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Archive | Assistance Dogs

Assistance Dogs In The Workplace

Since it’s come up, I thought I’d take a moment to explain for those who don’t know how all this works.

One would think that if a disabled person has a service (assistance) dog, that their dog accompanies them literally everywhere including work. However, there are different sets of laws that govern different areas of life, and the workplace is one of those areas with different laws.

When you, as the disabled handler of an assistance dog, are hired for a job, the dog is not automatically accepted as part of the package deal. Like in the US, you have to ask for what’s called “reasonable accommodations” for your disability. In some cases, the most reasonable accommodation would be for your dog to accompany you to the workplace.

In other cases, other arrangements may be suggested and offered by your employer to mitigate your disability reasonably WITHOUT the dog. Most food service industry jobs fall into this category, jobs directly working with wild animals is another.

In the food service industry, a dog can’t legally be in the kitchen where food is prepared, because of hygiene issues. Waitressing is tricky for the same reason. And as Hostess/Receptionist/PR it would mean having the dog directly in the doorway, impeding access for guests, and putting the dog in a high traffic area increases the risk of injury to the dog.

All that said, alternative reasonable accommodations have been put into place since it is not reasonable for Journey to accompany me to work. Such alternatives include: short, split shifts to reduce stress load, a low stress position, inconspicuous check ins from coworkers (in my case, a coworker will occasionally shoot me a thumbs up. If I’m unable to return the gesture, I need help. If I am able to return it, all clear, carry on – this allows everyone to make sure I’m safe and ok without making my disability obvious to guests and without interrupting the business).

Obviously I will miss Juju while I’m working. But I have to support my family and my workplace has set up reasonable, workable alternatives to keep me safe. So it’s all good.

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Journey to the USA, Part Two

The day after our very long plane ride, followed by a very long layover, then a very long car ride (are you seeing a recurring theme here?), we got some much needed rest and once we woke up, we needed some sustenance for the day ahead. We headed to Bojangles. OMG y’all, I seriously missed that place. Not very many gluten free options for me to choose from, sadly, but my need for some hot, fresh biscuits outweighed the risk of painful gastric issues, so we dove in face first. I saved my copilot Journey a bit because, hell, he deserves to try all the deliciousness too, doesn’t he? Of course, I won’t feed him in a restaurant, so he got his outside at the car.

Journey at Bo's

After refuelling our bodies, we headed down to Mom’s and happily greeted our family that we hadn’t seen in a few years, since I was in between assistance dogs. My daughter decided to take Juju out to explore our new surroundings…

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…and of course, if there is water, anywhere, he will find it. Even if he had just been groomed the day before. Especially if he had just been groomed the day before.

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We tried to go back to the house. We really tried. But Juju found more water. And became a Bernergator.

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Let me tell you, there is nothing more beautiful than a mountain dog in his element.

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Or sillier than a mountain dog trying to play hide and seek. Hint: they fail. Epically.

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More on our American adventures in the next installment!

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Journey to the USA, Part One

Last month, Journey and I, along with my daughter, took a trip home to visit family and friends. Journey has done short flights before, but this was his first big international trip, and it was exciting for all of us.

The first day, we had to travel from Málaga to Madrid, then from Madrid to Chicago, then from Chicago to Richmond, then from Richmond down to Charlotte, NC. Things in Málaga were a breeze, even if Journey looked bored.

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He was a champ on the plane. We had a nice little two-seater row, perfect for my daughter, Journey and me for our short little hop to Madrid.

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Things in Madrid SUCKED. Our hour layover… wasn’t. We had to change terminals, so we only had enough time to get off the plane and for whatever reason, our special assistance escort was not there waiting for us, so we had to make a mad dash for the train on our own. I tried to potty Journey in the ladies’ restroom but he just gave me a bewildered look like “but mom! I’m never ever supposed to pee inside!” and wouldn’t go, so… sorry buddy… we’ll try again in Chicago. We barely made it to our gate in time.

On the Madrid to Chicago leg, we took J’s harness off so he could get more comfy.

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Here’s where I have to give a HUGE shoutout to Iberia Airlines. We were treated fantastically, they had blocked off an extra seat for us so basically we had an entire row to ourselves so Journey had tons of space, the food was fabulous (we highly recommend the pasta! and the hummus omggggg) and the on board entertainment kept us busy for most of the flight.

When we landed in Chicago, special assistance WAS waiting for us… however, there was another nightmare ahead of us. We were only supposed to have an hour and a half layover in Chicago, and despite being told in Málaga that our bags were checked all the way through to our final destination, turns out we would have to pick them up in Chicago, and recheck them after going through Customs and Border Patrol. Of COURSE our bag was the last one out, and despite having a special assistance escort fly us through security, passport control, CBP and get us on the train, and to the gate with minutes to spare… we missed boarding and therefore lost our connection to Richmond. They rebooked us on the next flight…. six hours later. Great. And of course we were stuck in the one terminal in all of O’Hare that had the WORST dining and shopping options available to us.

So we decided to make the best of it and find a place to potty Journey and settle in for a loooooong wait for our next flight.

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Many hours later, we were finally boarded on a puddle-jumper to Richmond, landed there at midnight and my brother picked us up. By this time we had been traveling for well over 24 hours and were beyond exhausted. We fell asleep in the car on the way to Charlotte. My brother did wake us up for a moment at a rest stop just across the VA/NC state line so that Journey could do this:

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And then we got back in the car, drove to my brother’s house and passed out.

More adventures from the USA in the next post!

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