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Using a working dog for help with chronic pain issues

coyotewildwomanccoyotewildwoman Posts: 130
edited 08/07/2013 - 5:36 PM in Chronic Pain

I have decided to get an working dog, which I plan to train with the help of my daughters. He or she will help me carry my things, pick up those items I can't get on the floor, etc. ( will he wash the dishes... my kids won't ;}... and to prove to people that I actually live in major pain all the time and am disabled.

I feel like I need to hang my disabled sign from my car around my neck!

Fortunately I have raised and trained dogs in the past. I am reasonably mobile, and not in a wheel chair but hauling bags and walking long distances is really hard on me .

And after an absolutely horrible experience at the airport earlier this week where I had to prove my disability to the airline attendant and the obnoxious guy standing next to me who insisted there was nothing wrong with me and I was faking it all just to get on the flight.

I actually showed them my Edward Scissorhands back covered in scars, shocked the hell out of them all. But I am just so tired of this harassment and discrimination, it is time to take a stand ! I don't back down and just take it anymore.

Since the airline attendant made me miss my flight because I was 30 seconds late in checking in my bag, which needed to be 1 hour in advance. All after struggling to drag my bag over carpet surfaces, resulting in much more back pain, no porters or outside check in of course.

This resulted in a $50 fee to get me on and a (** edited to remove the airline company name)6 hour delay sitting ( which I am banned from doing for more than 30 minutes at a time) in the airport.

I forced the guy who was making all the crack comments about my inappropriate faking and comments pay the $50.00. He actually did it!

So stand up for yourself, we need to have a voice. Just because you aren't clearly disabled doesn't mean you aren't.

I have had problems with ** edited to remove the company airline name** every time I fly them, and I fly a lot as a coach and consultant. **Edited to remove airline name** is the best for helping out and being sensitive to my particular needs.

What are your thoughts about using a dog to help you get things, carry items etc? Would you do it?




  • I have been training my dog, Tahoe, for 1 1/2 years. He can help me get up, turn on light switches, and touch lamps. It may not sound like much, however I got him from the SPCA and he was beat before I got him. The first winter I had to go outside with him so he could go to the bathroom. He comes to work with me, and he knows that he cannot leave the gate, He knows 'head down' in the van so I can see, etc.

    The sites thst really helped me were Vancouver Island Ass. Dogs, the lady on there is awesome!! She also has a you tube channel called SuperNaturalBC2008/2009/2010 etc. The other one I found really good is Kiko pups on you tube.

    For reading, I would suggest Teamwork 1 and 2. They were developed in part by a man with that was disabled and in a wheelchair. They have been a great help to me.

    Best of luck to you and your helper. The only thing I would really stress is making sure that your dog can pass a public access test,that is teh test to make sure your dog behaves like a service dog in public.
  • coyotewildwoman said:
    What are your thoughts about using a dog to help you get things, carry items etc? Would you do it?
    If I needed to I might, but I would not have a working dog around "to prove to people that I actually live in major pain all the time and am disabled." I don't feel the need to prove my disabilities or my pain, and to use another living thing to benefit or validate my pain/disability would be a selfish use of the work animal.

    Being disabled and living with chronic pain bites, but we know our limitations, our pain and the issues that we have, and therefore it is our responsibilty to make our own allowances, give ourselves more time and such for things such as airport schedules and the like. We can't expect businesses to change their protocol for a passenger just because anything else may seem unfair to us. Just as it is not our fault that we have become disabled, it is not their fault either if we are late or have problems getting to the airport in time.

    I try to choose my battles wisely, and in that respect the the man paying you 50 dollars for the derogitory remarks would not have been worth it to me, and I would have felt that the trade off (my self respect/dignity) would not have been worth charging for. We don't owe anyone an explanation, nor should we expect everyone to validate us, our disabilities. But work dogs are wonderful and respected animals.

  • my 6 month blue Rhone cocker spaniel lies next to me on my recliner but he sniffs and then paws at my stomach at the point where i have pain coming through from my back !!!! its as if he can smell pain ..{i think i have something wrong with my stomach area but i don't think that if i tell the doctors they will believe me } i am hoping that i get a CAT scan before the ALIF .I hope i am wrong and my stomach area is fine ..but ????personally i believe the dog he is convinced there is something not right ..but could you imagine going to your family doctor and saying ..my dog says !!!!! i would be locked up!!
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • Interesting discussion. Robin I think you are pretty spot on with my own personal feelings on this subject. Nicely said.

