Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Support Hamster

I would have been inclined to scoff at the notion of emotional support animals were it not for the example of our cat Tater. Tater is not an emotional support animal herself: she's good company, but we do okay without  her. She's always willing to climb on Dave's lap and grab a knee when he's feeling down, but since she also does it when he's tip top, it feels like a bit of a stretch to claim she's emotionally intuitive, rather than just a little chilly or wants her butt scratched. For a long time we all recognized the guide dogs for the blind as being your prototypical support animal--you can tell them by that furtive apologetic glance they give you that says "You look nice but I'm not allowed to play right now"--but there've been some interesting additions: dogs that clue into blood sugar levels, that detect seizures before they happen, and other amazing things.

Tater is not in that league. But she has a support hamster. Her support hamster is very important to her. It is not a real hamster; it's a stuffed plush hamster. Also, it's not a hamster either, but "support gerbil" sounds ridiculous. Although she'll run after almost any toy you throw for her, she will ignore you completely if you toss her support hamster. It's vital that you not know how special it is. And when she's under stress, which would be every time Dave leaves the house, she starts yowling and picks up her hamster and moves it somewhere else in the house to keep it safe. We guess that's why, anyway. The hamster has been relocated at least once a day for years and there isn't a tooth mark in it.

Around Portland, people have been claiming support dogs for years now, but they don't even have to buy the little vest anymore. Merchants have given up. Dogs get to go anywhere they want to. They can even go on the merchandise and the storekeepers write their Lysol and mops off their taxes. A support dog doesn't have to be a basic Lab or a German Shepherd. He can even live in your purse and guard your Kleenex stash.

We have a neighbor who feels very strongly that her dog, who is outside barking anytime between 4am and midnight, is a support animal. She has pointedly refused offers to help with training or purchase a bark collar and says the barking makes her feel safe. Although the only people likely to be a threat are her sleep-deprived neighbors. There's a dot or two she ain't connecting.

But there are support dogs and support rabbits and now, famously, a support peacock named Dexter who was turned back at the gate by employees of United Airlines, with good reason. You'd have to give a support peacock the middle seat and Aisle and Window would have to vacate every time he got a little peacock boner. (That's just an expression. Peacocks don't have boners but they do get wide when they're inspired.) It's nice to see an airline take a stand on this issue. I used to take our dog Boomer on flights back in the '80s but she snoozed in a crate in cargo. Nowadays she could fly right alongside me as a support animal, but I don't know. Seems like if we had myriad support dogs and support cats and support parakeets sharing the same airplane, and I guess we do, they'd kind of be obligated to bring back the smoking section, wouldn't they?

Anyway, I'm not likely to take advantage of the airlines that way. The critters that really bother me on airplanes are those damned viruses. I'm packing my support bacteria just in case.

29 comments:

  1. I'd take a "support animal" next to me on a plane or in a restaurant over a crying baby or squirmy toddler any freakin' day! I was a little irked when they did away with smoking sections in restaurants, even though I have never smoked. I used to request sitting there because I could be guaranteed no babies or toddlers.

    But really, if you're going to allow small, disruptive humans in an establishment, I don't see why dogs can't be allowed. They are invariably better trained than American children.

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    1. I wouldn't venture to say either one is reliably civilized. "Civilized" is what my dad used to call it.

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  2. You had me laughing through your whole post.

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  3. I have a good friend, an Iraq war vet, who has a support dog that can sense when my friend's cortisol levels start to spike, leading to a PTSD episode. It's kinda amazing. Fakers are dicks.

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    1. Wow. Having had some experience at one point in my life with acute panic attacks, I would probably get freaked out by the dog if he looked at me sideways, and THAT would cause an episode.

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  4. My sister had a Golden Retriever who could tell when she was going to have a seizure before she could. He'd stick to her like Velcro, and when she fell (the first symptom), he'd lay across her legs. That was a good thing, because her second symptom was a feeling of needing to go to the bathroom, and she would try to get up to go, and then she'd fall again and the big seizure would start. On a few occasions, that happened when she was already in the bathroom and she was hurt pretty badly from hitting the fixtures, either in the fall or during the seizure. That dog saved her from a lot of pain, or worse. Plus, he was the sweetest animal I've ever met.

