Craig Braquet (woofhound) is living with fibromyalgia and severe degenerative disc disease, the result of a multi-car accident in 1979. We first introduced Craig when he joined the 2015-2016 PatientsLikeMe Team of Advisors, but today we introduce his dogs, Luna, Oliver and Dakota (check out their cameo in Craig’s recent #MoreThan video). See what Craig has to say about training his own service dogs, taking them into public places, and how they’ve helped him manage his condition.
Craig with his service dogs Luna (left) and Oliver (right).
Finding motivation to “get out of bed and rejoin society”
“Luna is where we began my journey with personal service animals,” Craig says. Luna, a Great Dane, is now retired from being a service animal, though she’s still one of Craig’s closest companions. “Before Luna, I stayed at home, my pain levels were more than I could handle. I spent most of my days sleeping, trying to heal my body from the stresses of constant pain, my illness had overshadowed me.”
Craig says Luna gave him a new purpose in life, and he found that training her to be a balance and stability service animal gave him the motivation to “get out of bed and rejoin society.” Regular exercise is beneficial for people living with fibromyalgia, and Luna helped make that effort worthwhile.
Since Luna, Craig has adopted Oliver and Dakota, also Great Danes. “Oliver took to his Service Animal Training just like Luna did,” he says. “He learned quickly and looked out for me in public, he’s calm in noisy, stressful situations and doesn’t pay attention to any other animals when he has his service gear on.”
When service dogs are turned away: Know your rights (and responsibilities)
While the American Disibilities Act (ADA) has clear guidelines about the rights of those with service animals, Craig has found that not all establishments are aware of these laws. On a recent trip to Truth or Consequences, a small town in New Mexico, he was not allowed to bring Luna into a local hot springs spa, even when he explained that she was his service animal.
Unfortunately, Craig has had several similar experiences with his dogs. His advice on what to do in this situation? “When you have a legitimately trained service animals and you are turned down by an establishment, you’ll get the quickest assistance if you demand your rights and require them to call the police instead of you making the call. This way the police can help to educate the proprietor when they arrive.”
Craig says that while knowing and understanding your rights as a service animal owner is important, so is the behavior of your animal, “the most important thing here is to make sure you have an impeccably trained service animal before you attempt to somewhat ‘force’ your rights. Even a trained Service Animal can be denied access if the dog is unruly, loud, or poorly trained.”
Service, therapy and emotional support animals: What’s the difference?
- The ADA says a service animal is “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.” Other species of animals, trained or not, aren’t considered service animals. The ADA doesn’t require professional training for service animals, and people with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves (but state and federal laws differ, so make sure to read up on your state’s laws). Check out this FAQ to learn more.
- A therapy animal is an animal that’s been trained to help lift the spirits of people other than its handler. Therapy animals often visit places like hospitals and nursing homes to cheer up the people living there, though their handlers are not given public access rights like those of service dogs and their owners.
- Emotional support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and can help with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, but don’t need to have any special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. While emotional support animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan to provide therapy to their owners, they’re not considered service animals under the ADA.
“Always for the better”
When we asked him how his animals have impacted his health, Craig simply said “always for the better.” Their companionship provides him with physical and emotional support, and they act as “the antidote to any stressful day.”
Do you have a service animal? Share in the comments how they’ve impacted your life and your health. And join the conversation with others discussing this in the PatientsLikeMe forum.
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