Is That a REAL Support Animal?

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Service dogs are amazing. They have been extensively trained, live strict but loved lives, and take care of their owners like truly no one else can. The dogs' abilities to detect seizures, pick up dropped items, and even warn owners of impending stroke or heart attack make these dogs literally life savers.

With all the amazing things these animals can do, it's no wonder we have learned to accept them in places we usually wouldn't, like a restaurant or the office. But there is a growing cynicism towards service and support animals in general, and mostly because of misunderstanding, and I'll admit that I used to be one of these people.

I was not raised in a house with pets, and I never could understand the “emotional support animal”. I could understand a seeing eye dog or a dog that assists with the hearing impaired, but these are obvious needs that a dog could help with. When I would see articles about an emotional support pig or bunny, I would roll my eyes.

Then, my husband was deployed to a war zone and less than 2 years later we were navigating our life with our newest addition who has special needs. My eyes were opened. My son's special needs aren't obvious. He looks like a healthy toddler, and physically he is. But he suffers from what we refer to as an invisible illness. His brain and senses do not connect properly, causing all kinds of issues, one being complete meltdowns that are almost uncontrollable unless we can find something to catch his attention, usually a fan or strobe light.

My friend, however, has a dog who acts as an emotional support dog to her autistic child and I saw how my son immediately attached to her. He calmed around her. I also saw that dog do the same thing with anyone who was emotional, including my husband whom tried to hide his ongoing inner battle. This dog was never trained, but was actually just picked out at the shelter after making a connection with her family.

I remember thinking that anything that could bring my two guys comfort and help would be amazing, even if it was a gecko. I started looking at sites and reading and was amazed to find how many people felt like I used to, that these weren't necessary, that emotional support animals are ludicrous or laughable. But they aren't.

Every day, people suffer from invisible illnesses that these amazing animals help with. They aren't always trained, but are a loving companion that can bring relief to their owners' suffering and these people and animals often are treated with prejudice. It does seem silly that a turkey can bring comfort to a guy on a plane, but we just don't know and should refrain from thinking we do.

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