Home Podcast TOP #45: How a Service Dog Saves My Life Everyday

TOP #45: How a Service Dog Saves My Life Everyday

For the uninitiated, service dogs are a type of assistance animals trained specifically to help people with various disabilities – hearing, visual, physical or other impairments. Certain service dogs help people with paralysis, epileptic seizures and more. But there was never a cardiac alert service dog, until very recently after one Labrador Retriever changed this.

My guest today is Marty Harris, and you might have read about her in People magazine, or have watched her award-winning documentary “Adele and Everything After.” Marty suffers from a heart condition that causes her to faint – daily; and she's been suffering from this since elementary school. That is until she met Adele, a Labrador Retriever that's been saving her life everyday since.

Marty is here to tell her and Adele's story, enlighten us about the condition, why service dogs are important and how they can help people with different disabilities. She also talks about her experience making the documentary “Adele and Everything After,” and how the project came to be (which is now available on Amazon Video, iTunes and Google Play).

Here's the trailer for the documentary:

Listen to the episode in the video above and find the full podcast transcript below. For more, visit this episode’s post on the official Theory of Pets website.

How a Service Dog Saves My Life Everyday
(podcast transcript)

INTRO: Marty Harris has a heart condition that could cause her to pass out at any time. So before she learned about service dogs, she really had a limited number of things that she could do. It was very hard for her to just live a life as “normal” like we would think of normal — driving, things like going out — those things were really difficult for her.

So through a process — which I'll actually let Marty tell you about — she was able to find Adele, who is one of the world's first cardiac alert service dogs. One, they have been featured in People Magazine, which is a pretty big deal. And now, they have just released a documentary about their journey together called, “Adele, and Everything After.”

There are links on our site, theoryofpets.com, if you want to check those things out and see some more information about Marty and Adele. But for now, I'm going to let Marty talk to you about her story, about Adele.

Adele now actually lives with Marty in retirement, and she's found herself a new service dog to work with her. So she talks a little bit about that process, and the way the two dogs interact together.

So I will let Marty take it from here.

Interview with Marty Harris

Marty: I was diagnosed from a very early age with a heart condition that caused me to faint. I didn't get the exact name of my condition until I was about in my 30s, but I've always had this.

I was diagnosed with, the full title is “acute malignant vasovagal neurocardiogenic syncope.”

Samantha: Oh my goodness.

Marty: Which is a huge title that basically means I'm a fainter. I faint a lot. And when I do faint, my heart does stop and it takes a few, 20, 30 seconds for it to get the blood back up to it again.

And my service dogs, they are able to detect before I have any of my signals — they are able to detect what is coming and let me know, so they get me into a safe position, to either stand still, or sit down, or to lay down, depending on how much danger I'm in, I guess. The best way to describe it.

Samantha: So you can feel the fainting spells coming on?

Marty: Well, my signals that I used to get were so instantaneous that I didn't have time to react to it.

Samantha: I see.

Marty: I did things like — I would lose my hearing, or my arm would go numb, or just that sort of blackness that overcomes you.

Samantha: And as soon as those happen, almost instantly you would faint, so you didn't have time to prepare yourself.

Marty: Right. But the dogs seemed to be able to pick up on the signals my heart is sending out, before I even get those symptoms. So they prevent me from pushing my body too far, to the point where I pass out.

Samantha: That's amazing.

Marty: Yeah. They're not stopping, like curing my heart condition, so it's still happening. It's just — they're preventing me from being injured by fainting and falling down stairs, or in the middle of the road, or things what I was doing on a regular basis before they came into my life.

Samantha: So how early can they detect it? How many minutes is it between then they signal you and when you actually have the fainting spell?

Marty: That's kind of complicated. Because they are able to let me know it's coming, I don't push my body to the point where I actually faint. I've only fainted twice with the dogs, and both times I was sick. And I just wasn't in my right mind. [laughs] Like when you have the flu, and you just aren't thinking clearly, and I knew the dogs were alerting me. But I just wasn't reacting to the dogs the way I should be. And then I did faint.

But both times, the dogs, they caught me, and prevented me from injuring myself. I say, as long as I listen to my service dogs, I'm going to be OK.

