Xingxing is now a certified Therapy Dog, which makes him my better half. It is all about him, especially when we're out doing our thing. But we are a team -- that's what our certificate from Therapy Dogs Incorporated says, anyhow. Gail and Xingxing, Therapy Dog Team.
So what's the difference between a Therapy Dog and a Service Dog? Basically, a Service Dog provides specific assistance to a specific person -- in Xingxing's case, me. A Therapy Dog provides love and happiness to lots and lots of people, many of whom are in hospitals, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes. Xingxing and I have just begun to volunteer for Hospice of the Valley, a non-profit hospice organization here in Phoenix, Arizona.
Therapy Dogs don't have the same privileges as Service Dogs. They can't go in restaurants or use public transport or fly free of charge -- although of course, they can visit places like hospitals. This is kind of silly, as Therapy Dogs (unlike Service Dogs) have to pass an actual examination and be accredited by a certified, national organization.
Xingxing and I made our first visit last week. It was wonderful to see the look on the face of the gentleman we visited. He'd always had dogs, he loved dogs, and you could see how pleased he was to have a dog on his lap again. Xingxing loved it, too. We're going to see our new friend again, on Friday. I believe in "giving back" and this is a lovely way to do it.
People who complain about "fake" service dogs are apparently agitating for legislative change and increased government control over service dogs. And let's face it: There are people who do falsely claim their (usually) small dogs are service dogs, mostly so that they can fly without paying the exorbitant fees the airlines currently charge for having a dog in a carrier bag under your seat. But instead of establishing yet another bureaucracy which will cost the American taxpayer millions of dollars, I have a better idea. Why not allow Therapy Dogs whose owners can prove they are volunteers fly free, just like Service Dogs? Encouraging more Therapy Dog Teams can only be a win/win situation.
Moreover, I would imagine that the fantastic, positive publicity that any airline espousing this policy would get would be worth more than the fees they are currently charging people who are trying to evade them. And it might encourage more people to become half of a Therapy Dog Team, which can only be a good thing.