    I have traveled a lot while suffering acute and chronic pain. I take the approach that it is my problem that I have to deal with not everyone else's. I go to great lengths to make arrangements that will expedite any process and avoid delays or confusion. I also prepare things so that I can minimize my discomfort during travel and a few days after.

    Having a working dog or therapy dog would be helpful for certain things, but ultimately I feel I would push myself backwards by not doing certain things myself. I have grown more and more accustomed to my level of chronic pain. A few years ago I wouldn't be able to function like I do today with the same level of pain I currently experience. By pushing myself to "live my life", I have "reset" my level of tolerance for chronic pain. I have done so in a way that allows me to continuously move forward.

    So my thoughts are, that if I relied on someone or a working dog to assist me, I would either bog down at the same level, or even go backwards.

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,877
    of pets in helping with our medical problems is so very valuable and so very under used.

    Its not just limited to Spinal patients. Dogs and Cats have been very helpful in so many people's lives.

    I get to see a number of the working dogs and I think besides what 'extra' they bring to the patient, they are the some of the nicest and warmest animals I have ever been in contact with. Just looking into their eyes, and you can tell that they will do anything to help and protect their master patient.

    Good luck, hope everything goes well and soon
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • It's tough because I think you shouldn't have to prove anything to anyone.

    However, I love the idea of a working dog. Have you ever thought of reaching out to the Guide Dogs association? I know you probably could not get one of the dogs that clears for the blind or other disabilities but perhaps your story might put you "higher" on the list for the dogs that fail out.

    I know it sounds silly but the dogs that fail out actually are great dogs but not 100% reliable for the blind or other disabilities. I know they actually like to adopt them out to other disability cases like autistic children or other type of disabilities.

    I am sorry you had a hard time but I bet you made a difference in how other people treat each other.
  • Thanks for all your opinions, I appreciate all of your perspectives! There is no right answer, and there is a lot to think about in these posts.

    Part of my personal care plan is to enroll those around me to help me do the things that re injure me, ie carrying heavy items, picking up things( that darn sock) from the floor etc.

    And these certain breeds of dogs love to work ie Australian Shepherds, Goldens, and Leopard Dogs, and get tons of love in return. They are part of the family, not "used" but contributing as all our family members do in a team effort to help each other.

    Thanks for the suggestion of the books btw, I have them on order.

    As far as just dealing with my pain, I have noticed how unfriendly many public places are in the USA.

    Having lived in New Zealand and OZ recently, they are much more accommodating and realizing that society has to recognize people with disabilities and chronic pain is one of them. There are high pain days I can't walk 10 feet.

    In the USA, it can be hard to find a curb cut on a side walk, if you are in a wheelchair... or can't climb a high curb like at LAX, there are heavy doors to open, carpet on floors of airport where people have to drag their bags.

    I am starting to notice these things now, as a disabled person.

    And I notice that for 3 days or more I am in serious pain after traveling- should I just live with it?

    We have welfare for those who can't find a job, workers comp for those who are injured on the job, even if it was their fault, but for those of us with chronic pain and disabilities perhaps we just are supposed to shut up and deal with it. Don't mention it, and don't ask for help, or request for a smart change in design for heavens sake.

    I disagree strongly, I pay taxes like everyone else. I contribute to society and have for years, and continue to do so.

    It does not have to be torture to open a heavy door or get across an poorly designed airport with no working elevators, designed to sell lots stuff at duty free with a labyrinth to get to a gate.

    By the way,the supervisor of the airline said they could of easily made an exception on my bags ( they do it at gate check in of bags), and do it all the time when it is a few minutes delay in checking a bag- she ended wrote up the staff member. But it still caused me lots of stress and sitting in the airport for hours. I am still in pain from the experience on a scale of 7-8. I should not have to suffer to travel! They are a business like everyone else and should earn it by providing good service. :)

    I am all about making my life happier, easier and more pain free so I have the energy to give back and be a contributing member of society. If having a dog to help me is part of the plan, then so be it. It is not a choice for everyone, just one more option to consider.

