The Problem With Philip: On Emotional Support Dogs

posted in: Philip Larkin 84
Oh, Philip! Is it you?? Image: Wikipedia.


It’s been awhile since I updated you on my future dog. If you don’t know about wee Philip Larkin (aka “Philip Barkin,” aka “Pipkin,” aka “Mary’s Heart’s Delight,” etc.), just click the category over there on the right-hand side of the blog that says “Philip Larkin” and you can see the posts about him.

The good news is that, thanks to all of your incredible internet sleuthing and helpful suggestions about where to get me a Philip, I believe I have found my source. Thank you, thank you to all for your input about breeders vs. shelters; your warnings about puppy mills; your care and concern for animals in this world and your care and concern for me. I am more convicted than ever: Once I am able to provide a stable home for my lil’ pup — after graduation, with a more routine travel schedule — I will put the wheels in motion.


Except that the bad news is something which has not changed since the last time we talked but is now weighing most heavily on my mind: I would have to petition my condo board and management to have Philip in my building. Because dogs are not allowed in this building … Unless.

Unless they are service animals.

Please, please read the rest of the post before commenting. Beware when/if emotions begin to take over, and use your brilliant mind to reason out your thoughts before typing anything. (I have come to expect the best from you.) And I need your help. This post is sort of like the nursing post: I’m really of two minds on all this as it applies to my own life and your input is valued. So bring your values as we look at this hot topic together. And sorry this post is so long, but splitting it into two would be chaos. I need to say the whole thing at once.

If you need filling in, the deal is this:

Service animals — often dogs, but not always — are animals trained to help their owner navigate the world due to that owner being disabled or differently-abled. Service animals can go pretty much anywhere with their owner — including places that usually don’t allow pets, like stores, airplanes, and condominiums — because their owner needs that animal to be in the world. For example, a person who is legally blind may use a seeing-eye dog; a person who needs help reaching things or retrieving things as a result of limited mobility may have a pet who can help with that. Everyone agrees these smart, loving service creatures are superheros.

Some service animals serve owners in a different, official-ish capacity as so-called “emotional support” animals. These service animals are understood to provide relief of the mental and emotional kind for those who care for them. Emotional support animals are needed less when crossing the street, more to quell anxiety attacks; less needed for alerting paramedics to an ostomy, more needed for the crushing depression and grinding loneliness that might come from a medical condition. For example.

And that’s not quack stuff or touchy-feely logic. Anyone who has a pet knows how much emotional support pets provide. And across the board, doctors, therapists, behavioral scientists, caretakers, casual observers, and certainly the owners of animals are all in agreement: Pets help people cope with hard stuff. Whether it’s cancer, HIV/AIDS, depression, PTSD, or the havoc of life, or the stubborn existential crisis, or any number of health disasters that can befall us at any time, having an animal around makes us feel better. A pet is a friend — and we all need a friend, especially when we’re facing hard stuff.

I live alone. I have friends, but I don’t have a partner. Most of the time I’m okay like that, but sometimes I am terribly lonesome. My forever GI situation and day-to-day management of my body is exhausting and if I think about it too long, I get sad, very sad, very sad. Until my insurance got canceled, I saw a therapist every 10 days because like millions of other Americans, I face depression. I can’t afford Dr. Herman right now, so I am not in therapy.

Every time I think even for a second about how happy my little Philip would make me, running toward me when I get home with his little tongue out, well, I just burst into tears. I’m literally crying right now, thinking of his funny face. It happens every time.

I could petition and do the “emotional support animal” thing and likely succeed. I write effective letters. But is it really fair to try and get special treatment to have my dog?

The reason there are no dogs allowed in my building is because dogs are hard on a building. I’m an owner in this condominium. I have agreed to the rules. I want others to play by those rules, too. What if everyone petitioned for a dog? I wouldn’t like that. I’d move, eventually, if the house was a big dog park. So, okay: Maybe if I want a dog so badly, should be the one who moves to a dog-friendly building, not be the person who inconveniences my neighbors — neighbors who moved into the building possibly because there was a no-dog policy.

A lot of the controversy surrounding emotional support animals centers on people taking their emotional support animals into airports, grocery store lines, Starbucks cafes, into bathrooms — into places that are not for dogs. If the dog is wild, if the dog misbehaves, if the dog acts like a dog at all and not like a stuffed animal, people get understandably upset. And they get way more upset if the person with the wild dog is like, “I need this animal for emotional support” when really, they just didn’t want to board their dog or they really just think they don’t need to obey the rules. There are absolutely those people out there. I read about one man taking a peacock on a plane because he needed it for “emotional support.” Dude, really?

However. We can’t tell who has a disability or not. The woman at the movie theater with her dog on her lap — her dog who is wearing a “I’m an Emotional Support Animal” jacket purchased online for a few dollars — might very well be gaming the system. And she makes it harder for others who really do need emotional support and can find that in a pet that they need close as much as possible. But she also might be dealing with crippling anxiety and agoraphobia and her pup is helping her be in the world. We don’t know who has mental illness most of the time. We don’t know each other’s lives until we do. And when we do, it’s harder to be judgemental.

Two last things:

  1. I’m afraid that if I would try for this special dispensation, I would be lumped in with the people who are gaming the system and that would be embarrassing and unfair. I’m afraid that I would be taking advantage of a system, that I don’t need Philip that badly, that if I got permission and it made people mad, it might make it harder for someone with terminal cancer to get a dog or cat that saves their life every day.
  2. When I told my family that I would have to make Philip a service animal to get permission to have him, I told them about those fears I just mentioned. Mom, Hannah, and Rebecca, almost on cue, looked at me and said, “Um … Mar, you definitely need emotional support. Get … Get the dog.”

But I don’t know. Talk to me.

