‘Our Dogs are More Than Pets. They're Our Eyes on a Leash’ | St. Louis Public Radio

‘Our Dogs are More Than Pets. They're Our Eyes on a Leash’

May 7, 2018
Originally published on May 4, 2018 3:36 pm

DeAnna Quietwater Noriega and Gretchen Maune, who’s a friend of mine, both live in Columbia and are blind.

They spoke about some of the additional complications and costs that can come along with their adaptive technologies – i.e. their service dogs. For DeAnna, that’s Enzo, a German Shepard, and for Gretchen, Keeper, a Golden Retriever. 

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org

DeAnna Quietwater Noriega: Our dogs are more than pets, and they're more than just companions. They're our eyes on a leash.

And because they're out there on a leash, a lot of people will interfere with them when they're working, and if we allow too much of it, it can ruin them for the task they're set for. 

It's hard because the public... people have gotten offended when I've refused their child, but I've been in situations where my dog's been tackled by a small child who's grabbed his ears, stuck fingers up his nostrils...

Gretchen Maune: I have people get offended when I tell adults that they can't pet Keeper, and they act like we're being snotty or... 

DeAnna: Or rude. 

Gretchen: Or rude. Yeah, and, yes, he's a dog and he's my friend and he's great, but when he's working, he is like my adaptive technology.

He was bred and trained for the exact purpose that you see him with me when we're walking around.

DeAnna: But when we have medical bills for our dogs, we're the ones that pay them. When our dogs are sick, we're the ones that have to take care of them. And that can pose all kinds of challenges. It can mean that our expenses are higher. 

Gretchen:  Yeah, last year - it's almost exactly a year ago - Keeper got really sick. I don't know what happened, but I guess he ate something he shouldn't have because even though...

Sometimes people see them acting out - sniffing things or trying to scavenge a tiny bit - and they get... I've had some people that are like, "Why was it doing that? It's a guide dog." 

And it's still a dog. It's not a robot. So, yeah, sometimes he eats things he shouldn't just like anyone's dog.

DeAnna: Sure. 

Gretchen: So, what happened last year was he got really sick, and I took him... first obviously I tried to take care of it myself, but it was clear he needed to go to the hospital, the vet school, and I took him there and he was really not in a good place. 

They had to keep him for three days and keep him on fluids and medicine and all kinds of stuff, and the bill was -  I got something like a ten percent service dog discount, but it's about $3000. I'm still paying it off.

I mean, I have to, we have to pay for everything for our dogs. I pay for his food and his supplements. I probably take better care of him than I do myself, but he's my responsibility. He takes care of me and so I take care of him 

It's all out of pocket, so, yeah, that's part of where my blind pension goes to and my social security/disability is buying dog food and pick up bags and I do his grooming myself because I can't pay $50 every time I need him groomed - especially since he likes to roll in the grass - and I brush his teeth and clean his ears.

Everything he needs, you know. It's a lot that people don't think about. 

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