For the first time ever I’m beginning to understand this whole emotional support animal movement. Now don’t get me wrong, obviously a seeing eye dog or animal trained to comfort sick children is not exactly what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the dog traveling in the seat next to you on your trip to LA. The dog clearly marked service animal eating in the booth next to you at Shake Shack. I was highly judgmental. “There’s nothing wrong with her, she just wants to be able to bring her Teacup Yorkie into Nordstrom!” I was being petty. As an educator in a building filled with students who have traumatic backgrounds and legitimate signs of PTSD, we could use a comforting service animal on our campus. The love and feeling of cuddling an animal who won’t judge you and just loves you is so healing. I should know better!
Last year I got so sick I ended up in the hospital and was home for three days. As a person who grew up without incident and actually won the attendance award in sixth grade (I’m STILL proud of it), being sick frequently was new territory. Fibromyalgia is invisible to you and quite apparent to me. I don’t know when a flare up is going to hit but what I can count on is the loyalty and unconditional love of my three dogs when I’m down and out. Spike literally stayed in bed with me for three days, only pausing to eat and go to the bathroom. I was grateful for her companionship.
On the flip side, I went on a home visit to a student’s house where he had an adorable puppy. The house was barren; it was in a sketchy part of town. The student showed me his new puppy and was so proud. I could tell, as one of the only possessions he had, this dog gave him love and security. Fast forward, the dad decides to let another dog out of a locked room. To this day, I’m not exactly sure why the dad did that, but the dog was angry and attacked me. I was bit in the face! The student ushered the attack dog back into the locked room and the dad tried to help me by handing me a roll of toilet paper and bottle of rubbing alcohol. To say I was “shook” is an understatement. Blood was dripping down my face, as I stumbled into the clinic. I was hysterical. They took me in right away gave me a tetanus shot and got to work on the bite. The irony? When the staff asked me the address of the dog, I couldn’t tell them. The street didn’t even have a name but I couldn’t blame the dog. I love dogs, I still love dogs. I didn’t have the heart. Sue me.
I do draw the line and I may have to back Delta Airlines up on their emotional support animal restrictions. Passengers were flying with live turkeys, snakes, possums and other bizarre animals I’m not dying to sit next to. Yes, if your turkey gives you comfort I can understand but TOO FAR, it’s inappropriate on public transportation. I don’t expect it to be wild kingdom when I get on the plane. I refuse to sit next to an emotional support tarantula (yes, it happened!).
At the end of the day, animals, specifically dogs, can really give much needed care to a person suffering from an emotional, mental or physical disability. These animals or more than just pets, they’re medicinal (too dramatic?). What are your thoughts? Do you have an emotional support animal or suggestion? Comment below.