Burying the axe of internalized stigma

Lately I’ve been realizing that I have a lot of internalized stigma about using my service dog in a pouch. Theoretically I’ve always been in support of using your dog in whatever working position is best for you and your dog. But in practice, I’ve prided myself on having a small dog that is on the floor 90% of the time. I’ve felt guilty when I’ve put Hestia in a pouch because I feel like it’s “the easy way out” since I don’t have to worry about her behavior in the pouch, or I feel like we look like “fakers”. I’ve erred way too often on the side of not pouching when I should have pouched.

You see, one of the biggest benefits to a small dog is being able to pouch or carry them so that they can provide grounding and pressure therapy right there on your chest while you move about a store doing your shopping. When Hestia is on the floor, she’s of use to me somewhat, but nowhere near her potential help to me.

In training Alice, my friend Linden has pointed out to me that Alice may be the type of dog who prefers to work in a pouch, and since I benefit most from a dog in a pouch, that might just be a good thing. I’ve been trying to embrace this, but it’s hard. I feel very inferior and less-than when considering a dog who works mostly from the pouch.

So today I needed to run to Publix because I had a coupon for a free treat that expires tomorrow. I only needed four items in the store, so it wouldn’t be a long trip. But I’ve been really really struggling lately. It’s been hard. So I didn’t know if I could actually make it out.

I decided to go and actually use Hestia in the way she can best help me—pouched. I am trying to confront my internalized stigma and just use my dog when I need her.

We were able to have a successful shopping trip. We were only in the store about 15 minutes, but that’s 15 minutes longer than I could have been there without Hestia’s support on my chest.

I got a couple of selfies. In them I am wearing a green shirt and white KN95 mask. I have a rainbow pouch over my shoulder and Hestia is a small white and black dog with a smushed nose and googley eyes.

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