Friday, April 19, 2013

Service 3/3

Here’s the last post of a three part series on how Mac came to be a service dog.  Thanks for sticking with me.  If you missed posts one and two, you can click those respective numbers to get all caught up.

And again, if you love the banana song as much as I do (I doubt it)… here’s that for your reading soundtrack.

From the point I first started mulling Mac-as-Service-Dog over, to this point right now, where Mac sits beside me AS a Service Dog, took a few months.  A few months for me to admit I wanted/ needed to seek help.  A few months for me to admit what he was already doing was such a help to me (because I originally felt like using a dog to avoid an attack might be a a bit of a cop-out).  A few months to tell a few people I'm close with about this idea, and gauge their reactions to the situation.  Would they be supportive?  Would they think I just want the attention?  Would they think I'm being ridiculous?

 I know we're talking Anxiety Disorder, not Depression.  But same sentiment.

I got three different reactions to these conversations.  The first reaction was support, for which, I am eternally grateful.  Ultimately one of my anxieties is a need to appear that I am on top of my game, all the time.  A need for approval.  
The Mister was the strongest in this reaction category, and I think that was my final push, because he's the only person who has truly seen me at my worst, and he can truly attest to what Mac does in those times, so he ultimately was the best equipped to be a sounding board with all the information but without some of my biases.  Holy snot folks, I picked a great husband.  The doctor I saw was of course second there, because I trust his opinion as a professional.  

The second reaction was skepticism.  I don't think it came from a perspective trying to be mean, I think it comes from not having an understanding of what it feels like to have a panic attack, how crushing and real that is, and how a little help would be immeasurable.
Along with that, I'm sure there's something mixed in there too that was "she just likes dogs and wants her dog with her all the time."  Folks, this is only half true.  I won't lie and say I don't enjoy having Mac with me, I mean, he is an excellent dog.  But I want/ need my dog with me when I don't feel like I'm having a successful day.  Most of the time, with the life I lead, this is entirely possible because I work in a pet store, and Mac can second as my Demo Dog for training classes.  Outside of that, typically I'm home with him anyway.  
But going on trips… the Mister will tell you, travel almost never goes well for me.  Now, Mac can come to any hotel with me, fly on a plane, or ride with me on public transportation when I get anxious about all of the things that could go wrong with all those people stuffed together in one very dirty place.  Who knows, maybe I won't pass out or cry by focusing on that guy who just open-mouth sneezed in my direction, because instead I can focus on the dog sitting on my foot, pressing himself into my legs.  And wouldn't that be amazing.
When I feel balanced, a week, or month, or if the stars align, monthSI am confident leaving the house without a backup plan, and without Mac.  This was one of my primary concerns that I shared with the doctor.  I don't know that I need him ALL THE TIME.  And he told me that this actually made Mac reasonable as a way to manage the attacks.  Because the other option he could suggest for management was medication.  
Medication, because I suffer irregular attacks, would be prescribed as a "take this when you feel one coming on" sort of deal.  Except I don't have that feeling, that time window, in any manner which would make medicine effective.  I'd be too busy focusing on other things to break out of my head and take a pill.  Even if I did, once I feel it coming on, the timing means the attack would be mostly through by the time anything I took to combat it would kick in and make me an emotionless blob.  Let me be clear:  while medication is effective and more than valid in many cases for many people, if I have a way to be successful without altering my mind's chemistry, I'd like to go that route for as long as it's working.
I have a general understanding of what things bring these attacks on and why - It's life on a whole and the un-certainties said life throws at me.  The things that throw off my groove.  I can't stop dealing with life, and generally speaking I do LIKE dealing with life.  Managing anxiety is more a matter of figuring out what it takes to deal with life in a way that helps you avoid attacks.  Dare I say Mac has identified himself in that area already.

The third reaction was the most common:  pity mixed with embarrassment for my perceived benefit.  That was a bit hard for me to hear, though I know it comes from a loving place.  These folks just didn't want me to have to publicly state there was something wrong with me.  To have a dog with me as a Service Dog is such a blatant way to say "hey I'm not normal," and I don't think they wanted that for me.  Their feelings are not unfounded - I know not every person we encounter is going to be jazzed to see Mac walk into their establishment with me.  I also know that when I'm not feeling confident enough in my personal sanity that I need to have him with me as I go to their establishment, I'm only there because in some way I HAVE to be there - because when I feel out of it / potentially anxious I would really rather be at home in a comfortable place than anywhere else on the planet.  So it's not like "oh, let's go to an amusement park, and we're taking Mac."  It's more "I need groceries because there is literally zero food in the house.  I have a list, I will get those things, and I will leave as quickly as is humanly possible.  And Mac will calmly walk next to the shopping cart while that happens."  This is not a show-boating operation folks.

With those reactions in my pocket, I am further comforted by the fact that there is a lot of information about rights regarding Service Dogs out there.  While people can ask whatever questions they want of me, I am only legally required to answer two:

1) Is this a Service Dog? - yes.

2) What task does the Service Animal perform? - he will alert me when I am about to have an attack.  (and I do not have to be anymore specific than that if I do not want to be.)

I'm not about to pretend it'll be all sunshine and rainbows.  If Mac is there in his service vest, Mac is there for a reason.  I understand that, and I'm pretty sure Mac does too.

So that's that.  A very long series of thoughts that have lead to KpMcD having a Service Dog, and Mac being that service dog.  In closing, here is a very dapper photo of him in his new gear*.

*Please note he has two patches on his vest – one denoting him as a Service Dog, and one asking that if you want to pet him, it would help me if you ask first.  (having people be allowed to approach and pet him, at least from my view-point, makes me seem less "abnormal and crazy" and therefore seemed the better option for my anxiety).  I point this out because there are some service dogs who perform a service that makes people petting them okay.  And then there are dogs who do not get breaks in the work they do to be able to have others pet them.  Please always ask or check for the appropriate information on the dog’s gear before approaching any service dog.  They are not a pet there for you to snuggle.

Click here to read part one of this post

Click here to read part two of this post

30,000 pounds, of bananas...
of bananas...
of bananaaaaaaaaaaas....


Queen Holly the Magnificent said...

I'm happy that you found a way to cope with your attacks that works for you. We all knew Mac was awesome, but now he is extra awesome on toast.

Kp said...

"extra awesome on toast" is a pretty fantastic phrase. Except when I shared it with Mac, he was all "toast? there's toast? I like toast. you should share your toast." And then I realized my dog knows far too many food-related words.

Anonymous said...

Go Mac! So glad you have him (and The Mister)! Love, Kara

Thirsty, Nerdy, Cats said...

I'm so far behind on blog reading so just finished this little series FINALLY. Good for you! Proud of you for doing what you needed to do for yourself, proud of your hubby for supporting you and proud of your pup for being so amazing!