    Thanks for listening,

  • I agree that animals assist us in more ways than one. The one thing I caution is that you should take the time to find out the laws in your area regarding service animals . I have a registered therapy dog that had to pass a CGC test (canine good citizen) and a national therapy dog test . I also had to get trained as her handler . Although we are treated with respect in public places when she wears her work vest we are not protected by law with he same rights as service dogs under the ADA with respect to public access. To insist otherwise could make it hard for actual service dogs in the public eye. Not only does She work with children and adults in schools and hospitals but she has been invaluable to me at home. When my sugar drops while I sleep it is my therapy dog that wakes me or my husband to get me help. Animals are wonderful in many ways and should be loved and respected for the wonderful things they do to assist us whether it's a physical assistance or emotional. Good luck . :)
  • if you have low blood sugar. These trained dogs are great.I only get wakened up by a cat who's throwing around a mouse she found outside but really pets do help us but dogs are more useful to help the disabled.
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • WOW; good for you, with putting the people at the airport in their place.
    Unfortunally with most spine issues it is not noticeable to the general public.

    I also can relate to being looked at with speculation, 1 example back in Feburary we had a blizzard in Chicago, so before it came i went to Home Depot to get a bag of "ice melt", and all that was left was the #40 lb bags. So i had to put my tail between my legs, and embaress (sp) myself and ask a girl working there to put it in the cart for me, then ask for her to put it in my vehicle for me.

    I told her i had back surgery, but i must admit i feel like less of a man, having to stoop to that level.

    But unless someone comes up with a better idea, i guess we will have to continue to swallow our pride.
  • I have to say, having a working dog does NOT mean that a person does not push themselves to live their life or to get better. I am a single mom of two boys, I work full time, 4 out of 5 days I put in an extra 1-2 hours, and I am on call 24/7. I have a full garden that I grow by myself. The things that Tahoe does are small(but are a great help), however I do not have a boyfriend/husband to do some things that my dog can help with. When I come home and the house is dark and the light switch is across the room he can go turn it on, and then I don't trip over the shoes etc that were left in the way. When I have been gardening way to long and I can't feel my feet he can steady me as I get up. I can still have a bath, even though on my bad days, when I want one so much more, he can help me get out. He can help me carry in groceries. He can carry home products from the store when we walk up there. So in some ways, he helps me be MORE active, because we will walk to the store, when normally I would of driven because I couldn't of carried what I bought all the way home. Also, he needs exersize every day, so we get out and walk every day.

    At work he can also carry products from the warehouse to the office, his weight limit is more than mine. This helps me get more done in a day, and therefore not work as long, so I can home with my family.

    I also have epilepsy, if soemthing happens he can go and get help. He "talks" and lets soemone know with his "whoo whoo whoo". That one has taken a lot of work.

    Having a dog is not a cope out. Do you ask a spouse for help? How is that different? I have read many posts on this site about asking for help from a spouse, etc. What is wrong with having a dog that will do that?

    My kids are are 12 and 13, old enough to be out with their friends. They were worried about me being by myself on the weekends when they go to grandma's. Now that I have Tahoe they don't have to worry that my weight limit (from my Dr) is 10lbs. I have help. Kids shouldn't have to worry about mom not having help when they are not there. Now that I have Tahoe they don't.
  • I think we have to step away from the type of judgments that we're often faced with from others, not disabled or in chronic pain. There is no one "right" answer, there is only the right answer for ourselves.

    For some, perhaps having a dog would stop them from doing certain things that they take pride in being able to do on their own.... for others, it means being able to actually do More because the harder stuff (for us) is being done by a non judgmental partner.

    I will say that I would love to have a dog, working or otherwise but I worry about my ability to take care of one right now. Walking is an issue for me right now, and I can't see having a dog that I cannot walk. This is the first time in my life that I have been without a dog....and it hurts in a lot of ways.

    If it helps you to get out, to do some of the things you miss, to enable you to do more... AND you want a dog, I think it's wonderful to teach/train them in that way. Working dogs especially, do like to have a "job" to do... it helps keep them calm and happy. I hope someday to be able to have a dog again... my formerly feral kitty has been really stepping into the void since everything has gone down with mom.... he stays by my side and walks with me when I go up or down the stairs. He's been more friendly than he has ever been... even greeting the nurses and aides from hospice when they come. So, he knows I'm sure, that things are wrong here.

    For Tony- I will share a brief story with you and suggest you go to your docs. My mom adopted 2 baby barn kittens after we had to move to our own places. They were good company and she enjoyed sharing her day with them. One day she noticed that whenever the marmalade cat would curl up in her arm along her shoulder, she'd feel pain in her breast. Finally she called me and we made an appt. with the doctor for a mamo (she had had one 4 months earlier).

    They found a non cancerous lump in her breast where the kitten would always lay.... but they also found the cancerous lump in her other breast. She could have gone a year or more without going for another mamo.... so we always looked at her Reggie as having saved her life... the cancerous lump had grown so fast we might not have had her as long as we do.

