Today’s search term…

I just got home from a fun dinner with three KSDS friends of mine and our dogs. There were four people at a 4-top table with four dogs squished in under and around us. It was great to see Beale behave reasonably well in that situation. I was very proud, especially because she’s had very little practice being in public with other service dogs. That’s one of the downsides of living so far away from KSDS’s Washington, Kan., facility.

So when I got home, I checked my blog stats and found that someone accessed after searching for “is it illegal to use my dog as a service dog and pass myself off as disabled whe i am able bodied (sic).” I am glad this person came here, and I hope he read my FAQ about where to get a vest like Beale’s. And I hope he felt really really horrible for considering pulling off this farce. I’m not sure what the laws are like in each state, but regardless of the legality, this person’s suggestion is immoral. If you’re unsure of why I feel this way, please visit my FAQ.


And to L., C. and B. (and your respective pups), I am sorry to turn a “great night out with friends” post into a rant. I love you all and am so glad we were able to get together.


Love from Kansas,

Becka and Beale


December 27, 2010 at 8:57 pm Leave a comment

Mom’s newest adventure: Bike and Build

Jack and I are frequently asked whether we will raise another KSDS puppy after Beale goes off to college. The quick answer is “No.” I will not be “trading” Beale for a new puppy when she is called back.

There are several reasons we are not ready to have a new puppy that soon, first of which is that I’m not sure I will be emotionally able to raise another puppy if Beale doesn’t pass her health tests. News of Trego’s cataracts was really difficult to handle and put a huge damper on raising Beale for a while, so I believe I need to wait for Beale’s graduation to decide whether I can take on another puppy.

My second reason is much more exciting: This summer I will be riding a bike from Providence, Rhode Island, to the California coast to benefit Bike and Build! During this time, I will be, of course, unable to fulfill puppy raising duties. Jack and I discuss our puppy raising future often, and I am sure we will decide whether to raise another pup when I get home from my trip.

You want to hear more about that, you say? OK! Bike and Build is a non-profit group that spreads awareness of and raises money to benefit affordable housing groups. As a member of a 35-person team, I will ride about 4,500 miles in two months. During this time, we will be giving presentations about the affordable housing cause and working at construction sites for Habitat for Humanity and similar groups.

To be able to go on this trip, I must first fulfill service requirements with a local affordable housing group (I’ve chosen Sacramento Habitat for Humanity) and raise $4,000 to pay my way and contribute to the cause. Throughout the fund-raising process, I will be explaining Bike and Build’s mission and spreading awareness of our country’s current affordable housing crisis. A lot of information about affordable housing is currently available at I will also be constantly learning more about this problem and, I hope, finding the time and motivation to keep a Bike and Build-specific blog so that I can relay this information and updates on my fund-raising and training progress to my supporters in this endeavor. I plan to get said blog set up this week, and will let you know how to access it as soon as I get that done!

If you are interested in donating to my trip or getting together to hear more about affordable housing and Bike and Build, please visit or e-mail me at

Service animals and their partners will always be important to me, so don’t worry, I’m not “switching causes.” I’m just exploring other areas of inequality and trying to do what I can to change the world. It’s possible… right?

Happy Holidays!

Love and gratitude sent your way from Kansas City,


December 26, 2010 at 4:55 pm 1 comment

Merry Christmas!

Beale and I are in Kansas for the holidays, so we finally have a few moments to tell you what’s up.

We are doing very well. Beale is a VERY good dog, and has even been a good dog at Aunt Pam’s house in Kansas where the temperature hasn’t been above freezing.

Frankly, I was surprised at how well Beale has done with the cold. She had been refusing to go out to potty in Sacramento, presumably because of the cold, wet ground. Here, she’s doing OK, even though she keeps sliding all over my mom’s deck.

Beale did a great job on the airplane (as expected), and has received more compliments here in Kansas than I’ve ever heard about her in California. I’ve been pretty proud of my baby girl.

Tomorrow, we are going out to eat with some other puppy raisers and KSDS folk. I can’t tell you how excited Beale is for this trip! It will be her SECOND time ever out to eat with other dogs. I hope she can handle that!


Love from Kansas,

Becka and Beale

December 26, 2010 at 4:38 pm Leave a comment

Happy Birthday Beale!

Beale and her seven siblings (and two cousins) turned 1 this week! Beale’s birthday is the 10th of November. Her two cousins turned 1 on the 9th.

In one year, Beale has been to

California, Kansas, Missouri, Washington D.C., Maryland and Delaware.