84 Responses

  1. Caroline Asher
    | Reply

    Ypu have been through a lot more medical trauma than many who have support dogs. You certainly should qualify to obtain one. Best of luck.

  2. Jo Chalk
    | Reply

    Mary, i have always had a dog. I don’t have any health issues (thank God) but they have always given me unconditional love. Nothing beats having a dog snuggle with you when things aren’t going right in your life…you need your dog. About the condo, move, you are not a tree. You just might find a new neighborhood that will be the perfect place for you and your furry friend. People will judge, is it a support animal? You know what Mary, this is about what you need, don’t worry about what others think. Life is short, kid! Make it as joyful and be happy!

    • Cindy Moore
      | Reply

      You said it all and more. Growing up I had several pups. Now I realize they were a God sent. I live on a farm now. Sure we have cats, raise cattle (I raise calves if a twin or mom rejected) but I miss and need a pup. For all all reasons you both stated.i didn’t realize how much help &love they gave. My problem is have Fibromyalgia, depression is the worst. My husband said no, if I get one he’ll kick me out. So I’m in a position like Mary, do I or don’t I. Keeping you in my prayers, I understand. Love you ❣️❣️❣️

  3. Ed
    | Reply

    Mary, I’m with your family. Get the dog! You’re definitely over thinking this. I have a miniature schnauzer and don’t really qualify for a support dog but the emotional support I receive from this 20 pound ball of fur is unequalled. You see, I too live alone and have many friends as well. I have two daughters and five grandchildren. None of them can take the place of that fur baby. Just remember that they need your companionship too. It’s best you wait until your travel schedule is a little easier.

    Best regards,

  4. Sherrie Brady
    | Reply

    There is no question in my mind that you do need Philip.
    Be prepared to move if necessary. But get him as soon as possible. Love and devotion on 4 paws. There’s nothing like it. Loneliness is debilitating. You rock, Mary.
    P.S. love your blog.

  5. Jennifer
    | Reply

    My daughter hasn’t emotional support dog. This is her last semester in college — at first I was skeptical, what college kid would want to be tied down to a dog rather than be carefree? However, I have seen her years turn into smiles and laughs and stories of her little Meredith. I have seen her get out of bed each day to go into the sun, which didn’t always happen. I have seen her take walks in the park and kayak and go to Women’s marches with Meredith by her side rooting her on and becoming a vehicle to interact with others. Her loneliness is no more, she has several friends including a sorority , but none as close as her mini Daschund. As a mom, I feel so much better knowing she is getting kisses and snuggles all day. It is hard to see loved ones with emotional issues and chronic medical conditions suffer from afar. If you don’t do it for you, do it for your mom and sisters. I can’t wait to see your new furry BFF!

  6. Becca G
    | Reply

    Service animals go through training in order to meet the needs of the person matched with. The people go through training too. If you want more information on service animals in your area just Google. I’m sure you’ll find the answers to your questions.
    BTW: you’ll make a great momma to wee Phillip Larkin

  7. Jeri
    | Reply

    I hate the scammers who bring their dog everywhere. Get the dog. You are not one of them. Oh and maybe you can make a cute dog quilt and share the pattern.

  8. Mary V
    | Reply

    Mary, You have been through SO MUCH physical trauma. Consequently, you have also been through so much emotional trauma. You deal with both EVERY DAY. I would say that this qualifies you for the love and unconditional support of a service animal. Go for it, Can I go so far as to say that I would rest easier knowing that you had a cuddly, snuggly, adorable Philip with you to comfort you and give you support on the days & nights when you are feeling bad? I will look forward to Future posts to see how this all plays out. I hope the perfect Philip Larkin is in your future soon!!!

  9. Julia Sander
    | Reply

    You are clearly being responsible by even asking the question, & in your situation, I believe an emotional support dog is appropriate. Also, having your dog trained so it would behave appropriately in public situations as service animals are would not only be helpful to you, but would help alleviate concerns of others & your concern about inconveniencing your neighbors. Best of luck in your search, & I hope after graduation, you can get back to therapy. A dog will be helpful but is not a substitute for treatment.

  10. Jennifer Reinke
    | Reply

    Mary–I believe in my heart and in my mind that you would qualify and should do this. The fact that you brought the “elephant in the room” out into the opening about gaming the system, means you are empathetic. You must do what is right for you. Good Luck and I can’t wait to see pictures of Phillip–Hugs <3

  11. Molly
    | Reply

    Mary, get the dog. I don’t have a partner and face icky chronic health issues. I could not function without my dog (a miniature poodle). The unconditional love and unconditional acceptance of me help to get through the most difficult days Remember they will also complicate your life as they must be fed, taken out,, go to the vet,, but they are so worth it and always give the blessing of taking of taking you outside of yourself.

  12. Ann Bailey
    | Reply

    Mary, no one on earth knows what you go through with your medical condition (except those who have it). It sounds horrible – yet look at the wonderful life you have in spite of it. We sewers/quilters – I call myself a piece-maker- would give our eye-teeth to have some of the experiences you have, had and are going to have! Please think NOTHING of the scammers. They will always be among us. Go get Phillip – he needs you.

  13. Patty Stagl
    | Reply

    When the three women who know and love you best, in unison, say do it, listen to them. Go for it. Don’t wait any longer than necessary. Philip will be waiting for you. You need each other. God speed!

  14. Sandy
    | Reply

    It sounds like Phillip would be very beneficial to you.
    If you had him before you bought your condo you would probably not even have looked at that building.
    Since YOUR circumstances have changed since you bought the condo, perhaps YOU should be the one to move rather than expecting your neighbors to adapt???

  15. Val Larson
    | Reply

    your getting the dog would not impact whether or not others can get one, unless I am missing something. I agree with your Mom and family-you need this dog. You would be a wonderful dog parent, and you would be a great family.