Samantha: Yeah. Of course. So when you… You say you had this condition as a child, and of course, you probably didn't know much about it back then — what triggered you to want to work with a service dog.

Marty: Desperation is really what started all of it.

I had been diagnosed. I'd done every possible medication; I'd been prepped for a pacemaker twice, and then it was decided that it wasn't the right avenue for me, because there is no guarantee that it would work, and I'd be stuck with the pacemaker.

It really took my cardiologist, who is one of the best in the world, doctor James Jinusi, saying — Marty I'm sorry we've tried everything; medicine hasn't really caught up to what you have yet. And he goes — we're going to have to look into alternatives.

That was sort of a scary thing to hear.

Samantha: Absolutely.

Marty: I didn't really understand what he meant by “alternatives.”

One day I was watching a show on dogs that detect cancer in people and it was very early testing. But they were trying to see if dogs had this ability or not, and it got me thinking — I wonder if they could detect cancer, can they detect cardiac?

So I called doctor Jinusi up and he said — Nothing that I've ever heard of with dogs doing this. He goes — but let's look into it.

And we started calling different organizations and everybody said — No, we don't; but you should try this one — and they gave me a long list, from one to the other and I just went down the list.

Eventually I got the Canines Partners For Life and they said — well, that's really interesting; we don't do that but we're curious if our dogs could do that; would you be willing to be the guinea pig and come down and work with our dogs and let's see if any of them have this ability?

So I did and they decided to start with dogs that could already detect seizures in people. That's sort of a natural instinct. Some dogs have it some dogs don't. And so they had me work with four different dogs.

At the time I believe two out of the four were alerting me. But at the time, you have to realize, I didn't know what an alert was; I just know what the dogs were doing.

There is a hill outside of their facility and they asked — a very tiny hill that to me is Mt. Everest — they asked me to walk up the hill with each dog, and I went up with this one dog and it laid across my feet and wouldn't get up.

And I tried everything. You know, I had dogs my whole life, so I am kind of used to them. I turned to the trainers, I am like — OK. I think your dog is broken. [laughs]

The trainer turned to me and she goes — no, I think the dog is trying to tell you something.

And that was sort of my first realization of — oh, maybe they are; maybe this could work — and I was very excited. And that dog turned out to be Adele, who they placed me with.

So she's been saving my life from the moment I met her.

Samantha: So, you kind of hung out with these dogs, I guess, to see if they would alert you? That's how it kind of started?

Marty: Yes, there is not any sort of training that they did for the dog to be able to do this. They just observed the dogs to see if any of them were reacting to me the same way they sort of react to people who have seizures.

Samantha: So, were you fainting like, if you did too much, say, like, strenuous activity and your heart was pumping fast? Was that typically when you would have a fainting spell?

Marty: That is definitely one of them. Change of position is a big one with vasovagal, like going from laying down to sitting up or sitting to standing — those can be triggers just because my heart cannot keep up with the rate change of the pulse.

Samantha: So, it's safe to say you were fainting quite often then, before the dogs.

Marty: Oh, before the dogs, yeah, it got to the point where I was going to the emergency room almost weekly.

Samantha: Wow.

Marty: Because I would faint on the streets of Boston, and people would call 9-1-1\. But the thing was, by the time I got to the hospital I felt fine.

Samantha: Right.

Marty: My heart just needed time to catch up, basically.

Samantha: Wow, that is amazing.

So, you go to Canine Partners for Life; you meet Adele, and they place you with her, which is one of the things that I will mention in the introduction for the podcast — is that you've created this documentary now about your life with Adele.

So, she was basically the first cardiac assisting dog, service dog that there was. This wasn't heard of before Adele.

Marty: Well, I like to be very careful with that because I don't want to dishonor anybody who may have had one before her, that we just never heard of.

I know that she's the first one definitely placed by Canine Partners for Life. Like I said, with all my research that I did beforehand, I never came across another one. But if there is another that's older, and has done the same thing as Adele, I'd certainly want to honor them.

Samantha: Sure.

Marty: To me it's not about her being her being the first. It's just about her being what she is. [laughs]

Samantha: Yes, yes. Absolutely. I mean, it's really amazing.

Marty: It's just remarkable. Yes.

But, as I said, I've never had anybody come up to me and tell me their story, about their dog being able to do this before her. I'd kind of love it if they did.

