Hello! Welcome to the About Us section of the better parts of me--“the atypical” multi-purpose service dog(s).
I decided to make this section on my website for those who are interested in why there is a large dog walking around everywhere in public with me—a seemingly normal and healthy individual—either in person or on my social media page(s).
First, please know that I do not have any obligation to share with you any of this information, I am simply choosing to. No one with a service animal is required to answer your curiosities and it's very rude and invasive to ask questions. Medical information is simply private information, and some disabilities are simply not obvious--such as my own. Animals that have access to public places should absolutely be trained and well mannered no matter what their task(s). Businesses are absolutely allowed to inquire basic information on if the animal is a service animal and are absolutely allowed to ask an individual and their animal to leave the premises if the animal is causing a disturbance with unwanted behaviors.
Continue scrolling to read about my current (and past) dogs as well as the frequently asked questions
Floki The Raptor Dog
(Prospect in Training)
Meet the new member of the team! When we met, it was love at first flop. Now that I know what is going on with me and I'm able to manage it decently well, I needed a dog who wants to go out more than I do, to encourage me to be active and adventurous again. He is basically a puppy in a full sized dog's body who lives up to his name. He is exactly what I needed and I have high hopes for the both of us! If you see him making mistakes please remember that he is still learning and that even the best trained dog can and will occasionally have an off day. Keep up with us on our social media as Floki and I continue to get to know each other while working together as a team!
Lonan The Potato Dog
I often joke that he did not become the dog I wanted but became the dog I needed. He is not an intense dog, in the least. He is quiet, calm, sensitive, and willing to sleep all day if needed. Which is perfect for what I needed in a service dog while my symptoms became worse and still undiagnosed. I'm used to having intense, high energy, dogs who kept me on my toes. Yet, here is this big orange dog that just wants to invade my personal space, snack all day, and snuggle up under the blankets for as long as possible. Don't get me wrong. He loves doing his job and does it impeccably well, mostly because he just wants to be with me at all times. Now, because he's 10 years old and beginning to show signs of old age I've decided that he will enjoy his retirement doing his favorite things with me. He's a homebody at heart who likes going on short errands and fun adventures that don't last all day. He is the absolute best snuggle buddy the world has ever known!
If you see him out and about in his working vest it's a short outing that he is able to handle and he's mentoring the newbie in the ways of being my service dog.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Are they really a service dog? Yes, Floki is being trained to as my current service dog. Occasionally, you may see Lonan, my fully trained service dog, because he can still do his job and I still want him to enjoy quality time and small adventures with me that won't be too strenuous on his old man body. He is also mentoring Floki when needed, so you may see both of them together at pet/dog friendly settings.
What tasks do they perform? They are both trained to be my multi-purpose service dogs, so they do quite a few things. They are there for the situations where my body decides to have issues that directly affect my balance and mobility or vision. They do not lead or guide me and they do not detect any conditions before they happen--so I allow them to look around while staying by my side when we are out but they will often check back in with me. Another big thing that they do is ensure that I do not push myself to past my limit. I'm very stubborn and tend to try to do things on my own rather than ask for assistance, so they can be seen either blocking me with their bodies or vocally fussing at me.
What exactly are your issues? I would like to remind you to not ask others this particular question. However, I, personally, don't mind so long as it's not asked at inappropriate times or in an inappropriate way.
It has been over a two decades of no answers and being accused of dramatics and exaggerations from loves ones and medical professionals. Now, after pushing and searching for answers, we are leaning into premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). It is a much more severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) which is also a very legit thing, too, and not just a dismissive "joke." PMDD is a severe and chronic medical condition that needs attention, treatment, medications, and sometimes lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms.
The symptoms can differ and range in its severity for each person. For myself? Due to my hormones--as well as all the things I've done in my life--I have severe nerve/joint issues and body spasm/involuntary body twitching that cause me to collapse, lose feeling, or be in significant pain. These can be anything from a finger to my knees to my hips. Alongside that, I also have some form of vertigo that generally makes me lose my balance. All of this is at random and with no significant patterns or situations. The only thing I knew was that everything happened around my hormonal fluctuations and changes. Once I tracked each symptom and presented it to the right medical professionals, we were able to narrow things down.
