How Pets Can Help Fibromyalgia Patients

How Pets Can Help Fibromyalgia Patients

Through the Fog

Many women I know and talk with who have fibromyalgia have shared their experiences with having a pet. It seems that cats and dogs can be very sensitive to our pain. They are more apt to cuddle and be near us when our pain levels are higher. My dog stays near me all day and will curl up at my feet when I’m having a hard day.

Having conversations with others and sharing funny stories about our pets can help keep the focus off our pain. Not to mention that laughter is very good medicine. Having a dog also forces you to get outside and get in a little exercise. I enjoy walking my dog first thing in the morning; it helps to wake me up and energize me a little. I keep it to just five minutes at a time.

Furry pets can be such great companions, and it’s helpful to have one or two to have to take care of. If you live alone, they can be great company. You develop a routine of feeding, bathing, and caring for them, giving you a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. They can truly fill a hole in your heart.

Research has shown that pets help to reduce pain levels, raise those feel-good endorphins, and even lower blood pressure. They help to reduce anxiety and depression in some people, and provide a never-ending source of unconditional love. They can be a great source of comfort and joy.

According to the ADA (American Disabilities Act), you can get a service dog if you have fibromyalgia, as fibromyalgia patients are considered disabled under ADA standards. That may be something to look into in your state, as it would allow a trained service dog to go with you everywhere: work, restaurants, church, etc.

Xolos are a Mexican breed of hairless dogs known for their intense body heat. Placing your dog on or near a body part that is currently experiencing pain has proven to be very beneficial. One woman with wrist pain recounted placing her wrist under the dog’s tummy and, within 15 minutes, her pain was gone.

It can be so socially and emotionally isolating having a chronic illness — pets can help to keep you safer and feeling unconditionally loved. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cat, a dog, a rabbit, a horse, or a hamster. If you don’t currently have a pet, I would strongly encourage you to find one that you will enjoy, and that fits within your ability to care for. If your pet is a service dog, you can have one even if your current living situation doesn’t allow pets.

Speaking from personal experience, I feel so much less alone with my dog for a companion. When she’s not laying on my bed, she’s under my bed. She stays close to wherever I am.

Do you have a pet? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia. 

55 comments

  1. Judy says:

    Just this weekend when I was having a serious fibro flare, I told my boyfriend that I needed my dog Tater to cuddle me. As soon as she came into my room, she was right beside me. Even though she adores my boyfriend, there were times she would not leave my side–even when he called her. She is a tremendous comfort. I lost my dog Tanner a couple of years ago, but she earned the name Nurse Tanner because no matter what the problem, she automatically snuggled up to comfort me. I didn’t even have to call her. She just knew.

  2. Service Dog Handler says:

    First, there is no disease that automatically makes one fall under the ADA; just having a diagnosis doesn’t make one disabled. Not everyone with fibro is disabled. In order to be disabled for a service dog, you must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as seeing, walking, hearing, caring for self, etc.

    Second, service dogs are not pets, nor are comfort or emotional support animals. In order for a dog to be an SD for your disability, it must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks that directly relate to your disability. Snuggling, placing your dog on your body for warmth, etc. does not make your dog a service dog. A service dog needs to be trained to do something for you that you have trouble doing yourself, such as guide a person with visual impairment, alert to sounds for someone with hearing impairment, alert to medical episodes like seizures or diabetic lows/highs, retrieve items for someone who has trouble walking and/or bending over, help a mobility-impaired person with balance/walking, etc. Service dog training takes up to two years to finish and not all dogs have what it takes to be a service dog.

    Thirdly, churches are exempt from the ADA, so you cannot take a service dog there unless the pastor okays it, which does not always happen (though I have personally never had a problem with that and my service dogs).