  16. Deb
    | Reply

    I don’t want to be negative Nancy when everyone else is so sure it’s what you need, but I do have a couple of questions, if you get what you want and have a service dog will you be taking him with you every where or will he be waiting at home to make not coming home so lonesome. Do you need him when you travel, when you give lectures? I’m not in anyway saying you haven’t been thru a lot physically and emotionally with your health and I am not there in your quietest moments of need. And your family loves you dearly that is obvious so are they biased and know that Phillip would make you extremely happy to come home to and want that happiness for you more than anything. I am someone who loves to see the dog that helps his owner survive his life because without him he couldn’t live his day to day life, or saves said owner when a seizure is about to happen, etc. So I ask the questions to make you think again and it’s bothering you so you are asking also, wanting a clear answer of yes or no and I don’t know if there is one. If you find it’s just about having Phillip be there when you come home I hope you find yourself ready to move because of the rules in your complex because we all want your happiness. I’ll be praying for you to find your answer. And I hope I haven’t offend. Prayers, peace and God’s blessings to you.

    • Coley
      | Reply

      I totally agree. When I moved out of my dad’s house, I knew I wanted to adopt a dog. I knew the dog would be incredibly beneficial for my mental health, so I made sure the apartment complex I moved to allowed dogs. My mother died unexpectedly in August and one of the first things I said when I talked to my sister is that I wanted Lola, my mom’s pitt/lab mix. I called my apartment manager the next morning and they let me take Lola home right away. I did have a bit of concern because my complex doesn’t allow certain breeds, but we listed Lola as a Lab mix and there were no questions asked.I even have her most recent vaccination records listing her as a lab mix, even though her adoption papers say pittbull terrier mix. The dog policy here is for mixed breeds, it’s whatever the dog looks the most like, so I really don’t feel guilty with the breed fib. Pitts are not allowed because they’re an “aggressive breed,” but the most aggression Lola has is a little growl to strangers coming and going and barking at strangers who enter the apartment (which is definitely desired in a dog).

      While you didn’t know when you bought your condo that a dog would be your missing piece, I agree that no dogs means no dogs. A service dog would be acceptable, but the emotional support dog is pushing it. My neighbors agreed to live in close proximity to dogs. Other apartment complexes around here that allow dogs have dog friendly buildings for the same reason. I would definitely say you don’t want to be “that neighbor.” Dogs are not welcome in your building.

  17. Marissa
    | Reply

    Petition!! Write all the letters you need to. And bring little Philip home. I live with celiac disease and, while not in the same situation as you, understand the linkages between GI issues and depression/anxiety. I have a cat that I adore, and can’t imagine life without her. Sometimes the need to take care of another living being gives us the motivation to take care of ourselves too. So go for it! Put your amazing writing skills to work for something that will pay you HUGE personal dividends in the long run. Best of luck!! We’re all rooting for you and Phil

  18. Lindsey
    | Reply

    There will be the usual challenges if you get a puppy: housetraining and barking being two major contenders. Are you going to be able to walk him often enough? And is there a place to walk him? If using pee pads for his needs, will you be able to dispose of them so there will be no smell for your neighbors?
    Have you considered a slightly older dog from a breeder? Sometimes show dogs are available that already have some training.
    Once these possible problems have been thoroughly thought through, getting Philip Larkin will do you a world of good. Unconditional love, a reason to get out of bed, fur to cry into and a warm body to tell of life’s troubles: all perfect reasons for having a pet.
    If you don’t qualify for an emotional support dog, who would?! You have a heavy burden and are facing it amazingly well. If Philip can add joy into your life do whatever you can to make it happen. Stay or move — you’ll be with a sentient being that loves you more than life itself. Do it!

  19. Melinda
    | Reply

    I raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind, so my knowledge base is about service dogs which are different than emotional support dogs. I do think ESA’s are valuable and you should definitely consider it. I believe for housing they have fairly similar rights. But they are not service dogs and are not allowed in restaurants, shopping malls etc. Because so many people have abused the system a lot of places are learning the laws and cracking down on people bringing their fake service dogs in public places. Recently Delta airlines has significantly changed their policy about flying with service animals, making it more difficult for people with disabilities and properly trained dogs to fly easily. Being in public can be very stressful for dogs and proper training and socialization is very important. I would keep researching and contact trainers before you consider getting a puppy. If you plan to take him in public you need to start training the minute you get him. It is a lot of work to raise a service dog and many puppies don’t make it for so many reasons. I’m not at all trying to discourage you, just do your research and get as much support as you can. Good luck!

    • Deb
      | Reply

      Wow thank you for the explanation, personally I didn’t know there were two separate types, service and emotional. An emotional type sounds like it might be just what to doctor ordered. I love learning new things makes me feel like there is hope for this old dog learning new tricks. Thanks again.

  20. LisaE
    | Reply

    Move. The pup is worth it!

  21. debby
    | Reply

    As a dog owner (I have five!) the first thing I thought of was not whether or not you should get a “service dog” but about living in a condo and a dog barking. I think that might be the biggest consideration, since you are such a busy person. Would you be leaving him home alone for longish periods of time? Anyway, service or no, yes get a dog! Can you move to a house?

  22. Bobbi Penniman
    | Reply

    No comment on the dog question but here’s one time you might want to edit your post –

    ‘ I am more convicted than ever’

    i think you mean convinced but actually convicted is a pretty interesting auto correct

    • rita penner
      | Reply

      Freudian slip – Mary is feeling guilty.

