Author Topic: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?  (Read 1416 times)

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Offline AdventurousEquestrian

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What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« on: March 07, 2017, 09:14:35 PM »
I'm just curious, so if this is the wrong spot please let me know. What's the point where a person would want to get a service/ emotional support dog? I've seen some people say only if you've got a really serious problem, and others say that if you have some sort of impairment having a service dog would be worthwhile. With this logic, I could logically get a service dog OR an ESD. (I've got pretty bad asthma and anxiety/depression). So where do you generally draw the line? Again, I'm not looking to get a service dog, I'm just curious.

Offline EverConfused

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2017, 09:41:28 PM »
Quote
What's the point where a person would want to get a service/ emotional support dog?

That's extremely individual. In order to be eligible for either a service dog or an emotional support animal, you have to have a disability, but most people with disabilities do not use service dogs.

Are you wanting to know about what is considered a disability? Or are you more interested in what people think about when deciding to get a service dog?
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Offline Azariah

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2017, 10:07:07 PM »
You have to qualify by law for a service dog. Assuming that - what I've think I recall reading is that people look into a service dog after they've maxed out medical treatment. i.e. they are at the best health they can be with the help of medical and mental health doctors. And you'd want there to be tasks that a dog could do that would help you out enough to be worth the hassle of having a dog with you at all times (which can be a pain).
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2017, 10:35:00 PM »
Under the ADA, a disability is an impairment that substantially limits a person in their ability to perform "major life activities" such as seeing, walking, thinking, holding things in their hands, learning, working, etc.

Most people will have impairments but only about one in five will have an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.  If you think you might be disabled, have a discussion with your doctor and find out what they think.  You doctor is aware of your condition and how it compares to others so he or she is in a good position to be objective in determining whether or not you are substantially limited in something compared to others.

I'll use vision as an example.  You know many people who have a visual impairment, right?  People who need glasses.  I've semi-recently joined this class of people as my near vision has deteriorated due to my age.  So now I need reading glasses and my vision is impaired.  But am I disabled by this vision impairment?  No.  It's more of an annoyance than a substantial limitation.  Compare me to one of my friends who is legally blind.  You don't have to be completely and absolutely without vision to be legally blind, but your vision does have to be pretty darned bad (20/200 in the better eye or a field of vision less than 20 degrees).  So I am impaired by my vision (it is less than "normal") but I am not substantially limited or disabled by it.

I spent some time looking at various statistics, including Census data and worked out that roughly one person in four who has a diagnosed mental illness is disabled by that illness.  This comes to roughly 6% of the U.S. population.  The other three people in four who have a diagnosed mental illness are impaired, but not disabled.  Which group do you belong in?  There is no way for us here to directly help you to figure that out other than to suggest you have a talk with your psychiatrist, psychologist or other therapist for their perspective and whether they consider you to be among the 6% most mentally impaired or among the one in four of their patients who are most impaired (in fact disabled).

The good news is that treatment is available for mental illness and if you haven't tried that yet, you should do so before looking into an emotional support animal or psychiatric service dog.  For most people (three quarters-ish) treatment can return them to within the range of normal functional parameters and that is a better option (if available) then spending the rest of your life unable to escape the symptoms and having to learn how to get by despite them (ie disability).
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Offline LawDog

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2017, 09:54:42 AM »
My 2c...

How much mobility limitation do you need to use a cane or a wheelchair? Some people walk better than others, and some people might too much pride to use any aids. Some people with severe hearing limitations might choose not to use hearing aids but somebody with less limitation might choose to use them, because they feel it would help them.

How bad does your limitation have to be to get a service dog? Bad enough that you think a dog would help your condition. It's very subjective.

Other threads will deal with how much a dog needs to be able to do to qualify as an SD (as opposed to an ESA), but that's the general rule, as I understand it.
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Offline Cocoajensen

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2017, 11:17:11 AM »
For me, it's the point where doesn't matter what I do medically, I'm not going to get any better than I am right now.  No med changes, no increase in physical therapy, etc are going to do anything but help me maintain where I'm at, short of a major breakthrough, revolutionary new treatment.

I'm at the point where I'm tired of having to wait for a human to come home from work & help me - and my human is tired of working all day at a physically-demanding job, and then having to come home & go run errands with me b/c I'm not having a good day, but still have to buy cat food, pick up prescriptions, grab the milk I forgot at the store when I was having a good day, etc. 

I'm tired of going out alone & having to ask a stranger to pick up the keys or the item I just dropped - again - b/c my hands are hurting & stiff & I'm having a hard time holding onto things. 