    Having a service dog is a hugely life-changing decision, as you will have to deal with all sorts of comments and questions about your invisible disability from strangers, businesses who will tell you that your dog cannot come in (they’re breaking the law), the toughness of bringing a dog everywhere (it is not as fun as it seems), and more. You can say goodbye to short trips to the store, as a billion people will interrupt you or try to distract your dog by petting or talking to it. People have lost friends and family over the decision to take a service dog out with them. You have to think about pottying the dog, keeping the dog cool/warm in extreme temperatures, the dog’s comfort, etc. It can be difficult, but rewarding – but in no way is it an easy decision that can be made after reading an article about pets.

    • Robin Dix says:

      Jenny, mentioning about looking into a service dog was a very small part of my article. I’m well aware of the limitations and that they are not considered pets. The majority of my article was talking about the benefits of having a pet.

      • Jenny V. says:

        I agree. Nowhere did it say you were promoting getting a service dog as the solution. It was merely a very brief mention. Seems like that was an extremely negative – and unnecessary – response without warrant.

        Thank you, Robin, for your piece. Based on my symptoms my doctors think I’ve suffered from fibro for more than 30 years now (I’m 45) so I’m constantly reading articles like yours for support and encouragement since I don’t know anyone personally that has it. Although I have a very supportive husband and family, sometimes it’s more helpful for me to find people that can relate to exactly what I’m going through.

        Now that I know you have a blog I look forward to following you there as well.

        Gentle hugs,
        (a different) Jenny

        • Service Dog Handler says:

          There’s no such thing as certifying an animal as an emotional support animal; any site that does that is a scam. Same with registering a service dog: scam. No registration or certification is required by law nor does the government recognize any registration or certification, for both emotional support animals and service dogs. What makes an animal an emotional support animal is a doctor’s letter that states the person has a mental disability that is actually helped by the presence of the animal. Emotional support animals are allowed in no-pets housing and airplanes (though the law may soon change to disallow them on planes because too many people are faking their pets as emotional support animals and causing problems). Emotional support animals are not task-trained, just there for comfort and such. They are not service animals. Service dogs are trained to do tasks that directly relate to the disability (guiding a blind person, alerting an epileptic before seizures, removing someone with a disabling panic attack from the situation, etc.), which is why they are allowed almost everywhere (not allowed in restaurant kitchens, not allowed in operating rooms, churches are exempt from the law, etc.). While some programs and trainers do certify their teams, it is not required by the law nor recognized by the government and businesses cannot ask to see such paperwork.

  3. Athena Depper says:

    I have three wonderful rabbits, one of which will cuddle with me and lick my face to make me laugh. All three love petting and that motion is just so calming for me. Rabbits can also be service animals btw. Emotional support.

    • Service Dog Handler says:

      Rabbits cannot be service animals; only dogs can be service animals, as the ADA clearly states. It also clearly states that animals for emotional support/comfort are not service animals. Any animal, including rabbits, can be emotional support animals (pets allowed only in housing and airplanes) as long as the owner has a mental disability the animal helps with and the owner has a letter from their doctor attesting to the disability and need for the animal (for flying, the letter must be less than one year old, state that the disability is listed in the DSM-IV, and fit other requirements as per the Air Carrier Access Act).

      (Miniature horses that have been task-trained like service animals also can be taken in public like service animals can, but on a case-by-case basis because of their size and such.)

      • @Service Dog Handler, thanks for sharing the ADA definition of a Service Dog. Gee Whiz, if someone wants to consider their rabbit or whatever as their “service animal” for emotional support that’s their right to do so.

        You are very negative, please stop. I have Fibromyalgia and all your comments do is add more pain.

        I have a German Shepard and don’t care that he is not an ADA approved service dog. But, he is my own version of a “service dog”. He comforts me and makes me feel better.

        • Service Dog Handler says:

          Necie, no, it is actually not their right to fake their pet/emotional support animal as a service animal. A service animal is a legally-defined term under both federal and state laws, and in many states it is a misdemeanor to call a pet/emotional support animal a service animal. It is also illegal in every state to bring pets/emotional support animals in restaurants, places that serve or sell food, etc. Emotional support animals are also legally defined for housing and flying (not for public access to stores etc.) and one must have a letter from one’s mental health doctor stating they have a mental disability and the emotional support animal helps said disability. Any animal that doesn’t fit those two terms is a pet.