Samantha: Well, it sounds like your condition is fairly rare.

Marty: I think that — vasovagal is actually pretty common in people. Most people have some sort of vasovagal episode in their lifetime, where they pass out.

But I just have an extreme version of it, I guess. And I have other complications with other medical things that make it so certain medicines don't work for me. The reasons why I'm not a candidate for a pacemaker.

A lot of times, people who have conditions similar to mine, these other options work for them. They just didn't work for me. So, kind of a…

Samantha: Interesting.

Marty: — interesting case, I guess.

Samantha: Yes. Absolutely.

So once you were partnered with Adele, she was your first service dog. So, how did the documentary come about? Was that just something that you kind of wanted to pay tribute to her? Or did somebody approach you about it?

Marty: No, actually. It started all because of a fundraiser. When I first was placed with Adele, you had to go to team training, it's called. And it's a month long, out of your life. Everyday you're training eight, nine hours a day. And you're basically learning what the dogs can do. The dogs are fully trained at that point.

Samantha: Sorry. Is that for all service dogs? Or most service dogs?

Marty: This is for the way Canine Partners for Life operates.

Samantha: I see. OK.

Marty: I know different organizations do different things. But their system is, for the first year of the dog's life — they're in the puppy prison program, and then when they turn one, they go to Canine Partners for Life and they get their intensive training service skills then.

But as far as seizures and the cardiac dogs — that's an ability they have or they don't, they can't train that. So it sort of puts those dogs into an upper echelon of abilities; they are very, very special dogs.

Samantha: So is it more like certain breeds? Are there certain breeds that they look for? Or is there something they sort of try with puppies and see if it works with them?

Marty: Well with Canine Partners for Life. I know that their breeding program is mostly Labradors; it's just because of their temperament, of their size, of their health. They are good sturdy dogs; you want the dog that you would be able to use for balance which is something I use them for when I get dizzy.

They are also my motor so they kind of pull me along so I don't have to exert so much of my heart.

I know Canine Partners has standard poodles for people who have severe allergies. And then they have had other dogs throughout their 20, 25 years of being in business, but they lean toward the Labradors; they just seem to have really good results with them.

Samantha: So do they breed? Do they find it to be like a genetic thing? Do they breed dogs that can do it in hopes that the puppies will be able to do it as well?

Marty: That is a great question and I don't know the answer to that.

Samantha: I was just curious.

Marty: I'd like to find that out myself. That's a good question.

Samantha: Well one thing that I will do is I'll link to the Canine Partners for Life website; I did check it out briefly and there's so much information on there for people about the business itself, the foundation and about partnering with the dog, if anybody else maybe is thinking, or listening and thinking — gee, a service dog might be right for me. So they have lots of stuff on there as well as informational volunteering and donating and things like that if people are interested in that. So I will link to their site because it is filled with great info.

Marty: Oh that's fantastic. Thank you.

Samantha: Awesome, yeah.

Marty: As far as the original question which I've totally drifted away from, about how did the documentary come about — I was place with Adele, and I went with the month-long training. Those bills really added up, and I hadn't planned in advance for that. And you know, you're away from your home for a month; you're staying in a hotel; you have a caregiver, all the things that you need to do to be away from your home for a month could add up.

And then, of course, the vet bills and you have to go back to Canine Partners, every one or two years for reevaluation. So it adds up. And I thought — when it comes time for the next dog, I'm going to do it differently. I'm going to do a fundraiser and try and help with some of these costs.

And I'd never done a fundraiser before, so I looked online, and I was like, OK, I can do one of these. I'm going to forget the name of the platforms you can use. But where you do like a little video and people can donate money.

Samantha: Yeah, yeah. I mean they have a GoFundMe now and there's a lot of different types of funding websites out there.

Marty: Yeah. So I picked one of those, and I was like — OK, now I need a video.

I knew… In the building, I live in in Boston, there was a film company, because I'd seen some of their films before. I thought, well, I can just go and ask them. Maybe they know of a student in the Boston area that would volunteer.

So I really just approached them as looking for help to make a little three-minute video.

Now. Melissa Dowler is the director of the film, and she's the one that I approached. She's my neighbor. And she didn't really know anything about me. She'd seen Adele and me around the building, but she didn't know if I was blind or if there was something else wrong with me. She just, she'd never really approached me.

