necessary (I have seizures and Rheumatoid Arthritis) and Awesome. (not to mention beautiful). However Everywhere I go I get people telling me Oh he is so sweet and quiet then the phrase that we in our family dreads…. There is this guy… In tandum my fiance the kids and I can recite.."the jerk with the Rotti," He is a big over 6 ft tall guy and granted the dog is about 125 but he tells people that the dog catches him if he falls. He would hurt the dog if he fell fully on him. Plus the dog is viscous. He lunged and tried to bite 4 children at the Post Office (they were the first to ask me the laws) he has snapped and growled at people in the Mall, (they have asked for help too) and I know there are 6 puppy raisers in the area. They have run into problems where the dog has lunged at their pups. My aussie Bogart (Bogey) Ignores them. It drives the puppies nuts but the raisers LOVE it because he does ignore them. It teaches them to chill and we don't mind helping.
    But training the people with Children and sometimes the people to keep their hands and noises to themselves. That is another story. Now Bogey is funny he ignores them. He does not acknowledge them unless they start getting right up on him with a cart. and he will move give them a disgusted look and lay back down. When people ask me what is wrong with me and say I am so young. I tell them first off I have been breaking and training horses for over 25 yrs I earned this arthritis, Second I have a 17 yr old which makes them rethink how old I am. Then I tell them "It is illegal for you to ask what is wrong with me and what he does but I will tell you this once" and I kinda whisper loudly so they feel kinda sheepish.
    I am so happy to see a whippet as a service dog! As for me I am gonna stick with my aussies. I have trained one other for someone else. She is awesome too. I think it really depends on the dog!
    Take Care!

  17. Dannee says:

    Thank you Darcie I was researching if whippets would make good service dogs. Found this site.

    I nee a service dog for alerting about health, bracing for walking stairs and ability to use emergency phone for 911 calls. Do you think they are trainable for these tasks. I love their natures and love of their person.

    Hey which Cal Poly, I am a SLO grad.

    Thanks Heaps hope this gets to you.

    • Andar says:

      I think whippets CAN make good service dogs for medical alert, hearing impaired, autistic, PTSD, but not severe visual deficits or physically demanding tasks.

      As sight hounds, they may forget all their training in favor of paying attention to flying birds, scampering squirrels or even a leaves carried by wind. They also need someone that will continue to re-enforce their training as they can sometimes just decide it might be fun to not do a task they know well. You might want a larger dog if you need them for bracing. Bailey does help with stairs by waiting at each step so I know where the steps begin and end – but she would not be able to pull up stairs.

      Having said that, whippets are SO loving and attuned to their owners. They seem to talk with their eyes and expressions.

      Bailey continues to amaze me – she recently pointed out a skin cancer on a neighbors leg!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *