Yes, Bruce Wayne is my Emotional Support Animal. No, Bruce Wayne is not a trained Service Dog. There is a difference, yet, many people do not always know the difference. Since today is “Assistance Dog Day”, I thought this would be a good time to share exactly how even a small Chihuahua can help improve your everyday life.
For some reason, there’s this stigma that working dogs are only larger dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers. Don’t believe me? Walk through the airport with Bruce Wayne and I when we arrive at the ticket gate and you’ll see first hand the disbelief we encounter. It’s certainly not the end of the world and there are pet parents that are certainly dealing with bigger issues than being judged at an airport counter, but I can’t help but try to educate people in knowing the difference, so that no one else gets the judgmental looks as we do.
What is an Emotional Support Dog?
In essence, it is exactly what it sounds like. Bruce Wayne provides emotional support for me. I suffer from anxiety. Yes, I have actually been diagnosed with Generalized and Social Anxiety Disorder from a Board Certified Psychologist. Yes, this is different from your everyday cause or concerns that you may experience. And yes, I am currently in therapy for my anxieties.
Each week, I take Bruce Wayne to my therapy appointments where he helps keep me calm and relaxed. It may sound ironic that the thing that is supposed to help me, also gives me anxiety. Anyone else that suffers from anxiety knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Benefits of an Emotional Support Dog ….
Anyone that owns a dog knows and has felt the comfort that a dog can lend to an owner. In recent studies, The American Heart Association has shown that owning a dog has reduced the risk for heart disease.
“Mood-Boosting Power of Dogs: How Caring for a Dog Helps You ….” https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/mood-boosting-power-of-dogs.htm. Accessed 7 Aug. 2017.
Personally, for me, Bruce Wayne provides a level of comfort to help calm me in everyday situations. The largest impact he has is when I fly. I have a horrible fear of flying and each trip is an anxiety, riddled fueled adventure, however, Bruce Wayne helps to keep me calm and rational on each trip I take.
How To Have Your Dog Become an Emotional Support Dog
There are so many people that could benefit from having your dog with you by your side in anxious situations. The great thing about an Emotional Support Animal is that there is technically, no training your dog needs to have. Since they are providing comfort, there is no “special training” required. However, to keep everyone from labeling their pet as an Emotional Service Animal, airlines, landlords and others have strict restrictions in place. For instance, when I fly with Bruce Wayne, I have to call the airline in advance of our flight to alert them that I am flying with an Emotional Support Dog. In addition, I have to check in at the ticket counter (even if you pre-print your boarding pass) to show evidence that Bruce Wayne is a “certified” Emotional Support Animal. Below is Southwest Air’s current regulations for traveling with a Emotional Support Animal:
“Animals used for a Customer’s emotional support are accepted in the cabin. Emotional support animals will be allowed to travel on flights to/from all domestic and international destinations with the exception of Jamaica. No animals will be allowed to travel to/from Jamaica on Southwest Airlines under any circumstances due to country-specific regulations. In order for a Customer to travel with an emotional support animal, the Customer must provide to a Southwest Airlines Employee current documentation (not more than one year old) on letterhead from a mental health professional or medical doctor who is treating the Customer’s mental health-related disability stating:
- The Passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition (DSM IV)
- The Passenger needs the emotional support of psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger’s destination
- The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional or medical doctor, and the Passenger is under his or her professional care AND
- The date and type of mental health professional’s or medical doctor’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued”
As you can see, the regulations are much more strict for traveling with an Emotional Support Animal than a service dog, as you do not need any medical documentation when traveling with a service dog. If you would like to have your pet be “certified” as an Emotional Support Animal, you’ll need to visit a psychologist. If you are truly in need of your animal’s comfort, this will be beneficial to you beyond traveling around with your pet. It will start you on the road to recovery and being able to live and manage your anxieties.
I hope I’ve shed some positive light on Emotional Service Animals and that you keep an open mind next time you see one. Yes, some of them may be small, but the love and security they provided is larger than you’d ever imagine!