  23. PM
    | Reply

    Hi Mary,
    You are a perfect candidate for an espet! And your considerations for others are legislate and considerate. You will be a great Phillip’s Mommy. My thoughts concerning some of your worries are to dive in and see how it goes. Your priority commitment would be to Phillip. If I were you, I would stay in your condo and see how it goes. Should Phillip and you need to move for the sake of others? We’ll cross that bridge if it arrives on Phillip’s and your path together. I know of a university student housing that allowed an emotional support dog to be owned by the “dorm parents.” Their little dog was welcomed, loved, and great emotionally for the dorm students as well. Everyone benefitted. Now should your Phillip experience separation anxiety when you are out and bark constantly, throw up, vomit, destroy things…then that may be a reason to move to a pet friendly environment and get some help from a therapist for dogs. In the meanwhile, just like children, every dog and relationship with them is unique and there are certain situations that will need to be addressed. You will walk together through those sacrifices and changes. Despite those, your bond with Phillip will be immeasurably more positively meaningful than you could possibly imagine. I wish you both the happiest, lovingest, most caring, reciprocal relationship and life together. Take care.

  24. Brenda
    | Reply

    The bottom line — no matter what we all tell you, you are going to be uncomfortable because you are a caring person. My suggestion would be to move to a building where pets are acceptable.

    • Karen
      | Reply

      I agree. This moral dilemma has the potential to keep bothering you, regardless of the objective nature of whether you qualify on paper for an ESA or not. If you move to a place that has no such limitations, you won’t have to keep justifying yourself to yourself.

  25. Mary
    | Reply

    Your lifestyle is far far to hectic and busy to meet the needs and responsibities that coming with having a dog. Wait.

    • Linda
      | Reply

      I agree with Mary. When getting a pet you have to think not only what the pet does for you but what are you going to do for the pet. How often is it going to be left alone or how much time are you going to be able to spend with it. Is your life style at this time what’s best for a little dog.

  26. Ashley Kees
    | Reply

    I love reading your blog, but its real talk time. Move. Then get your dog. As someone who trains actual service dogs, I can assure you that there is a gargantuan difference between them and “emotional support” animals. Actual service dogs go through years of extreme training, years of being trained literally every second of the day on how not to be a pet. Even then most of them don’t graduate into service. And further still, service animals do not remain service animals forever. Eventually they become too old to maintain their training, they begin acting like animals again, and they are taken out of service. They move to a different household and become pets.

    Real service animals NEVER bark without reason, NEVER tear things up, NEVER bite, NEVER even go up to other people, let alone attack. They NEVER urinate anywhere until told to do so. Even with all of their training they are ALWAYS harassed in public. It is truly the equivelent of hiring an armed, uniformed 4 star general as a private bodyguard. And even still, a person who has a real service animal often tries to locate a home that allows animals before attempting to move in.

    Those laws about service animals being allowed are to ensure people who truly need those animals in order to function are not barred from a temporary visit, or booted out of their home if they require the use of an animal after they’ve moved in. The law is there to protect the few who need it while still ensuring that the rights of those who do not want or cannot cope with animals and need a sanctuary from them.

    Other residents have issues that would have made them choose a specifically animal-free home. I myself, while adoring dogs, have a life threatening allergy to cats. Even being in close quarters with someone who owns a cat can cause a reaction in my breathing and skin due to the dander, saliva, and hair that coats the animal’s living area and owner.

    Other residents may have crippling fears of animals and sought out an animal-free building to ensure they had somewhere safe for them mentally.

    And yes, animals also tear up the building and grounds. The property value is based partially on what the building looks like. A regular pet, which is what you are requesting, WILL do damage.

    This bring up the question, what if everyone did what you are doing? What if everyone picked a flower in this field? What is everyone took as many fish from the lake as they could everyday? What is everyone decided to run that stop sign? Rules are in place for a reason.

    Humans bring pets into their homes as companions, full stop. EVERY pet is emotionally supportive, there is literally no reason at all to have one otherwise. Emotional support is not a service, its a kindness. Everyone on the planet needs emotional support. A SERVICE animal provides a service. They are trained in a specific job. They are trained to provide eyesight to a blind person. They are trained to provide physical restraint to a child with autism. They are trained to sense and alert their owner to life threatening changes in blood sugar for people with diabetes. These are animals providing service, and they are both expensive and hard to come by.

    I understand your needs. I do. I myself am living with PTSD, bipolar, and crippling anxiety, all of which are monitored by a doctor, medicated, and take a serious toll on my mental health. My own pet dog of 16 years passed away a year ago. I understand the need for emotional support. I do. I 100% understand your plight and agree that this dog might be good for you. But I guarantee at least half the people in your building are also struggling emotionally. They also need support. What if all of you just up and bought support dogs? You said yourself you would move.

    I feel like I’m just going to be branded a troll, or a negative person, but I am truly in earnest. There is an epidemic of people claiming their pets must be where pets are not allowed and it is causing quiet problems. You seem to be a lovely person so I ask you, please, do not confuse a service animal with a pet.

    And meet you find me heartless, please feel free to contact me personally and I’ll be most happy to brainstorm options with you, or just be a sounding board for you. We all need someone to listen.

    Peace and love to you.


    • Ashley Kees
      | Reply

      I should have written this on a laptop and not on a phone. The “harassed” should be “harnassed” and the “meet” in the last paragraph should be “lest”. Apologies to you and to the gods of Grammar.

      • Glenda
        | Reply

        I’ve already written telling her to get the pup. After reading others that agree I will say this: Ashley you have been honest, concise and fair and I understand your points completely. I still believe she needs a “support” animal but will have to move first. No trolls for you.

      • Karen
        | Reply

        Thank you for that thoughtful defense. I don’t know if I agree with all of it, but I do appreciate that you put it out there.

    • janet
      | Reply

      Ashley – Thank you for such a thoughtful, responsible, and kind post. I support your comments. And thank you for your work with service dogs, the need is great.