And the big reason is she has a little dog named Angel that's a little Yorkshire terrier that had sort of a complex about Adele. [laughs] Every time he saw Adele he would bark, and bark, and bark, and bark. And she would scoop him up and say sorry and she would run away. So it was funny to me. I wasn't afraid of her dog or anything. I just though it was always funny how she would run away. And she was sort of mortified about her dog's behavior, which is why she never… She was like — your dog was always so good in the hallways and in the street, and there was mine, just like running behind it barking and screaming. [laughs]

So that's sort of how our relationship started.

But I went to her, I got her one day without the dog, without Angel with her, and I said what I was looking for is a little three minute video. And she goes — well, why don't you come down to my office and let me hear what all you need, and we'll see if we can find somebody for you.

And I did, and what I thought was funny was, I was there talking for like an hour and a half, and I thought that was a lot for a three minute video.

Samantha: Yeah. [laughs]

Marty: But she just kept asking questions, and then she said — well can you come back tomorrow? — and I was like, “Sure.”

I thought this whole process was a little strange, but I'm like it's Hollywood, what do I know?

And I did go back the next day and she had her whole staff sitting around the table, and she's like — OK Marty, tell them your story again — and I was looking at everybody and I'm thinking, “OK maybe one of these is one of the students,” but they were all her staff and I didn't really know that at the time.

So we went through it and another hour and a half later she's like, “Marty, we are going to do the three minute video for you; we want to help you with this. But we'd really love to do a full length documentary as well.

And that threw me. I'm a very private person. I've learned to do interviews and things like this because of the movie. But before any of this — I'm the person that hides behind other people in pictures. [laughs] I don't like to be the center of attention at all. So it's been a real learning process for me, like coming out of my shell and doing all of this.

And it took Melissa a long time to convince me to do the documentary. And I think the thing that did it for me was just my husband saying, “You know, it's a chance to educate people.” And he's a teacher, so that's a big thing in our life. The more you know, the more you grow.

Samantha: Absolutely.

Marty: And so I was like — alright, well I'll do it — and I had to take myself out of the equation. I had to think — OK it's not about me. It's about Adele and her abilities.

She was coming to the end of her working career; she was about to retire. And Melissa the director just really thought — what a great way to tell the story of a service dog — even though she didn't get all of Adele's backstory and like video and pictures of her which added a challenge of — how do you tell the service dog's story when you only have the tail end of it. No pun intended.

But to the transition of me having to let go of her as my service dog and embrace a new one is a story that hasn't been told before. So…

Samantha: So the documentary is called “Adele and Everything After” and I think Ryan mentioned it's available at the end of the month, right? January 30th?

Marty: Yes and it has presales now on iTunes. So anybody can go on and order it and it will be available to them on January 30th.

It is also… I can get in a little spiel here for you.

It will be released by Gravitas Ventures on January 30th this year. It will also be available on demand, on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, Verizon FiOS, Direct TV, Dish and others.

Like I said you can pre-order it on iTunes today if you want, and for more information please visit Adelemovie.com and don't forget to go and like our Facebook page which is “Adele and everything after.”

Samantha: I will link to — for anybody that is listening — we have talked about a few different websites. All those links will be right on our site as well, and we're going to share the podcast on YouTube. They are always on YouTube. So it will be underneath there if anybody is listening and wants to check out some of those websites.

Canine Partners For Life is there, the Adelemovie.com and then the Facebook page as well if you want to check all of that out. We'll link to all of that.

Of course if you want to get the movie you can do so early or… This is going to be published around the end of the month so actually it might already be available when people are listening to this. But they can definitely get it in all those places you listed.

That's fantastic it's going to be available really widely for everybody to have access to.

Marty: Very excited. We sort of learned along the process here that for an independent documentary to be picked up like this — a large distributor like Gravitas is kind of rare. So we feel very privileged to be able to do this and share our story with everybody.

I've been so lucky this year. I got to travel to film festivals all over the United States and Canada, and just meet wonderful people and just the love everybody has been extending towards me. And what was a very challenging transition in my life — I would say that people helped me out, and really helped me through it. And I'm eternally grateful for this opportunity.

