My Shadow and Me: Always Having a Companion

Miles, my service dog, was certified in September of 2019. I helped train him with C4C, so I’ve had him since he was 10 weeks old, but I am relatively new to having a service dog. You would think that since I’ve had him since he was a puppy, that I would be used to having him around, but I am not. It’s hard having to keep in mind that I have to hold the door open a little longer so that he can get through, or remembering he’s in the car with me. It’s the little things that really get me with Miles. I love having my dog and I wouldn’t trade him for a million bucks; however, there was an adjustment period to getting used to having a shadow.

That’s not to say I don’t love him. He’s my hero and I am blessed to have him by my side. But that doesn’t mean some aspects are not hard. When I first got him I was aware of all the staring we received. Even if it wasn’t directed at me, I felt like it was. I got more questions when he was in training, but even now when I get questions about Miles, I find it exhausting and I am suddenly aware of how insecure I am with the idea of having or needing a dog.

Having a service dog can be a puzzle for the first couple of months, maybe even a year because you have two bodies moving as one. It takes some getting used to. I often bump into Miles, forgetting he is there, because of how well behaved he is. I’ve stepped on his tail or we sometimes get tripped up with each other. Finding our groove has been hard, but we’re getting there-slowly but surely. It just takes patience and understanding that BOTH of you are not used to it.
Traveling is like traveling with a child (a well behaved one). I have to pack not only for myself, but for him as well. He’ll watch me run around, trying not to forget any of his things while I’m packing for the both of us. His travel bag includes: a leash, poop bags, toys, enough food, water and food bowl, snow boots for winter, and treats. He’s always well behaved and patient, but he’s even more so when he senses I’m stressed about traveling. Both of us are out of routine and I suddenly have to plan his meals on the road based on when we can stop to let him go to the bathroom. I become anxious if he will get carsick and what that means for me (having to clean up the puke). Thankfully he has never gotten carsick!
Then there is always the anxiety at a hotel. Checking in, I’m always anxious about how the people checking us in will react. Are they familiar with the ADA laws? If they aren’t, will they give us a hard time? I’ve never had a problem, luckily, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ever have a person who gives me glances or doubtful looks. After check in, there’s always the fun of taking him outside to go to the bathroom. Not all hotels have grassy areas, so then Miles and I have to walk to find grass just to go to the bathroom. If it’s raining, or windy, or snowing, then it’s trickier and no fun. Putting that aside, I do enjoy traveling with Miles. He relieves my stress and anxiety when I’m traveling, and alerts others around me if I need help at night.

So yes, there are a lot of bumps in the road when getting a dog you’re not used to, but there are also a lot of times you’ll be happy that they are there for you-whatever you may need. The moments where I’m glad he’s with me outweigh by a long shot all the other moments of insecurity. I still have bumps with Miles, but they are getting easier to deal with and they are becoming less frequent. Miles and I are learning to get through things together, one milestone at a time.

One thought on “My Shadow and Me: Always Having a Companion

  1. It does take some time to get used to… It also helps you interact with people more. Sometimes annoying depending on how much time you have, but you answer questions, listen to their stories (sometimes very annoying though, “I used to have/ I have a dog that looks just like that, he died and it was so hard/ I’m training him to do…..) If you always carry with you a service dog ADA card (can get on Amazon or Chewy etc) you show that if you ever have a problem. It has all the laws and regulations regarding service dogs.

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