As I sit here at my computer, I am shrouded from the outside world by sheeting rain. Rick, my husband, and I and Rainie, of course, had planned to go to a ‘spring gala’ at an incredible estate about an hour from here. It was going to be an outside affair among the sculptured gardens and manicured beds of blooming bulbs and camellias. There were going to be Guide Dog puppies with their trainers on display, as well as ponies and rabbits for the kids to play with. We decided not to go. Even if the event had not been cancelled, we would not have gone. Everyone would have been in their Easter finest; and the mansion would have been polished to its utmost glory with flowers in vases placed “just-so”. And I would have had a wet dog.
One of the rights of having a service dog is that I may legally bring her anywhere that is open to the public. About the only places that a service dog cannot go are operating rooms, into the kitchens of public restaurants, ICUs, and CCUs. Rainie, and dogs like her, have no legal rights to enter a private home or church without permission, either.
However, there are times when I’ve found that even though I can bring Rainie with me, it may be best if I didn’t. In other words, I need to use my best judgment. I think I did this today. I guess I could have left her at home, but we would have been gone too long for me to be comfortable with that. Also, I’ve never left her home alone since I’ve had her. Once I have left her with my daughter to dog-sit when I went to a movie about a zoo. I’d heard there would be lots of roaring lions, and this would probably upset her. And since Rainie isn’t the best at movies to begin with, I decided to go by myself. Another issue is that in the theater there is really no easy way to distract her (although the stuff spilled on the floor does a pretty good job by itself). I couldn’t bring a chew bone because it would roll down to the next tier. So I left her with my daughter.
There was one particular situation I found that a ‘distracter’ didn’t work, and bringing Rainie did not work for me: this was when I took water aerobics classes. Rainie is welcome in the gym. She stays with me in the locker room, and sits outside the stall while I shower. The gym even installed a special hook for me to leash Rainie to right next to the pool and behind where I stood while in the pool. The problem is that when I exercise strenuously, my blood sugar falls rapidly, so Rainie is alerting all the time. She’d sit next to the pool, and paw toward me, or whimper for my attention. All of these are good, except that I was prepared for the changes, and knew it was part of my exercise routine. I decided to try to distract her. It was suggested that I fill a ‘kong’ (a hard, roundish, hollow, rubber toy) with peanut-butter, freeze it, and give it to her while I was exercising. I tried it and it worked really well – once. The second time I tried the trick, it did not go so well. I had settled Rainie and given her the kong. We were in the middle of class when another class member cried out, “Agh! What’s that in the pool?!” I looked to see a large, black, peanut-butter filled blob (the kong) bobbing on the bottom of the pool; and Rainie, leashed behind me, pulling as tight as she could against her tether, with her toes gripping the side of the pool, trying to jump in and retrieve it. Needless to say, I never did that again. In fact, I don’t practice water-aerobics anymore.
The moral of the story is: Despite what the law states, it is always best to use your best judgment.