What We Want You To Know About Our Service Animals - Part 1

Every so often, social media and even mainstream media will discuss an incident of someone having a “strange” service animal, or some form of discrimination occurring against service dog handlers. Drew Lynch, a comedian who has a wonderful service dog named Stella, makes the blessings and woes of being a service animal handler very clear on his Youtube channel. I went and asked four handlers who I know about their experiences with their service animals. Here are the answers that Karen, Alisa, Philip, Liv  and Sage have given me - these are some of the answers that I received from them for this article. 

But wait! What kinds of service animals are we talking about here? In this article the people who I have interviewed are handlers of Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals. Please read the following infographic by Micaela Kinsey to find out more!

While the infographic may be American, a lot of similar principles apply in Canada, just under different regulations. Key similarities between the two countries include not being able to ask for papers or ID and allowing service animals access into all buildings with their handlers. 

Now, back to our handlers and their answers!

What is the biggest misconception of having a service animal?

Philip: That you] might not understand the fact that you have to work at your relationship [with your service animal]. 

Alisa: That only blind, deaf, other medical equipment users or military people can have service animals. Another is that people think that you need "papers" and an ID.

What do you wish people would stop doing when they see you with your service animal?

Sage: Stop taking pictures without asking. Especially stop sneaking pictures - it’s annoying and we know you are doing it. 

Karen:  I actually don’t have too many problems with the public. I guess I wish that they would stop making noises to get my dogs attention and asking me why I have a service dog. That’s my business, not yours. Especially if you’re not an employee at a business. Also, I wish people would stop assuming my service dog isn’t mine and that I’m just training her for someone else. Please do not say things like “Thanks for what you’re doing.” Or “Won’t it be hard to give her up?”

What tasks does your service animal help you with?

Liv: alerts for my tachycardia, syncope, and blood sugar and responses to other issues. 

Karen: My service dog does deep pressure therapy, migraine alerts, retrieving items off the floor for me, anxious behaviour interruptions, forward momentum pull, light guide work like finding exits of stores and finding my mom or dad.

Alisa: Louise has helped to control my anxiety and cause less meltdowns. When I have bad days, she helps to make those days better for me. Eventually, I hope to have her alert to anxiety and allergies plus if I'm having a meltdown, provide lft (low frequency therapy) and lpt (light pressure therapy).

Sage: Wilson does mobility and psychiatric tasks and is learning medical alerts for my syncope. 

 

Handler specific questions: 

RM (Interviewer): Sage, how does it feel to have to retire one dog and start training another?

Sage: Murphy is my 8 year old retired service dog. He was only ever mobility task oriented so sometimes when I tell Wilson to get something off the ground Murphy will do it instead. But Murphy is nearly deaf so he’s more of a couch potato. It was bitter sweet transitioning from one dog to another but both of my boys love their new lives so that’s all that matters. 

RM (Interviewer): Karen, I know you are training your own service dog, is that difficult?

Karen: Sometimes. Training my service animal is a lot of fun and I don’t find that difficult but sometimes I compare myself to other people and their dogs and it makes owner training difficult because I feel inadequate. I just tell myself that everyone is different and every dog is unique with their pace of learning. 

 

*All photos and answers are being used with permission.*