Butters, The Amazing and Now Fully Registered Service Dog and Emotional Support Animal

I know I am getting horrid about not updating everyone, truth of the matter is that I've had some personal situations to contend with away from my migraines and they've taken up a great deal of time. Thankfully, it looks as if things are smoothing out and I will be able to start blogging again a little more regularly.

So I’m sure you’re excited and wondering about the title to this post – I formally registered Butters last Wednesday as my service dog and emotional support animal through the Service Dog Registration of America website and their sister site, Emotional Support Animal Registration of America. My girl will now be able to go with me wherever I need to go if I want her to.

What does this mean – it’s pretty simple – although she is now a registered Service Dog and I can legally take her anywhere I want, the truth of the matter is that I can’t. Registering a dog is simple and free but they still must be trained to behave properly in public and to help their human when the need arises. More and more people are registering their pets just to see to it that they can go anywhere their humans go, I find this situation a disservice to those of us that truly need the help of our four legged companions. And what many don’t realize is that it is a felony crime in some states to present an animal as a service animal if it has not been trained and properly certified.

As for the Emotional Support side of her registration, the ADA does not recognize emotional support animals as service animals, which to me is sad considering just how much we depend on our animals to provide us with warmth and comfort but there is still certifications that she’ll have to obtain – the main one being a letter from a psychologist or psychiatrist stating that she is needed for emotional support and this is incredibly important to me. Last week was one of the worst weeks I have endured since I have moved home – not only dealing with migraine after migraine as the rain moved in on me I was dealing with extreme stress, which was exacerbating my attacks tenfold. I was at my absolute lowest and worst but it was my sweet Butters, who was at her highest and her best that kept me together day to day. I do not know where I would be right now if it hadn't been for her, she kept me sane. Still, I understand the ADA’s position and respect it and she’ll obtain her certifications if anything for my peace of mind.

So what’s left for the two of us to do – training and lots of it. I ordered a clicker from Amazon last week to begin her training and she’s already responding so well that my initial thought I could potentially have issues has melted away. I have been keeping her training to fifteen minute intervals three times a day and clicking good behavior, which is the recommended way to train and the change in her in just the few days I’ve been working with her has been tremendous. Even now as I sit and blog, my girl is comfortably laying at my feet, occasionally looking up at me with those heart melting brown eyes and I can tell she is happy and content.

She’ll be two this October (she’s my Halloween baby) and this will be the time that the more specialized training begins with her . Her mother’s handler will work with me extensively to train her the most important commands she’ll need in public, train her to help me keep my balance and we will work on her signal to me when a migraine is imminent – my girl still insists on trying to get on my lap when danger is approaching. While this may seem innocuous to some – in the real world this could be considered bad behavior and I do not want that. I have been working with her to only raise a paw and put it in my lap, which she is picking up on but I think the moment gets away from her if I have not caught on to her paw in an appropriate amount of time. Now that I said that, seems like I’m the one that needs to be trained on that more than her.

I intend on getting her certified as a CGC – Canine Good Citizen through the AKC – the way I see it, the more certifications my girl has – the more relaxed and accepting the general public will be of her. Granted, in major cities across the globe it is not uncommon to see a service dog with their human but I am extremely rural and while us country folk can be mighty welcoming, to my knowledge I will be the only one to have a service dog in quite some time and I want to make the transition for all of us to be smooth and worry-free.

I still have her ‘clothes’ (service vest and the various patches) to obtain, plus her certificates of registration, update her shots, get her spayed and make sure she’s been treated for fleas before I can officially begin to take her out in public which gives me more than enough time to complete her basic training, I also intend to get her pet insurance just for my own comfort but that will come a little later down the road. My plan for her ‘coming out’ so to speak is to spend a day in town visiting the various businesses and the courthouse fully ‘dressed’ for success, asking each business for their permission to bring her in for training purposes. My thought on this is that it will be a positive experience for all involved if we are as respectful as we can be. Granted, through the ADA and her registrations they cannot legally tell me she’s not allowed but I am very motivated to do this the right way and put our best paw forward in the interest of representing service dogs and their handlers worldwide to the highest degree that we can.

Honestly, it’s not just the fact that she’s my service dog, it’s the fact that she will be helping me bring to light just how disabling migraines can truly be. Many people associate service dogs with more debilitating conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes and PTSD in our service men and women, having a migraine alert dog that is a certified and registered service dog could potentially be the next step in getting more people to understand our neurological condition even more. Butters will be more than a service dog, more than a canine good citizen, more than an emotional support animal – she’ll be an advocate and ambassador – and that is the absolute most important thing the two of us can ever do together.

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