I'm tired of going out alone & worrying about will today be the day someone walks up behind me and startles me badly and I actually end up hitting them, or will I just scream bloody murder & scare everyone in the store.  I've actually had cops pull weapons on me when this happened, assuming the store was being robbed.  I still haven't lived that one down. 

I'm tired of not being able to take a walk by myself b/c I'm worried about falling & not being able to get up on my own. 

Offline Kirsten

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2017, 12:12:02 PM »
My 2c...

How much mobility limitation do you need to use a cane or a wheelchair? Some people walk better than others, and some people might too much pride to use any aids. Some people with severe hearing limitations might choose not to use hearing aids but somebody with less limitation might choose to use them, because they feel it would help them.

How bad does your limitation have to be to get a service dog? Bad enough that you think a dog would help your condition. It's very subjective.

Other threads will deal with how much a dog needs to be able to do to qualify as an SD (as opposed to an ESA), but that's the general rule, as I understand it.

Not quite. You don't need to meet a legal definition to use a cane or walker, but you do to get an accommodation to use either an ESA or service dog someplace where dogs are not ordinarily permitted. It is not purely a matter of personal preference or whether you think it would help. It's a matter of that PLUS (or first) whether you are legally disabled.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2017, 12:13:47 PM by Kirsten »
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Offline Azariah

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2017, 01:49:20 PM »
Brainstorming here. Some indicators that you are legally disabled might include:

Needing ADA accommodations at work to do your job. When we talked about accommodations I got classified as disabled at my employer.
Needing accommodations at school
Collecting private long-term disability or social security disability. You've already been screened for a disability. You've got one.
Having handicapped parking - someone somewhere has agreed that you are disabled enough to need it

I'm pretty sure you can be disabled without the above. But that might help someone think about what a disability really means.

I know when my doctors did my ADA leave paperwork for work earlier this year they were given a list of activities of daily living. There were quite a handful that they noted I can't do. I can't remember how many but I'm thinking at least 6. Looking through a list like that might be helpful as well. And then thinking about if a dog could help you in accomplishing those. In my case a dog can get me there with some of the ADLs (not all)
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Offline Azariah

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2017, 02:03:47 PM »
I'll give you a real life example on disabilities using my biological parents as they have the same disability. Both of my biological parents are bipolar.

My mom was very disabled. Inpatient off and on. Not managed well by medication (it was the 1980s and options were limited). Unable to work at all. If a dog could help her she would have had the legal right to have one. She passed away as a result of her condition when I was six.

My dad did not have an easy life being bipolar. However he was always able to work and take care of me and over time his condition continued to improve. While he had bipolar I'm not sure that he would have cleanly fit into a disabled category as he was able to function reasonably well. He is in his 60s now and in very good physical and mental health.

Same disability (bipolar) with very different impacts on a person's ability to function.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2017, 02:13:16 PM »
ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) and major life activities are two different things.  The ADA definition is based on major life activities (seeing, hearing, walking, thinking, learning).  ADLs are things like eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring (walking) and continence.

Major life activities are about how your major systems function, not what you do with them when they do function.  They are the tools you have with which you navigate and negotiate the world, while ADLs are what you do with these tools.

So if one of your ADLs that you struggle with is bathing, what body system malfunction causes that struggle?  If it is because you cannot grasp the controls or tools used for bathing, then the major life activity that is affected is the ability to use your hands.  If it is because you are terrified of the bathtub or of bathing itself due to past trauma, then the major life activity affected is your ability to think.  For ADA purposes, ADLs do not matter, major life activities do.

I'll use ZF as an example.  She does not have the use of her legs for walking but she is perfectly competent to handle things like getting from point A to point B under her own power and without assistance.  She meets the requirements for transfer in terms of ADLs, but her legs are still impaired in terms of major life activities.

Let's use someone like Arrow.  She is legally blind so her impaired major life activity is the ability to see and yet this does not prevent her from performing ADLs independently or living on her own.  She's still disabled in terms of the ADA which is why she qualifies for a guide dog to help her mitigate the impairment of her sight.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2017, 02:18:24 PM by Kirsten »
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Offline Ariel

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2017, 03:21:26 PM »
I have, perhaps, an unpopular opinion, but especially with psychiatric disabilities, I don't think teenagers are appropriate candidates to receive PSDs during middle or high school years in most cases. You would not have found a doctor either inpatient or outpatient who would have denied my psychiatric disability during my teen years, but I was at the time in no condition to reliably steward a dog. I had a pet dog at the time, I could feed him and walk him and did enjoy playing with him, but I would have had an unhealthy reliability on a service dog at the time because my brain was too volatile and my coping skills were weak and lacking.

