Archives for posts with tag: service dogs for invisible disabilities

Thank you to all the people who do not stare at me when I am in public.  Thank you for not trying to determine if I am blind, and since I am not, thank you also for not trying to figure out what the fuck is wrong with me that I need a service dog.

Thank you to all the people who hold the door open for me and Sky, even the ones who say, a little too loud, I am holding the door open for you, because they think I am blind.  I know you are trying to be kind and for that, I thank you.

Thank you for all the people who tell me how beautiful and attentive Sky is but don’t try to pet her and don’t have a conversation with her.

Thanks to all the mothers who tell their children they can’t pet the doggie because she’s a working doggie.  Well done!

Thanks to all the restaurants who welcome service dogs and their partners and seat them appropriately, where the dog can tuck in nicely and not trip the wait staff.

Thank you to all the waiter and waitresses who bring water for a dog on a hot day.

Thank you to all my providers, doctors, dentist, trainer, who understand that I need to have my dog with me even when they can’t see her doing a thing.  Sometimes help comes in at the eye.


Thank you to all the bus drivers who don’t yell at me for getting on the bus with a service dog and thank you to those cab drivers who stop for me.  As for the drivers that speed away when they see my small, well-behaved service dog, can you say fuck you on the internet?  Yup, you can.

Thanks to my incredible shrink for understanding that all rules are left in the waiting room and that he can pet Sky all he wants to.  And thanks to Sky for understanding that sometimes rules have to be put aside for one reason or another. Intelligent working dogs have the mental flexibility to understand that, in certain circumstances, kindness counts for more than rules.

And thank you all for stopping by.


It happens every year.  When the holidays approach, more people want to pet my service dog.  Perhaps it’s the light shining from her eyes that blinds them to the notice on her cape which says, Please Don’t Pet Me, I’m Working.  Or perhaps they are too busy to wonder why she’s in a place where there are no dogs allowed.  You may spend your Christmas season shopping, singing carols, opening gifts.  I spend mine batting hands away from my dog and informing strangers that she’s working. That’s when I get the look, or the comment.  Both say the same.  Working? But she’s just (standing, lying, sitting) there.  I don’t get it.

Indeed. Because when some service dogs work, it’s what lies beneath that counts.  What lies beneath is a silent conversation, the dog’s understanding of where something is off and the gentle, miraculous way that dogs and people improve each other’s chemistry. What lies beneath is a connection that thrives without words and that helps maintain the ancient contract between humans and dogs: We will each do whatever we can for the survival, safety and health of both our species.


Happy Holidays, dear readers.  Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

Drawing from DO BORDER COLLIES DREAM OF SHEEP? by Carol Lea Benjamin and C. Denise Wall

Drawing from DO BORDER COLLIES DREAM OF SHEEP? by Carol Lea Benjamin and C. Denise Wall

Before: staying at home a lot because you never know when (pain, seizure, low blood sugar, panic attack, muscles freezing up and refusing to move, falling and other balance problems, PTSD, etc.) will strike.



After: going out into the larger world away from home, knowing help is right at your side, feeling confident and safe instead of isolated and afraid, being able to have a job or work more productively at home, being able to make plans with friends, have a life, be happy despite your disability.


We humans, sometimes a little slow on the uptake, are learning more and more ways that dogs can help us live better, happier, more productive lives, quietly and gracefully offering help when help is needed.  Best friends indeed.



People always tell me I look good for my age.  (Let’s not even discuss the “for your age” part.  It’s off topic.)  So what do they think when they look at my little Border Collie and see that she is wearing a red cape that says Service Dog on it?  Even if you don’t think I look marvelous for my age, I’m at the gym several times a week and hiking all over the city with my dog.  Why would I need a service dog?

Disabilities that don’t show readily to the naked eye, unless your naked eye is reading someone’s medical chart, are called “invisible disabilites.”  But they are not invisible to dogs.  Dogs are keen observers and have inherited the ability to discern sick from well from their wild wolf ancestors.  When they see trouble coming, they warn us.  When they know we are in pain, they press their warm bodies against us and help us to relax and release the good chemicals our bodies make that reduce pain.  They can pick up the onset of a migraine or a seizure.  They can alert us to oncoming coronary problems or low blood sugar.  And they can allieviate the pain of several chronic illnesses, including Crohn’s disease, the one I have had for all of my adult life.

For a very long time, I have wanted to write about how my service dogs help me, how they have changed my life in the most wonderful way, allowing me to participate more fully in all the things most people take for granted, to be part of the world.  That story is what my part of Do Border Collies Dream of Sheep? is about.   And now I am hoping that you will find the story fascinating.  But more than that, I am hoping that if you, too, look marvelous, but you are part of the enormous family of people dealing silently with a terrible disease that will never go away, you might find hope here.  You might find a way you never thought possible to navigate both good days and bad.  You might even see that the dog you already have has been trying to help you but you just didn’t understand.

At the risk of repeating myself – and when did that ever bother me – the book is available on line at, and www.b&   There are two editions, one in black and white and a deluxe edition in color.   Both stories, Denise Wall’s story about how her dog, May, learned to work sheep on her farm and my story of how my dog, Sky, learned to be a service dog, told in alternating chapters, will let you know things about dogs you never dreamed of, things that will change the way you look at dogs and might, also, change your life.

Thanks for stopping by.  It means more to me than I can say.