Monday, January 18, 2016

Service Dog in the Hospital

As a newer service dog handler, I still have a lot to learn when it comes to navigating all sorts of different situations with a service dog. Being in the hospital last week was one of these new experiences, so I thought I would share how it went!

Since Leni is a service dog, according to the ADA, she is treated like medical equipment similar to a wheelchair. That means she is allowed to be with me wherever I am, including the hospital!

Last week was my first time being admitted since having her, so it was a bit of a new experience. Not only did Nick and I need to make sure I had everything I needed, but that Leni was cared for, too.

Since I wasn't able to take her out for walks or exercise, it was up to whoever was staying with me to make sure Leni was cared for. Due to the fact that mast cell disease is a rare disease, and I am not always able to advocate for myself when I am in the hospital, we always make sure someone is with me anyway. This works well when we add Leni to the mix because that means there is always someone to help care for her, too!

On Wednesday night when I was getting admitted, Nick ran home to pack up stuff for me and Leni. I actually have a printed off "hospital packing list" for myself that I keep for easy access so Nick can just grab what's on the list and not have to worry about forgetting something if I get admitted unexpectedly. I hadn't had the chance to make something like that for Leni yet, so we were scrambling a bit, but we figured it out!

Here is what we brought for Leni in the hospital to make sure she was cared for and to keep her comfortable:

  • Leash/Vest - obviously =P
  • Boots - It got pretty cold while I was in the hospital and snowed a couple inches. To protect her feet from the salt and cold, and to make it more comfortable for her to go for walks, we brought her boots to put on when she went outside.
  • Coat - See above, getting cold + needing extra walks = need to make sure Leni is warm!
  • Bed - I have a camping style dog bed that rolls up nice and tight that is great for traveling. We brought that for her, but also ended up getting some extra blankets from the nurses to make her bed even softer.
  • Food - Since we didn't know how long I would be admitted, we kinda just guessed how much food we would need. We ended up running out and Nick had to grab more, but we couldn't really have planned for that.
  • Bowls - I was given some fantastic travel bowls by a friend who also has a poodle service dog, and I love them! They pack so easily and hold up well. We have one that we keep filled with water and use the other for her meals.
  • Towel - We actually didn't have one initially, but quickly realized it would be a good idea. Since she did wear her boots, it wasn't as big a deal, but I HIGHLY recommend having a towel for your service dog. If she was going to be up on the bed with me or just coming in from outside, we really didn't want soggy paws tracking mud around the room.
  • Toys!! - VERY IMPORTANT!! Haha, at least for Leni it was =) She is a very playful dog, so having some things to keep her occupied when we are stuck in one room for almost a week a time is important. We brought a squeaky toy (her favorite) and a bone for her to chew on. 
  • Treats - I brought some treats so I could do some training exercises with her and challenge her mind for a bit each day. Being stuck in one room is tough, so in addition to having my mom, Nick's mom, and Nick take her out for walks, I also taught her some tricks, worked on her service tasks, and just played with her.
  • Poop bags - Enough said. =P
It seems like a super long list, but it really isn't that bad. I have a backpack that I pack for trips and all this stuff fits in there just fine. I've also added a section to my "hospital packing list" for Leni supplies so in the future we'll be all set.

Like I said, I was admitted from Wednesday night to Tuesday afternoon, so almost a whole week. That's a long time for a 1.5 year old poodle to be stuck in one room. Leni was fantastic for the most part, but we had to be aware of her needs to keep her that way =) 

Whoever was staying with me would take her out a few times a day for a walk. I was on the 6th floor, so even just something as small as taking the stairs instead of the elevator gives her a chance to get some energy out. I also made sure to do a bit of training with her every day that I was able. Some days it was just reviewing some of her tasks that she already knows in a new place and other days we did some useless but fun tricks. Either way, it was a chance to give her something to focus on and use some of the pent up mental energy.

I was so proud of Leni, and so grateful to Buckeye Service Dogs for the incredible training they have done with her. She was a model service dog, and never once did she act in a way that would make someone question her training. While I do wish my health was in a place where I did not have a need for a service dog, I will say that Leni makes having a service dog pretty sweet. Having her with me in the hospital made it just that much more bearable and less frustrating.

I hope this is useful/helpful for someone else starting off with a service dog and facing a hospital admission. It can be a challenge, but it is doable, and we made it work! Leni was great, and now that we have established that, we can stay out of the hospital indefinitely! At least that is the plan...




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