Initially, my thinking about an emotional support dog was why would a person want a dog who throws fits? And then it dawned on me. The dog isn’t emotional. The dog supports the emotional wellbeing of its owner. What a concept! If you had brother and sister emotional support dogs, you could name them Dr. Phil and Oprah.
And then I wondered what sort of training a dog needs to be an emotional support dog. Other sorts of support dogs go through long, rigorous training. It makes sense that an emotional support dog would need at least a MASTER’S Degree in Counseling. But it turns out that there is no formal training, no certification to be attained.
I was on a flight recently, aisle seat. A lady with an emotional support dog was sitting in the aisle seat across from me but one row up. Her emotional support dog sat on her lap and looked diagonally back at me the entire flight. And I knew what it was saying. “I’m here for you. You sit there looking confident, but I can smell the hurt. Let me lend you a paw. You don’t have to do this on your own.”
I wanted to say, “If you really want to help, there are some bi-polar bears at the zoo. Take your couch and go jump in their cage,” but I didn’t. I imagine emotional support dogs have a hard enough life as it is without me expressing irritation.
For example, what if the master of the emotional support dog on the plane noticed how interested her dog was in me? Would she berate it for being supportive of me rather than of her? “Bad dog! No supper for you tonight!” Or would she start screaming at me, saying that I was trying to come between her and her dog? “Bad man! Sic ’em, Dr. Phil!” I have visions of federal marshals escorting me off the plane wearing a dog leash.
Another question I have is this. Did Mr. Ed start the emotional support animal movement? Was he, in essence, an emotional support horse? It’s puzzling. Horses can have a great effect on some people. But as I recall some of the conversations Mr. Ed had with Wilbur, he wasn’t very supportive. He was more like Francis the Talking Mule, a wise ass. Wilbur likely could have gotten more support from a cat, say Garfield.
I also wonder about parrots as emotional support birds. I can imagine a man coming home from work and the parrot asking, “Squaak! How was your day?”
The man says, “Horrible. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”
“Squaak! I’m sorry. Things will go better tomorrow…That will be $150.”
“Polly, isn’t that a bit high?”
“Squaak! You think I work for crackers?”