          I’m not saying anything negative, in fact I am helping people by making sure they don’t break the law and also so they don’t hurt real service dog teams by businesses having bad experiences and by fake service dogs attacking real ones.

          Your dog is not a service dog. If you have a mental disability, he might be able to be considered as an emotional support animal (you’ll have to ask your doctor if he agrees), but you really wouldn’t need that designation unless you rent your housing or need your dog to fly with you (but again, he wouldn’t be allowed anywhere else, like no-pets hotels, restaurants, etc. while you’re away, so it would be difficult to do anything unless you put him in doggy daycare there).

          • David Brock says:

            I think you’ve become a bit anal about this!!
            No one mentioned “faking” of any kind. Lots of us who have Fibro have come to realise just how important our pets are, besides the obvious.
            I have a crossbreed spaniel/labrador. He comforts me when I’m having a very bad day, he nags me for exercise thus ensuring I get the little but often exercises that help improve my symptoms. His company helped me through depression, helped me make new friends. He seems to instinctively understand and know when I need him.
            I 100% believe he saved my life, without his love, help and loyalty I don’t believe I would have gotten through depression, would not be here today.
            So no, my dog is not an ADA recognised service dog (besides which I live in the UK) but he is MY service dog. He is my pet, my comforter, my alarm clock, my doorbell, my socialiser and my best friend.

        • Giovanna says:

          AMEN! We don’t need anyone spewing their negativity. Not to mention we can look up the law. I’m glad you have your Shepard.

  4. anna says:

    I wonder if people would be more comfortable with the term “Therapy dog”? I am lucky to live in Colorado, where anyone can say their dog is a therapy dog and bring it into a public place. (local courthouse for instance). Lots of people do abuse the privilege of course, but there are also people who benefit from it greatly for issues like fibro or anxiety. My last dog was a registered therapy dog with Therapy Dogs International, working on it with my new rescue pup, but while she is perfect for me, she doesn’t have the personality to serve others like my last lab did. I do bring her to work with me most days, (I work in a law firm) and while she doesn’t interact a lot, she definitely brings the energy of the space up and staff and clients enjoy seeing her.

    • Service Dog Handler says:

      Anna, a therapy dog is a pet (owned by anyone, with or without a disability) that visits nursing homes, hospitals, libraries, etc. to bring joy to the many people there. They do not have any rights to go to public places, including those they go in, but can only go when invited. That includes in Colorado. The only reason your friends might get away with taking them places is because the businesses don’t want to be sued and/or don’t understand the differences between service dogs, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs (the latter two are often mixed up). There is no legal definition of a therapy dog; they are pets like all other pets. Emotional support animals are pets owned by people who have mental disabilities and they can’t be brought into public, either, but they can live in no-pets housing and fly on airplanes, both with a doctor’s letter stating that the owner has a mental disability and the presence of the animal helps. (They are not limited to being dogs, unlike service animals.) Therapy Dogs International should explain this to you in your course with them. I am sorry to hear your new pup might not make for a good therapy dog, but hopefully she’ll be able to still do something in the end.

    • Anne M. Ganser says:

      I must agree with the many others whom cited the overall negative tone and context in which Service Dog Handler has responded. The emphasized exclusivity of what officially constitutes the “Service Dog” earned distinction, seems arguably unfair and debatable. In lieu, of the cited legal conditions and perimeters mentioned by Service Dog Handler.

      What is really important to recognize is that our beloved pets and relationship with them is a win/win for everybody. It’s undeniable the universal understanding and love pets bring to all lives. It’s sad that SDH separates “Service Dogs” completely from other pets, who also contribute to the same end results, by making one’s life better.

