Author Topic: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...  (Read 3651 times)

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Offline Poedog

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Hello!

I just joined this forum to get a better idea regarding service dogs and to find out if I may qualify.

While talking with my counselor recently, we came to realize that I fit the criteria for PTSD. After a lifetime (or at least the last 19 years, since I was 6), I have suffered from panic attacks, generalized anxiety, depression, along with some unhealthy coping skills for those things. Through therapy (all paid out of pocket- thanks, insurance) over the last two years (and so much failed therapy prior), I have managed to get to a point where I can go to work and usually not have a panic attack (anxiety and often times, depression is always there), as opposed to life about a year ago where I could hardly go into public without a panic attack. Since I can currently go to work without panicking (usually), I feel that maybe I don't "deserve" a service dog.
The issues that lead me to believe I could potentially benefit from one are as follows:
I was unable to sleep prior to adopting my wonderful emotional support dog, Poe, three months ago. I was also unable to go on a neighborhood walk or go anywhere far from my car alone, and couldn't go outside at night alone at all.
I have strong reason to believe that I have a (mostly) repressed memory of sexual abuse that has a tendency to cause me to disassociate or have what I assume are non-visual/non-auditory flashbacks (I feel intense fear that is not related to the current day situation, cannot speak, have trouble standing if it is severe enough, all the physical symptoms that go along with that, etc.). Thankfully, I do not typically experience that type of trigger at work, although it has happened. That being said, I am currently in school for social work and, because of this, have to face instances where there is discussion of sexual abuse. I have flashbacks/disassociate if I do not completely remove myself from the situation before the discussion begins- I am only in my first year with two full years ahead of me so I know that it will only get worse.
I have had some physical issues lately with weakness, dizziness, that would be nice to be mitigated by a dog, although if the dog was not physically able, that is okay.
I most definitely suffer from depression.
While up until this point I felt like counseling was helping, it has gotten to a point where it hasn't been helping anymore and I feel like my symptoms are progressing. I no longer like going into stores alone, have trouble going to class, even leaving my house on my days off. We managed to go to the dog park that is about 4 yards from our apartment today because our friends (human and dog- the dog is getting trained to be a service dog, as well) were there, but even that took hurculean effort.
As I mentioned above, I adopted a dog three months ago. She is a 5 year old Mastiff who is wonderful. She is very well trained, calm, occasionally slightly jumpy but generally perfect and I bring her to any and all dog friendly stores, around other dogs, etc. and she is wonderful. She was skittish around dogs when I first got her but has since gotten so much better and now tries to play with them at the dog park (she's not quite sure how to play so she just runs after them for 30 seconds, looks confused, and lays down haha). I know that this is old for a dog to become a service dog, especially since she is so large and likely would only live to be about 13 (she is a small mastiff- only 120 as opposed to the typical 160 with a 11 or 12 year lifespan), even though she is already trained to sit, stay, will stay in a store or restaurant (all dog friendly) for the entire duration we are there, regardless of what is going on around her), loose leash walk, fine with kids jumping around, other dogs, etc. If there is no way I could make her work as a service dog (assuming I did qualify), I was wondering if it would be possible to just have her trained to do the tasks in home, work (dog friendly workplace) and dog friendly stores, and maybe take medications at school and for grocery stores, still avoid most social situations, etc? I know she may not be the best candidate due to situations that could not be trained out because of her age/she'd be too late to start a 2 year training process on. But I thought I would see because at this point, after a lifetime of this, I am at a loss of what to do but she has helped me SO much as just an ESA. I live in a 2 bedroom apartment with 2 people and 3 cats, and since she is a pretty mellow dog who is fine napping all the time, I feel fine with the space for her, but another dog in the mix might be a biiiit tight right now.
Thank you so much in advance if anyone read this ridiculously long post!
Afterthought- if it matters, I also have moderate emetephobia and mild to moderate fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. When I discussed the possibility of a SD with my therapist, she thought that having a service dog would be too much of a visual reminder that I was sick, but I'd say all the other issues I'm suffering are pretty good reminders. She also seemed to take issue with the fact that I slept so much better now that I have an ESA and feel safer, so perhaps she isn't a fan of animals in aiding mental illnesses? I am not sure. She never said that she didn't think I could benefit or that I wasn't "sick enough", but maybe I am not, since I am able to go to school, I don't know.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2017, 06:12:44 PM by Poedog »

