What’s the deal with the dog?

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Service animals tend to be a bit misunderstood. Misperceptions abound: they are only for the visually impaired; they are just nice companions to have; they shouldn’t be allowed in certain places. For those of us who need them, service animals can mean the difference between life and death. While that may seem extreme, it is absolutely, literally true.

To clarify a few points:

Service animals are usually dogs, but can also be a miniature horse or other animal.

Service animals are trained to assist people with physical disabilities as well as with psychiatric disabilities.

A service animal can help with basic, everyday tasks, and can also be a life saver.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.”image

So those are the facts. Now, what is it like to live with and to need a service animal?

Diva is my constant companion. She’s so much more than a companion, though. She has been trained to assist me when I need help. Given my injuries (sustained in a scud missile attack), if I were to fall and not be able to get up, Diva would be right there helping me.

She is trained to behave in public. As someone with a service animal, I have the responsibility to make sure of that. All service animals must be trained and must not be allowed to disrupt a public place.

Diva is my lifeline. She is not just a dog and she is not just a pet. Far from it. I need her to survive, as much as she needs me.

When I walk into a public establishment, I do get the occasional odd look and the questions about why I’m bringing her with me. Where I go, she goes.

For people who need a service animal, it’s not a choice. It’s a necessity.

Service animals belong in the workplace, in restaurants, on the train, anywhere we go. They belong with us – the people who need them.

If you feel you need a service dog, check out your local organizations that specialize in training these animals. Do your homework and find your lifeline!

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