Owning a Service Dog: Taking Kinsey to Work
I am grateful for many things in my life, but I feel especially blessed by my job as middle school librarian. As I arrived at work on Friday, a student saw me pull in and asked if I needed help unloading my car. I did, in fact, and he helped me take a bunch of paper plates and cups into the library. When I took Kinsey to our student rally later that morning, the principal was so happy to see her that she got down on her hands and knees so that Kinsey could lick her face. How many people are lucky enough to work for someone that dog crazy?
The area where I work is impoverished. 98% of our students receive free and/or reduced lunch. Violence is not uncommon. Our students don’t have it easy, but our school is a spot of hope. In February we focused on kindness, and our students raised money for cancer patients through “Pennies for Patients.” They posted signs around campus with compliments for students and staff to read. One student brought cupcakes for each of her teachers. (Delicious. But then when isn’t chocolate divine?)
As I drive to work each morning, my service dog safe in the crate in the back of my car, I go below the speed limit looking for loose dogs, or dogs that have been hit and killed. It makes me feel helpless. A German shepherd plodding down a side street. A couple of unleashed chihuahuas following a woman in a wheelchair through a busy intersection. The last dog I tried to save was a white medium sized poodle with matted fur and a collar. When I pulled my car to the side of the road and called to her, she became panicked and ran into traffic. Luckily, she wasn’t hit, but out of concern for her safety I gave up trying to catch her. Too much of a risk for both of us.
The level of care these dogs receive is very different than the level of care my dogs receive. They don’t go to the groomer. They don’t have their teeth cleaned. They have little training. When students first meet Kinsey, many of them are afraid to touch her because the dogs they know bite. They ask me when I’m going to breed her, and are shocked when I explain she’s been spayed. They can’t believe it when I show them pictures of Quincy and say she’s eleven. Their dogs don’t live that long. A few months back, I had a student in the library sobbing because one of her five dogs darted out and was hit by a car. She picked it up out of the street and carried it back inside, still warm.
Lucky for many of the strays, teachers love dogs. We try to help, and usually that means taking one of them home. We joke that every staff member has at least one dog that was abandoned on our campus.
What a gift to work with such kind people, such dog lovers.
Knowing all of this, it made me wonder how my students perceive Kinsey. So, I asked them to respond to a couple of questions:
How would you describe Kinsey?
What do you like about Kinsey?
Some of my favorites:
She’s a great dog that doesn’t cause any trouble at all. (Obviously, that student did not hear the story of Kinsey eating most of a coffee cake off the kitchen counter.)
I like everything about her because she is just a perfect dog.
She sleeps all day, but when she hears a bag of food, she wakes up quick.
What I like about Kinsey is that she is a rescue dog, so whenever I get stuck in a pile of things that crush my body, Kinsey can be the hero and save me. Also, her fur is soft. (They actually listen when I explain what Kinsey is trained to do!)
She understands orders from her owner. (This one shows up over and over. It amazes the kids.)
She would never bite anyone. She loves food. She loves kids and would never get annoyed by them. (Yep. She knows Kinsey!)
She brings a calm energy to the room.
One of the kids added a don’t like section:
I don’t like that she is sleepy most of the time.
It’s very true. When Kinsey comes to work with me, unless food or a toy is involved, she settles into her crate and goes to sleep. But, I think that’s a lovely quality.
I know. I’m biased.
Every day when I take Kinsey to work, I’m reminded of what an amazing responsibility it is to own a service dog. When she puts on her vest, she becomes a role model for what a dog should be-affectionate, calm and obedient. She shows my students what a dog might become. It’s corny, I know it is, but I hope she inspires them to help others and love dogs. Because what would be better than a world where everyone was kind to dogs?