Service dog assists cancer survivor

Published 2:43 am Saturday, March 18, 2017

Irma Smith was upset.

The three-time cancer survivor, who suffers blackout spells, now keeps a service dog nearby.

“He never opens his mouth,” Smith said. “If my body temperature changes, and I’m about to black out, her alerts someone to it.”

Such was the case a few weeks ago when she passed out in Rite Aid, she said.

“If you don’t believe it, ask them what kind of fuss he made,” she said of her service animal.

Smith purchased her dog, a Pomeranian, in Ohio, she said. He accompanies her everywhere, including when she shops.

But this week, she said, she was told by a retailer she could not bring her animal in the store.

“And I’d been carrying him in there over a year,” she said. The dog wears a service vest so that he is easily identifiable as a service animal.

The Star-News reached out to the retailer’s home office, and was provided a statement that it is company policy to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The ADA says that state and local governments, businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public must allow people like Smith to be accompanied by service animals “in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.”

The act defines services animals as those dogs trained to guide people who are blind, alert people who are deaf, pull a wheelchair, alert and protect a person having a seizure, calm a person with PTSD, or perform other duties.

Smith is a survivor of pancreatic, breast and ovarian cancer.