I had a bit of an emotional moment this morning, when a member of an online stroke support group I follow wrote in about the death of a service dog. (Note: Someone wrote in the comments section something to the effect that service dogs are angels sent to earth...hence the accompanying photo).
It brought back memories of Shadow...
During my "exile" (see the About Me section and my first few Lifestyle posts if you want to know about that...), I spent a lot of time training Shadow. He could, in the end, pick up dropped objects and close and open doors for me. He learned to "brace" (stand still and steady) so that I could lean on him to get up from a kneeling position, could pull me up hills and dunes to make my walks easier, and yes, he was an incredibly important emotional support, as well.
At the time, I tinkered with - and had chatted with my physician about - the idea of getting him officially certified for service.
I called an organization (Googled it - it looked very official) about how the certification process works. They told me to sign a declaration that Shadow was well behaved and had never bitten anyone or anything, and they would send us a service vest.
That sounded rather dodgy to me.
Searching for something a little more official, safe, and educational, I dug a little deeper than the first few internet search hits, and was eventually accepted into a program with a renowned behaviourist. She stated she would teach me how to train Shadow for my own needs, as well as certify me to train service dogs for others.
Not so dodgy, that.
Unfortunately, after a while, and after finding out that we disagreed on just about everything from canine genetic predispositions to dog food (seriously, we clashed) she turfed me from the program.
Probably a blessing in disguise, really...because right around that time, service dogs began to be a thing...in the media, in the dog world. Stories abounded about dogs and owners being kicked off of planes, trains and automobiles everywhere. When it became apparent that trained service animals were of help to Veterans living with PTSD, hordes of others with anxiety and emotional issues flooded the system, claiming that they were entitled to have service animals, as well.
(I'm not here to say who is entitled to have one or not..that's not what this is about.)
With the glut of service dog requests (not to mention the inevitable calls for service pigs and horses and emotional support rabbits and snakes) came problems, and with the problems came measures and rules and lawyers to control it all, and I simply lost my desire to pursue that goal any further. Because when things surrounding any issue go all wild west and shit show; when people start complicating an issue; when they start trying to control every little thing about it, define it, demand it, expand upon it, and argue it into the ground...it tends to escalate beyond all common sense...and I tend to run, hide, and simply write about it.
And so, here I am...
In the end, I never would have known if Shadow would have made the cut to be certified for service or not. He died that same year...so, I'll just never know...
But, I learned in the process, and I re-evaluated, I got over myself a little bit...and I currently just kind of wish that the clock would magically rewind itself back to the time when dogs (and other animals) were not held responsible for our collective human mental health; to when they were certified only to help those with mobility and vision and physically dangerous/more severe issues.
And I say this because I have a very real fear that one day I may require a mobility support dog (my condition has the potential to lead to huge physical deficits), but that the system will be so mucked up and twisted by then that all dogs will be banned everywhere...
These views are reflected in the way that I now co-exist with my new pal, Samwise.
Like Shadow, he has been taught to pick up dropped objects for me, and can brace me when I stand up. He also offers me just as much emotional support and inspiration as did his deceased brother, and I do find being out and about with him easier...simply, I think, because he gives me something else to focus on besides my "too much input" input induced anxieties.
But I'm not so worried about getting him certified at this point...not for my own needs, at least. (If I get Sam certified at all, it will be as a therapy dog, so that I can bring him in to see others who can use the undeniably therapeutic canine benefits that I reap every day).
Instead I have chosen to accept my issues, and manage them accordingly. I shop at off times, order online, avoid crowds, keep social gatherings small. I have switched up my lifestyle to manage my quirks. I don't impose myself on anyone or any business that may opt out of welcoming dogs...because I feel that everyone's preferences should be respected, and that every business owner should be free to set whatever rules they choose to set.
I do bring Sam shopping and out with me all the time...I simply choose to go to stores and establishments and places- and there are so many now that I don't even know what the big deal is anymore - that openly welcome dogs.
I have learned, along the way, to not complicate things so much, to not always demand or expect that things be exactly how I want them to be.
And I have learned that Sam IS a therapy dog, and a service dog...simply because he is a dog, and a helpful friend...no fancy vest, official papers, or legal certification is required for me to know that...