    • Jamie
      | Reply

      I want to say get the dog. I really do. I think it’s a legitimate request to the building owners. I think people should be able to have pets whether they have a medical condition or not, because pets bring us joy and allow us to be human. However, as a severe allergy sufferer, I could not be your neighbor in this building. I may have sought out this building because it was pet-free, because the shots I take have not been able to control the reaction of prolonged exposure to pets, because I don’t want to use the rescue inhaler every day, because I am trying to avoid emergency room visits. I would have reactions if I had to walk through the same door or stairwell, or worse ride the elevator for a minute. My son could not be your neighbor in this building because he is terrified of dogs, even little ones, and has a major crisis when we see them out in public even when they are not barking, even when they are not coming toward him, even when they are perfectly good-mannered. People have many reasons for choosing pet-free living. It does not mean they hate pets, or pet-lovers, or don’t understand why other people want or need pets. I know you will make the decision that is best for you. I know you are aware it does affect other people and thank you for taking others into consideration. We all want to do what is best for us and while it’s easy to say ‘who cares’ what other people ‘think’ it takes more courage to think about what other people may ‘need’ while we are making decisions about what we need.

    • Deb
      | Reply

      Love your comment

  27. Kathleen Kurke
    | Reply

    Get the dog. You are an ideal (and legitimate) candidate for a service dog.

  28. Chris K.
    | Reply

    Questions in my mind: What would you do with the dog when you travel? Take it with you and let it sit in on meetings? Does the condo allow cats?

  29. Kate Schrot
    | Reply

    Here is the issue. An emotional support animal isn’t required to be trained like a service dog. Any animal can be called an emotional support animal. You can buy a vest and “credentials” online for about $25. You can always get a MD to write a letter of support. Having one does not require a merchant or anyone else to allow your animal into their facility. A true service dog must be admitted. There are laws being considered on this topic and there will be more coming since it has been abused. It is about training. I work either the disabled and it is an area that needs regulations since an untrained animal may bite,etc. there needs to be a distinct ion between pets and emotional support animal and trained service dogs.

  30. Sandy
    | Reply

    It sounds like Phillip would be a good idea for you.
    If you had Phillip when you were looking for a condo, you would not have considered the no-dog building. If your life now requires Phillip, you need to alter your life (move to another building). The other owners in your building shouldn’t bear the brunt of your circumstances.
    The changes occurred in YOUR life–YOU need to move to manage things now–not your neighbors.
    Wishing you years of happiness with Phillip!

  31. Barb Allen
    | Reply

    Your medical condition is chronic, complicated, and potentially life-threatening – if that doesn’t qualify you for a service animal that provides emotional support, I don’t know what does. And I can easily imagine the relief and gratitude of a paramedic who has been guided by your service animal to recognize your condition and bag. Your brilliant, honest, responsible, human mind and brain may possibly, perhaps, in the tiniest way, be making you overthink the situation. Maybe. Just sayin’…. Love you, Mary Fons!

  32. Julie
    | Reply

    I hear two questions: Do I get a dog? Should I move? First, as a dog owner and lover I say yes, get a dog WHEN you can be there for him. Dogs have many different personalities and also get lonesome when their human isn’t around. Second, consider moving. You want to live where you and Phillip are welcome with no second quessing as to your neighbors’ concerns. Either way, go through training (support and behavior) so you and Phillip get the most out of your relationship. I wish you the best!

  33. Jess
    | Reply

    Mary, from a mother of a child with depression and anxiety issues, get the dog. We did, and it made a notable difference (huge, really). Also, save up and visit your therapist again so that s/he can write a letter certifying Philip as an Emotional Support Animal. Do not pay for registry…that is different and not required by law. That letter ought to be enough for your condo association.

  34. Jeanne
    | Reply

    Mary – Listen to your heart as well as your head. I live a colon free life and know too well the difficulties of your day to day life. I have dogs. Have had dogs for many years. The comfort they give is great. They love me. I do have a spouse who is wonderfully supportive, but I don’t have to make explanations about how my body is treating me to my dogs. I don’t have to apologize to the dogs if I am down because of it – sometimes I feel compelled to apologize to my loved ones. It’s just something they can’t comprehend. And while I too admire the rescue operations, I have obtained my dogs from breeders because I need to know what I’m getting – a dog bred to a standard which increases the likelihood It’ll have the personality I desire, which does not bring “baggage” from it’s previous home. Follow your heart, do what’s best for you.

  35. Carol Shaw
    | Reply

    There will always be scammers. There will always be sceptics. Your reasons for a support dog are valid and sincere. Support yourself-get the sweet dog! Every day the quilt I got from your auction reminds me to be brave. It is my support quilt. We are meant to be supported in this world. Even in condos. ❤️

  36. Nikki Haley
    | Reply

    Go for what your heart tells you is right.

  37. Jay
    | Reply

    I get the sense that every time you bring your dog into your building, or every time he barks, every time he jumps up on a neighbor or has an accident, it will cause you to question whether you really should have the dog, or whether you’re gaming the system, or whether your neighbors are all secretly disgusted with you and your pet. What good is an emotional support pet if owning the pet is a source of emotional distress? People say, “Just don’t worry about it,” but some people can’t not worry about it. We’d love to just not worry about it, but it’s written in our DNA.

    There are a million dog-friendly properties out there, and after you’re done with school, you’ll have more flexibility about where to live, right? I say wait until you can move, and get the dog when it doesn’t entail a stressful “should I or shouldn’t I?”.

  38. Linda Crandall
    | Reply

    QUIT worrying about what other people think You’re very considerate of other people’s feelings, and that is great , but you know you really do need this little guy. He will literally be a God-send to you. Simply love him & be grateful.

