When People Say 'You're So Lucky' Because My Service Dog Goes Everywhere With Me

It was a co-worker who said the words to me. Words that struck my heart, mind and soul. “You’re so lucky you can bring your dog with you everywhere.” I realized in that moment my co-worker had no understanding of my chronic illness, my need for a service dog, and the work it takes to own and handle one.

Lesley and Bella.
Lesley and Bella.

There is no “luck” in having a service dog. Having one means you are disabled and cannot function without one or more of the services the dog provides. A service dog is essentially a medical tool or piece of medical equipment. Mine currently does medical alerts and some mobility work for me.

Service dogs require training. Initial training takes 18-24 months. Training is ongoing to retain their skills. This training is expensive. So is the upkeep, including food, leashes, harnesses/vests, treats, toys, vet care, and grooming. Many people are unaware of the huge cost and that insurance does not cover this expense.

Service dogs require time. They require attention, feeding, training, grooming and basic care. It is like having a toddler. They require trips to the vet. Before going anywhere, I get dressed and then I take my service dog out to potty, brush her, collect her gear (leash, water bowl, vaccine records, treats, potty bags and vest).

Every trip outside the house with my service dog requires extra time and patience added to the actual trip time. I am frequently stopped by individuals who begin a conversation with, “you’re so lucky” or “may I pet your dog?” People want to ask questions about Bella, about my disability and share stories with no regard for my time or feelings or illness. No matter how tired or ill I am, I find the energy to smile and respond for a few moments. Education is key to helping people understand the purpose and work of service dogs.

Having a service dog means I am alerted when my blood sugar drops too low. She is faster than a meter. Is this luck? Not at all. It is the result of careful and consistent training with a wonderful dog.

I would give up all this “luck” in a heartbeat if it meant not having a disability and the need for a service dog. Although of course, I would want to keep my Bella as a pet. We have a great relationship.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one phrase you wish people would stop saying about your (or a loved one’s) disability, disease or mental illness? Why? What should they say instead? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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