In the past two weeks, I’ve been excessively angry. I have regressed from the mental state of radical acceptance. I have become filled with resentment. I’m actively working to remedy this change, as I don’t like the effects anger has on me. I like feeling warm and cozy within my body and anger doesn’t provide that home. This anger has been focused on individuals who don’t interact well with Crush. It’s rare that I encounter people that are rude or unpleasant towards Crush. Rather it’s people who are overly excited about seeing a dog that have the ability to ruin my day. When I say they ruin my day, I mean I allow their reactions to ruin my day. It’s my reaction that’s the problem, not the people that interact with Crush.
I love having Crush. He has brought endless joy and love into my life. I am safe and comforted when he’s with me in public and he performs his tasks dutifully. Crush is an amazing dog and people recognize that. They recognize it so readily that sometimes I want to curl up in a ball and ignore everyone. I never considered myself an introvert. I’ve always experienced being as extroverted as I am introverted. Crush has helped me realize how introverted I actually am. Before getting Crush, it was rare to have a full conversation in public. Now, when I go out (especially at Mayo) I have at least three to four. It becomes very taxing, for both me and Crush.
Crush loves attention. He is the typical lab. Often, people give him a lot of attention in public. They comment on how cute he is or my personal favorite “I know I shouldn’t talk to you, but you’re so cute” (cue an eye roll). People seem to know the rules about service dogs, then they continue to promptly ignore them. That’s where my anger comes from. I have said in the past “why ruin someone’s day by putting them in their place?” That has filled me with resentment. The thing that people don’t understand, is when you ask me why I have Crush, it’s like asking someone why they’re in a wheelchair. It’s not any of your business and without a reason to ask, it’s an offensive question.
I am happy to talk about Crush and the difference he’s made in my life, in the right context. When someone asks me on an elevator ride what services he performs for me, I get flustered. The other day, I was getting a ct scan. Nothing out of the ordinary but the techs were running behind schedule so I had quite a bit of time to wait. I was in a room after being prepped for the scan. The windows were glass and people were excited to have a dog in their midst. They were so excited that five nurses came into my room to probe me about Crush. I can’t tell you how inappropriate that is. I was getting this scan to rule out having cancer. I was nervous and being stared at like I was in a zoo wasn’t helping. It’s one thing for random people to ask questions, likely they don’t know how intrusive their questions are. Medical professionals should know better. If you’re coming into my space to ask about my dog, you’re doing something wrong.
Here’s where I messed up. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t ask for my space or inform them of how they were making me feel. I stayed silent. I politely nodded and smiled, I answered questions they had no business asking. I fueled the fire. I allowed it to happen. Mentally, I didn’t have a lot of energy to have the conversation. I wasn’t prepared for that conversation. I’ve practiced having a lot of different interactions with Crush but this is one I wasn’t ready for. Suddenly, after having Crush for three months, people were asking questions I haven’t heard before. I knew they would come eventually but with everything going on the answers were lost in the back of my mind. I couldn’t recall what my response should be, so I spilled the truth. Something sacred to me. My medical history is often on blast because of the mass of doctors I see. To the average individual, it should be private. I don’t need to share and I don’t want to share.
In the coming weeks, I strive to do better. I’ve already started rehearsing my answers. I have started to focus on building confidence. My voice has become muffled by the overwhelming number of things I’m dealing with. I don’t want to be rude or unkind to anybody but the reality is, not addressing these situations has a lasting effect. If I continue to act like there’s nothing wrong it will only perpetuate the behavior and make it seem okay. I am focusing on myself and trying to give myself grace in the face of these difficult situations.
*If you interact with someone with a service dog, please be kind. Don’t ask why they have their dog. Don’t stare at them. They are trying to live their normal life, like you. If you have questions about etiquette, ask a handler or keep your comment to yourself. Please be kind.*