Image for post
Image for post
Dexter at work

If you have been watching TV in the recent past, I am sure you have seen a cute add with a talking dog. The poor pug is itchy as can be, but the talking part is not the issue. It is the fact that he is scratching all the time. Skin conditions among pugs are common and Atopic Dermatitis (AD) happens to be one of them. The medicine in the add is one of the treatments for AD in dogs. Dexter takes other meds

When we adopted Dexter, we expected a cuddle bug and a lap dog. What attracted us to him at the shelter was the fact that he was housebroken. Training dogs can be hard work. He was very responsive to us, and we did not realize just how sick he was. You see, Dexter has AD, which you may have heard off in its more common name of eczema. Yes, he was itchy, but he also had very serious yeast and bacterial skin infections.

His previous owner only had him for five months, returned him due to his allergies. His original handler I did meet.

When we signed the contract at the pound, they did state he had AD, and we did not think it was as serious as it turns out to be. Nor did we know we were going to go into an adventure. Dexter, it turns out, is a retired Coast Guard dog. In a series of coincidences, I actually met his first handler, who the Coast Guard transferred the dog to after they decided that his AD made him unable for work. Mind you, these dogs cost you and me, the taxpayer, a bundle train.

We knew we had an extremely well-trained dog. There is one specific command that I have been told by a few trainers to never give the dog. It’s the attack command, and he has defaulted to me being his handler. He also is quite territorial at home. You cannot take that out of a Chihuahua, even if he is likely a mutt-Chihuahua, and he is double the size of the breed. But he has also attached to both me and my husband something fierce.

He is extremely loyal and now has alerted to possible intruders a few times. He will not go back to a relaxed state until he checks the house and makes sure that nobody is in, that should not. Given the current situation, it is nice to have an alert dog that will do so if he hears something he does not like.

But three weeks ago he did something remarkable. He woke me up from a deep sleep. It turns out my sugars were crashing, and the dog started barking. It was a low bark and he used his cold muzzle to make sure I woke up. I tested, and they were dangerously low. I treated for the sugar low and went back to sleep. Then a week and a half ago he did the same, and while they were not that low, I still ate a banana. Then went back to sleep.

It turns out he transferred his skills to a medical support dog. Yes, some diabetics have dogs that are trained to do precisely what Dexter is doing, without us prompting him. He was a bomb and drug detector dog, and he is highly trained. So we decided that he would go back to do some work. In other words, he will come with me when I go shopping for food, or run errands. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, we can do that.

Then it got interesting. And this is why the airlines were clamping down. You too can claim your dog is a working dog. Whether it is emotional support, a detector dog, what have you. There is literally no national or state registry for these medical working dogs. Under the ADA you can claim yours is a working dog and take him or her into a plane or a restaurant. This is why you see some dogs running all over the place in restaurants, while others just lay by their handler’s feet. They are supposed to do the latter, by the way.

All it took for us to get Dexter ready to work is order a vest on Amazon. There were no hoops, no evidence, no certificate.

I know that a letter from my doctor means that I can save on his doggie license. It still my responsibility to keep his license up to data and vaccines, but as a working dog, we could save that small amount of money.

Today I took Dexter shopping for doggie shoes to keep his paws safe from hot pavement. We also got him two more Thunder Shirts and a hammock for the car seat. Then we went to the store to get our weekly groceries. I was a tad nervous, He has not been in working mode for about two years, from what we can tell. However, he got in his bag, into the cart and he behaved exactly like you’d expect a working dog to do.

We were both very lucky. He found a home that will take care of his medical needs, and we love him to bits. He is an amazing dog. But I got lucky. I got a medical support dog out of this bargain. And yes, properly trained dogs are very expensive. I don’t think we could have afforded one, and insurance does not cover them. Yes, his AD is not precisely a cheap thing to treat. But as they say, Dexter is now earning his kibble again. And it is still cheaper than a trained dog.

Remember, we just wanted a loving pet. What we got was a fully trained love bug.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store