by No Dogs Allowed
Dr. Cindy Dillon and her husband Jim, who claim they need a service dog to help them eat at a restaurant.
Redding, CA - When Dr. Cindy Dillon sees patients in her office, she is usually accompanied by “Jazz,” her Jack Russell terrier – and so-called “service” dog.
“She rescued me as much as I rescued her,” said Dr. Dillon, a family medicine practitioner. “I’ve had seven surgeries in four years. I consider myself lucky to be upright walking.”
The article I’ve linked here doesn’t explain what functions Jazz performs for Dr. Dillon, or what credentials the dog has – only that so-called fake service animal claims abound, so beware!
And also beware of anyone claiming to have an animal other than a dog that performs services for them – because the service label is one that dog-lovers guard closely for themselves.
Originally, the term service dog meant guide dogs for blind people, according to Lee Anne Smith, who oversees service animal regulations for Redding and the rest of Shasta County.
“The original reason for having service dogs was for seeing-eye dogs back in the day,” said Ms. Smith. “It was very different in the beginning.”
But then everyone started slapping a red vest onto their pet, and that’s when the trouble began. “Now you can’t have a service snake or service chicken,” said Ms. Smith. “Believe me, people were doing that.”
In early 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice declared dogs and miniature horses the only “legitimate” service animals.
But this declaration has led to many people trying to pass off their backyard barker as a service dog, something which Ms. Smith admits happens “all the time.”
I might be more accepting of service dogs if I could see some point to them. But the “service” that many dogs supposedly provide is questionable. Ditto for so-called “therapy” dogs.
Back in 2005, I briefly saw a therapist. I had gone through job loss and the challenge of trying to keep a transcontinental relationship alive - that year was a tough one for me. Once a week, I told my troubles to a woman who kept two toy-sized “therapy” poodles in her office. Once she shut her office door and I began to talk, the poodles fought viciously with each other in the waiting room. The snarling, yipping and growling got so loud, that I stopped speaking and looked expectantly at my counselor – how could anyone talk or listen with Poodle Death Match going on in the next room?
“Are they bothering you?” she finally asked me. “Uh……umm,” I stammered. I didn’t want to displease her, but eventually summoned the courage to speak my mind.
“Um……yes,” I finally said. Whew! I think that was the most therapeutic moment I had in this woman’s office.
She, however, didn’t take it so well – she was a large woman, and standing up took great effort. I felt guilty making her get up, because she looked as if she could have a heart attack at any moment. After much grunting and groaning, she managed to heave her Buddha-sized body off her loveseat and tend to the dogs. I don’t know if she put them in another room in her office suite, or if she stashed them in her car for the duration of our session – but I remember she was gone a long time.
I decided to see a new therapist.
I think the problem with the therapy and service animal designations is that they’re too vague and abused too often. Therapy is in the eye of the beholder. And I believe that’s all that “Jazz” is to Dr. Dillon – she’s simply clinging to an animal that provides her comfort. I don’t see that it performs any real function for her.
And, I think that so-called service dogs appeal to parents of special-needs children because they provide the child with sympathy and positive attention that most people do not give the disabled otherwise. I see handicapped people stared at and treated horribly sometimes, and I wonder if a dog would bring them the respect they deserve.
As the mother of a special-needs child, I have cried sometimes at the horribly prejudiced way in which my son has been treated – but I’m still not getting him a dog.
Lately I’ve noticed that service dog fundraisers are the new social media darlings – hey, my diabetic/autistic child needs a service dog! Can you spare a dollar or two?
That’s one bandwagon I’m not jumping on. A dog is a Band-Aid that covers up the real problem, which is the awful way in which disabled people are often treated.