      • Service Dog Handler says:

        I have not said anything with a negative tone or context,but simply stated the laws which we all need to follow (in the US, though I don’t think any country allows emotional support animals as service/assistance dogs). There is nothing unfair nor debatable about the definition of a service animal. If someone really needs the help of a task-trained service dog, they’ll get one, otherwise they can enjoy their pet at home and pet-friendly places like everyone else. Neither disabled people nor the general public need untrained animals in public places.

        There is definitely a big distinction between service dogs and pets and pets are wonderful, but do not help “with the same end results”. Service dogs are trained daily for one to two years and are worth up to $50,000. They are trained to do tasks and behave impeccably in public. Pets are hopefully trained basic obedience (it is good for them), sometimes a little more, with a few hours of training. Most don’t have the personality that it takes to be a service dog and work in public (not even all dogs temperament tested to be trained as service dogs make it all the way through training). Nothing wrong with owning a pet, but you cannot go around calling it a service dog when it isn’t one (and in many states, it is a misdemeanor to do so) or if you’re not disabled. Service dogs are medical equipment, not pets. If you still fail it see the vast difference between the two, go look up what service dogs are and do.

        The law is really not that complicated: if you are disabled (physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as seeing, walking, hearing, etc.) and your dog has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks that directly relate to your disability (such as retrieving items you cannot get yourself or alerting to a seizure before it happens or guiding a blind person) and is housebroken and behaves in public, it can be a service dog. Otherwise, it is a pet (or an emotional support pet for a person with a mental disability).

        Facts are facts, not opinions.

  5. Michele says:

    I agree with you completely! My dog, Mackie, has gotten me through some of my worst days, just by showing me the unconditional love he has for me. When I’m crying or curled up in a ball in pain he just comes to me and lies next to me and I immediately feel his love and warmth and it truly lightens the immense feelings of doom I have. I honestly do not know what I would do without him. He has saved my sanity many, many times over.

  6. Trish says:

    I have several pets and depending on the severity they all help.
    My cat will come when I’m having a fibro attack and lay beside me touching my side or hand and somehow put me to sleep. She also snuggles when she knows the pain is bad. I have her registered as my service animal.
    My bunny is also super helpful. My snake will even wrap herself around my arm if it’s hurting and just hold me.

    • Service Dog Handler says:

      Trish, I am sorry to hear that you were scammed into registering your pet on a scam Web site. I hope they didn’t con money out of you for it! There is no such thing as legitimately registering a service animal, nor does entering your pet’s information on a Web site turn it into a service animal. The only thing that makes a dog a service animal (cats and other animals cannot be service animals) is one to two years of intense training so that the dog can do tasks that directly relate to the person’s disability to help them. Emotional support, comfort, etc. are not trained tasks and do not make a dog a service dog, as the law specifically points out. If you have a mental disability, your comforting cat can be declared by your doctor as your emotional support animal so you can keep it in no-pets housing and bring it on airplanes, both with a doctor’s letter. Emotional support animals aren’t allowed in public places as service dogs are. There is no legitimate registration for emotional support animals; just a doctor’s letter is required.

      If you spent money on that scam registration site, you should try to get your money back!

      • Vera Hall says:

        I’m sorry, but please quit referring to service animals for “mental illness” Fibro is NOT a mental illness, it is a chronic pain disease with side effects of anxiety and depression. Many Fibro patients are W/c bound and many are bedridden. Many are not. Because of the on’s and off’s of this disorder, it is near impossible to get (much less afford) an honest-to-God, service dog. I think you would find that many of these precious animals referred to here, can do almost anything your “real” service dogs can do.

        • Service Dog Handler says:

          I never said it was a mental illness. I said that the only people who qualify for an emotional support animal (which are not service dogs) are those who have a mental disability, so if that person has one, she might qualify, otherwise she doesn’t. Of course Fibro isn’t a mental illness! Some people with Fibro, just like any other condition, have multiple conditions.