    As you know, none of us can please everybody – even you, lovely Mary. You need to do what’s right & get the support you need. I’m sure you’ll never look back & regret that decision. You may very well regret not getting your little dogie. I say, “Go for it! “


  39. Rosemary Small
    | Reply

    Your health issues and the tole they take on you emotionally genuinely qualifies you for emotional support. I went through a similar situation when I was thinking about applying for a disability parking card for the car. I have a spinal injury that isn’t always extremely painful, therefore I sometimes wouldn’t need to card, but if I go out I don’t know if I’m going to be able to get back to the car if it’s parked at the other end of the car park. More often than not after a day our shopping or whatever I do need it, but when I get out of the car at the start of the day I don’t look like I need the special car spot. I worried that others would think I was rorting the system (an Aussie term meaning cheating). I put off getting the permit for ages asking myself if I really qualified when compared to people with more severe disabilities. Eventually I discussed the matter with my doctor who told me I definitely needed the permit. Life out and about is easier now that I can have the car parked close by. What I am trying to say in all this is that you can’t live your life worried about what others think of you. You know if you need an emotional support dog, and just for the record I think you do Mary, and if you feel your quality of life will be improved then you should apply to be allowed to have Phillip Larkin. You might prefer to move. It doesn’t hurt to look around and see what’s out there in your price range that allows pets, but if in the end you’d rather stay where you are you still need the emotional support the little dog will give you. I’ve always had dogs, as well as a whole menagerie of pets, and can vouch for the emotional support they give you. Dogs just don’t know how to be anything but supportive when you need it.

    • Sandy
      | Reply

      There’s a difference between ‘living your life worrying about what others think of you’d and being considerate of others.
      Do unto others what you would want them to do unto you.

  40. Angela Clemons
    | Reply

    Get. The. Dog. I’m single, deal with chronic pain (ugh), and the dog makes it all easier. I don’t take her to places inappropriate for a dog or to others homes who are not animal people. I am a responsible dog owner. I pick up poop, I don’t let her jump on people, I keep her away from little kids and other animals (more for her sake than theirs – lol). I’m usually much more concerned about Cookie’s comfort and peace of mind than I am other humans. Due to my age and health issues, I didn’t want to have to house train and teach a puppy so I rescued a small dog. The shelter told me she was 5 but when I got the vet papers she was 7. She’s 9 now. This has been the best decision for me and has worked out pretty good for the dog, too. LOL. I highly recommend getting “not a puppy.” Taking care of her gives me purpose, a reason to get outta bed on bad days, and takes my mind off of “me.” I’ve always had a dog, but had large dogs before. Bulldogs. (Very high maintenance.) I lost my last dog right before I lost my sister. When I came home from caring for her and burying my sister, I opened my front door to an empty, lonely house. So I got Cookie. A funny, amazing, loving, little Schnauzer mix who fills my heart and my house with joy. She’s another beating heart, in tune with my beating heart, which immediately cured loneliness. Get. The. Dog. And stop worrying what people who don’t matter think about it.

  41. Kathlene Larson
    | Reply

    I just adopted a 11 week old Maltese. Right now he’s anything but emotional support. I need it. I suffer from depression and have moved to be near my parents. Then my Dad died. Now Mom is having memory problems. She’s in independent living but I’m there often looking for things she has lost and helping her with financial issues. Then there’s the puppy. He needs a LOT of attention and he hates being in a crate. Some days I think I was crazy to get him (my Dad had the stroke the evening after I picked up the puppy.). All this is to say, I feel restricted even going to exercise class. It’s been hard. He’s cute, but I really am stressed out by him right now. Go cautiously Mary!

  42. Lori
    | Reply

    Hi Mary
    A bit of tough talk, but with love:
    Mary, we get ONE life. ONE. That’s it. PLEASE don’t waste precious time agonizing about things such as IF you should get Philip Larkin. Your heart should be screaming, NOW!!!
    If you want this to happen, you will find a way. Apply to stay in your condo, petition, move away, whatever. Those things, in the Grand Scheme of things, don’t really matter. Love matters. You need Philip Larkin and HE needs YOU.
    Now I’m crying!
    Please don’t let ANYTHING stand in your way. Please give yourself the joy of loving a dog.
    Sending a hug from Canada

  43. Georgia
    | Reply

    Mary, I believe you qualify for Philip. Get him!! You are not gaming the system. And. You know that! Be a good condo neighbor, and train him well. Love you. Good luck honey. Oh, and by the way, you are making me a better nurse.

  44. C
    | Reply

    I can see both sides of this. I recently went through the same internal struggle. Firstly, I imagine you’re talking about Phillip being an emotional support dog, not an actual service dog (the latter of which would be great for you, but also requires more money than a regular adoption would be, I believe).

    So here’s my situation. I desperately wanted a dog, and live in a 3 family home that does not allow them. I also have depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I can very easily hole up in my apartment for days, with no contact with the outside world. It’s not healthy. I’ve ruined jobs and relationships because of it. Earlier this year I made the decision to ask my doctor for a letter recommending an ESA. I got one, and this means my landlord had to comply. I don’t feel like a fraud, I don’t feel like I’m cheating the system. Because having him makes me leave the house and take him for walks, and if I’m nervous about running an errand alone, I take him with me and do okay.

    But I also don’t abuse having him. If I’m out with a human companion, I don’t need him at my side. So he doesn’t go to theaters or restaurants with me. I don’t take him to the grocery store, because, food. I do take him to the pharmacy. I’m also lucky that he’s incredibly smart and has responded to me and training well. He’s an angel on leash, and if I need him at work, he stays in the areas he’s allowed but knows not to enter the areas he isnt. And training him has been work! It’s constant and consistent, but absolutely worth the time and effort.

    Basically what I’m saying is, ask yourself and your doctor if having Phillip would make a real life improvement (you can get a letter from your PCP and I bet your former therapist would be happy to help). Would it be damaging to your life and routine to carry on without him? And do you have the mental and physical spoons for training, patience, cleaning up poop, baths, toys, vet visits, and going for walks in all kinds of weather? Because man, going from just having cats to adopting a dog was a huge difference in time and care for me.