I know a lot of people who transition from one service dog to another don't have the sort of support that I've had, and I would hope that they all at least get a taste of it at some point. Because you really do need it. It's much more challenging than you would think.

Samantha: Actually, like I mentioned, I got to watch the movie early so I am very grateful for that. But it really… On so many different levels it's… I don't even know…

It's inspiring for sure; it's heartwarming, it's a little bit heart wrenching too. I think it really puts into perspective for somebody like me — I've never, obviously, had a service dog that I rely on — but I was a teacher before, I was a freelance writer and I still work in the school districts around our area, so I have worked with a lot of kids and families who have had service dogs and gotten to know them and how important that dog is to their family and that persons whole life. I mean it is everything. I can imagine probably for you before you had Adele — were you able to like drive or do the everyday things that a lot of people take for granted?

Marty: I am. I am lucky I am one of the few that get to still drive because I don't faint when I am just sitting. Mine is more, I would faint getting out of the car.

Samantha: I see.

Marty: — than I ever would sitting in the car. So I have always been allowed to drive and I still am. Well actually, the number two question I get at every film festival is “how are you allowed to drive still?”

Dr. Jinusi gave me permission, so I'm not going to get my license revoked, I'm still good.

Samantha: It's amazing. Just the every day tasks that therapy dogs can help people do that they weren't able to do before. Or just make it an easier experience to get through every day without — in your case, a fainting spell.

I know some people with physical disabilities where literally doors can be opened and light switches can be turned on. Things can be retrieved for them without this huge exercise of maybe going upstairs to get something you forgot or whatever.

So it makes life easier; it makes life more manageable, and for a lot of people, we take lot of things for granted and how easy life is for you when you don't have some sort of disability.

So when you do, and you have a dog that can make life easier for you, it is so amazing.

I think “Adele and Everything After” — it definitely highlights that. And what a therapy dog can do for you. But for me the biggest thing that I saw was that transition for you.

I've been a dog owner my whole life and so of course we've lost many dogs over the years and it's heartbreaking and its really devastating and its something that is like losing a loved one. You go through a mourning period. You have a few days in the very beginning where you can't do anything without bursting into years. It's very very devastating.

So to see it from a different perspective of — you're not necessarily losing your dog, but you're losing this helper that's been with you for so long, that's made your life easier, that you've relied on for years, probably for the most part — and now you have to make that transition and have that bond with another animal, and it definitely brought that to light.

I think it is something that, even though I've worked with multiple kids and families that have therapy dogs and service dogs, it's something that I never… That's one aspect that you just don't think about unless you have to go through it yourself.

Marty: Right. Adele — she did. She saved my life daily. She alerted me anywhere from twenty to thirty times a day, and any one of those times could have been the one that I ended up in the hospital. Or I could have…

You know, I've fallen down stairs before, and was bleeding before her. I was lucky to still be alive. I've had numerous concussions throughout my life and she made it so that wasn't a danger for me anymore. And I always had have the freedom to go out to do things that I was scared to do. It was scary just to go to the grocery store. I didn't know if I was going to end up at the hospital.

So, she definitely gave me the confidence and helped build up my strength, too. Because you don't realize just how weak you get when you stop living life, kind of shut yourself in. It makes it harder to even just go down the block.

She gave me confidence and strength of having to take her out and walk her, and take care of her. It made me a little bit stronger everyday. And then she built me up and built me up and built me up to the point where I can walk for 3 miles, or I could climb up a mountain, or I could — we went whitewater rafting and things together — so she really gave me life.

But then I started to notice her slowing down. She wasn't able to keep up with me anymore.

Once she retired — she's very happily retired now. She's actually laying at my feet snoring at the moment. [laughs]

And I brought Hector into my life. Hector is… It's like when you get a new upgraded phone with all these features. He's strong and… Again I feel like I'm kind of at that beginning, I'm trying to keep up with him.

But knowing that he's going to lift me up to the next level. It's an exciting adventure.

Samantha: Certainly. So when Hector came in, did Adele sort of… Did she realize — OK somebody else is here to take care of Marty; I can retire now — or does she still notify you every once in awhile?

Marty: Well Adele, she will still alert me, that's just an instinct that she has. She alerts me whenever I'm around her.

