The Piper Kate: Assistance Animal FAQ

First things first: thank you guys so much for loving my girl.

From the first time I posted that little golden twinkie of a pupper, to today, you all have loved her so well. Even when I was maybe overloading my Instagram. Even when I talk like a werido. And especially when I sobbed on insta-stories when I was just trying to get my girl home.

So, thank you.

And now, let's get to the questions.

Almost all of you know that Piper Kate is a certified assistance animal, and that was always the plan. And of course, a lot of you know the struggle it took to make sure that she was all set and ready to come home without her mama getting the boot.

That ended up working out really well (for those of you that don't know.) And we are settling in quite nicely at home.

But I think there are a lot of questions about assistance animals/emotional support animals, (especially in light of some emotional support peacocks, hamsters, etc. that have been in the news.)

So, let's just go right down the list, huh?

What is the difference between an assistance animal, an emotional support animal, and a service animal? 

Most people understand that service dogs receive some form of specialized training. That can be assistance with sight, diabetes, epilepsy, even PTSD. Those dogs are required to undergo that training and receive certifications for those tasks.

That is not the case with assistance animals and emotional support animals.

Now, in the state of Vermont (under the Vermont Fair Housing Laws,) assistance animals and emotional support animals are relatively interchangeable. Save for the fact that the language the laws use is exclusively "assistance animal."

Under those same laws, assistance animals do not require any specialized trainings or certifications.

But other than that, the protections for those animals and their owners are relatively the same.

So what makes Piper Kate an assistance animal? 

Essentially, Piper Kate was prescribed by my doctor. (That's the easiest way to say it.)

Her assistance animal status based on the fact that just by having her, my diagnoses of anxiety and depression are in some ways alleviated.

Because of this she is not considered a family pet, but an assistance animal, and is therefore protected by those Vermont Fair Housing Laws.

Okay, but everyone likes puppies. So couldn't we all just get assistance animals?

First of all, sure, everyone likes puppies.

And frankly, if you'd like to pretend to have a mental health issue to get a doctor to recommend an assistance animal for you, you've got bigger problems than trying to justify a dog.

The reality is this goes beyond puppy cuddles.

Piper Kate's actual existence serves a purpose in my treatment regimen.

A dog forces you to get out of bed (depression would like you to stay in bed all day.) A dog forces you to go outside (depression would like you to never leave your house, anxiety too.) A dog forces you to meet and talk to new people (anxiety would like you to keep your head down and keep walking.) A dog forces you to play, to move, to engage (depression would like you to sit quietly for 12 hours and watch netflix and sleep and cry.)

Yes, cuddling my dog is extremely therapeutic for me. She takes naps in my lap and it's the single best feeling in the world.

But it goes far beyond that.

She has brought purpose, routine, and engagement into my life that simply was never there before.

What happened with your living situation?

The long and the short of it is that I did exactly what I needed to do. And because I was on the right side of the law, and he was not, it all worked out.

If you are considering bringing an assistance animal into your home, and you expect to have some trouble, please please please contact me - I know how to help, seriously.

(That is in hugelargeginormous part to all of the wonderful folks that helped me via instagram on that fateful night. Really guys, thank you.)

Will you get her in to special training?

Yes! Once she is fully vaccinated she'll be going to a puppy training class right here in Burlington.

Does she go to work with you?

Yes! She won't always. But because she can, and she does so much for my anxiety while at work, she does come to the office with me.

This is your first dog, so what do you think, overall?

She's the best. I couldn't imagine not getting a goldendoodle. Because she is so smart, she's so well mannered. And y'all, she is so dang pretty.

Is it hard? Sure. She's a puppy after all. I have my eyes on her 24/7. I still wake up in the middle of the night thinking, is she okay? Is she breathing? 

I knew this was going to be challenging. And truthfully in the week leading up to bringing her home I was so nervous I thought that I had made a huge mistake.

And then she was home. And we clicked. And y'all loved on her. And for every challenge that comes with bringing home a puppy, holy heck, the rewards are just so good.

But I'll tell you what, in the midst of a really hard season of life, she's a mighty big golden spot for me.

As always I love talking about her, and I love answering questions. While I'm still technically in the beginning of this process, I'm always happy to talk about what it has been like.

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