One of the things I’ve gotten a lot in my ask box that I want to address is this.
The short answer is: Does your service dog lessen the severity of your disability in some way? If that answer is yes, then congrats! You are disabled enough for your service dog.
The longer answer is:
This is a hard question to answer based on the little information I’m given about people. I don’t know what your disability is, and I don’t want to know unless you’re willing to share that with me. I don’t need to hear a list of your daily struggles to be able to give you the approval you seek. My word is not law when it comes to being a service dog handler, and I don’t want it to be!
The service dog community can be really bad about gatekeeping, I know. I’ve been there. It’s really easy to feel like you are “not disabled enough” for your service dog. Especially if your dog’s primary task is to perform deep pressure therapy - because for some reason this isn’t seen as a true “task” by a lot of people, and frankly I don’t know why. Training your dog to sit still and apply pressure on your body is definitely a trained task and takes practice to get right. My dog still has trouble with digging his elbows into me sometimes, and we’ve been working on DPT training for over a year.
That said, a lot of this feeling of not being disabled enough has nothing to do with the tasks that your dog can or cannot perform for you. It’s an internal feeling that you get - that a lot of disabled people get - when they’ve been doing well. I get it. My mother gets it. It’s just part of the process. For some reason your mind just decides that because you’ve not been sick for a while, you must be faking it. If you don’t get that feeling, then this post probably isn’t for you.
The fact of the matter is, you have a disability that requires the assistance of a service dog. That’s why you spent so much time training (or were able to receive from a program) a service dog. Somehow, some way you are disabled and struggle in a way that a dog can help you. Whether that be by applying deep pressure therapy or fetching medications or assisting with mobility, it doesn’t matter. Your disability is alleviated in some way by the presence of a service dog.
Sure, I can go to the store without Hesper sometimes and I don’t have any problems getting my items and interacting with the cashier. That’s because I’m having a relatively good day. However, it doesn’t take much to tip the scale in the other direction. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to accidentally brush my arm, and I’ll completely break down into a panic attack. Would I need Hesper then? Of course I would! That’s why I have him. He’s a safety net. I may not need him 24/7, but if he isn’t there when I do need him, it can be -gasp- disabling!
I know, that’s shocking. Take a moment to soak that in because I’m sure it’s no different for you, regardless of what your actual disability is.
Don’t let people tell you that just because you’re doing well and having a good day means you don’t need your service dog. Don’t let your own mind make you believe that either. If your service dog helps you in some way to manage your disability when you’re doing badly - that means you are disabled enough to have a service dog.
For those of you with service animals, some reassurance. And for those of you considering a service animal, a little insight!