I’ll Just Call Him a Companion Animal

Here at Darwin Dogs, we love guest blog posts!  We firmly believe in sharing information, and that education is meant to be shared and utilized by us all.  Regan Brown’s thoughts on  companion animals is one such example.  

You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.

- William S. Burroughs

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Mental health care is slowly gaining ground in Western society. People are more able to openly receive the treatment they need without fear of judgment from others. Of course, we haven’t hit the point of acceptance we as a society should. People who struggle with their mental health are too often accused of faking their symptoms or lying to get what they want. One of the hottest topics for the ongoing debate about mental health care is companion animals.

A companion animal is defined as a pet that provides some form of health benefit for their owner. As these animals are considered a “prescription” of sorts, they are granted legal rights other pets may not have. For example, a companion animal has the right to live with the owner, regardless of the residence’s policies.

If you have a pet and have attempted to move to a rental home, you may have considered exploiting this companion animal policy. If you think this is an acceptable action, continue reading.

People who legitimately use a companion animal have a health concern. Most often, that concern is related to mental health though animals can certainly benefit physical health as well. These animals provide stress reduction in people with anxiety, depression, and other common mental health problems. Dog in particular are known to reduce depression, encourage physical fitness, and provide comfort when their owner is having an episode. In short, these pets are needed for the overall wellbeing of their owners.

 

Boots and Bee Photography - By Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – By Brittany Graham

Now let’s say you own a dog that, of course, you enjoy and would like to live with. You call up your doctor and easily acquire a tentative diagnosis for depression or anxiety which is all you need to provide your pet companion animal status. You laugh about how easy it was to work the system and spread the word to your friends.

A few of your friends in similar situations also decide to get their pets companion animal status. Then they tell their friends, pleased with this new trick. Suddenly hundreds of pets are now considered “companion animal” when in actuality their owners have no health issues whatsoever and have merely decided to utilize a law to their benefit.

A woman who suffers from severe anxiety and chronic panic attacks shows up to an apartment manager’s office, clutching a companion animal letter. Her dog stays close to her side, occasionally offering up a comforting nudge or lick. Simply entering the office and greeting a stranger already has her chest tight and palms sweaty but the presence of the dog beside her keeps her steady. The manager scoffs and accuses the woman trying to get her dog into a pet-free apartment with no good reason. The manager knows this because he’s dealt with “people like her” before.

You recline in your new apartment just a few doors down from the manager’s office. Your lease was signed a few months ago with a companion animal letter attached. You wear a smug grin for having finagled your way into this beautiful, pet-free apartment alongside your “companion animal”. He lies out on the floor, fast asleep, offering you no comfort, no depression relief, and is unlikely to spring to your side if you were to have a panic attack.

Meanwhile, outside your building, the woman and her dog have just stepped over the threshold. She drops down into a hunched ball, trying to slow her rapid breathing. Her dog puts his paws on her back, the pressure working to control the panic attack induced by the manager’s harsh, unsympathetic response to her condition. She will go on to repeat this process again and again with several other apartment managers, because all of them have seen too many people like you.

When people take advantage of progressive laws that allow a person to tend to their mental health, suddenly those with genuine illnesses cannot be taken seriously. If you spoke to five people who claimed to have anxiety and one who actually had it, how likely are you to believe that one person? Not very.

Before you abuse a policy for personal gain, take a moment to consider how your actions affect those the policy was put in place for. Don’t call your dog a companion animal just to put an apartment manager in a legal bind. Take some extra time and find a pet-friendly alternative because you have the luxury of living life without mental illness.

Boots and Bee Photography - by Brittany Graham

Boots and Bee Photography – by Brittany Graham

Regan Brown is a content writer and pet parent with a vested interest in social issues. She spends most of her time crocheting and keeping Thistle, her Chihuahua’s, Instagram up to date but plans to pursue a Master’s in Heritage Tourism. With her Bachelor’s in Anthropology complete, she and her dog are currently in the process of becoming world travelers.

Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

 

What It’s Like to Be Married to the Dog Trainer

Love doesn’t make the world go ’round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.

Franklin P. Jones

[Editor's note:  My husband, Michael came up to me the other day as I was writing a blog post.  He asked what I was doing, and I told him.  He mentioned that he should write a blog post for me about what it's like being married to a dog trainer.  Of course I jumped at the chance!  So, I present to you, Michael's take on what it's like being married to someone who trains dogs]

I guess Orion is my Co-Pilot

I guess Orion is my Co-Pilot

I ran into one of my co-workers in the kitchen the other day. “I see you like Darwin Dogs on Facebook too! We hired Darwin Dogs a few weeks ago. Did you hire them too?”

