My name is Chelsea, and I’m your seemingly average 25 year old woman. I say seemingly because there's a catch; I have several invisible health diagnoses that make normal activities difficult. I live with multiple, mild to severe anxiety disorders and other mental health disorders. I’ve also been diagnosed with chronic migraines and orthostatic hypotension.
I am grateful that my state's health policies permits me the use of a service dog. Meet my lifesaver, Bronx.
Bronx is my 3.5 year old Rottweiler, trained to alert, assist, and respond to my psychological and medical episodes. He will nudge me with his nose or paw at me to notify me of increased anxiety levels and onsetting migraines. He retrieves items when I need them. He also provides guide and mobility tasks on very bad days. With his assistance, I can function at higher levels and have confidence.
Pretty cool, right? Well, he definitely has his advantages… Having Bronx is, undoubtedly, a blessing! The aid that he provides is something that my medications will never be able to give me.
However, there are some drawbacks; I mean you can’t have your cake and eat it too… Bronx is a big, slobbery attention-magnet! Almost every time we’re out, we get approached by people who are either curious of me or fascinated by him. It's nothing we can’t handle, but honestly at times, people can be very intrusive and rude. In passing, I usually hear commentary similar to “What do you think is wrong with her?” and “Go look at that big dog over there!” Both of which are extremely rude in my opinion. If I do decide to carry a conversation, it normally leads to “What’s the dog for?” or “Why do you need him?” The worst part about these questions is that it's really not the questions that are the problem. It's the fact that many people feel entitled to an answer and become very upset if I choose not to answer. Among those common discourtesies is the fact that the public is generally unaware that service dogs aren’t only Golden and Labrador Retrievers. With Bronx being a Rottweiler, we tend to stir quite a bit controversy. Many people are terrified of him solely based on his appearance. I’ve experienced people run and scream when they notice him, parents snatch their children out of the walkway and the occasional uneducated and upset store manager who asks me to leave because “…he's too scary,” or “…the other customers will leave…” I’ve accepted all of these occurrences as my new normal, but it can still be exhausting and overwhelming. I like to be capable of handling most of our interactions, so I prepare both myself and Bronx for these common experiences, everyday. For me, having anxiety, facing the reality of public reaction means being aware that unwanted interactions will happen, but that they don’t equate to the sky falling. For Bronx, it means ignoring many distractions: people trying to get his attention, drive-by petting, people running/screaming and other animals.
From migraines to moms snatching their kids out of the way, anxiety to awkward dead dog stories, and dissociating to dads barking at us; I wouldn’t change a single thing about my life as a service dog handler! Of course at times I wish things could be different, but then I realize I wouldn’t be the same without those experiences and neither would Bronx. Life with him has been one hell of an adventure. It's having a medical assistant that knows something isn’t normal before I do, that farts then stares at me, that gets fur and slob on my favorite clothes, and that crawls into my lap on difficult days. He is always looking out for me and ready to assist when I need him. Even when I’m unaware that I need him. Through all of the medical and public issues that I experience I am blessed to have my best friend on my left side. Bronx has helped me in more ways than he is trained to!
I will forever be grateful to and for my 110 pound, derpy lifesaver!
Happy National Service Dog Awareness Month! Learn more about Bronx and Chelsea by following them on Instagram & YouTube: @TheImperfectSD