20130827-P1020251Earlier 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.

20130827-IMG_3526The 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.

6196497419_a604bb513a_b(1)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.

1147740_673559106005658_334252504_oThere 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.

Michelle (another Canine Hope family member) has a great post about this very topic and her thoughts for her child here: Tightrope Tango


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,6196497237_9e415565f5_b

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.IMG_0140web

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…

Team Blackdogsrule



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  1. I had wondered many times why Major wasn’t with Stella at school. Thank you for explaining! Stella is such an amazing girl. I have so much respect for your entire family and I think that you all are doing amazing things to get the word out about T1 Diabetes. I applaud the work your family does. I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis and Lupus 5 years ago and it changed my life so completely and I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to get an auto-immune diagnosis for your child. I wish only the best for Ms. Stella and you and your wife.

  2. Brenda Pearlman

    We have to be honest in our assessments of both our kids and the DADs to see when they are ready to head off to school together. We struggled with whether or not Laura and Daisy were ready last year. So many factors to consider! I will say that things went very well but, it’s always a balancing act. When does the child need a break? What is too much for the DAD to handle/when does the DAD need a break? I still keep Daisy home about 1 day a week for various reasons such as a crazy day at school where I feel Laura will either miss out on being a kid because she is responsible for a dog or Daisy will be ignored and alerts will be missed. And you are absolutely right that you will have to do training to get Major to alert at school. Daisy will alert to Laura at home but we had some challenges when we put the two of them in the school environment. It takes time and patience, just like everything else with these dogs. But, when the time is right, I know they will do amazing!