Friday, September 27, 2013

• I Get by with Help from a Little Friend

Charlotte in her traveling cage at a pet social media conference
I have an Emotional Support Animal: my hamster, Charlotte.

It's OK to laugh. Of the few people I've told, I get two responses. Usually a person laughs, then says, "Oh, you're serious?" The second response is a raised eyebrow, a pregnant pause, and, "Ohhhh."

I first heard about Emotional Support Animals from pilots with whom I was sharing a shuttle to BWI airport."How much do you pay for that to fly?" asked one, nodding at my hamster. "Some people get a letter from their doctor, then the animal flies free. Comfort animals, they're called," said another. The pilots chuckled and poked each other in the ribs. I smiled stiffly. The Bad Boys of the Sky thought I was crazy. I sat self consciously with my arms around my hamster's cage as they joked about bunnies, kitties, and silly people who needed comforting.

Fast forward several years. At pet social media conferences I made friends with people with service dogs trained to assist them. Having help is essential for my friends; there's nothing wrong with needing help. I remembered the pilots talking about comfort animals. Would I qualify? According to one source, a person with an emotional disability qualifies to have an Emotional Support Animal.

Emotional disability. Ouch. I was embarrassed that I qualified.

I've worked hard to hide my lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety. A supervisor once suggested that I not be so moody in the office. I wanted to tell him that some days it was all I could do to get out of bed. I hoped my bad days were offset by the times I livened staff meetings with jokes and stories (they weren't). Anxiety caused me to avoid anything that made me fearful. As a result, I rarely made a deadline—and I was in publishing, a deadline-driven business.

My main reason for designating Charlotte as an ESA was so I could fly with her on any airline. The only certification needed was a letter from a licensed medical health professional, which my psychologist wrote. Ironically, when I called airlines, none would carry a rodent—even an ESA rodent!—in the cabin except Frontier Airlines. Thank you, Frontier!

Although it wasn't necessary, I bought a badge and ESA patch for Charlotte's cage. I was worried that someone would question Charlotte and that the official-looking items could come in handy.

So, you ask, what does an ESA do? They're not trained to do anything; their mere presence may be enough to help an emotionally disabled person cope better. When Charlotte pokes her pink nose out of her cage and grasps the the bars with her paws, whatever else is going through my mind goes away. I smile. That's how my Emotional Service Animal works for me.

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The Differences Between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals
Psychiatric Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals: Access to Public Places and Other Settings
• Sunday, September 29, 2013, is the Service Dog Blog Hop, designed to educate the public on the differences between service animals and laws, hosted by service dog Carma Poodale, therapy dog Garth Riley, and Oz the Terrier. Click on the links below to learn more. If you blog about working dogs, join the #SundayServiceDog blog hop!
• My favorite Pomeranian and roommate at pet social media conferences, service dog Pepper


13 comments:

  1. Woof! Woof! to Charlotte and Golden LOVE to you Emmy. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

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    1. Not everyone understands how much Golden Love can mean, especially when you're down, but you have an instinctive knowledge, Sugar! Imperfect human hug back to you. xoxo

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  2. Excellent post. Thanks for pawticipating in the blog hop. Thanks also for helping people understand emotional support animals.

    Garth

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    1. Thanks for helping me with it, Garth. I hope I can meet others with Emotional Support Animals to get other points of view. *big tummy rub to you*

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  3. Hi Miss Emmy! Thank you for sharing such a personal topic with us during the hop. I am glad that Charlotte can be your support and strength in the times that you need it.
    *Cairn cuddles*
    Oz

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    1. Thank you, Oz. Cairn cuddles are wonderful, too. Do dogs know how important you are to we humans? I wonder.

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  4. This is a very interesting and needed post. I think you are very brave to share about your ESA. I didn't know about ESA's at all. Congrats on increasing awareness - I believe MOST people turn to animals when they are stressed if they have the opportunity.

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    1. Thank you, Amy. I did sort of open a vein, didn't I? I agree, "animal people" turn to animals for strength. And I don't think any of us want to admit how reliant we are on our four-legged friends. Is that a Dalmatian I see in your picture? :)

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  5. Thank you for joining our blog hop and helping others to understand about ESA. I love you and Charlotte. She is the biggest hamster I have ever seen but then again I am only used to seeing gerbils with freakishly long tails and guinea pigs who have a lot to say.
    I do have to admit that Service Dogs are also emotional support animals because we give people courage to do things that they wouldn't feel comfortable doing alone.I know my ma feels better when I am with her knowing I can alert her to any problems that may arise. I can also get her help in case she passes out or something. That puts her mind at ease and she feels like she can conquer the world even though we know she can't. Shh don't tell her that. It would crush her. Love you Emmy!

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    1. Thank you, Carma. I'm happy to report that Charlotte has lost a few grams, but yes, she's a big girl. She is wonderful anchor for me at the end of the day (as you know, hamsters are nocturnal). Whatever else has happened that day, the time I spend with Charlotte makes me feel better. I'm glad you provide emotional support for your mom. xoxo

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  6. This is a great post about ESAs! I know how much animals can improve our mood, calm our anxieties, and just make life much more enjoyable all around (check out my blog post from today). :) Big hugs to you--I enjoyed sitting next to you and that half a cow on your plate at lunch on Saturday (until the sun interfered, that is!).

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  7. wow, it is fantastic work you have done so far, i really appreciate your effort in this regard. Lost and found

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