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Would a service dog be able to help me?

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Hello, my name is Raquel.  I am 21 and have been professionally diagnosed with autism, anxiety, and depression.  I also have reason to believe that I have some form of PTSD, but can't be diagnosed due to personal reasons.

I am a US citizen and live in Ohio with my parents, but I am planning to go to college in Alberta, where my boyfriend lives.

I think a service dog would be helpful with sensory problems and panic attacks.  I freeze up when I'm overwhelmed and can't talk, and sometimes have difficulty with large crowds and loud noises.  When I'm very upset, I can't control my body and often cry or twitch.

I've come here because most resources I've found for autism service dogs are geared towards parents of autistic children, and 1. I am not a child and 2. I would like my parents to have less control over my life.  I'm hoping that a service dog would enable me to become more independent and have more control over my own life.

No one here can tell you if a service dog is right for you or if you qualify for one.  That is something ti discuss with your treatment team.

But you're right. The majority of service dog organizations for autism are for children. There are some exceptions though.

Also, know that Canada and the US have different laws regarding service dogs. I believe Alberta has a certification system.

Hello and welcome! I know Candian laws on service dogs vary greatly from US service dogs, though I'm not sure on the specifics. Have you looked into Canadian programs?

Another thing to consider is if you are disabled by your disorders, and if Canada will agree that it is disabling. If yes, then also consider what would be easier than a dog. If a dog is still the best choice, then think about ways a dog could help you with your disability. For example, meds have no effect on my night terrors so when I wake from them my dog had been trained to lick my face until I stop screaming and crying, then lays on me partially to help me calm down. Think of things like that were it would be hard to mitigate your symptoms under traditional methods.

Also consider the downside to service dogs. For me, it is getting looks constantly because I have a big dog everywhere. It's really hard some days where I just want to get in and get out of somewhere and everyone feels like they need to tell me their opinion. I have agoraphobia, and I have a walking people magnet. You will get stopped and asked a lot of questions, you will get glared at, you will probably at one point be denied access and discriminated against solely because of your SD. Also, its difficult planning things to an extra degree whem you have an SD. I want to one day go to Disneyland with my kids, so I will have to figure out what to do with Olga. Do I board her at Disneyland, do I leave her home with my mom, do I just take her with me and not experience everyone on the rides at the same time? Things that would normally just a pack and go are suddenly very complicated. It's a hard road, but I find it completely worth it. Only you can weigh your options and figure out the pros and cons yourself.

I would consider myself disabled by my conditions, as it is very difficult or impossible to leave the house by myself.

I managed to make short trips to meet my boyfriend at work a few times while I was staying with him, but I get overwhelmed if there's more than one destination to think about, even if it's just the return trip.

In Ohio, it's much more difficult since I don't have access to public transportation and don't have a driver's license.

I've read that service dogs are able to help calm you down when you're having a panic attack, which is the main reason I've been looking into them.  When I'm with my boyfriend, he's usually able to calm me down, but I'm very worried about going to college, where I'll be alone.

Considering the extra attention, I'm fairly sure I wouldn't mind it too much.  I have difficulty starting conversations, so I'm often starved for interaction.

Calming you during a panic attack is not a task, and if that's all that your dog does it is not a service dog regardless of whether you are disabled.

What tasks do you want the dog to perform? What is it that you cannot do or struggle immensely to do that you expect the dog to do for you that is related to your disability? It cannot be emotional support (so anything like cuddling, making you feel better, providing companionship, allowing you to pet them, etc is considered emotional support).

Also, has a doctor agreed that you are disabled? I don't know about Canada, but in the U.S. case law has shown us that you need a doctor to agree that you are disabled in order to qualify for a service dog.


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