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What It’s Like to Date When Your Medical Equipment Is a Dog

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I have a disability, but it’s not what you would typically think of when you think of “disability.” I don’t require the use of a wheelchair, walker or insulin pump. My medical equipment happens to be a task trained service dog that is highly trained to assist and alert to my invisible disability. His name is Leo, and he is my best friend and literally my lifeline.

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I was in a serious relationship for almost three years. We lived together, and he loved Leo and me both very much. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, and that’s OK. But I’ll tell you what, going from living with someone for that long, and getting back out into the dating world when I have a dog with me 24/7 has been nothing short of interesting.

I have a ton of pictures with Leo in them, obviously. Some of those are on my profile, so I intentionally put in my bio that he is a task trained service dog and that he is not fake, so stop asking. Apparently, I haven’t been clear enough because people still message me and ask if he’s actually a real service dog. Everyone who knows me knows I can joke about a lot of things, but my disability and why I require Leo is not one of those.

I have had guys send me messages, mocking Leo and me saying that they want to make their dog a service dog so they can take them everywhere too. Guys have expected me to leave Leo at home if we were to go on a date. They have also just messaged me to find out “what’s wrong with me” in a very disrespectful way. My biggest pet peeve is when people call Leo an emotional support animal, because he isn’t and I paid a lot of money for him not to be. I’ve lost count of how many times I have had to clarify for people that he is not an emotional support animal.

I have surprisingly handled all of the negative things really well. I have found my confidence again, and am able to stand up for myself, for Leo, and show them the part of my personality that doesn’t take shit from anyone. They don’t seem to like that, but my condition is not something to joke about and I am not going to let people think it is.

On the other hand, I have had some really great responses. Some guys have been really receptive to the idea. Some have messaged me to politely ask if they can ask why I require the use of Leo, but that I don’t have to answer if I’m not comfortable. I am open to that question when asked respectfully, and I have enjoyed explaining why I need Leo and having guys respond in a really positive way.

Sometimes I think about how much easier it would be to not have a dog have to go everywhere with me. I could have my grocery shopping done in half the time and my dinner date wouldn’t have to worry about possibly kicking Leo while he lays under the table. But then I also remind myself that I wouldn’t physically be able to do those things without having him with me. That’s always my reminder to myself that I need Leo, and that the right person will be OK with that.

I know it’s not as typical to have a service dog as it is to have other types of medical equipment. It’s really not convenient to have my dog go everywhere with me like people think it is. I require special accommodations. It’s definitely “baggage” in some people’s eyes. But those are the kind of guys I don’t want to associate with, let alone date.

Leo and I are really enjoying our time together in our new place. I can never leave his sight, as usual. But I think he knows how hard this has been for me, too. He has been the best boy through all of this. He has been on his best behavior and has done his job very well — as he always does.

I am so thankful for him and everything he has done, does do, and will do for me through this major life change. I promised him that I would never settle for someone who is going to message me and mock us, and I will keep that promise to him — because he and I both deserve someone better than that.

This story originally appeared on Understanding Chaos.

Getty image by Lolostock.

Originally published: February 14, 2021
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