          Conditions that are on and off still can qualify as disabling, so if your Fibro is disabling, even if it is on/off, you could still qualify for a service dog (there would have to be tasks that the dog has been trained to do that directly relate to your disability in order to qualify, things like retrieving objects, helping you walk, etc.). There are lots of conditions that are on/off that people have service dogs for because when they are on, they are disabling. Things like multiple sclerosis, seizures, chronic migraines, diabetes, severe panic attacks, etc. You still have the condition even when it is “off”. In some cases, dogs can even alert you before a flare-up.

          Yes, dogs, especially service dogs, aren’t cheap, but many people who have them are on government disability payments, so it is very possible to have one in many different financial situations. Many programs give their dogs for free or you just have to fundraise for them, plus there’s the option of training your own with or without a professional trainer.

          Unfortunately, most pets don’t have the temperament to be service dogs, and some don’t have the health (i.e. no hip dysplasia problems, no eye problems, not old). Almost all pets do not do what service dogs do, as it takes one to two years of daily training to train a service dog.

  7. Samantha says:

    I have a half bassett half weiner dog. He is almost always with me. I laugh just watching him run. He is a survivor of the Moore tornado. He had a lot of issues, fears, when I got him. Helping him helped me. He still fears high winds and hides in the closet during storms. It takes the right kind of dog for fibro people. My Niko is lazy but always up for a walk. If you think having a pet may help please rescue and spend some time with the animal before you commit.

  8. Samantha says:

    Thunder shirt he wears is priceless. Niko lost his house, and his people…The govt. housing wouldn’t allow pets. He runs blindly during thunder. We both have special needs.

    • Service Dog Handler says:

      Aww, poor pup! Have you tried the herbal liquid called “Bach’s Rescue Remedy”? (Be sure to get the one for pets, as the one for humans contains alcohol.) I used it successfully on a previous dog who was scared of thunderstorms after lightning struck the end of the driveway (I think she felt it in her tags or something, as she was sitting right in front of the window). I just used the eyedropper to put the stuff in her mouth, not put it in water or on a treat like the bottle recommends (a scared dog isn’t going to eat or drink…). Try to give it at least a half-hour before the storm begins (watch the weather forecast/get alerts on your phone), but even when you can’t, use it during the storm and it will eventually help (usually within a half-hour, in my experience). Somehow, that dog knew the tub was a safe place from lightning/static in the air, so she loved to lay in it when scared because of a storm! The Thundershirt is designed to help with the static, too.

  9. Kelly says:

    I to have fibromyalgia, I also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and rheumatoid arthritis. I have a very sweet little Yorkshire terrier that loves to snuggle and he has been a great comfort to me on those awful pain filled days. I recently adopted a German Biewer Yorkshire terrier and am in the process of training her to be my service dog. I know it will be awhile before she is ready to work in public, but I’m sure the hard work and training will be worth it. She will be pretty small, but she is smart and the training is going well. It is totally legal to train your own service dog and there is a lot of information out there to help you do it. This little girl already reacts to high anxiety and panic attacks and she will be trained to pick items up that I have dropped as sometimes bending down to pick something up is nearly impossible for me. Even if your animal is considered just a “pet” I know from personal experience what life savers these wonderful little creatures are, so enjoy those fur babies and I wish the best for us all.

    • Robin Dix says:

      Hi Kelly. It’s interesting to me how many women I know with fibromyalgia that also have thyroid issues. I loved hearing about your sweet dogs, it brought a smile to my face. ????

  10. Aylwin says:

    Thanks for this article. I’ve had fibro for 4 years now. Last year I lost my African Grey parrot, Kezi, and this year my chocolate lab, Mungo. Because I had them before my fibro started I never knew how much they helped me until they were gone. I think grief over Mungo has pushed me into flare up again. Appreciate your article. Hope I’ll find another pet to love! Agree they give company, affection, unconditional love, distraction, purpose, comfort and much, much more. They don’t expect more than you can give. They don’t argue back or get angry. They are never negative. If only I could train my husband to be like that too!

