Guest Post: Puppies and Pills Part 2

About thetroubleis: Thetroubleis is a 19 year old with bipolar disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and dyspraxia. She’s a WOC who is also a transracial adoptee and pansexual/queer, depending on how she’s feeling that day. She enjoys knitting, video games and is a music geek.

Puppies and Pills Part 1.

I’m back, did you miss me? I’d like to talk a little bit about the service dog community and public perception of service dogs and I’m hoping this will be interesting to more people them just me. Your comments and questions are appreciated.

All of my experience with the service dog community is online, which makes things a bit different than they would be if I was interacting in person. Any statements I make are huge generalizations, so please, take them will a grain of salt. This isn’t make to pick on anyone person or any particular community.

The online service dog community can be a bit abrasive, in part because of the worry about fakers. There are cases of people coming in and learning the lingo and the lay to pass a pet dog or an emotional support animal off as a service dog. While I recognize this is a problem, I do think that we could cut people a little slack. I see a lot of the aggressive questioning being directed at people interested in a service dogs for psychiatric issues, because of confusion people have about the difference between a psychiatric service dog and an emotional support animal.

However, the online service dog community is also very helpful. They are willing to point people at programs or trainers that suit their needs and help people with financial difficulties come up with ideas for funding. The community is ready to help with writing campaigns at a sign of injustice and isn’t afraid to take mistaken or bigoted people to task, even if they write for well respected newspapers. If someone’s service dog gets sick they are always there with support and help finding ways to get treatment if money becomes an issue. The people in the service dog community care and they care passionately.

If you can’t meet teams in your area the online service dog community is invaluable and I’d say they are great even if you can. It’s great to have people who get it, even if we disagree on some issues. It’s great to have others who can understand what it’s like to have an access issue, or what it’s like to take a dog to the zoo.

This actually brings me to my next point, access for service dog handlers and the public. It’s a joyful topic, full of good times and understanding and caring business owners.

Okay, I lied. The general public’s understanding of service dogs or in some cases that there is anything beyond guides is very low. It makes sense that more people know of guide dogs, as they are did start the first service dog schools and hold their dogs to a very high standard. I must say that the constant questioning of whether I am blind is most annoying, not because I’m insulted, but because what my disability is or isn’t is not up for public consumption. When one adds in American society’s feelings towards mental illness, I rarely feel disclosure is in my best interest. Some in the service dog community itself are still against the idea of service dogs for people with mental illness, so I expect even less acceptance of the general population.

One thing that gets to me is how few business owners know the law. Right now I’m covered under Maine state law, but I do think that a business owner should at least know the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act} at this point. It has been nearly 20 years, after all. So, I take pamphlets with me, even when I don’t have Figaro, to tell businesses about their rights and responsibilities. I figure if I keep this up, it should cut down on access issues, not only for me, but for all teams.

One thing I wish people understood is that petting a service dog can put the handler in danger. Yes, our dogs are trained to ignore you, but even the best dog breaks training. I love Figaro, but I wish people would talk to me not him and accept that maybe I don’t feel like talking that day. Drive by petting is one of my peeves, because by the time I process it, people tend to be too far away for me to scold or educate. I understand that people love dogs, but just as you shouldn’t go around grabbing a person’s wheelchair, you shouldn’t touch my dog without my permission. He’s not a public petting zoo.

People have attacked service dogs, kicked them, spat on them, set their dogs on them. This is unacceptable. Beyond the fact that a service dog may be someone’s independence, it’s also a living creature worthy of respect. Our dogs are not abused slaves and honestly, I think most service dogs have a better life than most pet dogs. What pup wouldn’t want to travel with their person and help them out, all the while seeing new things and people?

I try to believe that people are mostly good, if misguided, and therefore I’m going to keep educating. I hope that someday access issues will be far and few between and more people who could benefit from a service dog could have the partnership I’m able to have.

This is my next to last post in this series and next time, I’d like to talk a bit about cost of a service dog and ways to get a service dog.

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a US legal term for a pet which provides therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship and affection. Emotional support animals are not specially trained to ameliorate disability as psychiatric service dogs are. They require only as much training as an ordinary pet requires in order to live peacefully among humans without being a nuisance or a danger to others.

6 Comments

  1. Um, sorry about the last, bit, it’s supposed to be a foot note. *blush*
    .-= thetroubleis´s last blog ..And Justice For All =-.

  2. My sister is an inveterate dog lover with a penchant for petting (including once a drug-sniffing dog at a border crossing, which was a bad idea, she acknowledges in retrospect), but she is also not completely disability clueless. I asked her today if she knew not to pet assistance dogs, and she admitted that although she never had and was aware that a drive-by pet was inappropriate, she might have taken the step of asking permission to pet if the opportunity arose. So I was able to share the info I have picked up from you and others linked on this blog on why an assistance dog shouldn’t be pet by someone else and that even asking puts an unnecessary burden on the person whose dog it is.

    The one thing I was not able to confirm for her was whether all assistance dogs wear the vests (or harnesses, for guide dogs) that I am used to seeing as an indicator of their status. I looked through some Google links and got the idea that this is not the case (or at least that is not a requirement/potentially cost prohibitive).

  3. Why would someone want to lie about having a service dog at a website? What would they get out of it?

    I’m not surprised people don’t respect your boundaries. I tell people not to pet Dixie (she doesn’t like it and she has pulled herself out of her harness in the past to get away) and they still do. Dixie’s not a service dog. I understand the urge to pet puppies and dogs, but I always ask. And if the dog was a service dog, I wouldn’t even bother, because I know that’s not a good idea.

  4. In the USA, legally, service dogs do not need to wear vests or harnesses, but most do. It’s partially a money issue and things like gear breaking does happen, and someone shouldn’t have to be stuck at home if they don’t have to be.

  5. What’s really fun is having a service CAT. People never know what to make of that and half the time don’t believe me until they see her in action at which point they freak out because cats aren’t supposed to be able to do what she does.

  6. That’s really cool. I know of a few service cats, however all but one worked in the home only. Does yours go in public with you?