As a reminder, this is generally not a question you ask people because it's really no one's business but the individual and their medical professionals.
What have you done in your life that made things worse? I was a very active individual. I did sports, hiked, self defense, and more. Then I went into K9/sports training, veterinary medicine, wildlife/exotic ambassador handler, and more. All things that are very physically demanding that were my passions so I pushed myself pass my limit almost always. I still often push myself more than I should which is why the dogs can be seen hassling me to calm down. I'm not perfect and I'm a stubborn person who was raised and strive to be independent but I'm trying to reel it back so I'm not causing more damage to myself.
Why did you decide to use a service dog? Having a service dog allows me to regain my independence to do things on my own, without another human. I've been able to generally feel much more comfortable with being out and about for longer periods of time because as my issues worsened my adventurousness diminished. With that, I felt like I lost more of myself as the years went on while still pushing myself to maintain the lifestyle I wanted, which ultimately just made my issues worse and causing me to do less. An annoying semi-self sabotaging cycle that I wasn't even aware of doing. I am also on an assortment medications, vitamins, and supplements. I have done similar recovery therapy that athletes do such as seeing chiropractors, acupuncturists, masseuse, and cyrotherapy. I went years and years with my dogs helping me at home but refrained from fully utilizing their help in public because I looked normal and healthy and didn't have a diagnosis. I've recently come to the conclusion that how people view my health is not a reflection of my actual health, and shouldn't be taken as such. So, if my dogs help me greatly at home then they can also do so in public. Especially because I exhausted most, if not all, my other options.
How come you are sometimes seen without him? This is the other reason I refer to them as atypical service dogs. If you don't see one of the dogs with me then it is very likely you will see me with at least another person. This person is familiar with my issues and needs and can overall assist me if I were to need it. So, essentially, I just swapped my service dog to a service human for the time being. You'll see me do this when in a scenario that is best for the dogs to stay home such as if they are injured or sick, extreme weather, or situations that would be very stressful for them despite how trained they are such as theme parks, fireworks, concerts.
Is he friendly and can I pet him? The general rule of thumb is to always leave a service dog to do their job as it can be life saving. For my personal situation, I prefer my animals to be ignored entirely while they are on duty but while they are off duty please feel free to ask first—especially kids, who have to get parental/guardian permission, too—just please don't randomly reach out towards them or run up to us. I don't want to ruin everyone's day by scolding those involved.
What do you mean “on duty” and “off duty?” This is a very specific and privileged situation to us and not all service animals or their people have this luxury. It is also why I consider them to be atypical service dogs. “On duty” simply means that they have a job to do and need to be on their best behavior and be attentive to what is going on with me and our surrounding. “Off duty” simply means that they're allowed more freedom to roam, play, explore, etc, while still having to check in on me often (ie when we are home, hiking, in pet/dog friendly places, etc).
Who trained him? Floki's initial obedience training was done with Cavalier K9 but I am training him on my specific needs as a service dog. I trained Lonan (and the others) myself. Please keep in mind that I have over 17 years of extensive dog training and dog behavior know-how and work closely with others who are savvy in those fields of work to introduce my animals to various scenarios in a controlled setting.
What are the breeds? Are they from breeders or rescues? Floki is a Dutch Shepherd from Cavalier K9 located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. They do -not- typically produce lower drive dogs but rather high drive dogs for various types of intense jobs. However, every now and again they have puppies that do well in a very active pet home. Floki was returned to them at 2 years old for unknown-to-me reasons and showed a lot of promise in excelling as a service dog. Lonan is a Rhodesian Ridgeback from a breeder I no longer support and therefore will not be named. I am a HUGE advocate for respectable breeders as well as for respectable rescues/shelters--there are the good, the okay, and the bad in both worlds. Not only that but not every breed is suitable for every lifestyle. I keep an eye out for both and hopefully find the right fit in the time frame that I need.
I hope this explains things a bit more and shows you the more invisible side of disabilities rather than just seeing the words. If you want to say hi to him and give him some love, feel free to ask so I can give him permission to say hi. But please don't be rude. Other than that, feel free to check out my website to see some of my work or follow me on my social media pages where I also share pictures and videos of Lonan being the best boy! I hope you all have a lovely day!