Not that I have anything against Labs or Goldens, but now a days dogs can be trained to do a variety of tasks for their owners with disabilities. For me, that means Riley has been trained to respond in the event of an anxiety attack or flashback. You see I have PTSD, along with Depression and Social Anxiety Disorder. And though you may meet me and I seem healthy, happy and friendly, that is just the cover of my book, inside I may be completely coming unglued or zoning out to a place I don’t want to be in. But it is Riley who enables me to try and move on and lead a semi-normal life. She is my rescuer.
Last fall I was able to return to school to complete my education. As always Riley is by my side as going to school with so many people can be overwhelming. Recently while walking with my friend across campus she made an interesting statement, “Why do they always have to ask you why you have her? Why can’t they just accept she is a service dog and move on? Don’t you get tired of people asking why you need her? I’m sure if you had a lab they wouldn’t bother you so much.” I have been thinking a lot about this, and I still don’t have the answer. Do you?
But I don’t just get this from the general public.
Recently I had to have surgery and needed Riley there before they wheeled me away and when I woke up. My doctors medical assistant responded to me, “I know she is cute, but you can’t have her with you” . Seriously? I couldn’t believe when she said this too me. Well lets just say I had a talk with the doctor and on my drive home she called me letting me know they could accommodate me. No matter how hard I try to explain what Riley does for me she continues to treat me and Riley as if she is a regular pet.
I didn’t realize how hard writing this would be. For a majority of my life I have suffered from these “invisible” illnesses. I have a fear of crowds and a fear of being alone, kind of like a double edge sword there. I have at many times been unable to leave my house and I’ve made excuses in my life for not attending events, work, school, weddings, etc. and living life to its fullest. This isn’t the kind of life I want to lead and it’s a life no one should lead. Because honestly medication and therapy can help only so much
Riley is a great dog, she accompanies me almost everywhere I go, (the exception is if my husband is with me or not). Unless you look down you would never know she were there unless you saw her leash in my hand. She proves everyday that you don’t have to be big and yellow to be a great service dog. I know that she is there to work for me and assist me in the good times and very bad times.
I must make a point to this article. If a friend or someone you know puts a service vest on a dog to take them places where normally they wouldn’t be allowed to go with a dog tell them to Stop. They may think it isn’t hurting anyone, but it does. I shouldn’t have to justify why Riley is with me and explain my disease or disabilities because someone’s untrained dog poops in an aisle, barks and growls at someone, or is not behaving properly.
Lindsey V. says
Hi! I stumbled upon your blog today, and man oh man!
I have a shih tzu as my PTSD, Social Anxiety, and GAD Service Dog (in training)! I cant believe there are other people out there that believe that this breed has the ability to work. Usually I get snickers from the public going “yeah right!” or “no way!” I’m so glad to see another shih tzu service dog user. We also do dog agility 🙂
Tzu Mom says
Wow!!! so nice to meet you! Yes it is amazing how wonderful these dogs can be…. and it’s so cool that you do agility too! Did you read my post today on Judging the TDAA? It’s the perfect venue for our small dogs!
Wonderful, brave post. As someone with an invisible disability myself who is working with an “off breed” service dog in training I do wonder what kind of challenges it will create. Luckily we live in a dog friendly area and have not had many issues with him but it is still early. I, too, can’t go anywhere without my husband because it’s dangerous for me to drive or be alone and the idea of independence thanks to this wonderful SDiT is so empowering. Thank you for writing this post and teaching people that not all SDs are labs or goldens, and not all disabilities are blind people. What a wonderful dog Riley is!
Rachel Sheppard says
What a beautiful post. I commend you first and foremost for being so honest. Riley helps you in so many ways, and what people don’t realize if how much they can help you. My aunt has her Boston Terrier as her therapy dog and he helps her with her anxiety as well. Unfortunately, she is constantly questioned, and you are right, its not fair. I hope people will continue to become more aware of what their actions can do over time. I hope your surgery and recovery went very smoothly!