  45. Cynthia Luke
    | Reply

    Ms Mary,

    Yes everyone that goes through what you have should need a service dog. It’s time to get a dog to go through the past years you need a dog which is worth the time and effort . Listen to your family after graduating find your Phillip 🙂



  46. Mary
    | Reply

    Get the dog. My daughter has a little miniature dachshund named Bandit, and he has been the best thing in the world for her. Her medical issues are different from yours, but just as real. She is seriously considering getting him classified as an emotional support dog. As you said, people can’t always see what is going on with you on the inside.

  47. HelenMarie Marshall
    | Reply

    I agree with your family. Get the dog. Realizing that for your dog, it’s forever. For you, some day, it will be the saddest loss you have ever experienced, but you will have the opportunity to make joyful the life of another Phillip or Phillippa (and having enjoyed the companionship of both, I heartily recommend the Phillippa). At 76, I have loved and been loved by Terry, Lady Mittens, Puff, Shadow, Chan, Twinkie, Dodger, and, currently, Moxie! Several of my furchildren were rescued as senior dogs, hard to place. Love your spirit!

  48. Laura Schafer
    | Reply

    Hi Mary, I was not going to comment, but I find myself on a once in a lifetime trip, happy to be where I am, but all alone. And I am spending tonight waiting out the night until the dr office opens. And hoping that I can get the treatment I know I need . I have “mild asthma”, which is a misnomer for a disease that leaves me struggling to breathe on any given day. Right now I sound like a squeaky high-pitched Darth Vader. An essential part of managing this is staying calm, and just chilling out. But it is terrifying, and at my age there is additional risk.

    My point is not to make it about me, but your medical travails are an ongoing battle, and if a pet helps you maintain the serenity you need to make it through the days, and the lonely nights, then go for it.

    For anybody else who suffers though the loneliness of a chronic medical conditions, kudos to you and my sympathy for all the long, scary dark nights.

    {Sigh} 6.5 hours to go until the Dr is available.

  49. Sue Roork
    | Reply

    Dear Mary, by all means get the dog! I noticed a few have mentioned miniature and that’s what I have. The epitome of emotional support dogs dogs!
    I have a lovely lady who is a dog sitter in her home, so when I have to go away for a day or longer my sweet pup stays with her. My dog seems to like being there and Diane likes having him so I have piece of mind.
    I’ve seen so many dogs in NYC that I’m convinced there are lots of apts. or condos that permit dogs. I’m sure Chicago is the same, so for your peace of mind find a terrific other condo where dogs are permitted.
    And yes, I highly recommend a dog for you!

  50. Janet
    | Reply

    I’ve sat back and thought about this for a while. Which was hard, because my initial reaction was a bit knee jerk. 🙂

    I’m with your folks – Get the Dog!

    I understand your concern about the building rules, but I have to say that (a) I agree with what you said about the potential unfairness in relation to the rest of the tenants and (b) you have mentioned before an interest in moving. So, why not move to a building that you like that allows dogs? Yes, you have the potential of getting a place with all the negatives of living with other pet owners who might not be respectful of their neighbors. And, yes, you will also be subject to the unsolicited opinions of others who really don’t know a thing about your situation.

    But a dog… … there is nothing that can take the place of a companion like that.

    If you were jumping into this potential life partner without the thought and research you’ve put in, I think my POV would be different. But I know you know what is involved and have given this a lot of thought.

    Get the dog!

  51. marion shaw
    | Reply

    Hi Mary

    I have been reading your blog for a while. I love your posts, your quilt inspiration and your daily musings. You have to get the
    dog!!! I feel very guilty when I see what you have accomplished!!

  52. Pam Williams
    | Reply

    Life is short. Get the dog. I have cats
    but also want a dog. I can advise
    that there is no human in this world
    who is happier to see you at the
    end of the day than your pet will be.
    Figure out how attached you are
    to your condo and go from there.
    You may have to move. But In the
    end, you will be happier than you
    are today. I think you need that
    dog. Just my 2 cents. Best regards,
    Pam Williams

  53. Glenda
    | Reply

    I’ve read your blog for a while make comments without looking at the consensus. Facing some of the same emotional concerns as yourself, I have a cat that gives me what I need. It’s important to me. You have spent so much time feeling guilty for wanting a support dog it is obvious that you are the kind of person who is not gaming the system. Dispense with guilt because family says to get one. Dispense with what others MIGHT think. Who cares? Most importantly, when you see Dr Herman, get his professonial opinion. If he says you are a legitimate candidate, petition, get the pup, and then have him work with your guilt as well as anxiety. You function quite highly for the challenges you face. You go girl!

    • Glenda
      | Reply

      I’ve seen Ashley’s comment and this is what I now think. You go girl….but move first.

  54. Diana
    | Reply

    Portland is very dog friendly…just saying… 🙂

  55. Colleen
    | Reply

    Ah your family those who know you best say get the dog
    Move or don’t move get the dog

  56. OHSue
    | Reply

    Honey, listen to your mother, get the dog. You suffered through life threatening medical issues and will possibly face more in the future. Who wouldn’t be depressed, get the dog. You cannot control what others think and you should not make their mistakes your issue., get the dog. You clearly are suffering from clinical depression, as much as you bare here, what inner struggles are you holding in, get the dog. We even referred to out cat as a ‘medicine pet’, great to snuggle with when you are feeling sick. Mary, get the dog.

    • Susan Skuda
      | Reply

      Mary. Get the dog. You deserve it. You NEED it. You will wonder why you didn’t do this long ago, how you survived so long without it. And don’t be selfish. That dog needs YOU.

