Stevens has a picture of herself with her dog on her website. Stevens may not have helped herself on the service dog issue by agreeing at one point to use a cane instead of bringing her guide dog. It may have been more important for her to go to OHI than win on the service dog issue, and it is not clear at the moment that the case will continue. Since some important issues are involved, it is to be hoped that the court will be able to consider them. Others with guide dogs may encounter problems with OHI and similar facilities in the future, and it would be unfortunate if they have to fight the same battle over again.
OHI is arguing that the very presence of a guide dog on the grounds of its healing facilities is a problem. By stating such, it is in effect saying that its facilities and the services therein provided are not available for some people and specifically those with disabilities who rely on guide dogs. But might not other entities — flowers and air fresheners, as Ensminger says — trigger similar concerns about contaminating the “detoxification process”?
Is it rather the very presence of a dog on the Lemon Grove grounds that was at issue?
Therapy Dogs and Autistic Children
I’ve written before about the therapeutic importance of therapy and service dogs to autistic children. We don’t have a therapy dog for our 14-year-old son Charlie. When he was younger, he was terrified of dogs. Over the years, he has gotten less fearful of dogs. He stays on his bike when he and my husband encounter dogs on the bike trails and the sidewalk and he simply walks (rather than running at top speed) when we meet someone with a dog on our walks. These walks often serve the dual purpose of exercise and relaxation technique and our canine encounters have become more and more welcome to me. Dogs respond to Charlie’s body language and noises (growls, moans — Charlie can talk a little but much of his verbal repertoire does not involve words) by responding in kind, being able to sense his emotional state from his body language in ways that most humans overlook. When Charlie is upset and “on edge,” seeing and hearing a dog can distract him from whatever is troubling him in a beneficial way.
In other words, by not allowing dogs on its grounds, it’s possible that OHI might be excluding not only individuals, but animals who themselves serve a key therapeutic role.
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