My Life with a Service Dog
By Eleanore | @E_belanger1 | April 1, 2018
Having a service dog has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. He has been trained to help me with my specific health issues; he picks things up for me so that I don’t have to bend over and potentially pass out; he walks by my side to keep me from falling; he will be there for me if I do fall; and he even helps me with my laundry! He’s a life saver. We have an unbreakable bond that I’ve had with no other animal. How could we not, when he’s with me all the time?
However, there are many downsides to having a service dog that people don’t consider. Can’t consider, even, until they experience it for themselves.
When you have a service dog, there are no more quick runs to the grocery store. You’re lucky if only once person stops you and asks you about your dog. They ask you why you have your dog. They tell you how kind you are that you’re training this dog for someone who actually needs this dog’s help. People will tell you how lucky you are that you get to take your dog with you everywhere, and it’ll make you think, you’re lucky you don’t have my health issues and don’t have to take your dog everywhere.
These are the nicer things that people say. The things that become easy to handle.
Then there are the other, more harsh things that people say and ask.
When you bring your dog in with you somewhere, all of a sudden you and your dog become the babysitter for that parent who can’t get his or her kids under control and doesn’t want to deal with them anymore. “Look! There’s a dog! Go play with it!” People assume that since you’re out with a cute and well behaved dog, it’s their right to pet the dog and get in the dog’s face.
Kids will run up and hang off of your dog, and when their parents do nothing about it, you become the bad guy for protecting your dog. People will pull your dog’s tail. They’ll chase you while barking at you, trying to get a rise out of your dog.
When I got my service dog, I was not prepared for how rude people would be. They ask invasive questions about my health. They've asked me why I need a service dog when I don’t look sick and they've argued with me about my own health. I was not prepared for the men who would corner me and pretend they want to ask me about my dog. Having a service dog has gotten me into some scary situations.
Nonetheless, having a service dog has been on of the most beneficial things that has ever happened to me. I have had to grow a thick skin. I have had to learn that it is ok to tell people no, you can’t pet my dog. I have had to learn that my health is nobody else’s business. But first and foremost, I’ve learned that having a service dog is amazing. He’s saved my life. He comforts me. He will be there for me and take care of me when others will not. He’s worth all of it.
Eleanore has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, along with many of its comorbid conditions. @theservicepoodlefrank helps her deal with symptoms like balance issues and weakness. Having the help of a service dog has been amazing for Eleanore. However, Frankie is not the only answer to her medical care, and she travels all over the country for medical treatment. She is currently recovering from her 10th surgery, and Frankie has not left her side since she got home from the hospital.
Instagram: @E_belanger1 / @theservicepoodlefrank