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    1. How do you train a dog to do that? It's got to be a different response for everyone, right? Remarkable. Now we need the dog's name.

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    2. He wasn't a trained support animal. He was just one of their dogs. But somehow, he just *knew*. Maybe there was a subtle change in scent that only a dog's nose could detect, and he was smart enough to figure out the connection between that and her falling down and hurting herself. His name was Hollis, by the way--funny thing, he was named after my boss, a doctor. We always said it was appropriate, although the dog was much better behaved than the human.

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  5. Folks who have real need and the animal is a working animal - I totally get. But every Fluffy on a leash all because they are so sweet and she can't be left in the car while you shop/eat etc... grrrr I have spent much of my life around folks with disabilities and there are real reasons for these animals and the others just piss me off!

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    1. I love the ad where Tina Fey puts her microdog on the grocery store conveyor belt. Seen that one?

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  6. The fake support dogs are a specific breed: the Look-at-Me dogs. It's like Munchausen by Proxy but sort of backwards.
    (That might not make sense, but I know what I mean.)

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  7. I'm still processing the concept of 'peacock boner', and wondering if us human guys have been genetically cheated out of something. Hmmm, I guess that if human males were engineered to put on such a display.....oh lordy, the Junior High School years would have been one hot mess!!

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    1. Those were the years the boys all banged out "Wipeout" on their desks every minute of the day to keep their tails from widening out.

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    2. THAT was worth the price of admission all by itself. And the post was good, too.

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  8. I am traveling. I am not a dog person. It seems in Florida canines are people, even in restaurants. I personally know two service faker dogs and have spoken my piece to the owners (parents). Harrumph.

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    1. I'll bet you didn't get anywhere. It's like me with outdoor kitties.

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  9. And here I thought you were going to elucidate on the actual support hamster that was flushed by its distraught 21-year-old owner because (she says) the airport people told her to . . . http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article198971069.html

    I wish someone had suggested the number of the nearest SPCA to her. Sorry - I'm still upset about this one, and therefore must spread my misery to everyone who hasn't heard about it yet!

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    1. I'm sorry if I inadvertently triggered you with my Support Hamster title. I didn't know there really was one.

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  10. I think there's way too much of this supporting business going on. People need to be able to support themselves, that's what self-help books are for. Of course blind people still need their dogs and lonely elderly in nursing homes can have their ragdoll cats. And people can have regular pets that they love, but don't label them support animals just because you don't want them to fly in cargo.

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    1. People seem a lot more upsetable than they used to be, but I have no explanation for it.

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  11. I'm hopelessly lost in love with Daniel, the Support Duck. He's one of a kind. He wears diapers, and red shoes. There's a wistful, longing, poetic photo of him on an airplane, looking out of the window, perhaps his eye falling upon his feathery brethren below. SIGH

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    1. What are the shoes for? Just the jazz? I have met a local duck in a diaper so Daniel is not entirely unique in that regard. I have a picture. I think it goes in another post as yet unpublished, but stay tuned.

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  12. I have an Emergency Rat; his name is Jasper. I’m currently doing “The Cancer Thing” that seems to be so popular right now (one star, would give it zero if I could. Do not recommend). Jasper is the type of rat who loves to pancake while having his ears and cheeks stroked, he can stay there for hours.
    He’s still not coming on a flight with me, or to a restaurant; basically, he’s a Stay At Home Emergency Rat. He seems to enjoy the role.
    And yes, there was a “Support Hamster” that allegedly was flushed. Because changing a flight so he could have been dropped at a Petco was too much trouble.
    I’m not so sure that hamster would be saying that he has a “Support Human.” We don’t generally flush our best friends.

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    1. One, fuck that cancer thing. I've about had it with the cancer thing. Your rat sounds perfectly splendid. Two, fuck that cancer thing.

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  13. At a music festival I regularly attend there is a couple who bring their two little dogs in a stroller. They insist they're support dogs. Uh huh.

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    1. We've got a bunch of stroller dogs here too. The purse dogs wish they had it so good.

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  14. What is really weird is seeing a large-breed "support dog" in a stroller. I did once in a store in Key West. What? It can't walk??? It was a standard poodle. The ^&*( stroller took up a whole aisle width.

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