Hello! Welcome to the About Us section of my better half, Lonan “the atypical” service dog.
I decided to make this section on my website for those who are interested in why there is a large orange dog walking around everywhere in public with me—a seemingly normal and healthy individual—either in person or on my social media pages.
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.
Is he a service dog? Yes, Lonan is a fully trained stability assistance service dog.
What tasks does he perform? He is there for the situations where my body decides to have issues that directly affect my balance and mobility. He does not lead or guide me and he does not detect any conditions before they happen.
What's his breed? He is a Rhodesian Ridgeback.
How old is he? He is 10 years old and will hopefully get to retire soon once we find and train his replacement.
Who trained him? I trained him myself because 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.
Is he from a breeder or a rescue? I will not disclose because I encourage researching and supporting both respectable rescues and breeders—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.
Is he friendly and can I pet him? The general rule of thumb is to always leave a dog to do their job as it can be life saving. For my personal situation, I prefer he be ignored entirely while he's on duty but while he is 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 him 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 him an atypical service dog. “On duty” simply means that he has a job to do and needs to be on his best behavior and be attentive. “Off duty” simply means that he's allowed more freedom to roam, play, explore, etc, while still having to check in on me often (ie when we are home, hiking, etc).
How come you are sometimes seen without him? This is the other reason I refer to him as an atypical service dog. If you don't see him with me then it is very likely you will see me with 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 Lonan to stay home such as if he is injured or sick, extreme weather, or situations that would be very stressful for him despite how trained he is such as theme parks.
What exactly are your issues? I have no idea as they are symptoms of an undiagnosed problem that my doctors and I are working on figuring out. In short, 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 and happen at random times with no obvious patterns. Alongside that, I also have some form of vertigo that generally makes me lose my balance. Also at random and with no significant patterns or situations. As a reminder, this is generally not a question you ask people.
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 Lonan can be seen fussing at me. 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.
Having a stability assistance 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.
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!