I am still disabled by Bipolar Disorder, but it does not impact my ability to put my dog's needs above my own, and rationally examine her capacity and find alternate solutions where she is not (or should not be) expected to assist me. The brain does a LOOOOOT of changing and calming down between the early teen years and about 25 years of age when the brain is fully matured and adult. I was almost 22 before my brain started settling, and it was at age 21 that I had my first successful working relationship with a service dog. I'll be 24 in May and the difference between my ability to train, maintain, and steward a service dog now is so vastly different than it was at 14 even though my disability remains constant.

The majority of teens with psychiatric conditions, including disabling ones, do not have the appropriate coping skills and maturity to handle a SD well. It goes beyond just actual ability to care for and provide direction and correction to the dog at timely points. Just about everyone with a psychiatric condition has some degree of skewed or irrational thinking, and often some degree of social anxiety or panic. Add in the half-baked teen brain and you've got a recipe for stress when it comes to dealing with the public, especially access challenges.

Also, what about school if the dog accompanies where the kids are unlikely to be entirely respectful of the SD, especially in the beginning? Possible social situations like concerts, driving fast, parties, illegal drinking/drugs, also present issues with SDs in which the teen may not make the right choice. Overall not a good idea IMO. Again, just my opinion based on my experience and watching a lot of people around me with other psych disabilities and conditions.
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Offline AdventurousEquestrian

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2017, 07:42:56 PM »
Thank you everyone for responding! Once again, I'd like to reiterate that I'm NOT looking to get a service dog. Hearing everyone's personal stories and experiences helps me grasp a better understanding of this complicated world.

Offline Tara

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2017, 08:03:04 PM »
I started looking into SDs about 5 years ago as a possible future option as I was not in a living situation where I could get one. (I lived with my 92 year old grandfather who had a really mean cat that was mean to everyone but him and he didn't want any more animals in the house.) Sadly, my grandfather passed away in Dec 2013 and after a whirlwind of staying with a friend with my mother after she left her abusive boyfriend, her and I got a place together and it was in the back of my mind a couple years until a random conversation with a friend in the medical field who hooked me up with a local SD trainer. I got my SD last August.

To be short: I realize my treatment had become stagnant and I needed something more.
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Offline EverConfused

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2017, 09:11:51 PM »
I am applying currently, so it may yet turn out that this isn't the right time or the right path. I started thinking about getting a service dog when it seemed like all of the constraints that having a dog would place on my life would be outweighed by the assistance I would get.

It wasn't just one thing, but the situation that sort of became emblematic for me was wanting to go to TJ Maxx to buy a new journal. At first I couldn't go because when I worked in an office, I needed to spend every evening and every weekend recovering from my commute. Then over time, I couldn't go because leaving the house for anything but the absolute essentials (medical appointments, pharmacy) was just too painful and exhausting. I wanted to go for the better part of a year before I gave up on the idea and ordered a journal online.

The way I see it, even if I get yelled at for having a service dog in the store and have to leave, I'm no worse off than I am right now. And I will most likely be allowed in at least a few places without a problem.

If you had asked me a couple years ago, when I was able to manage with other coping skills, then it wouldn't have been worth it to me. I still had a way to go places and I had no desire whatsoever for a dog that would've made that harder.

Basically I'm willing to be turned away from some businesses and have some unpleasant experiences on account of a dog, because the alternative would be sitting at home not going anywhere anyway.
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Offline LawDog

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Re: What's the point where a person would get a service dog?
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2017, 09:31:37 AM »

Not quite. You don't need to meet a legal definition to use a cane or walker, but you do to get an accommodation to use either an ESA or service dog someplace where dogs are not ordinarily permitted. It is not purely a matter of personal preference or whether you think it would help. It's a matter of that PLUS (or first) whether you are legally disabled.

I guess my understanding of the original question was, how disabled do you need to be to be officially "disabled"? Yes, the first question to be considered is, are you disabled, because if you are not, then you will never need an ESA/SD.

If you have a disability, and a dog can't do something to help, then you wouldn't qualify for an SD, since that's the whole point of the SD provisions of the ADA.

Again, person A and person B might both have a certain disability. Even though objectively it affects person A to a greater degree, person B might feel that a dog would help the condition and person A might not. There's an objective part of this (is there a disability) and a subjective part (will a dog help the situation).

BTW, good discussion.
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