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We would like to thank Steve Malone for giving us this opportunity to share this article he wrote. Steve’s career was as a paramedic and we hope it helps provide awareness of the many struggles individuals with PTSD still face while living life with their Service Dog. While Steve did not receive his Service Dog through K4Paws we are very happy to include his affiliates in his write up. 🐾❤️
“With June being PTSD awareness month I chose to share this once again from 2020. I wanted to write a post about service dogs and PTSD. Some of you may know me personally and know that I have a service dog named Mika who has been with me for almost 3 years. Having a service dog is a real help and blessing, but it also comes with some stigma and the responsibility to address it by educating people on what service dogs are and what role they play in our society. I would like to share some of the things people have said to me when they see Mika and I out together in public; "Well, I don't think dogs should be allowed in restaurants", "I don't like dogs and many people are allergic to them", “I think you have created a codependency to your dog” and “you should learn to go out without her”. Plus many people will ask me “what is the dog for?". Or they will just reach out to pet her, or try to distract her by making sounds or talking to her. I know that some of this is because people are genuinely interested in the dog or the novelty of seeing a dog at the grocery store, but these comments and actions are not appropriate at all. People using a service dog need it for their health, asking these types of questions is like saying to someone with a physical disability "What is the wheelchair for?" or “I know you have your wheelchair to get around, but you should really try to just walk. Sure it will be hard and painful, but I’m pretty sure you can do it if you try hard enough.” I know it sounds ridiculous and no one would even think of saying this to some needing a wheelchair. In my experience, a lot of people have no issues asking a person with a service dog “what do you need a service dog for? Can you not just get around without it? I can see you are not blind!” These types of questions and comments are said all too often because people don’t understand mental illnesses such as PTSD. Post traumatic stress disorder is not visible and can be very difficult to understand for people that have not experienced it personally. So it's easy for people to say things like “get over it, be a man/women” or “be strong, you can beat this we’ve all had bad days or bad experiences in our life, it is not the end of the world”. I wonder if they would ask or judge a diabetic or epileptic person to get over it, or say “you don’t need medicines, just eat properly” Of course not! Because people understand these types of disabilities/illnesses for the most part. But when it comes to PTSD it is a very different story and more education is needed. Thanks to organizations such as Badge of Life Canada, Ivegotyourback911 and Wounded Warriors Canada progress is being made! Service dogs can help people with many different medical issues and they provide specific services, some are very obvious, such as a guide dog to a visually impaired person, but for others it may not be so obvious. Some service dogs that work with people who have PTSD are trained to wake the person when having severe night terrors (flash backs). The service dog can bring comfort when feelings of fear and/or anxiety overwhelm the person when out in public, the service dog may be trained to guide them to a safe place or take them to a specific person when they become disoriented. No matter why someone is using a certified service dog, please have respect and keep your comments to yourself. Respect their privacy. Unfortunately, there are people using dogs that are not certified, aka “fake service dogs”. This is totally inappropriate and hurts all of us that truly need our service dog. Fake service dogs are fairly easy to spot because of their lack of training and questionable behavior in public. For example; barking (unless necessary for their service), dirty appearance, jumping on people, being fed from the table, unable to stay still for long periods of time, growling, they may also seek attention from other people. Fake service dogs are a total disrespect to people that really need a service dog! So, the next time you see a service dog please remember they need to keep focused when they are working, don’t distract them. If they are working you will not be asked to interact with them. The working service dog will have a vest on, a leash and be very well-mannered at all times. The owner of the service dog will have a medical note in their possession. The note will say that they require a service dog and not the reason why due to privacy. In certain situations they may be asked to show this note to prove they are allowed to have their dog with them. Regardless if a service dog is fake or not, they can be asked to leave a store/restaurant if they are not behaving properly. Now remember, just like people, service dogs may have good days and bad days, so don’t be too quick to judge. Plus most service dog owners will always try their best to facilitate a positive visit where ever they go. I hope this helps you understand a little more about PTSD and service dogs, they truly give us a wonderful support in our daily life.