a woman and her service dog surrounded by eyes

My Narcolepsy Service Dog Was Turned Away

Thunder cracked above my head. I watched the trees as they shivered in response. A light drizzle misted my face as I dodged a puddle. My service dog, a hearty German Shepherd, pranced through the shallow pools.

Her paws had become wet, and I sighed. A warm gust of air whooshed from my chest. She turned and looked at me with a goofy dog-grin on her face. Her tongue lolled out, and I couldn't help but giggle.

The pavement passed beneath our feet and soggy wildflowers waved at us as we advanced upon them. The sky was grey but bright, as if the sun was working extra hard to remind us that it hadn't gone away for good. We reached our destination, and I was suddenly nervous.

Bracing myself for what might come next

I glanced at my dog and was reminded that I neglected to put on her working gear. Normally when we were in public, she would wear a vest that screamed, "Service Dog in Training. Do NOT Touch".

I braced myself and approached a muscled man in grey. He sat under the awning outside of the gym storefront. As we approached, my dog showed her excitement to greet him with a curious sniff in his direction, still a good 3 feet away from him. I corrected her for the slip-up, and she returned to her spot at my left thigh. I inquired about rates and facilities, and the man offered to give me a tour.

My service dog alerts me to sleep attacks

"You'll have to tie the dog up out here," he said and gestured to a post.

"Oh, she's a service dog," I answered.

He eyed me dubiously. "Service dogs don't lunge like that."

I looked down at my service dog, in a perfect heel next to me, suddenly unsure. It's not easy to have a disability and train a dog to help you with that disability too. Not to mention having to deal with business owners who don't know the first thing about the laws surrounding service dogs.

My service dog helps me by alerting to my sleep attacks that are due to narcolepsy. She also alerts when I start exhibiting automatic behaviors, which is a sure sign that I am having a sleep attack.

Whare are the ADA guidelines on service animals?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the only 2 questions staff are allowed to ask about a service dog are:1

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Staff cannot ask about the person's disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.1

This was not the gym for us

"She isn't wearing her working gear right now, so she is confused." I cursed myself internally for not dressing her up for public access. I had been too tired to. It isn't required by law for her to be labeled, but I am discovering that it does help for situations like these.

"I can wait here with her," I say, frozen in the doorway. The gym is well-lit, though cramped. At $30 a month, I expected that. The man mumbled something and entered the bathroom. Due to my hearing impairment, I didn't catch exactly what he said. He closed the door behind him. My skin bristled, and I turned on my heel.

"Come on, Kida, we aren't wanted here." The gravel crunched beneath my feet as we splashed away.

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