Lots of people have asked questions about the dog, so I thought I’d share a little bit about our very special family member, Max. Max joined Team Robinson in April 2014. Before coming to live with us, Max was loved by friends of ours who felt like the farm and the family at our place would give him wide open spaces, abundant entertainment, and extravagant attention. They were right!
Max is almost 4 years old now. He’s a hairy and happy goldendoodle who has a very important job with Team Robinson. Before I show you how adorable he is, I want to share a story about something that happened on Thursday at the airport and a few other long, rambling thoughts, if you don’t mind.
My story begins just after we survived security. We all quickly put our shoes back on, headed down the escalator and elevator, and were waiting on the train to carry us to Terminal E. Several people commented on Max and were surprised that we had him in the airport. Most were kind and wanted to fawn over our handsome, furry, family member. One woman, though, turned to her companion and whispered something we couldn’t hear. He responded to her loudly while rolling his eyes toward our Max, “That’s just a scam to get to travel with your dog.”
I almost got angry, the kind of angry I get when people say things to or about my kids like, “What happened to her real parents?” or “Do you have any kids of your own?” but then I figured, maybe he just doesn’t understand disability and the supports available now for those with disabilities. It’s possible that he doesn’t. A few years ago, I didn’t either.
Dean and I have been parenting children from places of harm for over 16 years now. We’ve worked with many professionals over the years that have helped us learn what to do and what not to do to help children heal from the harm they experienced before coming to us. I really don’t know what we would’ve done without the training and support of amazing social workers, physicians, and therapists who guided us through foster placements and forming a family through adoption. Even today with so much training and many years of experience, we feel like we have a lot left to learn in order to do this job of rebuilding walls and lives well.
Because of the joys and challenges of fostering and adoption, we’ve learned a lot about the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). One of the things we’ve learned is that the use of a service animal by a person with a disability is a right protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the ADA, a service animal has been trained to perform a specific task for the person with a disability. People with disabilities can benefit from having a service animal in so many ways. A guide dog is trained to assist a person with visual impairments or who is blind, increasing their ability to move around safely. A hearing dog is trained to alert someone who has hearing loss or is deaf of a sound. A sensory signal dog is trained to assist a person with autism by alerting him or her of repetitive movements like hand flapping, spinning, or rocking or keeping an individual safe from danger. A psychiatric service dog is trained to do things scan a room or turn on the lights, which may not seem like much but can really help someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Just for clarity, it’s important that you know, though, that you just can’t waltz onto an airplane with a dog – even a dog as awesome as Max. Unless your dog is a service animal trained to perform a specific supportive task for a person with a disability, documentation of a mental health disability from a physician or licensed mental health professional is required by the airlines.
I’m not going to go into all the hows and whys because of the obvious need to protect the privacy of my children, but our Max was able to legally travel with us on the airplane. He was a perfect gentleman throughout the flight, except for the moment when he broke the rules and climbed up into the seat with Wyatt. I probably shouldn’t have snapped pictures of him and posted them on the internet, because he was supposed to sit on the floor throughout the flight.
Thanks for reading along about our Max. We’re thankful for him and that he’s here with us in Honduras.