Offline Tara

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2017, 08:54:52 PM »
There's no such thing as degrees of disability. You are either disabled or you are not. Others can explain the criteria better than I can.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2017, 08:55:17 PM »
A diagnosis doesn't determine whether or not you qualify for a service dog because it is based not on diagnosis, but on disability.  Roughly 3 out of 4 people with a diagnosed mental illness will not be disabled by that illness while about 1 in 4 will be.  What matters in the disability determination is whether you are substantially limited in performing one or more major life activities.  Here's our article with flow chart for helping you to discuss with your mental healthcare providers whether you qualify as disabled under the ADA:  http://servicedogcentral.org/content/qualify-for-service-dog

The next issue is that most of what you've discussed as wanting from your dog, ie companionship, does not qualify a dog as a service dog.  So consider what a helpful robot would do to assist you to overcome your limitations.  Robots can be helpful, but they generally are not good at emotional support, so using the robot test will help you to separate tasks from emotional support.  Once you've idenfied the things you aren't able to do for yourself because of disability, brain storm on what is the best, simplest, easiest, most cost effective, least invasive of the rights of others way to resolve that issue.  For example, suppose you have difficulty remembering when to take medication.  The simplest, most reliable, most cost effective and least invasive solution is to use an alarm or app to remind you.

I see a lot of people who want the companionship of their dog and try to find a way to justify them as a service dog in order to in essence get a public access ESA but that's very risky.  They tend to look at lists of tasks and pick something they think sounds useful and base their claim the dog is a service dog on that but it usually won't hold up when presented to a neutral third party who is logical (such as a judge).  I've seen a number of such cases get lost in the courts.  So don't start at a task list, instead, start with a list of the things your disability prevents you from doing for yourself, and then what you would ask a paid aide or helpful robot to do for you.  You'll find fewer tasks that way, but they won't be flimsy justification that will fall apart in court.

Basic obedience, such as you've described, might take six months off of training but it isn't the bulk of training that a service dog needs to receive.  The hardest part of training a service dog is proofing and generalization so that the dog performs tasks reliably despite distraction.  From the outside it might seem that what a service dog is doing is just being calm and well behaved, but in reality those are just side effects of a larger body of training the dog has received.  Like you only see 10 percent of an iceberg because the rest of it is hidden below the surface.
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Offline Poedog

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2017, 09:11:49 PM »
Thank you so much for your reply!

There are definitely things that I cannot do due to my illnesses, such as go to crowded places, attend some classes, stay anywhere overnight that is not my home, be farther than a 10 minute walk from my home/car (I always need an exit), etc. But you're right, perhaps I am just looking for comfort rather than a tasked trained dog- not knowing much about what tasks they could be trained to do, I'm not sure if there is anything that would help my issues ( therapy, medication, and apps certainly haven't). But perhaps just being a stronger person is necessary, maybe I'm just imagining my issues, I don't know. Thank you, again, for the response!

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2017, 09:24:46 PM »
It's not things you cannot do, but major life activities you cannot perform.  These would be things like thinking, seeing, hearing, walking, manipulating things with your hands, and so on.  Try the flow chart.  It gives a list of major life activities.  And try doing it with your doctor or therapist.  You'll have to change the direction you look at things in order to apply the ADA definition to mental illness.  For example, during a dissociative episode, you are probably limited in the major life activity of thinking.

People often confuse "major life activities" with "activities of daily living" but they are two separate things.  In therapy terms you would be "unpacking" things in a thought journal down to the root issue.  So not "can't go into crowded places" but WHY you can't, what prevents you, and so on.  Whether you discover at the end of the exercise that you are disabled or not, it's a good exercise to do because it can help you identify what is standing in your way so you can chip away at it instead of focusing only on symptoms and trying to deal with them.  Like dandelions.  You can recognize them and systematically pluck them, but until you take them out at the root they're going to keep coming back so you have to deal with them all over again (dandelion = symptom, but the root is what causes the symptoms to keep reappearing).
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Poedog

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2017, 09:29:12 PM »
Ahhh, that makes much more sense. Thank you!! I looked at the flow chart and personally I'd say that i could potentially qualify, since dissociation would fall under thinking, speaking, and sometimes walking, which causes the other issues, and counseling meds haven't worked, but perhaps there's something else. Anyway. Sorry for the ramble. Thank you!

