Daily Dawgs: Why being the best good boy isn’t enough to be an ESA

March 27, 2023

Hi guys! It’s me Rufus! Everyone thinks their dog is the best, and Mom says none of them are wrong. I know she’s probably joking, because I’m the best good boy out there, but I don’t get jealous about it.

Anyway, I thought I would tell you some of my tips and tricks to being the best good boy (ever) and let you decide for yourselves. I can’t tell you all my secrets – a boy has to have some things that are just his.

First off, me and my mom are school kids. I bet you probably guessed that we’re students at SIU, and you’re right! Good job! We’re studying journalism and sociology, so there’s lots of reading and writing that we have to do for homework. It might sound strange to you that I keep saying “we,” but that’s how me and Mom roll! I’m her best good helper and study buddy!


I help her study in lots of different ways. Sometimes, I lay on the bed and take a snooze, because I know she wishes she could, so I take the opportunity to grab a few Z’s for both of us! Other times, I sit and listen to her lectures with her. I don’t always remember everything, but she takes notes, so it’s no big deal. Other times I remind her that, even though school is very important, playtime is also important – and I can tell when she gets overwhelmed and needs a study break.

Being in tune with my mom’s emotions is one of my very best talents. Mom says I’m her emotional support Rufus. Mom has anxiety and depression, so it’s my job to make sure I’m right there when she needs me. And guess what? No one ever trained me for this very important job, it’s just a natural talent I have!

Sometimes, Mom gets anxious about stuff that I don’t really understand, but I just remind her that I’m there and she isn’t alone ever! Sometimes, when I’m sleeping, I can hear her gasp, so I jump up and go to her to make sure everything is ok. And sometimes it is – like when she’s reading something that surprised her; she always tells me, “Thank you baby boy, Mommy’s ok. I just read something that I wasn’t expecting. Mommy’s ok,” and she gives me lots of good pets and scratches for being the best good boy (ever). She said she read something about emotional support dogs, but I don’t remember what she said, so I’ll let her tell you!


There are many jobs for dogs within our communities as service dogs, working dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support dogs. Each occupation comes with its own specific set of regulations and some require special training, certification and registration. Additionally, there are certain rights and accommodations protected under the law for each occupation type.

The American Kennel Club website offers insight into the differences among the occupations of dogs, including how each occupation is defined and the differing rights covered under the law for each occupation.

Working dogs are “purpose-trained” canines who perform tasks such as herding, hunting, police and military dogs. Therapy dogs, usually working with their owner, volunteer in places like healthcare facilities and schools where they provide comfort and affection. The distinction between working dogs and therapy dogs is quite straight-forward, but there seems to be much more confusion between the difference between service dogs and emotional support dogs.


“Although all dogs offer an emotional connection with their owner, to legally be considered an emotional support dog, also called an emotional support animal (ESA), the pet needs to be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist must determine that the presence of the animal is needed for the mental health of the patient,” said an article on the AKC website.

According to information found on the Americans with Disabilities Act website, “The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.”

While service dogs are generally allowed anywhere the public is allowed, that is not the case for an emotional support animal. There are, however, some accommodations concerning housing which are legally protected when it comes to an ESA.

“The Fair Housing Act includes ESAs in its definition of assistance animals. Under the act, people cannot be discriminated against due to a disability when obtaining housing. Rules such as pet bans or restrictions are waived for people who have a prescription for an ESA, and they cannot be charged a pet deposit for having their ESA live with them,” said one article from the AKC website.


Ok, back to me! But wait a second – does this mean I’m not an emotional support Rufus? The research said a doctor had to write a prescription, but mom didn’t get me at a pharmacy! Or is it different because I’m an ‘emotional support Rufus’ and not an ‘emotional support animal?’ Mom said she doesn’t have any paper from a doctor about needing me, because she’s been fortunate enough to never need one. But I just ordered some business cards and I don’t want them to be incorrect. I hope it’s not too late to cancel the order! But I’m getting off topic.

Anyway, another thing I do to be the best good boy (ever) is that I remember to use my manners – at least most of the time. Sometimes, when mom is busy, I paw at her to get her attention, but she can’t always stop what she’s doing, so she asks me to go play quietly and independently. I know when she says that, she’s very busy, and she’ll ask me what I need when she’s finished, so I listen and go amuse myself with a toy or some snoozes while I wait.

When Mom is cleaning, folding laundry, or making the bed I always do whatever I can to help. But sometimes she says I’m more of a hindrance than a help. I’m not sure what hindrance means, but it must mean she has it under control, because she’ll say, “excuse Mommy” or “scooty the booty,” which means she needs me to move, so I do!

Something else I’m the best good boy (ever) at is to make sure I let mom know when I have to go outside to potty and do a security check. This takes out a lot of guesswork for her, which is good because she’s a busy lady! I always wait patiently while Mom is getting my things together, my leash and harness; when it’s time to put my harness on, I always lift my legs, one at a time, to help get myself all strapped in.

Mom always makes sure to tell me I’m a good boy and say thank you when I do something she’s asked me to. She’s a good mom! And I tell her it’s just part of the all-inclusive good boy package!

She asks me a lot why I’m such a good boy, and my answer is always the same – it’s just who I am, and I don’t know how to be any other way! But, guys – she keeps asking me, even though my answer is always the same. Maybe I should order her some ginkgo biloba to help with her memory. That reminds me, I need to cancel those business cards!

I’m out of time right now, but next week I’m going to talk about how important it is to make sure pets get proper medical care and tell you about the time I got really, really sick when I was a puppy.




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