The Issue That No One Talks About
I started thinking about this a lot recently because I’ve come to the decision to retire my personal service dog, Basil. Since this is something that seems not to be discussed very often in the service dog world, I’ve decided to share my experience. This isn’t a decision I made overnight. In fact this is something I’ve been mulling over for quite a while now. This decision involved a lot of thought, prayer, and meditation, as well as discussing it with several friends and family members.
Disabilities are Unpredictable
In January I hired a health coach. She has helped me create a whole new diet and lifestyle for myself. Before working with her I was getting sick on a nearly daily basis, having nausea attacks that would typically last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours each time. Since working with her I only get sick a handful of times a month, typically only lasting 10-30 minutes each time. This has been a huge difference for me and things have been so much more manageable now. Because of this, I’ve hit a point that I just don’t feel justified in taking a service dog out with me. I really don’t need him anymore.
I have encountered handlers who, while they may have needed their service dog in the past, have hit a point where they really don’t need a service dog anymore, but they continue to take the dog out because their whole identity is wrapped up in having a service dog. They no longer know how to be without one. I promised myself that I would never let that happen to me. I didn’t want to ever be the person who couldn’t stop taking my dog out with me because I didn’t know who I was anymore without the dog. Sure, I’m not looking forward to all the questions about why Basil isn’t with me anymore. It’s not going to be fun to deal with. But I know that it’s something I can do. Regardless of if I have a dog with me or not, I’m still me.
What if it Comes Back?
Dogs Have Feelings Too
I think a big part of this is because he’s a Great Dane and he draws massive amounts of attention and harassment everywhere we go. I can’t take him anywhere without having people making comments wanting to pet him and grab at him, barking at us and making all kinds of obnoxious noises, etc. While it's normal to get this type of treatment when you're out with any service dog, it’s worse with him than any other service dog I’ve worked with. He’s also been attacked 5 times by other “service dogs” while out in public.
I think another big reason is that he’s realized as well that I really just don’t need him with me anymore. When things shifted from me taking him out and him regularly helping me, to me just dragging him out without actually needing him, I think he just got tired of all the harassment. If I was still as sick as I was before and still actually used him to help me on a regular basis, he might have continued to do fine and “put up with it.” But as it is, he’s just done with it all. Whether you need a service dog with you or not, if your dog is no longer enjoying the work, it’s not fair to your dog to continue to drag him/her out with you.