I’m starting to really dislike this word. The meaning has become more personally derogatory of late. It used to just mean counterfeit. Now it implies a person is less than competent.
Lately the media has reported at least weekly about fake service dogs. One article even tells people how to spot a fake dog. Canine Companions International has started a petition to combat fake service dogs by require registration (which will eventually lead to requiring everyone to go through a program, many of which are fraudulent themselves). In the 4 years since I started paying attention, I seen exactly one obviously fraudulent service dog and a few questionable ones.
But, here’s where things get out of control. The service dog community insists that businesses can only ask the two magical questions outlined in the ADA. Where exactly do we get permission to ask more? When did we become the disability police vested with the right to determine if someone is disabled enough? Why do people attack each other, to the point where fights break out, over what “enough” is?
Honestly. I left that world behind. I was attacked because I’m not disabled enough. I was attacked because my dog is owner trained, not from a program. I was attacked because there “is no way” my dog’s breed is capable of doing service dog work. I was attacked because I chose “the wrong gear” for my service dog to work in. I was attacked because I was “taking resources” from people who needed them more.
Huh? Last time I checked, the use of a service dog was a personal decision made with input from a physician (to make sure other options were discussed) and a lot of research. There was no “I must have one” in my journey. There is no “cool” factor in my decision. The reality is, I am still training my dog every. single. day. I use gear that keeps her comfortable for the 12-14 hour days we spend outside my home. And I can assure you, she can do the work assigned to her. She could probably do more, but we’ve got what we need, thanks for asking.
As far as taking away resources…that’s a whole different blog. I’m not going to apologize for a) having worked hard enough to have enough money to pay for the things I want and b) prioritizing how I spend my money to accommodate the things I need and the things I want.
Oh, and “disabled enough?” Please. That’s a discussion I have with my physicians, not the general public. There are actually medical descriptions that are used to determine disability. I didn’t just decide one day that I was disabled. Years of degenerative disease made that decision for me.
So, I’ll make you a deal. You mind your business and I’ll mind mine. You keep your dog away from mine unless we’ve already discussed a meet-up and I’ll do the same. Well-behaved or reactive, just keep on walking. Harnessed, vested or naked, just keep on walking. Friendly, stand-offish or in-between, just keep on walking. Giant, large, small or toy, just keep walking. But for the love of all dogs, try to leave a good impression as you walk around. There are people out there just trolling for stories and you don’t want to be the circus of the day.