I see it coming before I answer. “No,” I replied. “I’m Kerry’s husband.”

My co-worker began to laugh. “Does she Pilot you when she wants the dishes done? Does she do that thing she does to the dogs when you do something she doesn’t like? Does she give you a ‘negative’?” It kept up like this for quite a while. It was clear my co-worker was enjoying himself.

Of course, the answer is “No”, the reality far more pedestrian — we’re a normal married couple who treat one another like any other married couple. That is to say, we fight sometimes, get along most of the time, and love one another dearly. However, there are probably a few key ways in which my household differs from others:

1. We don’t tolerate bad behavior from our kids, or our dogs.

I think one of the key insights in having a well-behaved dog is to think of them as children, at least in a sense. When you see your children behaving badly, you correct the behavior.

However, when a dog starts jumping on most people, they think, “Ahh, that’s just a dog being a dog.” When a dog jumps on one of us, we immediately think of a small child yelling, “gimme gimme gimme”, and react appropriately.

Along those lines:

2. My dogs are the best behaved dogs I’ve ever met.

This is one of the perks of being married to a dog trainer. Frankly, I can be (and have been) a bit lazy about working with our dogs. I could chalk it up to having a full-time job (I work in technology), or the importance of the division of labor and specialization and all that, but the truth is more simple – I know my wife will do it and will do a better job than I will ever do, so I let her have at. In fairness, guess which of us sets up this blog and maintains the webpage?

Kerry thinks this is her girl, Sparta.  Kerry is wrong.  She's secretly MY Sparta.

Kerry thinks this is her girl, Sparta. Kerry is wrong. She’s secretly MY Sparta.

3. I hear a lot about dog problems

It has given me a lot of insight into dogs, and the typical types of problems dog owners have. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that nearly every owner thinks his or her problems are unique – everything from submissive urination, “aggressive” dogs (which are normally anything but) to simple poor leash-walking. My wife deals with the same problems over and over, which helps her to be better at her job. If she saw something new every single session, she wouldn’t be nearly as good as she is. Which brings me to:

4. My wife is *damn* good at what she does

Of course I’d probably say that even if it weren’t true, but I’ve been fortunate enough to accompany my wife on a few training gigs (somebody needs to stand outside in the winter and pretend to be the postal delivery person), and I’m amazed at just how well she does her job. While my wife is training dogs, she is really doing something far more involved – training humans how to interact with their dogs in a way the dogs will understand. My wife takes her role very seriously. Often, my wife is all that stands between the would-be dog owner, and either a well-adjusted dog, or a one-way trip to the shelter.

5. My wife has a demanding job

Though you might not realize it, her job is full-time. Beyond the training, there is the blog to maintain, calls to make & return, text messages to answer, volunteer work, market research — the list is nearly endless. The home visits themselves are really just the tip of a vast iceberg.

 ds

Orion took a little while to warm up to me at first, but after some patience, was soon rewarded with a happy-puppy dance every morning and a lap dog to enjoy my coffee with.

While most of the things I’ve listed are positive, there are also drawbacks to being married to a dog trainer – we usually have more dogs than I’d prefer running around the house at any given moment, there are dog treats stuck in our washing machine, and my wife is required to work odd hours.  And of course initially when I’d ask her what her training schedule looked like on a particular day, my heart would skip a beat when she would casually throw out: “I have an aggressive Shepherd mix at 10, and then a puppy session from 1-3.”  Now I realize that aggressive dogs are typically just scared, and I know that Kerry finds the puppy sessions more exhausting. Fun, but exhausting.

Wait....who's dog is this?!

Wait….who’s dog is this?!  KERRY?!  DID WE GET ANOTHER DOG?!

Part of me does still get a kick out of people’s reactions when they hear what my wife does for a living.  I love watching her get all excited answering questions about their own dogs, which invariably happens when they discover her profession.  I’m proud of the volunteer and charity work Kerry does, and how she stands up for what she believes is right.  But if I were to sum up Kerry in one word, that word would of course be “Pilot”.  Someone who can calmly take the controls if necessary.  Someone who is confident enough to know when someone else should fly the plane.  Someone who knows their limitations, but tries every day to stretch those limitations.  Kerry is someone who inspires me to do the same.

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Michael Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio