6 Things I Wish You Knew Before Seeing My Service Dog
I have fought tooth and nail against my disabilities for as long as I can remember. My brain seems to want me to die, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let it win. And my fight has gotten so much easier since I got my dog. She’s in training to be a service dog, and she’s already my lifeline. Dulce is the greatest gift I could ever have been given. The rest of the world’s response to her… is not.
Here are six things I wish you knew before seeing my service dog.
1. Dulce is super cute. I know it, you know it,she knows it (I tell her every chance I get). She also has an important job: keeping me safe. Making kissy faces at her, petting her, calling out to her, or otherwise distracting her puts me in serious danger.
2. Even though she doesn’t look like a typical service dog, Dulce isn’t a fake. Service dogs can be any breed as long as they are physically able to perform their individual tasks, healthy, and have the right temperament. They’re not just golden retrievers and labs! Service dogs also aren’t required to have any identifying gear in the U.S., so a dog without a vest can still be a service dog.
3. I know I don’t “look disabled,” but service dogs are for invisible illnesses as well. Her “In Training” patches don’t mean I’m training her for someone else. I’m not “faking” so I can bring Dulce out with me. My service dog in training assists me with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and migraines. You can’t see my conditions, but they are there, they are disabling, and they are infinitely more manageable with Dulce there to help me.
4. My dog is not unhappy because she is a working dog! If she didn’t have the desire to work, I wouldn’t work her. It wouldn’t be fair to me to have a subpar service dog and it wouldn’t be fair to Dulce to force her to work. She gets plenty of off time to “just be a dog”.
5. Having Dulce with me is not an invitation to ask me about my medical history. Sorry, random stranger at the supermarket, but I don’t want to tell you my personal information. Sometimes I’m happy to talk to people and educate about service dogs, but most of the time I want to buy milk and go home. I try to be polite and accommodating, but it’s hard being stopped every five feet. Especially if I’m having a bad day with my illnesses and don’t have the energy to answer questions.
6. Most importantly: No, healthy person, you don’t want a service dog. You want to be able to take your pet everywhere with you. I understand. I love dogs, too. But service dogs aren’t pets, they are highly trained to assist someone with a disability. Saying you wish you had a service dog is tantamount to saying you wish you had a disability. Would you go up to someone on oxygen and say, “Gosh, I wish I needed assistance breathing. That must be so great!” Please don’t tell me you envy my need for medical equipment to function on a basic human level. I love Dulce. I am incredibly grateful for her and I’m so happy she is part of my life, but I would rather not need her.
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