James: T1D Service Dog Etiquette

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To see more of James, Honey Waffles, and their mom Lisa: @t1dmamalisa


Hello and thank you for joining me here at Ms. Lisa’s service dog etiquette class. If everyone could just take their seats, we can begin….

My name is Lisa, and I’m a mama of a type 1 diabetic 4-year-old, James. James has a 2-year-old brother, and we also have a service dog, Honey Waffles. Honey has an incredibly important job, that she has spent her whole life training for… Honey is James’s diabetic alert dog. She can sense the rise and fall in blood sugars, which has been a literal lifesaver to her boy. 

Honey is quicker than the blood glucose meter (by up to 30 minutes) as well as the continuous glucose meter that James wears 24/7.

Diabetes is a relentless, unpredictable, and a cruel disease. Type 1 diabetes is not just a chronic illness, but a terminal one. There is a common misconception that insulin is a cure for type 1 diabetes, but no…insulin is simply life support. So, my brave little warrior, James, has myself, his equipment, and our trusty sidekick, Honey Waffles.

We have the impossible task of trying to replicate a working pancreas.

This is an unsurmountable task, that leaves us exhausted, anxious, and in a constant state of burnout. The truth is, at any moment, diabetes can turn, it can play dirty, and it has a mean streak a mile wide.

Despite all this, we persevere, and we thrive. Honey is invaluable to us and we are never separated. Honey is legally allowed into doctors’ offices, restaurants, hospitals and all public places (with a few exceptions like restaurant kitchens and surgical rooms.) Honey is a medical device (a very spoiled and well loved medical device) and it is our legal right to have her with us wherever we go.

In saying all this, we are a traveling circus…you WILL notice us in public, and that’s ok.

I would notice a fluffy white dog walking into a public space, however, there are rules and courtesies that come along with interacting with a service dog and their handler.

You will see Honey in her vest, covered in patches, the patches say things like “Do not Pet”, or “Working, Do Not Distract”. These are there to hopefully avoid an awkward interaction, and to let the public know that Honey is not public property. The patches are not because service dog handlers are a universally grumpy group, they really do have meaning and a purpose.

Why shouldn’t you pet?

Because Honey is working and concentrating on her job. It might look like she is very serious, and that she is all work and no play, but I assure you, Honey has lots of play, but she also knows when it is time to work…we call it her “game face". Honey is focusing on her obedience, she is focusing on the smells coming off James, and tuning out all the other smells that are invading her magic nose (Starbucks smells like strong coffee to me, imagine how strong that smell is for her!)  She is focusing on heeling next to me and on which direction I will walk. So, up walks someone who is overwhelmed by her cuteness, yes, she is adorable, no you cannot pet.


It may sound like we are nitpicking, but I promise we aren’t. We are aware that seeing a service dog can be exciting, and that they are cute, and do draw attention. We just ask for a little self-control and respect from the public. There are thousands of hours that have gone into training a service dog, and a lot that happens that the public does not see (not all disabilities and illnesses are visible).

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We also know that most people are very good intentioned, which is why we never mind educating. So, next time you see a cute service dog doing their thing, give the handler a smile and a nod, ask your question if you have one, and let them on their way. Thank you in advance!

Sincerely,
Ms. Lisa

 

To see more of James, Honey Waffles, and their mom Lisa: @t1dmamalisa

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