    • Tim Bossie says:

      We are sorry for your Mungo… 🙁 Pets are so very important to anyone with a chronic illness as they are an outlet for our emotions and they can calm with their presence. We do hope that you are able to find another pet to love.

  11. Kim says:

    @ Service Dog Handler
    Are you the blog police? I have a feeling this isn’t the only blog you’ve invaded with your negativity. I understand you’re trying to get a point across, you have that right but you might want to chose your words more carefully when you are dealing with chronically ill people!
    People like myself come to these boards for support and share out stories, NOT to have the wind knocked out of our sails.

    • Jenny says:

      I agree with you, Kim. I already commented long ago on this stream that she was being way too negative. Quite frankly NOBODY is asking about the proper terminology or the rules required to qualify them as a service dog, support dog, whatever. All we’re saying – and all the author was saying – is that pets can help us deal with our awful, painful situations, even just by sitting by our sides. That’s IT. I don’t know anyone else personally who has fibromyalgia so I, too, come here for support, not to read rude comments aimed at people who are suffering. There is a negative tone in EVERY response she posts. Personally, I think she should be blocked. Her “advice” is not needed.

    • Service Dog Handler says:

      No, I don’t go posting on or even reading Blogs; this one showed up in a Google Alert, so I checked it out. Again, there’s nothing negative about posting the laws and helping people, especially if it will keep them out of jail. And I know all about chronic illness and pain, since I suffer from several chronic and lifelong diseases and conditions myself. Posting the laws isn’t knocking the wind out of anyone’s sails nor is protecting the rights of those who have real service dogs. There are people who have actual needs for emotional support animals (which are not service dogs, but are pets owned by people who have mental disabilities), which are currently allowed on planes with a doctor’s letter, but because so many people have faked their pets as emotional support animals when the people are not disabled by a mental illness (which is vastly different from having a diagnosis of a mental illness), the law is undergoing a change to perhaps no longer allow these animals on planes, even for those who actually need them. And people fake their pets as service dogs, too, so that part of the law is also under review, possibly to make it harder for those who actually need them and have dogs that are actually task-trained under the laws. Faker animals have also many times attacked real service dogs, which can cause the dog to be out of commission or need to be retired early, leaving their person without help, probably stuck at home for years until the replacement dog can be found and trained, which also costs many thousands of dollars, which many people with disabilities do not have.

      • Kim says:

        No one here is asking about the rules laws and regulations associated with how their animals support their needs, no matter what that need may be. You ARE knocking the wind out the sails of women that feel their animals ARE in a sense a type of service animal. If that makes them feel better then SO BE IT. We did not ask for the mile long paragraphs explaining the stipulations of calling your pet a service animal. I’m pretty sure this is just a term that is used in the privacy of their own homes, nor do I think they dress their pets as if they are service animals.
        If you’d like to discuss your health issues that’s fine, but your ramblings on about how we should view are animals in not wanted.

        • Tavi says:

          Yes!!! The negativity is too much. Ok you’re trying to prove a point, but maybe you should read the blog again. Your point is irrelevant. I’m under the impression that you do not have a chronic pain condition. If you did, you would understand how ridiculous you are. In the bigger scheme of things I love my dog. She knows when I’m hurting and she won’t leave my side.

          • Kim says:

            Tavi
            I have both lupus AND fibromyalgia, so YES I do know what pain is. The point I was trying to make to the dog handler was that we should be able to view the support of our pets as we wish, without her negative comments. I think this reply and my reply afterwards were relevant to all of the other posts.
            I don’t believe I’ll be posting here anymore. Too many back and forth petty arguments. I was just trying to defend the other ladies and you obviously misunderstood that.

          • Tim Bossie says:

            Kim, we are sorry for the negative experience you have had in commenting on our post. It is unfortunate that there are those who like to argue through words left in a reply or a comment. Please do not let this interfere in the way that you add your thoughts and encouragement. We appreciate those, like you, who add a great deal of value to our community here.

