Hello! Intro (Kinda) and Vent About San Francisco, Hotels, and my Service Dog

Hello!

Ah, kinda sad that my first blog post is about a touchy issue, but I am just so livid right now, I need a safe place to let out my thoughts.

I should start with basics I guess. I'm 29 years old and my husband and I live in San Jose, California. I'm originally from Puerto Rico, and moved to San Jose for work at 27. My husband is from Indiana. I met my husband at work, and we recently got married. I've had a number of various health issues all my life, and it was recommended to me that I look into getting a dog to help mitigate some of those issues. And so Penny came into our lives. Unfortunately I lost my job (ironically I suppose, after a string of missed work due to health issues, but no way to prove it was related to that), and so the task of training Penny to be my service dog has fallen on my own hands. We were able to save some money and sign her up for a professional obedience class as well, but for the specific tasks that I need her to do in order to help me, we are attempting them on our own. She's currently a service dog in training. Our current goal is to get the basic training out of the obedience class and then try and work her all the way up to Canine Good Citizen, and by then fingers-crossed we'll have a little money saved up to get her tested by an professional service dog trainer that can "certify" that she can indeed do all of the tasks that are required of her, and so forth. If we are ever able to afford professional training instead of just testing and certification then we'll gladly go that route, but for now we're on our own save for the obedience class. I've done a lot of heavy research and reading on the ADA and am aware that she does not need certification or ID or any of that stuff, so long as she can do the tasks that are needed in order to help mitigate my conditions, but we figured that having her at least past the AKA CGC and a specific test issued by a licensed/professional service dog trainer or organization wouldn't hurt.

Penny is currently 4 months old and is doing quite well. She has some issues sometimes but I expect those as she's still a baby. Most importantly, she's doing very well when it comes to the specific tasks I need her to do, so I am feeling confident and reassured that we're going down the right path.

Fast forward to now. My parents are going to be visiting San Francisco around mid November (before Thanksgiving), from Puerto Rico. Originally, my mom wanted my husband and I to stay with them in the city, so I told her that'd be fine but that she would need to mention to the hotel that her daughter had a service dog in training. Our first language is Spanish and I had a hard time explaining to her the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal but it seemed like she had finally understood and everything was ok. She called me this morning nearly in tears because every hotel she called stated that they did not accept pets and that if it was an emotional support animal that they needed to see a doctor's letter or worse yet, a "registration document" and they charged a fee. I told her that that was not true, as the ADA does not require any of those things for a service dog and although my pup is still in training she has the same rights (as far as I understand) and that she is not an emotional support animal and thus does not need a letter as that is not the reason she is a service dog at all. I ended up telling her not to worry about it and that I'd take care of it and to just at least make sure she could find a room for her and my dad cause worst came to worst my husband and I could just make the drive to and from every day if we had to.

I'm currently just feeling overwhelmed and upset and don't really know what to do. I don't want to show up and be one of those angry ranting customers as I don't think that'll help at all. I considered calling the hotel myself and explaining the situation but my husband said they would probably know it was related to my mom and give me the same spiel and I really cannot get into a heated argument with them about it, that would only make one of my conditions worse so it's not worth it. I think we are just going to visit them and make the drive instead. I am concerned though that the staff will still ask me to get out or to leave Penny outside even if we aren't staying and are just visiting my parents and have to enter the lobby or want to eat at their restaurant, etc. I understand that they are within their rights to ask even a service dog to be taken out if it's misbehaved but that hasn't even happened yet and so far we have no reason to believe she would misbehave, but regardless if she did misbehave then yes, I would of course take her out, that's what I would do for any business that asked if if she was misbehaving. I am fairly certain that the law does state clearly though that they can't preemptively ask us to remove her from the premises when she hasn't even stepped foot inside yet. I'm debating with myself about whether or not we should get her a service dog vest and id, and it frustrates me that we would even have to since the law is also clear that these things aren't required. San Francisco (the Bay Area in general I think, cause it happens down here in San Jose too) has an issue with people getting fake service dog ID's and vests and even fake "service dog registry" papers and I think this may be what some of the hotels are used to/thinking off and that is just maddening to me. My disabilities are invisible save for when I have an episode and then it becomes clear, and one of the tasks Penny is being trained with is to ease the passing of an episode by either using specific methods or otherwise following commands to get help. Unfortunately she cannot help prevent an episode but she can help make it so that when an episode does occur it is not as dangerous to my life as it could be otherwise. These are not things that are evident from just looking at me though.

