“No Dogs Allowed” - A Crash Course in Service Animals, Part 1
Peanut the Maltipoo and I were enjoying our new life together, sharing this apartment of mine. I signed her up for training, we attended “Puppy Socials” which she became quite the star, exhibiting her sweet nature and showed ease-of-interaction with all sorts of other canines. In the apartment, she displayed nothing but puppy fun, chewing everything, peeing wherever. Yes, she was a pleasure and a pain!
As I was currently on a hiatus from working, she enjoyed (and became way dependent) on my constant companionship. Only being in this apartment-style living for a few months, I was still adjusting to living on a 2nd floor with no front or backyard. Just a small balcony as my outside territory. Thus, daily walks were vital to my and Peanut’s well-being. One day I passed a neighbor who asked me straight out: “How did you get approval from the landlord to have a dog?” My answer was more of a panicked, “Uh….I didn’t. I thought pets were OK!?”
“Cats only. No dogs allowed.”, was his retort. Yikes. “Unless,” he continued,” the dog is a service animal.” (“Service animal?”, I thought, “Like a guide dog for the blind?” wondered my ignorance.)
The walls crashed down around me. I either have to move (again) or get rid of my precious pup?
That afternoon while expressing my situation to some folks at the coffee shop who were petting Peanut, a woman told me flat out: “It’s easy to get the ESA tags, etc. Just Google ESA for dogs.” I was instantly led into the world of registering my animal as a service animal, I thought. Not then knowing ANYthing about rules, regulations, and the honor and respect for service vs. support animals under the terms of the ADA. (I wish I was first instructed to go here: https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm)
Alas, Google pops up as #1 search find a website http://www.usserviceanimals.org/register/?gclid=CJS3n9Wxy88CFRCbfgodbpAMFQ with offers to quickly and easy get your dog registered. I clicked away without reading much, as I was panicked still about losing my living space or my dog, and purchased the Emotion SUPPORT Animal package. After all, Peanut was indeed serving as an emotional support animal for me, just as my therapist prescribed. (See previous blog, “Get a Puppy…”) Not seeing much reason to read on about “support” vs. “service”, regulations, etc. I got my credit card out and ordered the kit for Peanut. Uploaded a picture of her and finished the process in minutes. Wow! Problem solved, right?
Days later, the ESA kit arrived. ESA tags, ESA leash, ESA vest. Sweet. I’m ready to visit my landlord. That visit was rather abrupt, as my landlord, (who adored meeting Peanut as most people do), and was a very sweet elderly woman, quickly told me upon looking at Peanut’s ESA register papers: “Tim, I need a doctor’s note prescribing a service animal for you. Not these tags, etc. because anyone get buy these on the internet without due merit.” I shrunk. I felt shame. Panicked again. But wait! I was prescribed a puppy, right? Back to my therapist for a “doctor’s note.”
“I can’t write such a note, Tim, as I am a psychologist not an M.D.”, came the reply from my therapist. Damn. Walls crashing down again. Cut to the chase, I had to wind up seeing my regular physician, explain my divorce, emotional unrest, anxiety, my sleep problems, etc. that led me to get a puppy. He gladly wrote out a note for my landlord. Sweet. (My Lord, the POWER of an M.D. is huge in so many ways.) So I succeeded in backtracking my way into securing Peanut in my apartment with my landlord’s approval. There was ignorance, assumptive/selfish moves on my part, blindly following the ignorance of others, learning JUST THE BEGINNING of the value and importance of the service animal world.
There was so much more to learn. I made many more assumptions and mistakes over the next few months, of which I will share in coming blogs.
DOGS GIVE FREE LOVE, BUT LOVE IS NOT FREE!