So sometimes I have Hector on one side alerting, her on the other. So, twice as safe.

But she will not do service skills anymore. You ask her to pick up anything and she looks at Hector like “buddy, that's your job!” [laughs]

Samantha: [laughs]

Marty: But she is very much the alpha dog and if he is not doing his service skills to her standards, she will step in and show him how to do it, and then watch them until he gets it right.

Samantha: [laughs]

Marty: She is very funny.

Samantha: Yes, absolutely. That's so wonderful.

It's so nice to hear that Adele is living out her retirement in a wonderful home. Still with you of course. I think a lot of people — working dogs in general — sometimes when they retire, they get fostered or go into a new home. That is such a tough adjustment for them too. So it's nice to hear she's still living life with you and enjoying Hector for the most part, it sounds like too.

Marty: Yes, she is. I feel very lucky that I was able to keep her — and a lot of people can't.

That would just be on a whole other level of heartbreak that I am glad I didn't have to go through.

Samantha: Absolutely, I agree.

And I know a lot of people wonder what the difference between a service dog and a therapy dog are. Can you give us a little bit of information to help our listeners understand that major difference.

Marty: Like please don't make me an expert. I guess the two differences I know — therapy dogs are allowed to go into say a hospital setting or school, and that's their job; they are working at that. But they don't have the same privileges as say a service dog, where they can't go into restaurants and into stores and on planes and just the everyday things that we do. That's not part of their job title. So they don't have the same legal rights that the service dog does. Does that make sense?

Samantha: Yes, absolutely. I know a lot of therapy dogs obviously are working in schools, that's where I see them but that makes sense that — like you said — the restaurants and the places that they wouldn't actually be needed at that time and wouldn't be allowed access to.

Marty: Right, right.

Samantha: So for your service dogs, you…

Marty: I'm sure there's other differences. I am sure there are other differences but I guess I am not an expert. I would talk to Canine Partners For Life about that. They would definitely know the differences.

Samantha: Yes and so for your service dogs, do you need to register them through a certain program to have them — be able to access everywhere? Or is it different? Like, different states I am assuming maybe have different laws about it.

Marty: There's another one I can't really answer. Canine Partners for Life, they certify the service dogs.

Samantha: I see.

Marty: And they do work with lawmakers around the country trying to get laws established. Because there really aren't a whole lot of laws about service dogs at this point. But they are trying to make it so that it's more clear what our rights are with service dogs, and where we are allowed to go, and what's expected of the dogs behavior.

Unfortunately — in our society there are people that take advantage of — they can buy a vest for 20 bucks, put in on their dog, say it is a service dog. And then that dog doesn't behave at the same level as my certified service dogs out in public — they don't bark; they don't have elimination accidents; they never growl; the don't eat off the floor.

They have two years of training to become the best in the business. I have been on planes with people who get a little vest, put it on their dog and claim it is a service dog so they don't have to pay the $50 to fly their dog. Because if you have a service dog, it is like your wheelchair or your cane. They aren't going to charge you to have it on the plane with you; it's a necessity to get you from point A to point B. Which I am very thankful for, because I do travel a lot.

But there are people who have their dogs and say it's a service dog, but then the dog is doing everything it's not supposed to do and it gives a bad name to service dogs.

Samantha: Yes, absolutely.

Marty: I wish there were more rules and regulations. I wish people wouldn't just take advantage of it to save a few bucks. I don't think people realize the repercussions of their actions towards people who generally need the service dogs to save their lives.

Samantha: I agree. I think it is just something people just aren't educated about it. I love my dogs as much as the next person. But as much as I like to take them with us everywhere, I know my dogs don't have that training and that's — always my thought is — you are going to ruin it for the people that actually do need their dogs.

We actually, my husband and I one time went to Walmart and there was a Lab — we have a chocolate lab too, so we're very familiar with the breed — and there was a lab in there, with a service dog vest, and when they walked in the door we noticed — we're dog lovers — so we noticed, and it seemed very uneasy, you could just tell that it wasn't a service dog right off the bat.

You can sort of tell if they're not used to that type of environment and being there. And so actually, in our local Walmart, you walk in to the grocery section and there's the produce section. And so there was one of those little sample carts set up just shortly past the door and the dog jumped up on — and it obviously had food samples on it — so the dog jumped up on the food sample cart and we both just looked at each other and thought — of course that's not a service dog, they don't behave like that.

