Following Koyote Moone and her service dog, Olivia Dreisinger's documentary, "Handler is crazy," provides insight into the experience of a disabled woman whose impairments are not always visible. More apparent are her tattoos, piercings, and dyed hair. Describing herself as "crazy and broken," Koyote invites us to question ableist expectations and provides a model for resisting discrimination, something she has faced regularly. The 31-minute film has three parts: Koyote Moone, Cosplay, and the Future.

In the first part, Koyote Moone of Menlo, Georgia introduces her family (three daughters and five animals), including Banner, a Siberian Husky she has trained as her medical and psychiatric service dog. As a skilled dog handler, she and her young daughters work with two other dogs, fostering and training one for a friend and preparing a potential successor for Banner. Having described the tasks her dogs learn and the service they provide, she discloses the physical, emotional, and sexual abuses of her childhood and the resulting injuries and trauma she carries. She offers perspective about the limitations of medication and explains how her service dog helps alleviate pain. In one scene, 8-year-old Mercy reads a children's book, Banner the Super Dog, written by her mother Koyote. The book describes what service dogs are and what PTSD is in terms that are accessible to children, "like having a nightmare and not being able to wake up."

The next segment, titled "Cosplay," explores Koyote's strength through resistance. After photographing her daughters and her dog in costumes, she describes the way people showed more interest in the dog's costumes than the important work she performs. Koyote brings attention back to consideration for human diversity by choosing costumes that depict super hero characters with disabilities. After stating "it's no one's business what our private medical history is," Koyote shares the letter she carries to defend her right to be accompanied by her service dog. The next scene captures an interaction at the local elementary school where the principal questions Koyote about having a permit for the dog. Although she has been to the school previously with the dog, the man continues to question her. Koyote sharply informs him of her rights and tells him she will make a complaint. Away from the school and after calling to submit her complaint, she details a prior episode in which the school lost her child and the principal provoked her and threatened calling the police. Her raw frustration and resolve to defend her rights are evident as she speaks about him.

The last part of the film, which is about five minutes, focuses on "The Future" and Koyote's intentions to train dogs for others who have been turned away from established service dog programs. Having identified that working with animals feels good and gives a sense of stability, she sees it as an alternative to medications that have not worked for her and potentially the same for others with PTSD symptoms.

Narrated largely by Koyote, these three parts give audiences an opportunity to see her strength as a dog handler, a responsive mother, and a support to others who have experienced trauma. The weight of familial abuse, public judgment, and discrimination is honest and real. A phoenix rising, Koyote refuses to accept it as the end of the story.

The film received support from Canada Council for the Arts. An audio described version and the audio transcript are available and a French translation of the film (closed captioning) is being prepared.

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Copyright (c) 2021 Suzanne Stolz

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