I love my local grocery store. Not so much that I was pleased I had to go twice this week after forgetting a few items, but the aisles are spacious, the employees know me (and Chloe ) by name, and I save a lot of money in both sale items and even gas points. My unexpected impromptu second visit this week was disastrous, at least from an emotional standpoint. I came down the aisle looking for those elusive cotton balls that I failed to remember on my first trip and met a lady only slightly older than me with two canes. We stopped to chat for a minute and thought I had met another who understood when she surprised me by saying, “I just couldn’t work with a dog. It seems so vain because so much attention is brought on by being with one“.
I could feel the heat creep up in my face and I blinked back tears as I stuttered out, “Well different strokes for different folks I suppose“. (I’m always so proud of how eloquent I am in a pinch *rolls eyes*).
I really had very little left to say so quickly cut it short and moved on to find those STUPID cotton balls. Because ya know? Now I was MAD after that initial “kick in the gut” feeling so I determined then and there those cotton balls were stupid. Made me feel better anyway.
My husband and I kid around about how vain Chloe is. Her biggest fault as a service dog is that she is too friendly. She’s a flirt. She gets gently reprimanded on days my balance is really off if I put her in a sit/stay while talking, but then she wags and flirts and stretches for a kiss. Heaven forbid someone actually switch their attention to HER! Then she is like, “You love me. Denise loves me. We all love me. I love me.” She’s so vain! (♫♪ Chloe , you probably think this post is about you! Don’t you? Don’t you?♪♫)
Many people with invisible disabilities are not in favor of mitigating their disabilities with a service dog because it DOES bring attention to you. As a matter of fact, I know of cases where folks drop out of training programs when they discover that this service dog will bring unwanted attention to them. That isn’t worth it in their opinion. And… that’s OK. I have Meniere’s disease (a balance disorder) and am hearing again with cochlear implant technology. I HAVE chosen to mitigate those invisible disabilities with a service dog. I wear bling-bling on my cochlear implant processor. On days my balance is REALLY bad, I use a bright purple, metallic cane. This works for ME. It doesn’t mean it will work for YOU.
If I could’ve… if I shoud’ve.. or if I would’ve – I suppose if I hadn’t been on the verge of tears I would have told this woman:
“Do you know that before Chloe , I spent 20-30 minutes before work each day changing outfits trying to find one that hid all the bruises from my falls?“
“Do you know that when the elevator was temporarily out of service this week I didn’t have to cancel class because Chloe was able to counter-balance for me on the stairs?“
“Do you know this cochlear implant bling-bling helps people remember to face me when they speak if it is obvious I’m not hearing well?“
“Do you know all these patches and certification tags on Chloe’s vest legitimize her role as a service dog so that I have less access issues?“
“Do you know it takes me 45 minutes to get groceries each week now because Chloe picks up the things I accidentally drop compared to the 2 1/2 hour trips I use to have?“
“Do you know I never have to ask a stranger to pick up something for me now?“
“Do you know I’m working again because I don’t have to worry about putting students out to pick up pens, erasers, markers, or papers for me in the classroom?“
“Do you know I never have to worry about missing a phone call now?“
“Do you know I have the sweetest, “kiss me awake” alarm clock in the whole, wide world?“
“DO YOU KNOW I THINK YOU NEED A DOG BECAUSE YOU OBVIOUSLY DON’T HAVE ENOUGH LOVE IN YOUR LIFE?“
Ok… maybe that last one is unnecessary.
But the reality?
People with invisible disabilities or chronic illness are more likely to deal with VANES instead of vanity each and every day. We have things we pay attention to so that we stay SAFE, red flags that remind us we are pushing our limits. Boundaries in place to keep us from over-doing things. I know my body better than anyone… even my doctors. This past week we had torrential rains on Thursday. On Wednesday, I was in “full disability regalia“. Chloe , cane, and fresh batteries in the “ ears ” and still I wobbled and fumbled my way through the day because there was a system coming into our area! A student said, “Wow your balance is really off today!“
I replied, “Yes! I’m a human barometer and much more accurate than the Weather Channel!“
A thoughtful pause and then, “Is there an app for that?” (snicker… I love my students).
Like a weather vane that helps farmers or meteorologists know which way the wind is blowing, people with disabilities have things in place that allow them to “take their pulse” each day to see how to safely navigate the world around them.
I’ve met a good number of people who have a service dog. I’ve never met anyone that I suspected of choosing to do so because they wanted the attention. And so please understand that the only one who is vain in my partnership is CHLOE .
♫ You’re so vain You probably think this POST is about you You’re so vain I’ll bet you think this POST is about you Don’t you? Don’t you? ♫
That’s OK. If Chloe’s weakness is that she is warm and friendly… I can live with that.