Service Dogs are amazing animals that can transform lives. It may be tempting to rush into the process of getting one. But it might be good to take a few moments and consider some of the ways that having a Service Dog would impact your life; in addition to helping with your disability.
There are many things to consider; some that you may not have thought about.
A Service Dog won’t magically fix all of your problems
The first thing to realize is that a Service Dog is not a magical elixir that will fix all the bad things in your world, and make them go away, so that your days are filled only with sunshine and butterflies; although I am positive that you and your dog can find plenty of sunshine and butterflies, too!
A Service Dog is considered just one of the many things in your health and life-improvement toolkit, if you will. It is best to use your Service Dog in conjunction with other therapies that you may need, such as counselling, medications, or other professional services or products; but expecting the Service Dog to be your therapist, medication, and doctor all in one, may not work out the best for all situations and may not be realistic.
Remember that a Service Dog is still a Dog. He can only do what he can do. He can provide an amazing, priceless, life-altering service; but he can not speak English, he can not fly to the moon, he can not drive you to your pharmacist, he can not call your mom for you! (or can he?)
You and Your Service Dog Will Attract Attention
This might sound obvious, but if you’re always walking around in public with your Service Dog, you are going to get noticed. You may not be the type of person who likes attention from random strangers, but you may have no choice. Children and adults alike will be attracted to your dog, wherever it is that you may go.
- Since Service Dogs are permitted into public places that regular pets are not always allowed, you may also get extra attention and it might not always be positive.
- Not everyone is educated about Service Dogs or the laws around them.
- Not everyone likes dogs.
- Not everyone is understanding about people with disabilities.
- Not everyone understands that a lot of disabilities are invisible.
People may even become confrontational, especially when they are uneducated about Service Dogs. Do you know the best way to deal with confrontational individuals? Service Dog schools and organizations can help prepare you for these challenges, but it’s impossible for them to prepare you for every possible situation.
Do you love being the centre of attention? Are you prepared to answer a lot of questions about your dog, or about people with disabilities in general? Are you okay with the fact that your Service Dog, in a way, acts as physical evidence – or dare I say an advertisement – of your possibly invisible disability?
I would like to be able to tell you that it’s possible to have a Service Dog and then be able to just slink into the background wherever you go… but it’s just not going to happen. In many cases, it will still be worth it to get a Service Dog despite this all, but it’s good to be prepared. It may get frustrating having to answer the same questions every single day from different people, wherever you go, especially if you’re just in the mood to be left alone.
Financial Commitment That Can Last 10-15 Years
While there may be little or no cost upfront to get your Service Dog (Thanks to very generous donations and sponsorships at most of the Service Dog programs and organizations… Thank You…Thank You…Thank You!), remember that you will be responsible for subsequent costs; and that there will be ongoing costs for as long as you have your dog, which could be 10 or even 15 years.
Service Dogs do not usually work into old age, but if you choose to keep your dog after his retirement, he will still of course continue to need stuff that costs money.
Just some of the costs to think about would be:
- Food for the dog – is it a big dog? Big dogs need more food!
- Veterinary Care – regular care, but he might get sick or injured, he might step on a nail; this all costs money
- Other equipment or supplies
A Service Dog is Still a Dog!
Every single day your dog will still be a dog. I am sorry if this sounds very obvious! Every single day your dog needs:
- Time to play and just be a dog – don’t be surprised if he might want to randomly chase a squirrel when he’s not at work
- To attend to the ‘Call of Nature’
- Are you committed to taking him out for these things, 365 days per year, 7 days per week, even if it’s cold outside, raining, or snowing, or hailing?
Your Service Dog will have an amazing skill set. But it won’t help anyone if the dog is not challenged, or not allowed to practice his skills, or to learn new skills. Are you committed, or at least sensitive, to the fact that the dog may require ongoing training?
Dogs have personalities, and they may want to show you a lot more of their personality if they are not getting opportunities to practice their skills, if you know what I’m saying!
Your Service Dog at Home
- Is your home environment a good place for a Service Dog?
- Do you have family members who are allergic to dogs?
- Do you have space to have a dog?