I am a veteran with service-connected mental-health issues. I have a psychiatric service dog that assists me in managing my symptoms and that accompanies me when I must leave my home.
On May 19 I was in the downtown area with my dog and was appalled at the lack of consideration shown by nearly everyone I encountered. People, young and old, rudely ran into and over my dog as we negotiated the sidewalks and parking lots. This was despite my service dog being clearly identified by the vest he wears when we leave home and the identification cards hanging on a lanyard around my neck.
I received disdainful looks and was forced to endure rude, hateful and derogatory remarks from a significant number of individuals, including a couple of women in a downtown shop who did not realize I could hear every word they exchanged. One person even stated, "There is nothing wrong with you and you do not need a service dog."
I want people to understand that not all wounds are physical nor are they always visible. Just because my disability is not visible does not mean it is any less significant to me, my family and those who know me.
Would you treat a person in a wheelchair or a blind person the same? Would you run over or into them, and make hateful, rude and hurtful comments toward them?
Psychiatric service dogs are working dogs and perform tasks for their owners just like seeing eye or seizure alert dogs. They are working animals, not pets, whose sole function is to enable their owners to function and participate in life.
As so many of you who were downtown are either ignorant or totally indifferent to what life is like with depression, anxiety, PTSD or other mental-health conditions that plague veterans I suggest you educate yourselves -- perhaps then you will understand the importance of my service dog. There are a number of websites that exist for this purpose, or just ask how my dog assists me and I will gladly explain.
Take some time to explore them and open your minds as well as your eyes the next time you see me and my dog or another service dog team in your community or business.