noun. US. A dog that has been trained to assist a person who has a disability.
Tatanka is our dog, and she is on track to become a service dog for our daughter who has Down Syndrome. The laws regarding service dogs in the US are fairly flexible and this is a both blessing and a curse. The criteria are that the dog be trained to perform a specific task for a specific person with a classified and officially diagnosed condition. It’s a blessing because as long as she has her “service dog in training” vest we can bring her anywhere and her training has moved forward at a wonderful rate. On the flip side, many people are annoyed at the influx in “emotional support animals” and view their use as an abuse of the somewhat vague definition of a service dog. I totally get that, and am highly aware of making sure that we in no way abuse the system. Down Syndrome is on the list of acceptable conditions and Tatanka’s main task is to tether Layna to her people when we are out in public. Our sweet Layna Dawn loves to wander and go off on her own. Even though she is almost 8, this habit is not really ok for obvious reasons. Her going walk about could pose a serious impediment to her achieving as high a level of independence as she would otherwise be capable of, thus we have a service dog to help train her and give her that independence. At least that is where we are at right now.
Tatanka is 9 months old yesterday (ish) and is mostly German Shepherd with a bit of Labrador and Huskie thrown in.
On our recent trip up to New York to watch my sister’s senior dance show, we figured that it would be a great time to see how Tatanka would do on a long car trip. Short story: she did amazingly well.
We left early in the morning and she rode up in the van next to the kids. For the most part she laid down and slept or chewed on a dried cow ear (she likes them better than pig ears) but occasionally she wanted to look out of all the windows.
Or kiss me. Because I’m her favorite.
Stopping every two hours, especially at rest areas and not gas stations, worked very well and was great for our human puppies too. Tatanka’s biggest challenge right now is ignoring other dogs when we are out in public. Every dog she sees is viewed as a potential Bestest Friend Ever and we need to reign that in somehow if she is going to be a service dog. It’s happening, slowly, but still getting better.
One thing we had to do this trip was head out to Sleepy Hollow. Every year I read the kids The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Corra insisted that we go to the cemetery there. Tatanka loved licking the iced over puddles and sniffing all the things. The stupid cold temperatures didn’t seem to phase her.
After Sleepy Hollow, we went grocery shopping and I couldn’t manage to snap any pictures of her being an ideal shopping companion.
Later that afternoon, we went and walked around a mall because that’s about all you can do to kill time when it is ridiculously cold outside. We wandered for over an hour and a half and she was perfection. Moving through stores is where she excels. Ignoring people, stuff, yummy plates of food court delights, she’s a pro. Fun thing: She only barked and got agitated when Layna tried to run away. Then she barked and tried to chase Layna, which is a perfect response that we haven’t even started training for…she is starting to know what her job is and it’s very cool to watch.
Now sitting calmly in say, a hotel breakfast area or a restaurant, is an entirely different matter. We survived our first morning’s breakfast but only because I had an entire baggy full of her favorite treats (diced up summer sausage) and I ate after everyone else was done and Neil took over. After that, we opted not to bring her to a huge family dinner at Applebee’s or second morning’s breakfast. We are relieved that her job is to help with shopping and not fine dining.