I don't know if we should just give in and "if you can't beat them, join them" and get one of the fake vests off amazon or somewhere like that and call it a day. It frustrates me to no end since I shouldn't have to and the law states that I shouldn't have to but ignorance is such that I almost feel forced to. I just don't know what to do. I assumed we'd have some issues traveling (we'll have to take several flights come December as we have no friends or family in this area) but it didn't occur to me that we'd be having issues already. Maybe I'm being naive, I don't know. :(

That aside, I realize plenty of people make this drive every day for work but one of my conditions doesn't generally allow me to make trips like this -for airplane rides I have to be heavily medicated- so even though we've lived here in the area for a couple of years we've only been up to SF once and we only got as far as the GGB and then back as my health just didn't allow anymore. I'm doing a lot better now and Penny helps counterbalance the other negative effects of the disorders and with my parents having a hotel room to refer back to in case I needed it, we figured it was a good a time as any to try for a real trip. So that said, if we do end up just having to make the drive every day, does anyone know of some activities that we could do that are dog-friendly where we could take Penny and just have her be a dog for once and not have the added worry? I think I remember people taking their dogs to the Golden Gate Bridge area but with the furloughs I'm not sure that space will be open, and I don't really remember if the dogs were allowed or people were just sneaking them in. I've heard there's a beach around that area as well that lots of people take their dogs to. Any parks that are also good for sight-seeing? I always carry doggy bags on me for picking up after her, and she is always on her leash (and close to me not loose-leash unless she's off training duty and relaxing/playing) and I've heard that SF is supposed to be a really dog-friendly city overall, but my husband is concerned about where she'd do her business. I assume there's grassy areas/lawns, etc like here.

 

Well, thanks for listening/any help in advance!

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Comment by Julia on October 15, 2013 at 3:08am

An advantage to a vest is that it can show that you have a "dog in training." This will make people treat your dog like a working dog, no coming up to the cute little puppy to rub his tummy and talk baby talk in his face (as we all do when we see a corgi!) There is nothing dishonest in an "in training" vest, as your pup really is being trained.

Comment by risingeternity on October 14, 2013 at 6:41pm

Oh thank you for your reply Jane! I agree with you that the vest does seem like it would make things easier for us overall.

As far as dinner goes, hehe, no worries there as I would definitely prefer to not take her to dinner with me at all unless it was absolutely necessary. Personally I don't care for the idea at all, and while I get not wanting to be separated from a pup, it's not a practice I am fond of, if that makes sense, so I would definitely not be getting her a vest and claiming her as a service dog just so she could join me for dinner.

Comment by Jane on October 14, 2013 at 5:42pm

This doesn't help with your hotel situation, but I vacationed in SF recently (union square area) and saw several guide dogs in restaurants and other public areas. I would definitely recommend a vest of some sort though. I think it's not technically required, but it goes a long way in convincing people you're not just trying to bring your pup to dinner. :)

Comment by risingeternity on October 14, 2013 at 1:44pm

Aww Sully sounds like the complete opposite of Penny! Sometimes I wish she would be mellow like that hehe, but nope, she's a dog on the go, work, work, work, constantly, day or night! Sully does really sound like she'd be a perfect therapy dog though, she sounds like a sweetie!

Comment by Holly on October 14, 2013 at 1:05pm

I'm glad to hear that you have resolved some of the issues in your first post. I am not surprised that corgis make good service dogs because they are so smart. I don't think my dog would do well though because she is waaaay too mellow. She likes the idea of my meeting her needs but I have to wake her up every morning to get her to eat and go out. I was sick a couple of times and she snored happily until noon. I swear, I actually shook her one day just to make sure she hadn't slipped into a coma. She loves to lounge. I do think she would be an excellent therapy dog though. She loves people and attention. I didn't mean to pry about your disability by the way. I was just trying to imagine tasks a short corgi might do. They are a working breed, but my Sully never got the memo.

Comment by risingeternity on October 14, 2013 at 12:30am

Ah I forgot to add!

Thank you Beth, I will definitely try and keep a journal or some sort of updates on her progress and mine. I know it will not be easy but honestly life is already a little bit easier for me with what little things she can already do, so I know it will all be worth it in the end.

Holly, I forgot to add as well, I am ok if she cannot go everywhere until she is fully trained, those are just days she will have to stay home and my husband will have to go with me, or I'll have to stay home as well and wait until he can go with me. That's alright. I don't know if you saw my earlier comment but he decided he would rather drive up to SF than stay at the hotel and have to go through trouble just to let us all stay there, and I agree with him that it's not worth it especially if she's not truly covered under the law for now. My concern after that remained in general regarding if they would kick me out if I did come into their lobby with her to wait for my parents, or eat at their restaurant, but if worse comes to worse one person can stay and wait outside with her while the other goes and waits inside, and we can try to eat at restaurants that have outdoor seating, and so on. I just want to follow the law as well as whatever rights I am allowed. If she's not allowed until she's fully trained, then she's not allowed and I understand that and accept that. I am not an argumentative person by nature and have no desire to cause a scene or create any issues with them or anywhere we might go, and if bringing a training dog would just make things even worse down the line for folks that already have fully trained dogs then I do not wish to contribute to that. I do want her to get as much as exposure as possible but we will find ways to do that that still stay within the law and that do not take advantage of loopholes, which unfortunately a lot of people here (in the bay area/SF/SJ) like to do.

Thank you both for your replies, they have given me a lot of insight and information and I am genuinely grateful! Corgi nation is full of wonderful people!

