At the training center, the instructors and trainers repeat, “Remember, whenever you and your dog are out in public, you are ambassadors for Early Alert Canines, as well as every other service dog in the community.”
Oh, how true this is. Rainie and I are frequently stopped and I end up answering questions about diabetes, what she does, what an Early Alert Canine is, how they are trained, how to apply, the rules and regulations about service dogs, and, sometimes, medical advice regarding dogs (which I usually refer to their local vet). We were warned that when the dogs are in their vests, we would lose our anonymity – which is not usually a problem for me because I am a born teacher and (usually) love to talk. Rainie has learned that part of “getting dressed” is enduring (i.e. enjoying) a quick brushing before she gets her jacket on. Since I know we’re likely to get stopped, I like her to ‘look pretty’; but I think she thinks she always looks pretty, and the brushing is just an added bonus.
Besides the daily, impromptu questions, Rainie and I have spoken or appeared at twelve “outreach events” in the past two months. Because Rainie has made such a huge difference in my life, I’ve become passionate about bringing the knowledge about Diabetic Alert Dogs to the medical and social community. The questions and responses we get vary immensely. My answers must be correct, and heart-felt, while Rainie does her best to keep everyone entertained. Since Early Alert Canines can’t fill everyone’s needs, I often find myself referring people to other agencies and suggesting other places to get their questions answered.
Here is a partial list of where Rainie and I have visited in the past eight weeks:
- The Rotary Club of Aptos and Soquel.
- The Farmers’ Market at Cabrillo (Early Alert Canines Fundraiser).
- Silver Oak Cub Scouts of San Jose. (The most interesting questions asked was, “Does she ever get to Play?”)
- CarbDM meeting with parents of children with diabetes.
- Watsonville Diabetic Education Center.
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s “Walk to Cure Diabetes” Santa Clara.
- Watsonville School Nurses at the Watsonville Diabetic Education Center.
- Soquel High School, three Health-Education classes.
- Rotary Club of Santa Cruz.
- The “Spooktacular Event” an Early Alert Canines.
- Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s “Walk to Cure Diabetes”, San Francisco.
And when we get home after one of these engagements, Rainie usually runs around the house, checking on her bed and making sure her toys are still here, as if to celebrate the fact that we are, again, home!