But because it has a service dog vest and there aren't a lot of laws and restrictions, it is hard for businesses to mandate that and obviously they're not going to stop people at the door and say that they can't come in until they see behavior like that.

But once they see behavior like that and you're escorted out, it becomes a problem. Other people see them escorting out somebody with a service dog and they're not sure why that's happening and it's mixed signals and it's just not good for the people, like you said. I don't think they do it on purpose but they don't realize how it's affecting other people.

Marty: Right, and then the next person who comes in with a trained service dog, they get stopped at the door and they have to show their papers, and it makes life more challenging. If you walked into a store, and every time you did you had to pull out and show your ID, you'd feel a little frustrated.

Samantha: Absolutely.

Marty: It's a form of discrimination. As it's not a challenge enough with everything you have to go through just to get out of the house.

Samantha: Right, yeah.

Marty: But constantly seeing that look on people's face. They come up to you and try and stop you from just doing your normal thing, like going to the grocery store or going to pick up your medicine, or whatever it is that you've got the energy up to go and do that day. And then to have people try and stop you because of somebody else's bad behavior before, it can be very frustrating.

Samantha: Well, I'm happy to hear that Canine Partners for Life is working, and I'm sure there's other organizations out there too that are trying to work towards that and get some laws and regulations in place so that that becomes a little bit easier for you and everybody else that takes their service dogs with them everywhere they go on a daily basis. So that's good to hear.

Marty: And there are organizations around the world, like International Dog Assistance that you can go to their websites, and you can find legitimate service dog organizations.

But you've got to be careful; there are a lot of scams out there too. People say — oh, give us ten thousand dollars; we'll give you a dog — and then they do, but the dog's not trained and they give you a book and then they say — here's how you train the dog.

So there are pitfalls to service dogs as well that a lot of people aren't aware of. So be careful and do your research!

Samantha: I think that's an important point to make, especially for anybody listening who might think that — they hear your story and see how much it changed your life for the better, and they're thinking maybe a therapy aid dog or a service dog would be right for them, depending on their needs.

You need to work with a reputable organization. It's not something that — like you said — just because they're charging a lot of money for a dog doesn't mean that the dog's been trained and actually is worth that amount of money. It may be just somebody trying to get a lot of money for a regular, everyday Labrador Retriever. So it's important to do your research and really look into it.

You mentioned that you talked to your cardiologist about it. So it's a condition that you have a doctor or a mental health professional that's working with you.

I think that's a great resource, to reach out and just say — hey, do you know any organizations, or could you help me find some? — That's a great resource as well.

Marty: Absolutely.

I don't know that you need to share this with everybody. But — when I agreed to do the documentary… My husband teases me for two things. He goes — one, Marty, you would never watch an animal movie.

Like, I gave up animal movies twenty years ago because they're just too emotional for me. And he was giving me a hard time because now I'm in one. [laughs]

Samantha: [laughs] Oh that's so funny. That's so me; I can't watch animal movies. Even the cartoon animal movies that our kids watch get me sometimes. They are so emotional.

Marty: They are.

So I would say to anybody who has doubts about seeing this movie because they have that same pull on their life that I did — my one diva request when we made this documentary was, it had to have a happy ending.

I said, I don't care if I die or the dog dies — if the world explodes, it still has to have a happy ending at the end.

Samantha: [laughs]

And it does. It absolutely does. It definitely ends on a positive note. So I think they did a really great job with that.

Marty: I think so too.

Samantha: My thanks to Marty one more time for coming on the podcast, and discussing her journey with Adele with us. The movie is available right now. There is a link on site, theoryofpets.com.

While you're on there, there's also a spot for any questions you might have, either for me, or if you have any questions for Marty, I can pass those on to her as well and get some answers for you.

Check out the movie. It's just one of those really inspiring documentaries that I promise — you will walk away feeling really inspired by.

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Samantha’s biggest passion in life is spending time with her Boxer dogs. After she rescued her first Boxer in 2004, Samantha fell in love with the breed and has continued to rescue three other Boxers since then. She enjoys hiking and swimming with her Boxers, Maddie and Chloe.