Yes, I know she is cute. Yes, I know she is pocket sized, which makes for an intense need to snuggle. And yes- I will admit that her ears are the softest things I have ever felt…But no, Becky, you may not touch my dog. It amazes me how many people will walk up unannounced and extend their stranger hands to touch her. I know they mean well, I know that they are just trying to be friendly, but its as if people forget that she is still an animal, an unknown animal. Which means, her behavior can be unpredictable- especially towards random people who are attempting to touch her or her handler (me).
What most people are not aware of is that my Chiweenie, Runt, is a service animal. She is not a pet, she is not a toy- she is essentially my lifeline and in many ways functions as medical equipment to help me navigate and live my life. Distracting her, playing with her and otherwise infringing on her presence is a serious hindrance to both me and her.
There are quite a few things I wish people were more aware of when it comes to Runt. So to help clear up a few things, I have compiled a list. Basically, it functions as a “How Not To Be An Ass When It Comes To My Dog” guide:
- I Wish I Didn’t Need Her- Yes, you read that right, I wish I didn’t need to have a service animal. When someone tells me “I wish I could take my (insert horrible choice of pet’s name) with me everywhere”; all I can think is “Really? You want to have a crippling condition that makes you need the companionship of an animal to help you function like a normal person? Yeah, tell me all about that”. Believe me, there are many moments when I wish I didn’t have to bring her with me. For example, you try going to the OBGYN with a chihuahua, there are some moments when I would like privacy and the ability to not feel like the freak with the dog at the doctor’s office.
- Not All Service Dogs Are Yellow Labs- They come in pocket size as well. When you say something like “how can that be necessary?”, what you’re really saying it “you don’t need her”. Let me tell you something, Becky, just because your little, ignorant brain can’t comprehend how a chihuahua could possibly go through countless hours of training to assist with my needs, doesn’t mean she isn’t serving a vital function that isn’t obvious to you. Don’t assume that she is a luxury pet or some sort of PTSD perk- she’s a goddamn necessity.
- I Don’t Want To Answer Questions From A Stranger- Don’t ask me how I got her. Don’t ask me how you can get your poodle “registered”. And for the love of god, don’t ask me what is wrong with me. I don’t enjoy being looked at like some sort of spokesperson for the disabled, please don’t ask me to be one. Everyone has their reasons for needing a service animal, and none of them are any of your concern.
- My Medical Conditions Are None Of Your Goddamn Business- First of all, it’s illegal for a business owner to ask me “what do you need her for?”, so what makes you think I’ll take it any better coming from you? What I have been through, and what makes Runt a necessity to me, is absolutely none of your business. How would you feel if I asked to take a peek at your most private medical information? That is essentially what you are asking to do to me. It is perfectly legal for someone to ask me what her function is ie: Medical Response, Medical Assitance, Psychiatric Service, Diabetic Alert etc. But that is the extent of it- don’t ask me for details, I don’t enjoy having to explain my medical issues with anyone, let alone someone I don’t know.
- Runt Is Working- When you see her sitting on my lap she is preventing me from doing something. When you hear her low growls, she is signaling me to something I need to be aware of. When you see her walking the perimeter of a room, she is searching for things that may cause me harm. Just because she looks like a pet, doesn’t mean she isn’t performing a role that I absolutely need her to be doing. You stopping to give her a french fry detracts from that.
- She Is Very Well Loved- I assure you, Runt has everything she could ever want. She has health insurance, a full wardrobe, monthly vet checks/ training and enough treats to feed a small shelter. She does not live in a kennel, she is not always working and yes, she has downtime to just be a dog. She sleeps in my bed every night, gets all the snuggles she could ever hope for and is supremely spoiled by my family and I. She is not just a Service Animal, she is a member of my family and I love her as such.
I know it may sound harsh, but it can be extremely frustrating to not only have to live my life as someone with a disability but then to also put up with another person interfering with my service animal. If you take one thing from this post I hope it is the knowledge that people like me and our service animals would much rather live an easier life. Try to do us a solid by not making it harder for us than it already is- we will love you for it.