    Make your appt. with the doc... you could say you noticed whenever your pup would lay on you it hurt... but do make the appt. to have it checked out please.
  • Wendy,
    Part of capturing who we once were is vitally important and any distraction from the pain has to be good, given the correct pacing, support and encouragement. Many times our pain divides who we are now, from what we could do in the past.

    As Robin said, all the world is not going to change to our expectations, even though it might be reasonable to aspire to this and we have to be realistic in what to expect from others, my limbless son is also disabled and still limitations are placed in his way, he deals with these in his own way.

    It is important not to work down to our disability but toward our own possibilities and hold our heads high, in what we are all achieving for ourselves and others like us.

    Take care and good luck.


  • Ok if thats the case why is it i am the one picking up dog poop ????not the dog picking up my poop?????
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
  • Very interesting topic! I just got myself a puppy and it has changed my life! It's so nice to be able to be loved with out jugement! My family and I don't talk anymore because they all think that nothing is wronge and I should not be in pain due to my last spine surgery 6 months ago! The last thing I said to my evil step-mother was when you fall off a 15foot cliff and break your back lets talk! Just because I look good in the front does not mean I have no pain! I can't cry anymore about this everytime I get upset I have more pain! Having a dog has been so wonderful it forces me out of my house and Ive met some lovely people and even a job connection! but of couse they thought I was crazy and even iresponsable!
    A working dog would be great for anyone not just helping but the love they give you no human can give!

    All the best,

  • ...and no one is around, will anyone hear it? ;} If I was in the city, I guess it is up to me. Fortunately I know have calves of steel from squatting down so much so I guess the job falls on me. Unless of course my kids are with me, and I get the " this is so gross, mom"!

    Just comes with the loving of dog and a new member of the family stuff. You take it as part of the picture.


    P.S. If you tell me how to train the dog to pick up the poop I want to know! ;} I would make a fortune!

  • My cats will come up and comfort me now when I am that kind of pain that nothing will stop, and it has been grinding at me for days.

    It is great to get the unconditional loving and also to focus on giving it back. It takes my focus from the pain, even it is for 20 minutes to give them a nice tummy rub and see the pleasure they get from it!

    I am trying to add anything to my life that makes it better and more pain focus free- I think this is one thing- for me, and yes, it is going to be a challenge, and again that can have positive aspects. I have to watch over doing it, and fortunately will have my adult kids to help me train and play with the puppy. Again this not a choice for everyone, but it is great to have choices instead of just gritting our teeth and bearing it!

  • Picking up dog poop is good pt. I get a work out every other day just about squatting cleaning up the yard from the dog. Sadly i finaly pulled something in my knee while squatting to protect the lower back after fusion. Dogs are like children. You take care of it. It will take care of you and protect you.

    Dog can be helpfull to motivate a person to walk more taking walks. Its healthy for both you and the dog. I feel much safer taking a nap from pain with door open knowing dog will bite anyone trying to break in the house. Dogs are great to have. Both dogs we had here are animal rescue. I say had only cause mine died a few years ago. He was a beautiful black lab. The one we have still is a mix.
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
  • This has been such an interesting thread, about pets knowing where you hurt. I have 2 cats and 2 dogs, and I'm tellin ya, they have not been all over me the way they have been the last few weeks, and even more since my surgery 2 weeks ago! They will not leave me alone!!! LOL But I love it, it's so comforting to sit here and cuddle with "my boys", just not all of them at once, which has happened, lol.

    As for the working dog part of it, if it helps, then I say go for it! Anything that can make life easier is a good thing. I would just be concerned of the reason, if you're doing it just to prove you're disabled, then it could possibly back-fire on you? Dogs are smart, it could be feasible that the dog might pick up on an attitude and training could be hard. Not saying that's the only reason you are looking into one, just throwing a thought out there. I'm sure you would greatly benefit from having one, especially for help with carrying things. Do you have any specific breeds in mind?

    And, Lisa Rachel's pup, I have to say, is the most adorable little guy I've ever seen!!! I'm sitting here with puppy envy right now ;)
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • Numbskull said:
    I would just be concerned of the reason, if you're doing it just to prove you're disabled, then it could possibly back-fire on you? Dogs are smart, it could be feasible that the dog might pick up on an attitude and training could be hard.
    Well said.
  • Ok, from the OP I get there were two themes, one the use of dog for assistance, and two, the dreaded airport.