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2017, 12:03:41 AM »
So then your discussion with providers would be whether you were "substantially" limited.  Your providers would have a pretty good idea of the range of function possible from their experience with a wide variety of patients and might offer an opinion of where you fall on that spectrum of experience (slightly impaired, substantially impaired, etc.).  It's largely a judgment call.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Poedog

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2017, 11:26:24 AM »
Gotcha. Thank you SO much for all of the helpful information!
Sorry to ask another question but- does anyone ever train their ESA to perform DPT on command or tactile stimulation for the home/dog friendlt places? I know I may not qualify for a SD so I obviously wouldn't want to take advantage of the system, but for home and dog friendly places, it would be really beneficial. Is that possible?

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2017, 12:22:48 PM »
DPT is better done by weighted blankets, weighted vests and compression garments.  Most people will use weighted blankets at home.  Can you teach your dog to do it?  Sure, but since it's not as good as a weighted blanket it doesn't make much sense to use that in lieu of a weighted blanket.

"Tactile stimulation" is hugger code for "petting."  What is a hugger?  There was a group that has broken into smaller groups that used to advocate wacky things like choosing a dog who didn't like to be hugged so they could train it to tolerate being hugged so they could say the dog was trained to perform a "task."  I'm serious about this.  And they came up with fancy sounding terms for natural behaviors one would expect to share with any pet or ESA as a way to justify calling their pet or ESA a PSD so they could have the animal's companionship anywhere.  This group is the cause of the explicit exclusion of emotional support and companionship in the definition of "service animal" when it was updated in 2010.  So they called petting "tactile stimulation" and they called basic obedience "work" because it was necessary for the animal to be with them for emotional support and companionship.  In other words, though their dogs weren't actually trained to do anything to mitigate their disabilities, they called the basic training their dogs did have "work" in order to claim they met the legal definition.  Anyway, the group fractured and the largest piece that remains is one called "psychdogpartners" and though they are more moderate than the original group they still maintain some of the misleading and inaccurate information that made the original group infamous.

Instead of looking at task lists for ideas on how a dog might help, I suggest trying that robot model to find things that really will help.  The answer won't always be something a dog is best suited to do, but that is okay.  You already have an ESA.  You are allowed to want and recieve all the emotional support available from your dog as an ESA already.  You don't have to justify it.  I don't know you or your circumstances to easily suggest possible tasks for you.  That's okay too though because you can find them for yourself by making yourself a list of the things you cannot do for yourself, prioritizing your list and starting with your focus on the top three items that most screw with your ability to function.  For each of these items, brain storm what kind of help you need to overcome these challenges.  Because we're talking about work at home with a dog that is already an ESA, you don't have to look for tasks to justify the dog as a SD, just at things that are truly helpful to you.  So sky's the limit on your brain storming.  Sometimes, if you are willing to look at your list of challenges with a truly open mind, you will find solutions that do not involve the dog.  That's okay to.  A dog isn't going to be the best answer to all or probably even most of the challenges a person with a disability faces in functioning.  What matters is finding more effective ways to function, no matter how.  Sometimes they will be things that a dog is very well suited to help.  That's where we can best help you.  Suppose you have a particular challenge, like an overwhelming fear of dark rooms.  There are a number of possible solutions from technology (remote light switches) to teaching the dog where the light switches are and how to operate them.  So if you wanted coaching or tips on teaching a dog how to operate light switches, we can cover that.  Whatever you want to teach your dog to do, if you can describe the behavior clearly, we can probably come up with some ideas or tips on training it.
Kirsten and Tardis
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"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline swimmergirl247

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2017, 05:21:58 AM »
Hi and weclome! just FYI for alot of us it is very hard to read posts without breaks even if they aren't necessarily really "paragraphs that an English teacher would back at. it does help those of use who have memory and word processing difficulties.

just a few facts you night also need to know

it takes 2 years ish(some less and some more) to train a service dog and a lot more money than people think even if Owner training(actually especially while OTing)

you will run into confrontations and just a lot of stupid random question' there are many ways of handling this but bottom line even with techniques(I hand out "info" cards that answer the top 5 questions I get and a little paragraph about what teddy does(tasks) and then I have the aDA info on the back for business.

