How To Tell The Difference: Service or Emotional Support Dog

How To Tell The Difference: Service or Emotional Support Dog

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A while ago, I spent time at the Children’s hospital with my son’s service dog (Charlie) and some of the children/teenagers there.

I sat down amongst them with Charlie. First, the smaller kids came over and started loving on him. It was heaven for Charlie because touch is a major love language for him.

The “cool” teenagers started wandering over to check him out. Even the most sullen teenagers made their way over and started loving on Charlie. The change in their demeanor was remarkable. Charlie lives with us. I see the changes he has made in our lives. Often though, I forget how a little time with an animal can turn things around.

My Son took his service dog with him to school previously. Due to his difficulties, he’s been unable to take him with him for the past year. Charlie has been spending the school day with me instead.

I deal with anxiety and sometimes depression. Charlie has been sensing that my anxiety levels have been high. So he has spent a lot of time by my side. I’ve been impressed all over again just how much a difference he can make. Being able to rub his silky soft ears brings my anxiety levels down several levels. When things get really bad, he lays on top of me to provide deep pressure to calm me down.

Charlie is a trained service dog and as such is protected by a Federal Law called Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He is trained to perform various services for my son whom he works for. Because of this, he is allowed to go anywhere my son goes unless it is somewhere like an operating theatre that has to be sterile.

The way in which I was utilizing Charlie on that particular day, was as an Emotional Support Dog for the other children.

Emotional Support Animals do not have the same privileges under the law as a Service Dog. Emotional Support Dogs (or other animals) are not trained to perform specific tasks like a Service Dog. Instead, they are there to provide emotional support as in this instance.

One of the few protections by law that an Emotional Support Dog has is in the realm of housing and traveling. If you have an Emotional Support Animal and you are renting a house or an apartment, landlords are required to not discriminate against you and allow you to have your Emotional Support Animal in your home even if the property doesn’t allow animals. Airlines are required to allow you to have your Emotional Support Animal on board the flight in the cabin with you. Both Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs require a Doctor’s prescription to make them legal.

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Are You Using Your Disability As An Excuse?

Are You Using Your Disability As An Excuse?

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Recently I was interviewing Leta Greene, regarding a project I am currently working on. Some of you might remember I reviewed her latest book “Love, Me Too: Finding a Happy and Fulfilling Life After Sexual Abuse”. During the course of my conversation with her, we touched on something that I needed to be reminded of, and maybe you do too.

Often we hear people saying, “I can’t do that.” Or maybe we have said ourselves, “I can’t do that, because of x, y, or z.” Often over the years, I know that I have used this excuse.

I said, “I can’t go sledding down that hill because of my back issues.” Or, ” I don’t have the ability to deal with that person right now due to my anxiety and depression issues.” This is okay, and sometimes necessary. It’s good to have healthy boundaries. But for me,  it didn’t stop there.

The not going sledding down the hill with my kids snowballed into never wanting to go outside during the winter. The cold would make my back spasm, the ice made walking precarious and if I fell I would make my back worse. My excuses just went on and on.

Sometimes we use our disabilities as an excuse. Click To Tweet

I wanted to talk to Leta about the children she has had with special needs. One died, living not quite 2 months. Another has Tourette’s Syndrome. But it doesn’t occur to her to think of him as having special needs. Special needs, to her, are simply superpowers. So often we think of these disabilities and needs as a negative thing. She has turned them into positive things in her life and that of her family.

When I sit down and really think about the people I admire, the people I see out there who are happy, and really enjoying life? They aren’t making excuses. They are doing everything. These are people who are living their life to it’s fullest despite their disabilities or life issues.

. . .if we see someone who, in spite of life’s adversities, is happy a good deal of the time, we should recognize that we are looking at spiritual achievement- and one worth aspiring to. ~Leta Greene Click To Tweet

The truth is, my back would have been better if I had spent more time with cautious exercise. My mental health would have been better if I had gone outside more and breathed the fresh air. It wouldn’t have cured my disabilities. But in the long term, it would have made me feel better. My “Superpower” of anxiety? It makes me slow down and take note of what is going on in my life. It makes me scale down to what is truly important to me. It makes me more empathetic.

I was 18 when my paternal grandfather died. My Uncle, who was tasked with speaking at the funeral, went around to all the Daughters and Sons-in-law and asked them what they felt my Grandfather had taught their spouses that had helped their marriages. My Mom’s response I’ll always remember.

Mom said, that Grandpa taught my Dad that he could do anything. If he didn’t know how to do something, that couldn’t be an excuse. He was expected to and  found a way to do it. He tinkered around with it until he figured it out, he read about it, or as a last resort (because he is a man after all), he would ask someone to teach him.

As his child, I saw this play out time and time again in my own life as I would have many people say to me over the years, “You are SO talented.”, just because I was able to do something they couldn’t. Something they were afraid to do. My Dad passed on the lessons from my Grandpa Lyman. He taught me that if I wanted to learn something, learn it. Do it. Don’t let anything stand in your way. It usually had nothing to do with talent.

As I have grown older, my own mortality has become real. The consequences of doing things right the first time have hit home in a way they didn’t as a youth. I have become afraid. I started using excuses that I can’t do things because I was afraid.

I’m really grateful to Leta Greene for reminding me that I can do things. That my disabilities and special needs can be an asset and not a liability. People who put their minds to something can accomplish extraordinary things.

What excuses are you using in your life? What things are you saying “I can’t” to, when you really could, and should say “I CAN”?

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