    I have thought many times of the benefits of a large dog to help with carrying/pulling items, picking up things I drop by accident (esp. food or beverages, which need to be "picked up" in timely fashion or else ants & critters abound...); and esp. items that can't be picked up by those reachers/grabber devices. However, and in all seriousness, my impression after researching a place or two is that yes there are such assistance-trained animals, but they usually go first to patients who are paraplegic, amputees, or muscular dystrophy patients; esp. kids/teens, and that the middle-aged adult with a chronic back issue isn't going to make the cut. Yes, you can train yourself along with a local dog trainer, if you can make it through the puppy years, housebreaking (torture on a human back), the pulling phase etc. The psychological benefits of pets and the unconditional love alone cannot be underestimated. How do they "get" and "sense" chronic pain above and beyond our own human relatives is beyond me, but I am a believer that dogs have souls.

    On the issue of airports: Wendy, I find that airports are the one place I can catch a break, by requesting "wheelchair assistance at airport to gate" in advance, at the time of my online purchase. I have it linked to my FF number on airlines I travel frequently, and not once has any airline, including USAir, asked me to "prove" my disability. I generally do find myself explaining my "situation" to the wheelchair assistant, who usually responds "no problem". When I was in a brace, and even a corset peaking through at the bottom of my shirt, there was less explaining to do; so if I am on a new airline I may wear one just so to avoid stares, and loosen once seated. Most airlines do offer early boarding for people that need it, and some even print "priority boarding group" on your boarding pass when you select the wheelchair assistance option when booking your flight. Showing up at a gate via wheelchair lessens the cold stares from other passengers with early boarding, and given my genuine difficulties with travel and "settling" in, having my comforts (pillow to sit on, neck pillow, and extra meds nearby), finding help to place items overhead etc. I do need the time. I don't always use the wheelchair assistance if I am at a small community airport with all of 20 gates, but the ones with 5 terminals - you bet I do. My biggest struggle at airports, is when a sky-cap isn't available. Again, I don't have a problem stating my situation, I really can't lift this over there, yes I'll tip you for each bag for you to do the lifting; but I've been at ticket counters where the counter person just gives you a cold glance that "she won't lift that suitcase onto the scale" (even if she has to lift it off the scale and onto the belt). If there appears to be a kind stranger nearby, I humble myself and ask for help. I do think women have an advantage here, since there are always some men that will feel we are the significantly weaker sex back issue or no back issue (especially when lifting items into overhead compartment).
    Sometimes extra time is needed to wait for wheelchairs at busy airports, the time difference evens out when going through security. Most of the wheelchair assistances are genuinely nice, esp. when they realize there tip is proportional to how easy they make my trip. Especially after sitting for 3-4 hours, no, I really can't "haul" *** through terminals, trams etc., to catch a connection, and I usually have to use up an extra breakthrough med. or two plus muscle relaxer to get through a flight, so usually feel more comfortable with someone else "leading the way".
  • Hi,

    Thanks for everyone's comments and thoughts. First, I am able to train a dog myself and have done so before, many times. I am adopting a Cahoula Leopard Dog. They are often abandoned as strays and very much need homes. They are very bright and love to "work". They are breed to hunt and kill boar, believe it or not. Whether or not he is an actual working dog that can travel with on the airplane, I don't know yet, I am doing my research.

    For me, getting a dog is about having a loving animal as part of my family where we both mutually benefit, and helps me to get out about walking and enjoying nature with my new friend.

    Also about getting some help when I need it, and I do ask for it- in the airport. Many kind people have helped, normally NOT airport staff, but I am now given in and accepted the help of a wheelchair. That was incredibly emotionally difficult for me. I think it was one of the harder moments for that I have every experienced... that this would be life for me probably permanently.

    The most problems I have are at the airling gate check in- and that is really the only time at airports. It seems I can find someone to help every other time, but dragging the luggage in, putting it on the scale, dragging it off and dragging it to yet another place is a killer on me. I may just have to take my toothbrush and a change of underwear... and buy everything at Walmart! It is becoming a real hassle to deal with bags in the USA.
  • After 9-11 a friend of mine lost her house and had to move into a trailer. There was nowhere for "Satie" to run, and many times they had to have her on a chain. I live on an acre and a half, and after being asked, I adopted Satie - a Cahoula Leopard Hound.

    You won't be disappointed with this breed. Not only are they smart, they are extremely loyal as well. I hope it works out for both you and your new girl or boy!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
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