For general information on service dogs and how to get one, click here.
FAQ about Laïka & I
1. What is your service dog’s name and breed?
Her full and official name is Laïka of Space CGC, so named after the soviet cosmonaut (in black & white) that she resembles so much! Laïka was the first living thing to be sent to space (on purpose). Both dogs were female mutts found on the street. My Laïka (in colour) is a terrier mix, looking like she has some Jack Russel Terrier and/or Rat Terrier.
BW: Laïka the soviet cosmonaut. Color: my Laïka
BW: Laïka the soviet cosmonaut. Color: my Laïka
If we meet on the street, I may not give you her real name to avoid people distracting her when she is working.
2. Where did you get them?
Humane Society of East Tennessee Valley. She is a shelter rescue!
3. How old are they?
Around 4 years old.
4. What is your disability?
I have an invisible disability that I do not wish to share with the internet. Unless you are my friend, family, or medical professional, I will not be discussing it. Suffices to say I was diagnosed by several doctors.
5. How is your dog trained?
Laïka already counts as a service dog in Ontario, however I consider her still in training.
She is co-program trained meaning she is temperament tested and regularly evaluated by a service dog program (Psy’Chien
) to have public access and perform her medical tasks dependably. When Laïka is ready, she will pass Psy’Chien’s final exam and graduate as a full service dog. I do most of the training myself under the regular guidance and evaluations of professional trainers. Additionally, she has passed the Canine Good Citizen
6. How many tasks does your service dog know and what are they?
Her most important tasks are alerting me of an upcoming medical episode followed by deep pressure therapy and grounding. She can find and take me to a building’s exit, or my husband on command. We are always working keeping her tasks and commands fresh.
7. What is their favorite treat and/or toy?
She loves soft furry squeaky toys, and Nylabones.
8. What do you feed them, and why?
Special vet bought Purina Gastrointestinal formula. She gets a mix of kibble and wet food in the morning, and just kibble in the evening. I add water into her food too.
9. What is your current gear set up?
Because I live in Canada, she has a winter set and a summer set of gear. This is mainly due to the fact that she needs a lot of coverage in the winter as she is easily cold. The main element is her Psy’Chien uniform vest.
Laïka and me at the hospital.
10. What is your dream gear set up?
Oh I keep dreaming and hoarding and should slow down on that! I do like adding pins on her uniform, but nothing too distracting.
11. If you use patches, what does your favorite patch say?
There are no patches on her uniform, but I love her leash wrap: signage with a stop sign, no petting, no eye contact, no pictures on one side and “do not distract” on the other.
12. What is the most challenging part of being a service dog handler?
With the great privilege of having my dog accompany me everywhere I go, comes the great responsibility of her behavior to be impeccable. Even when people blow kisses at her from a distance, or try to feed her peanuts from their pockets, come out of nowhere to pet her, pull on her tail, etc. These things have all happened in the past, and they are both dangerous for myself and my dog.
13. What is your favorite part about being a service dog handler?
The independence she has given me again, the love and care she gives me everyday.
14. What question do you hate being asked as a handler?
Questions are fine. It is the assertions that are much more problematic, such as “you don’t look disabled”, “we don’t accept dogs here” (note she has full public access rights), or people telling me their dead dog stories.
15. What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about service dogs?
Service dogs are highly trained medical equipment. Do not interact with them in any way, please talk to the handler instead. Or better yet, understand that a team can get stopped so many times on a single day, we do not have the patience to explain or have conversations each time. I know it might seem rude, but not every disabled person has the energy to engage.
16. What one piece of advice would you give a new service dog handler?
Do your research. The cost — financial, emotional, physical and time — is enormous. You have to be well enough to train and take care of a dog, a wholly dependent creature, yet be unwell enough to be disabled. It is very rewarding if it works out though: a dog’s help is unique and so hard to replace by other accessibility aids or medications.
17. How did you decide a service dog was right for you?
I already had a dog I was training every day. As my conditions deteriorated, she became my Emotional Support Animal then my Service Dog.
18. After your current service dog retires, will you get another? Why or why not?
I will cross that bridge when I get there. The evolution of my medical needs is quite unpredictable. I hope I will no longer be disabled by the time I have to retire Laïka. If I am, I will look for a purebred dog from a breeder with service dog experience and lines.
19. If you will get another, what breed do you want?
Standard Poodle, perhaps? Great Dane, maybe? Hopefully a medium to large sized dog to do light mobility and guide tasks additionally to altering and responding to my medical episodes.
20. What does your service dog struggle with the most?
Not greeting dogs who approach us.
21. What do they excel at?
Recognizing when I need her and coming to help. Sometime forcefully: she can intelligently disobey me to keep me safe. I find that astounding.
22. What service dog team inspires you?
I find that every team is so different, I do not have any particular one I see ourselves in. We are our own motivation!
23. Have you ever had any major public access issues?
A hospital nurse managed to provoke a non-epileptic seizure trying to separate us. The issue was quickly resolved thanks to my husband explaining that by law, she has access, thereby letting Laïka help me during my attack.
24. Describe your service dog in 3 words?
Sweet. Loving. Tyrophiliac!!