|Barked: Sat Feb 16, '13 10:47pm PST |
|I realize I am 1,417 days late and I'm guessing nobody will ever read this, but I need to add my two cents here.
I have been living with a psychiatric disorder for as long as I can remember. I was officially diagnosed 14 years ago and I fight every day of my life just to be "normal." It is exhausting and sometimes I just don't want to go on anymore if life has to be this difficult.
I have a dog and at the recommendation of a therapist (and not realizing that I was actually qualifying my dog as a service animal), I have been training her to assist me with my disability, in addition to her regular good canine citizen behavior. She has helped me immensely. I had never considered actually taking her places with me and to be honest, I don't leave the house much anymore because I am always afraid that when I'm away from her, I'll have one of my "episodes" and need her.
A friend of mine told me about psychiatric service dogs and explained that my dog would probably qualify. I thought about the benefits of being able to leave the house and not have to worry about what might happen when I am away from my dog... the freedom to take her with me and allow me to live my life outside of my home began to make me feel free and happy. I was thrilled because due to my condition, I live in one part of the country and my husband lives in another, because I have to be here and he must be there to work. I had been considering flying out to meet him but the fear of having an episode while alone without my dog's assistance and the cost-prohibitive prices of paying to have a dog with me on a plane have kept us apart for a long time.
I went online to check an airline's requirements and that's where I learned that my dog must have a letter from my doctor detailing my disability and to add insult to injury, it can't be more than a year old. I'm so glad the airline industry has determined that my condition may improve after a year and therefore, I have to incur the cost and hassle of going to the doctor at least yearly, just to appease them when NO other service dog handlers have to do this. FURTHERMORE, I am allowed to be interrogated at the ticket counter AND before I board a plane as to what the dog does for me... if I tell them that, then I am revealing my disability and my privacy has been violated. If I don't tell them, I am subject to more scrutiny and embarrassment in front of other passengers.
Frankly, for someone with these kinds of problems, this kind of treatment is just inhumane. It take's just about everything I have to get through a day. The thought of having to now jump through these hoops and red tape is not only infuriating because it's discriminatory, it is exhausting.
I get that there are people who exploit the system but that is no reason to take away my rights. And honestly, what is it hurting if they do it, anyway? People need to get lives and stop trying to be the "Spot the fake service dog police." There are big problems in this country - HUGE problems, yet there are still people who want to stick their noses into others' business and judge them based on the way they look.
People talk about misrepresenting one's dog as a service animal with disdain, but I can almost empathize at this point. What is stopping me from claiming that my dog is a seizure alert animal just so I don't have to be interrogated and humiliated because I have a mental disability? Mental disabilities have had negative stigmas throughout history and it is clear to me that this intolerance continues today.
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