its better to have smaller less "standoutish" dog also having and using a large breed dog raise the risk of negative confrontations(I have a poodle and I get people freak out about him because of his size)

service dog's may make life and symptoms worse for those with social anxiety, its different for everybody some find the dog out weights the added attention, while other's simply can't handle it after a while. its very individual. but the game changes a bit once you venture out of pet frienldy places

A dog can't make you do something you won't or are unable to do for yourself- for example if you train your dog to alert to anxiety and the dog warns you that's it, they warn you maybe two or three times, but if you ignore them and don't phrase the dog and take action(or fallow up with more commands) then eventually the dog will give up because you don't listen. there are limitations of what a dog can do which is why the robot model helps.

all that being said a if a PSD is for you then strongly suggest finding a good trainer to help you and should you move forward with your massif or working with a different

no matter what you choose ESA PSD, at home service dog, or just a well trained pet we are here to help.

Theodore(Teddy)SD you truly gods gift to me.
Abigail(retired SD you may not physically be with me but your wings and protection will always be in my heart.
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Offline LawDog

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2017, 07:26:04 AM »
...start with a list of the things your disability prevents you from doing for yourself, and then what you would ask a paid aide or helpful robot to do for you.  You'll find fewer tasks that way, but they won't be flimsy justification that will fall apart in court.

This is one of the best pieces of advice I have found on this board, so far.
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Offline Poedog

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2017, 11:08:22 AM »
Thank you so much for all of the responses!!

I have found all of this information very helpful. It's so hard to come across good information about service dogs; I have a friend who is getting a service dog for PTSD that she got diagnosed with from a trauma that occurred about 3 months ago and is getting a service dog in order to get off of her medication, because she is not comfortable going to therapy. She has found a service dog trainer, though.

While I am thankful that my disabilities do not warrant a service dog, part of it is frustrating. From my limited knowledge, I think I could benefit from one BUT I know that my symptoms are not severe enough to warrant one. But after struggling for the entirety of my life and having reached the point in counseling where I feel that I have gotten everything out of it I could have and have not seen any improvement in quite a long time, it's saddening to know that this may just be it and it could get worse but as far as what I can do, it may truly not get better.

But, I am thankful for what I have. I just feel sad, frustrated, and a bit hopeless.

Anyway, that was my rant. Thank you all so much again for your assistance!

Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2017, 03:28:48 PM »
Service dogs are not a substitute for therapy or medication and three months is not nearly enough time to recover from a trauma.

Service dogs are not treatment, they're mitigation to be considered when further recovery is not possible.
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Offline Poedog

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2017, 04:09:30 PM »
Service dogs are not a substitute for therapy or medication and three months is not nearly enough time to recover from a trauma.

Service dogs are not treatment, they're mitigation to be considered when further recovery is not possible.

I agree. I have tried to explain that to her, but as her gynecologist has said that she supports it and written her a prescription for a service dog, and a trainer has agreed to work with her, I don't have much pull. I am obviously no expert so all I can do is be her friend. Maybe she does truly need a service dog, I am not sure. I don't feel that there is anything that I can do besides inform her of what I know.

That's what is frustrating to me. I feel like I've gotten as far as I can with counseling, I have hit where I feel like I can get in my recovery. I feel like I'm pretty much as good as it will get for me. But I am not sure if my disability is severe enough to warrant a service dog.

Offline Summertime.and.Azkaban

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Re: Do I qualify? Am I sick "enough"? Unsure where to go from here...
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2017, 04:56:16 PM »
If you have a disability at all, you're eligible for a service dog. Whether it's a wise decision for you is between your health care provider and yourself.

Three months isn't long enough for a mental health problem to be disabling, I think it needs to be four months or longer. She has no way of knowing if the condition is chronic because she hasn't sought proper treatment.

An OB/GYN can not write a prescription for a psych dog, her case would likely fall apart in court,  we've had discussions here about being disabled by mental illness without receiving treatment and as a general rule one must be in therapy or be receiving other care/treatment for mental illness for it to be disabling. There are exceptions, but there's no way a judge would rule in her favor if an OB/GYN is the only person to sign off on her SD.

There is no specific level of severity that suddenly warrants a SD. Any level of disability makes you legally eligible for a SD, beyond that it's a decision to be made with your doctor as to how the dog will effect your function and further recovery if recovery is possible. Someone with low function who has a paid caregiver is no more eligible for a SD than someone who has high function and can work with accommodations and live alone.
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