          • Kim says:

            Tim
            Thank you for your support with this issue. Perhaps I’ll read another topic of discussion on this blog and see if I can help there. This particular issue is closed as far as I’m concerned.

  12. denise roberts says:

    hi, I have had fibro for many years. I had 2 chihuahuas for 15-16 years. I also lost them within 6 months of each other. I was devastated. I ended up with chickens….stop laughing…they are the best therapy! They require constant care so I am required to go out and care for them even when I would rather just curl up in a corner. they are comical and all have their own kooky personalities. I love them all and make me feel calm and relaxed. I have since acquired a big pitbull named Mr. T. He’s a sweet loveable ham, and a bed hog!! By the way he was also a rescue. I needed him and he needed me.

    • Robin Dix says:

      Denise, I’m sorry for the loss of your beloved chihuahuas. I love that you have chickens!! We had some many years ago and I miss having them. Hug Mr. T for me ????????

  13. Theresa Roke says:

    Nickie and I met on the day after Christmas, 2013. He was a malnourished stray orange tabby that somehow got stuck in our garage for 3 days. My husband flat refused to consider adopting him but we fed him and fixed a warm bed on the porch. He was still there the next day so I fed him again. His little belly looked like he had swallowed a softball! As soon as he was finished he jumped onto my lap, curled up and fell asleep. I felt so relaxed sitting there. My husband came looking for me, saw Nickie on my lap and said, “I guess we’re adopting him.” In the 3 years that we’ve been a family Nickie has seen me through quite a few rough spots, and my husband as well. Now I think Nickie (short for St. Nicholas’ gift) is closer to my husband but he stays near me all day while my husband is at work. Nickie doesn’t relax and fall asleep on the bed until both my husband and I are in bed, too. As I’m writing this he’s asleep between us, making sure we stay put. I truly believe that Nickie adopted us when we needed him most.

  14. Diane Smith says:

    Hi y’all!! Just had to say, thanks Denise for making me laugh so much! I truly believe that laughter is the best medicine. I lost my German Shepherd to old age and miss him everyday. He knew when I was hurting, depressed or whatever. He followed me everwhere! Picture a 100Lb German Shepherd trying to fit into my bathroom with me when the only floor space available was about 2’x4′!! He was one of the smartest dogs I’ve ever had but unfortunately he would not have made a good service dog, or therapy dog as he LOVED people & attention. That’s ok, he was my everything all rolled into 1!! Animals are amazing!

  15. Carissa Haugen says:

    I appreciate your article. To comment directly about the statements of Service Dog Handler (SDH) and those against the statements: SDH has made many comments detailing the facts of what an actual service dog is. I have not seen anything negative in SDH’s statements, they have been correcting misstated facts. The negativity that I saw was actually in the comments arguing with SDH. As someone who has a legally recognized service dog I appreciate SDH’s statement correcting the misinformation of those who have emotional support animals or therapy animals claiming they have service dogs. It is unfortunate that some people attempt to take advantage of the laws that say a SERVICE DOG is legally allowed to accompany its handler in most public areas by claiming their pet, companion animal or therapy animal is a SERVICE DOG. This does not mean all people with these types of animals try to fraud the system. But it is because of those few that do that actual service dogs and their handlers are given as many problems as they are. Noone is saying that the emotional Rewards of caring for a pet are any less important than the actual tasks a SERVICE DOG performs. SDH’s intention seems to merely assure that there is not any room for misunderstanding what a SERVICE DOG is. This effort is very much needed to ensure that someone does not read partial information and begin claiming there dog is a SERVICE DOG illegally and trying to bring them into public places. I don’t believe those with emotional support animals are actually out to hurt service dogs and their handlers. But even unknowingly they are in fact hurting them. If anyone with an emotional support animal wants to be able to legally be allowed to bring their animal into public establishments then they need to speak with their congress person to work on getting the laws changed. In any event, I would ask that everyone please use proper titles for your animals or pets. I have a service dog and 2 cats that are my pets and do also provide much emotional support to me as well. So I do speak from both sides.

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