“SERVICE ANIMALS”

OK. Today is going to be a touchy issue. If I offend anyone, I apologize and please note that is not my intention. Today’s subject is people and their so-called “service animals”. I get that people need animals for emotional support and get attached to their pets. Believe me…I do. I am very attached to my dog Dixie. But to me, I think this whole thing is getting a little outta control. People are trying to pass off the wild animals as being “service animals”. Some instances of people getting so-called “Service animals” on planes…and succeeding, mind you!…are a potbelly pig, a duck, and a peacock. Yes, you read that correctly. Someone actually fought the airline to get their peacock on a plane cross-country on the grounds that it was a “service animal”…AND WON! What the actual Hell?! A peacock?! Sorry…I kinda went off on a tangent there.

But I know what you are saying to yourselves. “Tom, this blog forum is about Autism. How does this pertain to Autism?” I’ll tell you. People with Autism often have service animals to help relieve stress, anxiety, repetitive behavior…whatever. Some people legitimately need animals to cope. And yes, I realize anxiety is an issue among a lot of the American population. But I do feel some people might be cheating the system, for lack of a better term. I feel people just can’t stand to be “left out” and want to be like everyone else. Hence, they have a form or a piece of paper that says they can bring an animal uncaged on an airplane to help them relieve anxiety and stress. I am not belittling these people, but I think they are getting a little too wild. A PEACOCK?!

I am attached to my dog and I have some anxiety, but you would never see me bringing my dog on a plane, even if she is really well-behaved. I have said it before, and I will say it again. People, especially Aspies, have a “bond” or “connection” with their pets and that is fine. I get it. I love my dog to Heaven and back. But I don’t need her 24/7 and don’t pretend to. As a side thing, I attended camp on the Eastern Shore of Maryland a few weeks ago in Chestertown. I had my cell phone with me, and was on the phone with my parents every day I was there. A counselor asked me if I missed my parents. My honest-to-God answer was, “No, not really. I miss my dog more than anything. I can talk to my parents anytime. My dog can’t talk.”

So yeah…I have an emotional attachment to my dog. I know I want a dog when I move in with Allie…WHEN…but I don’t think I will bring it everywhere as a support system. I know Allie wants a support dog but that is to help her with her mobility. I get that and support her in that decision.

BUT if you need a pig or a peacock for emotional support…I think you need some serious help. Why not just a dog like regular people? I want a Bearded Dragon, a kind of lizard, when I move out, but I only want it AS A PET! I have had a Bearded Dragon before and they are as friendly as they come. Gex was my baby. MINE! And I think that’s why I am so attached to Dixie now. She is, simply put, MY dog. Sure, my family calls her “our dog” but I got her from a horse farm 10 years ago and the trainer asked ME if I wanted her. Not my mom, not my dad, not my sisters…ME! Therefor, she’s mine.

Strange and funny as it sounds, I think pets can sorta tell when something is “up” with their owner(s). Take my old dog, Buster, for example. He was my buddy and my best friend…and the best dog I have ever had. (Sorry Dixie). Buster was always by my side and we were inseparable. I think I felt more upset when Buster died than when my grandfather died. We had known my grandfather’s health was deteriorating for awhile and that he was gonna go any time now. Buster on the other hand? He got sick and we had him put down 2 or 3 days later. So I had very little time to say goodbye.

I was in Alabama for my cousin’s military graduation. I went home early with my parents and basically kicked the door in to get to Buster. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with, in my opinion. I ran to Buster and he looked pathetic, laying in his own shit and piss on a tarp. So I had tears in my eyes and said, “I think Buster was waiting for us to get home so he could see us one more time.” Emotionally, here’s where I lost it. My dad put his hand on my shoulder and says, “Actually I think he wanted to see you one more time.” I started crying. It may seem irrelevant of me to bring that up, but I told you that to prove my point. I have Autism and I think my pets, strange as it sounds, could sense that and were protective of me.

When I broke my arm and had my pacemaker installed, my dogs never left my side when I came home. They knew I was hurt and wanted to make sure I was ok. So again…point proven. So I get the whole “support animal” thing, but I do think there should be a limit. Like, a pig and a peacock on a plane is a little out there. I ride the light rail in Baltimore everyday and there is a guy with a service dog. That I get. The guy is partially blind and needs the dog to help him navigate. So I see the necessity.

In closing, I know each person has their own varying opinions on this and I would love to hear my readers’ and subscribers’ POV or opinions on this. Feel free to let me know what you think and thank you.

Author: AuTom Spectrum Blog

I have Autism and am a self-advocate and public speaker. On the side I do stand-up comedy. I live in Baltimore County and have an AMAZING girlfriend

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