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Tzu Mom says
thank you so much, I never realized how therapeutic it would be writing about us, but my therapist said I had a break through with it…. I think someday people will come to understand the truth behind dogs and what they can do 🙂
Christine, I simple cannot thank you enough for this post. Another suggestion I would make is when people see fake service dogs (and c’mon dog people, you KNOW when you see them) complain!!! I complain to the grocery store manager everytime go see a “service dog” riding in a cart. I complain to restaurant managers when a “service dog” is roaming about the restaurant attached to a flexi. I inform everyone within ears reach what a REAL service dog should behave like and act like and how pretending your dog is a service dog is even worse than parking in a handicapped spot. It is up to us as a society to call out these fakers, embarrass and shame them into stopping. I would hope that stories from people like you, Christine, would make these people see that they are causing you to have to suffer more than you already have and do. By the way, I don’t just complain- I also compliment actual service dogs as well as let the entire staff of wherever I am know “THAT is how a real service dog behaves.” And they’re not just labs and goldens! 🙂
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Tzu Mom says
Thank you so much. I don’t see too many fake service dogs where I live but when I have to go out of the area like San Francisco I am made aware of all the fakies… Fortunately for me (or not) since I really don’t like to go many places, I have a few select restaurants and stores that we visit regularly and we never have to worry about being harassed, etc. I love it when we go some where and are having dinner and get up to leave and the waiter will see her for the first time, they are always shocked and tell me, “I never even knew she was with you” … well that is how a service dog is supposed to behave.. lol . But I do tend to talk to her a lot and sometimes people think I’m just talking to myself! LOL
Happy Healthy dog blog says
I think this is a beautiful post!! I have also had Depression for a long time and have recently been through a couple of bad experiences which have brought on symptoms of PTSD. Your thoughts and feelings sound so much like mine. I also seldom go out due to (thankfully) mild Social Anxiety but would rather be at home with my dogs. I often feel when I’m out and feeling uncomfortable that I wish I could have one of them with me. I have to keep the “smiley face” on when I’m out but at home with them I can just “be”. Unfortunately South Africa is not all that “dog friendly” when it comes to public places, and the concept of “service dog” only includes seeing-eye dogs. And there is NO way a dog would be allowed in a hospital for any reason!
I hope you understand when I say that I find the photo of you in hospital with Riley beautiful, from the point of view that she could be there and could help you so much that you’re actually smiling while in such an awful situation. I’ve also recently had an extremely frightening and scary health experience. My mother eventually had to drive me to the ER and at one point lying waiting for the Drs I remember crying out “I want my dog!” A couple of days later when I was better I realised how awful that must have sounded to my poor mom who is always so supportive and helpful and is standing holding my hand and I’m wanting my dog 😉
But in days leading up to that as I’d been getting worse my little Bug never left my side, we were literally skin-to-skin 24hrs a day. She’s such a tiny little titch, but as small as she is, she was my strength during that time.
After reading your story and thinking about it, I’m sure I actually would cope quite a lot better “out in the world” with her by my side. But it’s not something I’ve practically thought about because it would be impossible to take her to so many places.
Congratulations to you on your strength to write this, I hope it’s helped you a bit, and it certainly helped me to read about someone going through something similar to me. And most of all – well done to Riley for being such a special “person”
Tzu Mom says
You have brought tears to my eyes. I lived so long without a dog like Riley. I will write to you next week as I have some ideas that can help you a bit. It is so hard to live like this, and I know that even with Riley I put on my “smiley” face. Just remember you are strong…that’s what I tell myself every day 🙂
carma Poodale says
That post must have taken a lot of courage to write. I am very proud of you for being able to do it.
Service dogs come in all shapes and colors. You are right, most think you have to be a lab to be a service dog. That is a misconception among the public. Maybe its because that is what breed was chosen to be the first service dogs or maybe because most companies choose labs to be the ones that get trained. There are times that people can not handle the larger dogs and the smaller dogs are more accommodating. The larger dogs , such as me, can pull wheelchairs, assist in balance for the handler or open doors etc. Smaller dogs can help with PTSD.
I am appalled that your own drs assistant said what she said to you. I would definitely tell my dr what she said, not to get her in trouble but to bring awareness to the assistants lack of knowledge of what a service dog can do. I am often questioned about what I can do as a service dog, there is a misconception that poodles make terrible service dogs. This is far from the truth. Our ability to sense and smell is just as good as a lab. Our different size in our breed makes us great to work as anytime of service dog.
As long as Riley is able to do tasks for you to bring you out of a flashback, redirect you when you are on a verge of attack or do what is needed to be done to make you feel better then no one should question why she is a service dog. I do agree that I feel those who put vest on their untrained, not needed, companion dog do hurt real service dogs. People think that because their dogs are well behaved they can be a service dog and we know that its not the behavior that makes the dog able to be a service dog, its the task the dog has learned to help a handler live a better life. What gets me is that people who put a vest on a non service dog are acting like they have a disability. Being disabled whether its visible or non visible is not any fun. I am sure if many could be cured they would gladly give up the need for a service dog.
Tzu Mom says
Thank you so much… it was so hard to do this, but I almost felt like I needed to get something off my chest.
In regards to my doctors assistant I have given up, at this point I just try and ignore her now.