There are many things that I have misunderstood or was naïve to when I was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010. As you journey through life, your experiences shape your way of thinking. For example, I am a “look for the silver lining” kind of gal, so after my diagnosis I had to find something to look forward to as my disease progressed. I love animals… so I could be excited about getting a Parkinson’s service animal to help when times got difficult.
But what kind of animal would I enlist as my partner in crime for the fight against Parkinson’s disease. This kept me busy for years. I would dream about the future with my miniature pony or maybe a service guinea pig… wait, that doesn’t sound right. There had to be an easier way… then it came to me.
When my dog Crash came crashing into my life, I came up with this bright idea that I could train him to become my very own Parkinson’s service dog. Think how awesome it would be to take him with me everywhere… shopping, to the movies and even to work. It would be just like taking my best friend with me everywhere! So I was super-duper stoked when I befriended a wonderful woman and her service dog that generously agreed to teach Crash and I how to become a productive member of the service society. I mean really, how hard could it be? *Sheepish grin*
Just like I do with anything I set my mind to, I fully committed to the process. I started taking him with me to places that would challenge him… like Costco… now talk about being tossed into the pool without floaties. I even purchased a “service dog in training” vest. I absolutely had no doubt that I could mold my pooch into the ultimate superhero. But then it happened.
While out on a walk, Crash and I were attacked by 2 pit bulls. No amount of kicking or screaming could stop the assault that was playing out in front of me. I felt helpless, unable to protect something so important to me. After that, Crash was never the same. Because of his off the charts anxiety, he would bark at dogs and people aggressively. This fear made him afraid to even go outside… he still hides under the bed if there is a fly in the apartment. No joke.
After weeks of trauma training, Crash made huge leaps in his recovery, but now his behavior was unpredictable. I couldn’t trust that he wouldn’t leap at a dog that resembled, even in the slightest bit, the devil dogs that had damaged him so bad.
Nevertheless, I still felt strongly that there was a chance that we could still make it happen. I posted a picture on Instagram of Crash’s adorableness in his kick-ass training vest and little did I know I just opened Pandog-a’s box. Within hours, the backlash from the community that have support dogs began to flood my inbox.
This led me to do more research about the various categories of dogs, such as:
-Emotional support dogs
-Individuals who slap a vest on their dog thinking that it magically change their dog’s abilities… yes, I am calling myself out.
I am going to share my a-ha moments with a series of blog posts. In the following weeks, I will share with you the information that I gained by interviewing a trainer of service dogs, sharing my own research about the rights they have under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and my discussions with current Parkinson’s support dog owners. Be sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss the upcoming series about Parkinson’s service dogs.