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Why I'm Hesitant to Bring My Service Dog to Job Interviews

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Having a service dog takes a toll on you some days. Yet having a service dog is the best thing that could have happened to me. My service dog takes care of me if I pass out, or if I get dizzy and disoriented. He keeps me present and focused when I’m otherwise dissociating and not paying attention to where I’m walking or what I’m doing. My service dog lays on me to apply deep pressure therapy when I’m tremoring from anxiety or feeling myself slip away from reality. He keeps a safe distance between me and other people, which I need thanks to my PTSD and past traumas.

Yet having a service dog when you don’t have a visible illness takes a toll. I get stared at. I get questioned. I get interrogated. Some people think I just want my pet to go places with me. You can’t actually gain access rights by registering a service dog. If anybody tells you they did, they are lying, cheating the system, and making it that much harder (as if it isn’t hard enough already) for those of us with disabilities who require a service dog. I’m legally bound to answer only two questions when it comes to my service dog, and he doesn’t need any visible uniform when working. However, I have him wear his vest or harness because that’s safe for me and less questions get asked.

Despite all these challenges, I still take him with me everywhere I go. He is my sense of safety. He is my protector. He keeps me safe from myself. So why, despite all the positives, have I been hesitant to take my service dog to my upcoming job interviews? I am a scientist by training. I’m looking for research positions. Having my service dog nearby in and of itself helps keep me focused and present. Don’t employers want an employee who is present while doing their work? Yet I’m terrified of discrimination. I’m afraid of being seen as a liability because I am disabled, and employers assuming I may not be capable of giving 100 percent.

Having my service dog makes me less of a liability because I’ve passed out in the laboratory where I used to work and that was scary for me. I’m scared of going into the lab and passing out, so I’m hesitant to go back to work in that environment. But the argument I’ve heard is that the employer can mask discrimination against me by claiming I’m not qualified for the job, even though on paper I am. Yet some argue that my service dog is a part of me and if they can’t accept him, I wouldn’t want to work there.

I’m torn. Laws protect me because of my disability status, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be discriminated against, subtly. I’m scared that my service dog will hold me back from my future employment and that I won’t get the job I deserve. I already don’t think I can get a job, so this just complicates it.

What would you do? What do you think? Please, help me see both sides of the argument.

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Originally published: February 6, 2018
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