Earlier this week, we took Major to our son’s kindergarten class to educate them on all the wonderful things service dogs can do, and how they should behave around service dogs. Every time we mention Major going to school, everyone wants to know why Major isn’t always with Stella at school. I figured I’d finally put it all in a post, so I have a post to link to when it comes up again.
The answer is complex, and it is different for every family, as is the reason for having a service dog. I will address OUR specific situation here. First off, Stella is only 10. She isn’t quite responsible enough yet to care for a dog all day. To make sure he has water, or he goes to the restroom, or that the blacktop they play on at recess is too hot. She also still occasionally gets annoyed when Major alerts to her, and either won’t realize it was an alert, or occasionally won’t reward Major for the alert. She will take care of all those things when we are around and ask her to, but she isn’t capable yet of doing it consistently day in and day out, and it is not anyone at the school’s responsibility to handle the dog.
We feel she is 1-2 years away from taking him to school. She still likes to “show Major off” when she is around her peers. She still likes to make him do silly things in an effort to impress her friends. She will need to stop that behavior to avoid injury, not draw the attention of school personnel, or wind up getting in trouble and not being allowed to bring him.
There is also a need and a want for us to allow her to be a kid as much as possible. Without Major, she is capable of spending her play time actually playing, and not waiting for Major to use the restroom, or having to pick up after him in front of 30 laughing kids.
Another reason we aren’t rushing this is that our school is very supportive of Stella, and has been very proactive with her and her care. We feel comfortable currently with the staff, the district nurse, and having our 504/IEP plan in place. All of her teachers get trained by the district nurse every year in diabetes care, what to look for, warning signs etc,
Our school is very excited at the possibility of having Major. Each year, Stella’s teachers want to know if they will be the class that gets to have a dog. Major is on campus daily. He goes to drop off and pick up the kids, he goes to assemblies, he goes on field trips and he is there for after school activities. He is very comfortable there. It is just a matter of us feeling the same.
At some point, we will need to shift our training with Major, as now he is trained to alert to us. He works for us. We will have to integrate him alerting to Stella more often so when the time comes, he will be ready. Most likely we will start doing exercises like that next year.
For now, we have a situation that works, and protects both our daughter and our dog. We aren’t pushing for change, and we feel safe. If that changes, we would have no hesitation to do the same. But for now, this works for us.
Stella is an amazing dog handler. She loves to work and train with the dogs. She has no issues in that regard. But again, she’s 10. How many of you would let your 10 year old be the sole care giver of a dog 8-10 hours a day?
There are situations with families that have much younger type 1’s that bring their dog to school. Again, different scenario, different requirement, different need.
Maybe when she’s 12…