She has been in elementary school, middle school and college. She has visited a high school.

She has shopped at the grocery store, the coffee shop, farmers’ markets and the mall (among other places, I’m sure!).

She has ignored Mexican food, Sushi, Italian food, Thai food, pizza and other cuisines at various restauraunts in Sacramento.

She has met cats and dogs of all shapes and sizes. She has sniffed horses, pigs and geese.

She has known the loss of a sister-dog (our papillon, Bella).

She has flown. A lot more than most dogs!

In this one year, Beale has loved her momma (me), her pappa (Jack) and pretty much every other human she has met.

But now we start the countdown. How much longer until Beale returns to Kansas to go to puppy college? We’re thinking six months, but it could be as early as four. Our organization keeps these kinds of things secret. Eeek! Time to start steeling my heart for this one.

Love from my lunch break,


November 12, 2010 at 1:10 pm 5 comments

What we had for dinner

Jack and I just finished the best dinner we’ve had all week:

Tarragon green beans and Apple chicken.


In other news, Beale is doing wonderfully. She is almost a year old (next week!) and she weighs 73ish pounds. The vet said she could stand to loose about 5 pounds, but that she seems totally healthy! Woo!

Beale’s biggest accomplishment lately was a day in middle school with children who have autism. She even braved a fire drill. My pup was better than the regular education kids. (So were my special education kids!)

Next week, Beale is going to college!

Love from Sacramento,

Becka and Beale

November 5, 2010 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

Where can I get a vest like that? -or- Lies people tell to get their way

During my two years as a puppy raiser, I have been asked a lot of questions. How old is he? (10 months old, and he’s a her.) Can I pet your dog? (No honey. Not when she’s working.) Why is your dog wearing that thing? (Would your mom let you go to the grocery store NAKED?!) Would you like some help finding your seat? (Thank you for offering, but no. I can see just fine.) You don’t look blind; what’s your disability? (I am training this dog to help someone else. But now I feel compelled to let you know that your question was inappropriate. Would you like to talk about a kinder way to ask about a service dog and his partner?)

Believe it or not, this last question, even when asked in as condescending a tone as humanly possible, has not been the most offensive or upsetting or misinformed. No, I am most bothered by the many adults and teenagers who have asked, “Where can I get a vest like that?”

In all honesty, you can Google shopping results for “Service dog vest” and find more than 10 pages of results. In many places, you can even go to PetSmart and buy any ol’ outfit (the one on the link is a cow Halloween costume for your dog) and slap these letters on the back. A woman here in Sacramento has used this method and now takes her yappy, “ADA CERTIFIED” dog everywhere. It works. Especially if you are overweight. Or look funny. Or wear your sunglasses inside.

Here’s why it works: It is illegal and inappropriate to ask a person about his/her disability. It is uncomfortable, too. So able-bodied people keep their mouths shut. Even when they think a fast one is being pulled. I am ashamed to count myself among the able-bodied who have treated those with disabilities differently than I would treat other able-bodied people. I have held them to lower, and I realize, insulting, standards. After all, who wants to be the 24-year-old, (cute) young woman calling out the lady in the electric cart at Ikea for bringing her (poorly behaved) pet into the store. No one. That’s who.

So, yes, you can dress your pup in whatever clothing you like. Print out an ID or a letter from a “service organization” and carry it in your pocket. Voila. Your dog can go anywhere.

You can. But should you?

The easy answer is, “No.” But this issue isn’t easy, because Americans want what they want and often see no harm in taking their dogs to Ikea, the grocery store, a coffee shop, etc.

When you take your pet in public illegally, you are doing harm.

You hurt me, a puppy-raiser, by making my job much harder. It is difficult enough to teach a puppy (a four-month-old black lab, for example) to pay attention to her handler in public without dog distractions. But when your dog is there, pulling on his leash, barking at my dog or being pet by every passerby, my dog doesn’t understand why she should behave, remain quiet and be content with being ignored.

And your dog smells. I’m sorry, but he does. Even if your dog just came from the groomers, my dog can smell the dogginess on him. She will sniff the places your dog has been days later. She can’t help it. Your dog smells.

When I first moved to California, I loved that so many places allowed all dogs in. I loved going to The Naked Lounge at 15th and R streets downtown. Then my dog started sniffing the floor, the chairs, the table. She didn’t understand why the place smelled like a dog park. So she didn’t want to work. Of course, we have worked on her ability to stay focused around these dog smells, but all of us struggle with ignoring distractions and practice just isn’t enough. In our work environments, we often have the option of removing distractions altogether (turning off the TV, for example.) Our pups, and the working dogs they grow into, never have that option. It is up to humans to respect the work environment of these service animals. We do this and minimize distractions by leaving our pets at home and only taking them on trips to dog places (the pet store, the vet, the dog park).

