How it hurts my heart to say that. Of course my dog is a pet. She’s also an emotional support dog, a comedian, a genius, a companion, a teacher, a student, my best friend and a service dog. Sometimes people say their dogs do things for them that are not included in the Federal Law that makes them a service dog, BUT that they also do things within that law. The fact that your dog is a multi-tasker, a stand-up comic as well as a seizure alert dog or a diabetes detection dog, a companion for long, good for you walks as well as a dog who helps your balance or chases away your pain does not make your dog less of a service dog. No indeed, that just makes your dog a better service dog.
I once asked a blind friend if her dog stayed close when she had a bad cold or the flu. She told me, no, that her dog guided her. That was her job and that’s what she did. Perhaps that’s not true in every case. Perhaps it’s because of the way guide dogs are bred selected and trained, with such strong emphasis on that one difficult task. But for those of us with invisible disabilities, those of us who raise and train our own service dogs, the program is broader and more varied. By being with our dogs 24/7 ourselves, they, being dogs, will notice everything that’s amiss and try to fix it.
It’s difficult, particularly in the face of what has become rampant cheating, for the bus driver, the restaurant manager, the hotel clerk, the airline (what are they called now?) to know if your dog is really, actually a service dog. Even my little brass tag from the NYC Dept. of Health isn’t convincing everyone any longer. So I am forced to say those horrible words. This is not a pet.
Forgive me Sky. Now that even the scientists know, as we dog lovers have always known, that dogs understand not merely the tone of our words but the meaning as well, I am forced to apologize each time. But dogs not only understand our tone and our meaning. I shouldn’t have to worry because above all, they read our hearts.