Comment by risingeternity on October 14, 2013 at 12:01am

Holly,

Thank you for the Independent Living Center in Berkeley, I will definitely contact them! My dog is a corgi, yes. There are actually many things they can be trained to do, and a service dog can be any size or breed. Corgis specifically make excellent service dogs! I've seen a few videos on youtube that even feature corgis as mobility assistance dogs, which I find impressive considering their height lol! Speaking of height, I am very short myself (4'10) and do not react well to/with large dogs and would not able to control a lab or golden retriever, as I do not have the muscle strength required for those larger dogs, etc that are usually seen as service dogs, so a corgi was the perfect size, temperament, activity level, and just overall breed for me.

I would rather not go into too much detail regarding her training as that would be disclosing my personal medical information, but I will try to explain a few of the tasks she's being trained to do. I apologize in advance if it's very vague! One of the more important tasks involves applying several different physical and weight techniques that can help break or lessen disassociate states/tremors and/or seizures. Unfortunately the states vary in terms of severity, sometimes it's small tremors that pass quickly, but far too often they are severe enough that I am unable to speak and can only mumble incoherently and use awkward gestures. She is being trained to recognize this as a paralysis or dissociate state and react accordingly, depending on the severity. There's several techniques she's being trained in that are meant to also either break the states, or lessen the severity of the state so that I am able to then break from it myself. She is also being trained to provide assistance with tasks that would help break said states, such as retrieving my medicine if I am not able to reach it on time, or notifying my husband that an episode is occurring, or if we're out and about, doing the same but to a stranger I indicate to. If she is not able to break the disassociate state, she is being trained to then either follow the "get help" procedures, or lead me to a safe spot/stand over me until help arrived. She is not being trained as a medical alert dog, she cannot predict when a state or seizure is about to happen so she cannot alert me to them, but the hope is that in time she will start to recognize the symptoms and help lessen the effects or dangers of such a state until it has passed.

Before Penny came into my life, I was unable to get out of bed and had to usually call my husband and pull him out of work so he could come help me until a state had passed. With Penny, he does not have to leave work as often (since she's still being trained, and she's still so young, she has learned a lot but she still has a looooooong way to go before she's fully done, he still sometimes has to leave work regardless), and I would eventually hopefully be able to even return to work myself, as I am not currently able to do so. Basically. she would replace the tasks that he was/is doing now as my caretaker.

Comment by Holly on October 13, 2013 at 10:54pm

Service animals and companion pets are used for both physical and emotional disabilities, such as post combat PTSD, so the disability is irrelevant. Companion pets can also be considered medically necessary for various reasons, such as managing depression or high blood pressure, but Section 504 Regs which cover public accommodations including schools and housing, allows owners of companion pets to ask for a reasonable accommodation to have the pet live with them in a building with a no pets policy. Public accommodations such as hotels, can provide an accommodation for companion pets if they wish, but the law does not require it unless it is a service animal. I haven't read the regs in some time, but they are easy to look up. I am not sure what documentation is required to show proof of the animal's certification, but I believe it is meant in large part to protect the owner in the event the dog bites, for example. Your question about whether a service animal in training should get equal access during training is subject to interpretation. There may be a disability law center in your area that could help you sort t out, but I would recommend contacting the independent living center in Berkeley. It is the oldest ILC in the world. I am sure they can help with any disability related questions while the federal websites may be inactive. Is your dog a corgi? I am curious about the tasks she performs. I'd hate to have to rely on my corgi for anything, LOL. I think her spinal cord is only in slightly better shape than mine. We both seek out the ramps. Good luck with your dog.

Comment by Beth on October 13, 2013 at 10:31pm

I give you a lot of credit for working through this process on your own.  Best of luck, and please let us know how it goes!

Comment by risingeternity on October 13, 2013 at 9:33pm

Oh!  Thank you!


This section here I believe?

    [I] Any trainer or individual with a disability may  take dogs in any of the places specified in subdivisions (a) and (b) for the purpose of training the dogs as guide dogs, signal dogs, or service dog. The person shall ensure that the dog is on leash and tagged as a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog by an identification tag issued by the county clerk or animal control department as authorized by Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 30850) of Division 14 of the Food and Agricultural Code. In addition, the person shall be liable for any provable damage done to the premises or facilities by his or her dog.

I've been sitting here reading all the links provided so far, and I think that one answers the ID issue the best. That's actually super helpful, I really appreciate it, my eyes are watery I was so frustrated, thank you!

I think I've cleared up most of my confusion so far. She's still in training and so is not covered under the entire law, but she does require an ID provided by my county. And of course, training will continue with the end goal being certification by either an organization or trainer that specializes with service dogs, or continue training her ourselves and then get thet tested by either an organization or trainer that specializes in service dogs so that we can have extra documentation just in case. Even though I still do not believe I need a letter from my doctor since she is not an ESA, I will talk with her and see if there's something she could do regardless, I know she has other patients that also have service dogs. Unfortunately the doctor that first recommended it was when I still lived in Puerto Rico and that was two years ago and I no longer have their contact information.

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