One of my tribe works at an Independent Living Center in New York City. She frequently intersects with incredible people, who happen to be disabled – there are occasionally individuals who are interested in obtaining service dogs. Sadly, disabled people often face illegal discrimination when they attempt to access service dog prospects through animal shelters and rescue organizations. While responsible breeders sometimes have puppies or dogs available, the cost may be prohibitive. Some breeders and pet owners occasionally donate dogs.

“Dennis, the client I’d like to refer to you is Nancy (the person’s name has been changed to preserve their anonymity). She is currently homeless. She’s got more than her share of challenges and she’s easiest to communicate with, in-person,” advised my friend and colleague. I recognized the number she called from as her cell phone. She probably had moved away from her office mates, and was attempting to be discreet. In a polite, and professional manner, she told me that this client was going to be challenging. People are sometimes complicated. I am rarely bored. I am thankful that I’m often able to help people who are challenged to access more mainstream resources.

After some schedule wrangling, we set an early weekday appointment. We were to meet at the shelter and walk over to a local diner, where we’d sit and speak a little about what she was considering. She wanted to share how she is affected by disabilities – and how a task trained dog could support her in her activities of daily living (ADL). I came to learn that the scope of my client’s challenges were significant and that, in fact, her lifespan is expected to be shortened, as a result of a genetic disorder. I wasn’t very well informed about her chief complaint, but I understood that it featured prominently in her daily life. My interest in medical information serves me well, as I have an opportunity to learn about various conditions and diseases. Most importantly, my clients share how they their daily activities are impacted by physical, psychiatric, developmental, and congenital disabilities. I am grateful for the trust they place in me.

It is sometimes necessary for me to decline working with a client. Most often, this isn’t a permanent prohibition, but an issue that directly relates to the welfare of the human handler or a dog in the would be in a client’s care. I am concerned that this is such a situation. While Nancy would very much from the presence of a task trained dog to mitigate the effects of her challenges, she is currently unable to directly participate in a plan to provide for the training of a service dog candidate. Additionally, living at the (Women Only) homeless shelter creates impediments to my conveniently accessing Nancy and training a dog. It is true that the management team at this shelter could alter or suspend their rules and regulations, so as to accommodate Nancy, but Nancy has no friends, family or reliable individuals whom she can call upon to assist her in the routine care and management of a dog, should she need it. If an emergent situation arises, or if Nancy is otherwise unable to care for her dog, it may place the dog in jeopardy.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to explore this further with Nancy. I’ll keep you posted about how the situation develops.



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