  57. Rebecca
    | Reply

    Yes, he would be emotional support in the true an literal sense of the word! As far as the condo, unless he’s noisy or aggressive, people will have nothing to complain about. And as far as damaging the building, I’m sure you’d be willing to cover any costs to repair possible damage caused if/when you move. My neighbor in the building across the alley makes more noise when he’s coughing up his morning hairballs (I can only assume that’s what it is) than my next door neighbor’s 2 dogs ever do! Plus, once you have him, you would be happy to move anywhere just to keep him, I promise 🙂 The people gaming the system are the ones bringing their dogs to places they definitely shouldn’t be, and with dogs who are not well behaved. A well-trained service dog is less of a nuisance than your average human. And yes, losing them one day is a unique kind of pain, but I wouldn’t trade the years of love for anything. (shoot now I’m crying) xo.

  58. Brenda King
    | Reply

    Dear Mary- I think most everything has already been eloquently said. I just want to add my two cents worth. You have a clear need for a companion, and a dog would be wonderful for you. Start planning for your little fella now. Ask if you can have him in your bldg. If not allowed, plan to move to an animal supporting place. Get your little guy, then arrange for obedience lessons and training. Line up a vet, buy a nice leash and halter, food bowls, toys and a doggie bed, Along with dog food and treats. Scope out where you should walk him. Carry poo bags! Get to know him, and him you. Fall in love. Travel with him, or whatever you need to do. I know it will be a big blessing for both of you! Have fun getting there, then enjoy your new best friend! Good luck! : ) Brenda King, Bend, Oregon

  59. Rachel
    | Reply

    My understanding is that true service animals go through quite a bit of training. If that is the road that you want to pursue, then I would encourage you to find an organization that can pair you with a true service animal. Just acquiring a pet and then calling it a “service animal” I do see as disingenuous. Don’t get me wrong, pets are wonderful and can make a true difference in peoples lives, I have 2 dogs, 3 cats and fish, but I think you need to go about it following the proper procedures.

  60. Barbara
    | Reply

    Hi Mary,
    I know in the past you wrote about maybe moving because you need a better view. I know it’s a hard thing to do (move and all that goes with it) but . . I think it would make you happier to have a place where a dog is accepted with no trouble on your part.
    I’ve never not had a dog. They are so comforting, they don’t judge, they love you for who you are, they know when you’re not feeling well and just stay close by until you feel better, they are always there with a lick, a doggy smile, a furry friend. Philip Larkin is out there Mary, you will find him and know what to do when it’s time. xo

  61. Kelly Morris
    | Reply

    To have an emotional support animal or a service dog, you must be disabled. Are you disabled by your depression? If you are disabled, you qualify for one.

    Your condo association can legally require a letter from the licensed health care professional that is treating you for your psychiatric disability if you want to have an emotional support animal. That could be a problem if you are not in treatment now.

    If you are really disabled, then there is nothing wrong with saying so in order to have your dog. But please don’t lie about it if you aren’t.

  62. Sue
    | Reply

    I think your comment that you wouldn’t want
    Everyone to have a pet in your building says it all. What is good for one is good for all. Find a dog friendly condo, get a dog because you want one and be happy.

  63. Kim Bourgeois Landry
    | Reply

    Why not get an actual service dog? Phillip Larkin the super pup who alerts to almonds.

  64. Kate
    | Reply

    I hate to ask, but have you considered what would happen to your sweet puppy. if you were hospitalized suddenly. Is there anyone who could take the dog for you at a moment’s notice?
    I got a puppy, fourteen years ago, after 18 months of really poor health and multiple hospitalizations. She has been my best friend, but I live in a house, with a fenced yard, and family who look after her if I can’t.
    I know first hand what can happen to dogs if that support isn’t available. We are currently fostering two dogs who have no where else to go.
    Make sure you have thought this through, thoroughly, before you bring your puppy home.

  65. Angela
    | Reply

    The fact that you’ve thought so much about this and are so concerned really just supports the fact that you need the animal for emotional support. Anxiety and depression tell us all the time that our needs are not as valuable as others. Do what you need to do to feel comfortable and remember that your needs are just as important as others.

    PS This comes from a “crazy cat” lady who has no problem laying in a pile of cats when my anxiety and depression kick my rear.

  66. Judy Forkner
    | Reply

    I agree with your mom & sisters—if anyone deserves an emotional support dog, it’s you. Just be sure to train it well. It’s the people who claim their dog is an emotional support dog but have an untrained dog which is obnoxious in public who have caused all the problems,

  67. Ginny R
    | Reply

    Mary – Please get the dog! Mine is not a service dog but, when I am down he is able to shed sunshine and love into the gloom. I never would have thought I needed a dog for emotional support but now ….. he has proven himself to be a natural in this capacity.

  68. Catherine
    | Reply

    I’m new here. Hi All.
    Mary, get the dog! I have 2 labs. GET THE DOG! You won’t regret it, I promise!

  69. Claire
    | Reply

    This is quite the dilemma and I didn’t even know what I thought about it after reading your post! From my perspective, service dogs are there to help people do things they couldn’t do otherwise–to function in daily life (I’m in school for OT, I can’t help it!). However we all use things to help us improve the way we do things in daily life, so merely functioning is a pretty arbitrary standard. I think that 1) It sounds like an emotional support dog would vastly improve your quality of life, in a way beyond that is beyond how a typical dog owner’s life is improved (I love our Lucy!!!) 2) Your gut is clearly conflicted about this, and at this point in life I am a believer in the wisdom of the gut so 3) I think that perhaps you should get an emotional support dog, move to another condo (forgive me if that’s a horrible idea) because of your respect and decency for your current neighbors, and take this doggo with you on trips when you feel it would act the same way as a literal crutch, as opposed to a fun bring-along (i.e. use discretion to not abuse the tool, which obviously you are not one to do). Best of luck and lots of love!

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