I went to Taos yesterday for a medical appointment and errands. I brought Wally, my service animal with me. I have been a nurse for 28 years and specialized in traumatic brain injury. …
I went to Taos yesterday for a medical appointment and errands. I brought Wally, my service animal with me. I have been a nurse for 28 years and specialized in traumatic brain injury. I have spent the last 10 years working with adults with disabilities. I am fortunate that I have had the opportunity to be well educated and I have used that education to advocate for my patients, clients and my children.
In the last two years, I have experienced the death of my 12-year-old son by suicide, my mother’s choice to no longer fight her illness in a world where "my grandson will not say good morning each day" and then my dear friend's suicide a year later. Needless to say, the grief has been intense.
I am certainly a highly functioning adult. Currently, I cannot function at the level I was before all the loss. It has been just over two years. There are days when I cannot leave the house. There are days that I leave the house and I melt down during the process.
Wally is my emotional support. He knows where I am emotionally and keeps me grounded.
I am sharing this in the context of background for my experience in Taos yesterday. I’m certain it is not specific to Taos.
I had an appointment yesterday with my chiropractor. I was escorted to a treatment room and Wally lay down as he was directed. I changed out of my clothes and into the exam gown that everyone loves … no shoes on either. The office manager opened the door to the room. I do not remember a knock. She asked me if I really needed the dog. I was taken aback and felt really uncomfortable and I’m certain she did as well. She suggested that I tie the dog on the front porch as other patients do. ... She mentioned that many of their patients had allergies. As a nurse, I certainly understand the implications and I actually have allergies related to being a nurse for so long. I know that she repeated multiple times, “Do you really need the dog?”
I proceeded to get dressed, still not sure what I was going to do. I stated that I just would not keep my appointment, which I had driven an hour to make. Eventually, she said since I was there that I could just keep him with me. By the time the doctor entered and asked a simple question, I burst into tears. I really do function in the real world most days. I was able to receive my adjustment and therapy.
My next stop was the health food store. I have not been sleeping well and I was looking for melatonin. Wally has been in there multiple times with me. He stays close and we work at creating a small footprint, so to speak. On the first aisle, a gentleman that could have been my father’s age rolled his eyes when he saw Wally. It was not a discreet expression. This was an employee. I continued my shopping and passed this employee multiple times. In one passing as we were leaving the vitamin aisle, he stepped back and looked at Wally and muttered that he had his nose on something. Yes, his head was down, but he was not pillaging the plastic sealed vitamin bottles. Nor did he stick his nose on the meat counter, etc.
While on the next aisle, a shopper came up to me and stated that she had a service dog as well and left it at home today because the pavement was hot! Surely a consideration if I was hiking him down the street for any distance.
Once I left the store, I was done. I was really upset.
It is appropriate for business owners to ask if the dog is needed for a disability and what task the dog performs. Many disabilities are not visible. A business owner can certainly request a dog to leave if the dog is not well behaved. It is not appropriate to ask someone if they really need their service animal. A service animal does not have to wear a vest and there is no federal training or certification program.
I understand that the office manager was advocating for patients, but I was one as well. Compassion and education are necessary. You never know what someone’s story is.
(Cited source: federalservicedogregistration.org.)
LisaAnn Bear is a nurse and lives in Dixon.
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