Our new family of 4 returned home just a few hours ago. We left yesterday afternoon after a late dinner/early lunch and drove the 2 hours to St. Louis to drop off the rental car (which was a PT Cruiser!) and then drove a ways out of the city in order to find a hotel. A special shout out to my good bud Rachel who assisted us in finding accomodations. Who would have known there was a "NASCAR event" this weekend in Illinois that made it virtually impossible to find a room?! We ended up staying in one of just a few smoking rooms left at a Hampton Inn in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Let me just say, if you ever need a place to stay, I highly recommend the Hampton Inns. The room did not in the least smell like smoke and it was N-I-C-E! The regular price was about $100 but the lady who took our reservation (after Rachel looked up hotels and their phone numbers on her internet!) said she would apply a "coupon" code to make the price $82. I paid less than $100 for the room and it was a very good experience. One I plan to let the owners of Hampton know about.
Anyway, I digress. Traveling with a service animal (or any pet I suspect) is like traveling with a child...you have to stop periodically to let them potty and get out to stretch their legs. Although I will confess to you, it was ME who really had to stop! :)
I had a good response to my top 5 questions, so I thought I'd add too them. Feel free to ask any questions you have (that I haven't already answered) by way of the comment section and I'll answer them the next time I blog. Most of these questions are from friends/family that have asked in the past....
Q6. We have a pet dog/cat in our home. Can you still come to visit us and will you bring Katie?
A6. YES! We would love to continue to visit your home. And if you want Steve to come, Katie must come too. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY: If you have another dog in your home, we will ask that you pen him/her before we arrive. While Katie is trained, it is hard for any dog to stay still and behave if there is another dog running around her, barking and/or sniffing her...well you know. Cats can stay out in the house. Katie has been trained to behave around cats and it's quite different than having a dog around. If you don't want to kennel, cage or pen your dog, then we absolutely understand and will NOT be offended. Just let us know that you don't feel comfortable with that and we can invite you to our home instead.
Q7. Is there anything special you do before going into a place of business (Target, work, restaurant)?
A7. Yes, before entering anywhere, Steve must find a grassy place for Katie to have the chance to potty before going in. This avoids accidents inside a business. And just in case you were wondering, Steve is required to remove anything left behind by Katie, so he ALWAYS cleans up her messes outside!
Q8. Katie looks so sad. Is she happy?
A8. Yes, Katie is happy. But like a police officer or guard, when they are "on duty", they don't generally smile, laugh and cut up. Katie has a job to do and she understands that. She does have times when she is not "on duty" and Steve will play with her. She may look sad while we are out, but that is her "out in public" face!
Q9. What happens if I call Katie? Will she come to me?
A9. If Katie remembers her training, nothing will happen if you call her. Katie is trained to only obey the commands of her master, which is Steve. Neither Jenna nor I can give her commands. But again, we ask that you don't call her. She is here to keep Steve safe and someone trying to call her (other than Steve) is a distraction.
Q10. What happens if you are trying to go into a business and they won't let you in with Katie?
A10. A place of business MUST, by law, let us in. If they refuse, we are to speak with the manager, who usually knows better than the workers, what the laws are. Ultimately, if push comes to shove, we have the option of calling the Police, although we hope it NEVER comes to that.
Q11. How will Katie know if Steve's blood sugar is getting low?
A11. Katie has been (and continues to be) scent trained. Dogs have a very keen sense of smell which is much better than humans. Dogs can be scent trained to do a variety of things. Sensing low blog sugar is one of them.
Q12. I saw Steve speaking harshly to Katie and yanking on her collar/leash. Why is he so mean to her?
A12. Steve is NOT being mean to Katie. He is correcting a behavior that is unacceptable such as disobedience. It looks like he's being mean. I KNOW. I think the same thing, but Steve has to establish dominance and so he has to use a firm voice when correcting her. Just think if you had a toddler who continued to disobey your commands. You would, most likely, not talk to him in a quiet, sweet voice and expect him to understand the importance of his obedience. Neither can Steve. Katie will continue to train and before long, correction will be minimal.
Q13. Does Katie stay outside or inside and where does she sleep?
A13. Katie stays inside unless Steve takes her outside for a walk. And she sleeps with us. Yes, you heard that right...she sleeps with us. Steve will sleep next to me and for bonding reasons, separate Katie from me. She has to understand that she works for Steve and so her sleeping close to him helps that bonding. In addition, she will be able to more easily detect blood sugar lows during the night.
Q14. Will Steve have any more formal training with Katie or is this it?
A14. We anticipate a week's worth of training in Missouri each year for several years. We have additional training to do while we are home and will report back to them weekly and monthly for quite a while.
Q15. Are you and Jenna allowed to pet/play with Katie when she's "off duty"?
A15. No. For the first 90 days we are home, no one, and especially not Jenna and I can have contact with Katie. It would be very easy for her to bond with one of us. We already love her like crazy because of how safe she is going to keep Steve. And yes, it is EXTREMELY hard for us to not want to just love all over her. But we can't. At least not right now. It's hard and very sad for us, but we know for Katie to help Steve that it's what is best.
I have lots of other things to say, but I would like to rest for a while. It's back to work and camp tomorrow. But only 2 more weeks until our vacation! YAY!
Bring on the questions...if I didn't answer them yet, I'll be happy to...