This is one of the two questions businesses such as hotels or restaurants are permitted to ask you, under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The other is whether you have a disability (but they cannot ask you what it is).
With a Seeing Eye Dog, (now called a Guide Dog for the Blind), well, the whole thing is pretty obvious. With a Hearing Ear Dog, well, deaf people often don’t speak like hearing people do, but I can still imagine some cretin of a desk clerk challenging a deaf person accompanied by a Service Dog.
And when it comes to Psychiatric Service Dogs–listen, I have a lot to do today. My son is coming for the weekend (YAY!!!!) and I have to get some of this wretched mess cleaned up, at least so there are paths to walk in. You think I’m joking?
Anyway, I always travel with my PSD (Psychiatric Service Dog). My last one, Ivan, was a German Shepherd. No one even asked about him, ever. Done.
But he had the bad taste to die on me in 2007, when he was only five, and up until two years ago I went dog-less because I just could not get over Ivan. I was in Israel then, too, and had a huge support system. Here in the States I have NO support system, except for my wonderful online virtual family (that would be YOU).
So when I had to return to the States I got me a dog, and the one who spoke to me of loving-kindness and caring was Noga the Llasa Apso, who at 13.5 pounds is a pound overweight, stated the vet emphatically yesterday.
Noga is very hairy, as Lhasa Apsos tend to be. She is also very cute, ditto. She does not look like she could protect anybody or hurt anybody, although she does try to bite the mountaineer workmen who are helping to fix my dwelling, but since she is unable to get her jaws around even the toe of their boots, she can’t do much harm.
So when I tell the desk clerks that she is a Psychiatric Service Dog, they wrinkle up their foreheads, mutter something, and go into the back office to look something up, which I know is the ADA guidelines. Then they come out and demand to know my disability, and I remind them that they are not allowed to ask the nature of my disability, only if I have one. Ahem, ah, yes. Then they want to know what task or tasks my dog does for me.
I used to be able to say “She keeps me from killing myself,” but the ADA made a new classification called “Emotional Support Animal” for that, and ESAs don’t have the same rights as PSDs do, so if you need an ESA you have to stay home and not kill yourself.
The things Noga does for me can be very subtle, or they can be more not-subtle, like if I am staying up late writing blogs and giving myself a manic attack she will lie down on top of my keyboard and look at me defiantly, making me laugh and choke on my spit.
Lately she’s been doing a new task, one that Ivan used to do but I haven’t had Ivan so he couldn’t do it.
One of the ways my brain is fucked up is that I have temporal lobe seizures. They manifest as sensory hallucinations. For instance, I sometimes smell things that other people do not smell. Fortunately they are usually pleasant smells, like cinnamon buns baking, and not, well, you can imagine. Other things are more on the level of night terrors, where I hear someone trying to break in or (like last night) walking on top of the roof trying to find a way in. This is PTSD stuff having armed conflict with my temporal lobe.
The way Noga helps me with these things: if someone were to be baking cinnamon rolls, you can bet that little fuzzy nose would be in the air sniffing and sniffing. If she is going about her doggy business, playing with her “critters” and chewing her fake bones, believe me there is nothing in anybody’s oven. And since nobody lives within a half mile of me, there better not be anything in my oven that I don’t know about.
Secondly: Noga is a dog. Even though she is not a German Shepherd trained guard dog like my Ivan was, she still has very particular ideas about what is “hers,” and our dwelling, however humble, is decidedly hers. If anyone were walking on the roof trying to get in, she would not be snoring in my left ear; she would be doing her imitation of a miniature German Shepherd guard dog in a Wookiie suit, size Extra Small.
So I know that if I wake up in the night and perceive bizarre things like battles of warring Zombie clans baking cinnamon rolls in my toaster over and Noga is fast asleep, it is all a fig newton of my homogenation and I can go back to sleep, perchance to dream something less annoying.
Maybe I should just print this out and hand it to the next hotel desk clerk, pretending that I am Harpo Marx. That’s it: I will get a Harpo Marx wig. That should help.