Me and My Dog

Trust is built with consistency.~Lincoln Chafee

Much has been said recently about service dogs. I have two, one that detects diabetic issues and another that helps keep me from falling over. One is a blue heeler while the other is a Great Dane. One flies under the radar and they other, well, draws a lot of attention. Honestly, they both draw attention. Today I had my heeler with me as I ran errands. It’s really cold right now, so she was wearing shoes and a coat. I had at least a dozen people ask me how they could bring their dog everywhere with them.

Let me make something very clear here. I love dogs. I have two pets in addition to my service dogs. But those two are exactly that, pets. They are my companions at home. They lack the training to be out in public like my service dogs. I’m not talking about their manners, which really are awful. They were never trained to mitigate my disabilities.

For every person that said that it must be great to take my dog everywhere, I know there are at least a dozen more thinking the same thing. I will admit that it is great to take my dog everywhere, but not for the reasons you think. You see, my diabetic alert dog (DAD) keeps me safe. She can tell when I’m about to have a problem. She carries all my supplies in her packs. She wakes me up at night when my diabetes is acting up. In short, she is my lifesaver.

I told our vet the other day that Blizzard and I have a healthy co-dependent relationship. She watches over me and I take care of her. That means taking the time to put on her shoes (similar to putting shoes on two toddlers at the same time). Remembering to pack her water bowl and bottles of water. Being stopped while shopping and having strangers ask very personal questions. And explaining to people that Blizzard is not a pet and that slapping a vest on a dog does not make it a service dog.

I would guess that those people who want to bring their dog everywhere haven’t really given much thought to how ignorant they sound to a person with disabilities. A service dog mitigates disabilities. Mine makes it possible for me to function with way fewer hospital visits. Would you like to take on my disabilities so you can bring your dog everywhere? That’s what you’re saying when you tell me how cool it would be to have your pet with you. I don’t see people lining up to become disabled just so they can take their dog with them.

If you have the good fortune to run across a service dog team, please respect the team. The handler most likely doesn’t want to disclose information about their disability. Whistling and making clicking noises at the team could create a life or death situation by distracting the team. I feel that snapping pictures without permission just because I have a service dog implies I’m some kind of zoo animal on display. I won’t be rude most of the time, but I’m not out with my service dog for anyone’s entertainment. I have things to do and places to go. Don’t be offended if I give you a short answer and walk away.

Blizzard and I have worked together for 3 years. We know each other’s habits and can tell how each other feels. It’s a relationship built on trust. And many, many hours of training. I never envisioned myself counting on a dog to save my life every day. Then again, I never envisioned myself having debilitating conditions.


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