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When I’m Not Here, the Dog is Her Comfort

By Cheryl Clock, The Standard
Friday, June 23, 2017 9:37:57 EDT PM

Evelyn Lockie, 88 and Tina are inseparable. Tina is Evelyn’s service dog, trained to give her emotional support. Cheryl Clock

The blue leash is a lifeline. A connection so important, she holds on to it even in her sleep.

At one end is Tina, a five-year-old Papillon dog, a small spaniel breed with big brown eyes and wispy butterfly-wing ears that frame her short-haired face. She seems to know exactly when to cock her head and pause for maximum cuteness.

Holding onto her leash is 88-year-old Evelyn Lockie, a woman whose fierce independence is championed by her family despite having to live in a secured section of a St. Catharines long-term care facility because her dementia causes her to wander.

The pair is inseparable.

Lockie is never without Tina, except three times a day when she goes to the dining room at Henley House to eat a meal.

Tina sleeps in her bed. Lives in her room. Walks by her side down the hallways. And sits patiently on her lap while Lockie strokes her back.

She is a service dog. A dog who works for Lockie to give her comfort and emotional support. When Lockie moved here from a more independent living retirement home, Tina came too.

“When I’m not here, the dog is her comfort,” said her daughter, Anne Cameron. “She takes the dog everywhere.

“She values her independence.”

For most of her life, Lockie was a kindergarten teacher, the final part of her career at Briardale Public School.

She raised three children with her husband, Don, who owned Lockie Office Services. Lockie kept the family steady and balanced. She believed in sit-down dinners and insisted everyone had to be present. Together.

She learned to speak Spanish at night school. And when she was in her mid-50s, she returned to university to earn a bachelor of arts at Brock.

Her husband had heart problems and wanted Lockie to be cared for after he was gone, so they moved into a St. Catharines retirement home in 2006. He died six weeks later. Just before his death, he asked Cameron to promise to look after her mother. She would have anyway. Easily.

Around that time, Lockie was starting to have memory problems.

She lived on her own for awhile, with her family dog, a sheltie. But after the dog died, she became anxious and unsettled. Even unhappy. She would tell Cameron, “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” or “I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.”

So Cameron, a woman who trains thoroughbred race horses, thought her mom would benefit from a service dog and set out to find the perfect canine match. The dog had to be outgoing and friendly. Smart and trainable. Not too large. It had to absolutely bond with her mom. And as her dementia increased, it needed to adapt to her needs.

Tina was nine months old when they met. She was perfect. Cameron trained Tina to be a working dog, devoted to Lockie’s mental health. Her mom has a doctor’s note recommending a service animal. And Tina is registered with Assistance Dogs of America.

The rights of people who live with a disability to be accommodated with their service animal falls under both the Ontario Human Rights Code and the AODA the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Specifically, in the human rights code: The duty to accommodate may require waiving or changing a rule (for example, allowing guide dogs or other service animals in a building with a “no pets” policy.)

Housing providers are included in the duty to accommodate.

The code also protects people with disabilities who use a service animal for needs such as anxiety, and clarifies that animals do not need to be trained or certified by a recognized organization. However, the person needs to be able to provide evidence (if it’s not immediately obvious that the animal is providing a disability-related service), like a letter from a doctor, that they have a disability and their animals help them.

Service providers and others who receive such documentation should not use their own assumptions and observations to second-guess this verification.

Similarly, the AODA sets out mandatory accessibility standards, to identify, remove and prevent barriers for people with disabilities.

In its customer service section, it stipulates that a service animal can accompany a person unless excluded by law. In which case, the provider shall ensure that other measures are available to enable a person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from the provider’s goods, services or facilities.

It also makes it clear that a service animal is either indicated by wearing a service vest or harness, or by having documentation from a list of regulated health professionals.

At Henley House, there was no question that Tina and Lockie were a package that could not be separated. The only details to be worked out, was who would care for the dog, since Lockie cannot.

In general, pets are not allowed to live with the residents, but can visit provided their vaccines are up to date, says Pam Hocaluk, life enrichment manager.

In addition, therapy dogs from St. John Ambulance and Therapy Tails visit residents regularly.

Dogs have an ability to calm. If a resident is physically or verbally aggressive, agitated, screaming, hitting, or banging, an animal can often be a welcome distraction that soothes and comforts, says Hocaluk.

“It’s almost like music,” she says.

Tina has given Lockie purpose.

“Mom taught kindergarten. She raised children. She is a giver,” said Cameron.

“She had my dad to look after when he was sick. She had her dog to look when it was sick. And then she had nothing.”

Until she had Tina.

At first, she was able to take care of her new dog. “She had purpose again,” said Cameron. “Everybody needs to be needed.”

If Lockie got lost on one of their neighbourhood walks, Tina would lead her home.

Cameron was determined to respect her mom’s independence and keep her at home for as long as possible. She’d make her meals, and attach reminder notes to them dinner, or lunch. Usually something she could heat up in the microwave.

“Then the dementia caught up to her,” said Cameron.

She lived with her mother for three months, before a room became available at Henley House. By then, Lockie had lost the ability to take care of Tina.

And Tina became more important than ever.

She made the move less confusing. Less scary. Cameron trained Tina to be comfortable around the never-ending flow of wheelchairs and walkers and not get in the way. And she agreed to look after Tina’s care things like a daily walk and making sure she gets fed.

She’s been trained in the practical issues of having an indoor dog like urinating on a pee pad, a square of absorbent material left on the bathroom floor, and eating only what she needs in a day instead of gorging herself if the bowl is full of food.

The only place Tina doesn’t travel with Lockie is into the dining room, an agreement made with Henley House.

In the two months she’s been here, Tina has made friends with other residents in the secured area. She is trained to sit at a wheelchair and not jump up unless she sees a lap tap the universally recognized symptom for want to sit on my lap?

And most importantly, Lockie is happy.

“The dog grounds her,” says Cameron. “It makes sense to her. It’s real and tangible, when she’s confused about everything else.”

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