Today we had physical therapy, and I had a fairly common interaction in the waiting room. I thought people might be able to learn from it, so I’m sharing it here.
I was sitting down, reading a book on my phone, when a woman walked in. She sat down and started asking me questions about Hestia. I was not in the mood to engage, so I would answer each of her questions succinctly, and then immediately go back to reading my book.
First she asked Hestia’s name and tried to make conversation about how cute she is. Then she asked me what kind of dog Hestia is. I replied that she is a Japanese Chin—this is what I always answer when it isn’t clear if they are asking what breed or what type of service dog.
She then asked me what Hestia does for me. I didn’t feel like sharing (the waiting room was full, and I just wasn’t up to discussing my mental illness), so I said “medical alert and response”, then went back to trying to read my book.
She said “Oh, what does she alert to?”. I replied “I’d rather not discuss my disability”. Normally that takes care of the issue, as people realize that they shouldn’t be asking me about my disability and medical information. But not this woman!
She proceeded to tell me her husband is a diabetic, so she knows all about that type of service dog… And then asked me again what Hestia alerts me to!
I simply repeated again “I’d rather not discuss my disability”. But inside I was really upset! I mean why does having a service dog make people think they are entitled to my private medical information? And this lady felt so entitled to it that she asked me twice, even after I gave an evasive answer the first time.
Luckily I was shortly called back for my appointment, and the lady was not stationed near me during my session. It was an uneventful session, and Hestia was excellent for it. She lay on my lap while I was doing seated exercises, and then took a brief nap on the floor while I was on the exercise machine.
If you are ever out and you see a service dog team, please don’t ask about the person’s disability. Most people don’t want to share their private medical information with the world, and many people have trauma related to their medical condition and don’t want to remember it or share it.
Disabled people also deserve your good manners. A service dog is that person’s assistive device, not your invitation to pry!