Do I need to say that I stopped frequenting The Naked Lounge? My pups were just too young for me to compete with the dog smells they could detect (note: The Naked Lounge doesn’t smell like dog to me, but it does to my dog. Same with the poodle in your purse. This isn’t about my nose, it’s about Beale’s nose, and the noses of every working dog out there.)

And your dog acts like a dog. I have worked very hard to teach Beale that when her vest is on, she needs to behave. Your dog doesn’t know the rules.

I take my service-pup-in-training in public to teach her how to act like a human. I want her to walk quietly. In straight lines. And to follow directions given in English. I do not want her to ask for pets or to lick knees or to eat things off of the floor. Your dog does all of these things. How do I know your corgi hasn’t been trained to be in public? He strains at his leash. He jumps up on strangers. He licks the floor. He howls. These things are dog things. I leave Beale’s dog traits at home. Please leave your dog at home, too.

Passing your dog as a service dog harms legitimate service dogs and their partners.

I have heard that distracting a guide dog feels the same to its partner as grabbing the wheel while you’re driving would feel to you. Is having your dog with you at the grocery store worth the risk of making a person whose life is already a bit more difficult than yours feel this out of control? If you have answered yes, I urge you to talk to your best friends, your mother, your pastor or your parole officer. See if everyone in your life feels the same way. Discuss it in the comments section here. Because I truly can’t imagine a scenario in which this would be OK.

And one more thing. Your lies make me look like a liar, too.

At least once a month, I am forced to explain myself. I have to produce copies of Beale’s paperwork for the manager or owner of an establishment. I have to explain why I want to bring Beale into a new place. I have to explain why she should be allowed. This process wastes my time, wastes the time Beale would otherwise have for learning how to be a better assistance dog. And it’s annoying. Because I follow the rules. I have the papers. I know my rights and responsibilities and I work hard to make sure Beale is not causing a ruckus. But others, and their lies, have made some people suspicious of any able-bodied person bringing a dog into an establishment, even if the dog is wearing clothes.

It only takes one bad experience to make a person suspicious of all dogs. Your dog, dressed in a vest bought from, might plant that suspicion… cause that first bad experience.

Passing your pet as a service animal is illegal and it does harm. It harms me, it harms my dog. It harms everyone like me and my dog. And it adds further burden to the lives of people who rely on animals for support in their lives. Please, please. Leave your pet at home and stop asking me where you can get a vest like Beale’s. Unless, of course, you want a puppy like Beale (and the immense responsibility) to go with it. Then we can talk. Because you, you, I like.

Please ask yourself what lies you have told to get your way today, this week, this month, this year. Could you be hurting someone unknowingly, unintentionally and indirectly? Are you willing to take the risk that you are?
Some links for you:

September 12, 2010 at 10:55 am 13 comments

End of August puppy report.

We just sent our puppy report to KSDS, Inc. Here’s what it said:

August! During the month of August, Beale went to the east coast with her dad. She visited grandpa and her cousins (adults, children and dogs!) at the beach in Delaware. She also got to visit Washington, D.C., though she didn’t understand what all of the fuss about “the nation’s capitol” was for. It was just like any other place, she said. Beale met a horseshoe crab at the beach, but she wasn’t scared. Back home, Beale visited Occidental, California, and Sebastipol, California, where she went to a farmers’ market and an ice cream shop! There were so many dogs in both cities! Beale even down-and-undered at breakfast while a small dog trotted around the resturaunt. We were so proud! Speaking of farmers’ markets and being GREAT around other dogs, Beale went to two other farmers’ markets in August. At one of them, big signs told people that dogs were not allowed. However, there were at least six other dogs in attendance! A little girl was VERY upset that the dogs were breaking the rules. Beale,however, she said, was “OK because she’s working.” Beale has also been to a fabric store and thrift store shopping this month. Thrift stores are a challenge because of all the smells. However, she is getting better at accepting that the world smells weird. One more thing… Beale lost her “sister” this month. Our 14-year-old pappillon, Bella, died at the end of August. Beale seems fine, now, but did chew a table, a cord and a window sill right after Bella’s death. I chalk it up to grief… but we’ll see if it continues.

Love from Sacramento,

Becka and Beale

September 10, 2010 at 5:56 pm 2 comments

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