Climbing up on soapbox. You say you want a service dog to help you out. They are great for that. You say you want one because you’d like to get some rest? Nope. Not gonna happen. As a matter of fact, if that is a big reason for you, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.
You will get less rest. Less sleep. Less time to relax. Less time period.
These dogs require a lot of work. A. LOT. OF. WORK. Read that again. And again.
The work is constant. It needs to be. Even a walk around the block is done with constant interruptions while we work on obedience like stay, down, sit, come, etc. But that is what keeps these dogs focused and working. A game of fetch is broken down into a series of steps and commands. That builds respect. There is no letting them roam at the dog park while you sit and check your email.
Think taking a dog to Target or Chili’s is fun? The stares, the comments, the need to touch, the questions, the being put in the back, the being followed, especially as these particular dogs serve a person with an invisible disease, which seems to communicate 1 of 2 things: “the dog is in training” or “the dog isn’t really necessary”. It isn’t fun.
It’s a commitment. Constantly. Training is required for the next 10 years. If not, these dogs will easily become pets. And to be fair to the animal, you also need to work your ass off at managing your disease. Out of control diabetes management can very quickly ruin these dogs.
And as for the extra sleep? Right. If the dog is good, you will be up more than ever. Go high at night? The dog will catch it. Every 30 – 45 minutes. Suffer from dawn phenomenon? Sorry bout that.
Just like getting the life altering diagnosis of type 1, bringing home a service dog also requires some life alterations. There are no quick runs to the grocery store. The dog needs a vest, may need to stop and potty, is the ground hot? Put on the boots (THAT doesn’t draw attention). Pack water and a bowl.
Have a child that is shy? Or doesn’t like attention? This could be one of the worst things you could do.
And what do you do when the dog stops alerting? Are you ready to troubleshoot? Retrace your steps, retool your routine? Make little tiny changes 1 at a time to see what works? Because it will happen.
If you learn one thing from this, know this. These dogs are A LOT OF WORK. Are you ready to commit? If not, you’d be better served looking elsewhere.
With that said, please understand. Those of us that have success don’t get there because we are lucky, or have really smart dogs. As a matter of fact, a smart dog could go bad really fast with a person not willing to do the work or gain the respect, they will play you for a fool. No, those of us that have success get there by working our asses off. By making mistakes, learning from them, and trying again. By asking questions. By seeking help. By watching other successful teams. By making diabetes management our #1 priority. And by understanding, just like athletes do, that rest, and off time are just as important to these dogs as training time.
Stepping off soapbox.