Life Advice


Health & Spirit

Sisters don't want to go on annual family vacation

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

You feel excluded from these family members because you haven't seen them in 20 years. And you continue to not see them because you feel excluded.

The best way to feel part of a family is to spend time with them. The second-best way is to be in touch with them.

You could write: "We wish we could spend time with family members, but will probably never join you on the annual vacation to Europe, so it might be best to remove our names from the group email. If there are more local get-togethers in the works, we'd love to know about them."

Dear Amy: In your column, you ran a letter from "Doggy Manners," who complained about "therapy dogs." This was almost certainly the wrong term. I'm hoping you could clear up some misunderstandings for your readers:

Service dogs have been individually trained to perform work for persons with an ADA-qualifying disability. Training takes about two years and producing the dog costs at least $25,000. A disabled handler may be accompanied by the service dog anywhere the public is permitted.

Emotional support dogs are pets with no special training. They get the label if a clinician writes a letter stating that the owner has an ADA-qualifying mental illness and is emotionally dependent on the pet. These dogs are legally different from pets in only two ways. They must be permitted in no-pets housing (if the housing is covered by the FHA) and at least for the moment, the airlines permit them to fly in the cabin.

Therapy dogs are trained to be affectionate and have nice manners. They are tested and approved by a foundation, and they are insured. These dogs, with their handlers, are invited to places like nursing homes to be petted and enjoyed. They have no special standing for access other than by invitation.

Due to internet scams, millions of Americans think that it's okay to buy a certificate and a vest online, put it on a pet dog, and take the dog with them wherever they go. Service dog teams (including me and my dog) have been attacked and bitten, as have members of the public.

For people who present pets as service dogs: Stop thinking only about yourself. You're hurting your dog, interfering with disabled people who rely on their dogs and infringing on the rights of the public and businesses. If you wouldn't buy a fake handicapped parking placard for your car, stop pretending your pet is a service dog.

-- Service Dog Trainer

Dear Trainer: Thank you for the correction and clarification. "Doggy Manners" was complaining about "emotional support" dogs, but used the term "therapy dogs." I repeated the mistake in my answer.


(You can contact Amy Dickinson via email: Readers may send postal mail to Amy Dickinson, c/o Tribune Content Agency, 16650 Westgrove Drive, Suite 175, Addison, Texas, 75001. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.)



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