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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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Comments

  • Macbeck
    3 years ago

    I have wondered about a service dog for migraine. Can you give me more information? Where did you get her, what type of dog seems to be best for migraine, etc. Thank you! 🙂

  • 23r1c5h author
    3 years ago

    Hey Macbeck

    It was by pure accident that we discovered my Butters could detect my migraines, my fiance had originally got her for me to help with my mobility issues and to be an added emotional support but I picked up on the fact she was detecting my migraines a few months after we got her.

    All dogs do have the ability to pick up on subtle chemical changes in the human body, there’s no real one breed that can do it better than the other – it’s more of a matter of how in tune that dog is with their human (this is my opinion). My girl is a mix of Southern Louisiana Catahoula and American Staffordshire Terrier and both of her parents are service animals to some degree (mother (The AmStaff) is a certified bomb and cadaver dog – father (Catahoula) is a PTSD dog for our veterans). There are times, however that I feel my girl is seeing the physical changes more than she is noticing the chemical, I have been documenting her detections and she is 100% accurate when the left side of my face begins to drop (I have hemiplegic migraines) but when I do not have the facial paralysis, she’s at roughly 50%.

    To my understanding, it’s incredibly difficult to find dogs that are documented migraine alert dogs but they are slowly coming out into the public. One blog from a hemiplegic sufferer said that it took her several years to locate her migraine alert dog but this shouldn’t deter you from trying to find a dog that is an alert dog for other issues (diabetes) – these four legged angels can pretty much be trained for anything if you have the time, patience and resources to do so.

    Last, if you are considering getting a service dog, there should be more to it than just detecting migraines, there has to be a high level of evidence to support the fact that your dog is alerting you to migraines so not only will Butters’ more specialized training be geared towards my migraines, she’ll also be there for the mobility issues I have – I am a severe fall risk when I am having a migraine.

    My best advice I can give you is to start cruising the Internet to see if you can find breeders that states their dogs can detect migraines and go from there. You’ll also need your doctor to sign off that getting a service dog will be in your best interest, I do not have a neurologist at this time but my physician’s assistant has agreed that my Butters is absolutely needed – this will make it 100% legit that you need to have a service dog and you’ll fall under the protection of the ADA.

    I hope this helps you at least get the ball rolling to get your dog – there are many steps and a lot of training involved but it’s worth it. Having the peace of mind that someday in the near future I can step back into society with my girl at my side is worth its weight in gold.

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