This Mom's Instagram Post About Her Service Dog Reminds Us That "Not All Disabilities Are Visible"
"You judge me without even knowing me," she wrote.
Jenn Bethune, 32, is a mom, wife, blogger, Disney enthusiast, and pet stylist with her own grooming salon in Brandon, Florida. She's also a puppy mom to several dogs, including her trained service dog, Theodore.
Theodore came into her life in January 2018, and he was a true lifesaver for Bethune, who had witnessed her son, Ethan, die in a car accident in 2011 while they were on their way to Disney World to celebrate his 7th birthday.
"A woman reached out to me because she needed to re-home her standard poodle, who was eight weeks old at the time," Bethune told Best Life. "As soon as I held him in my arms, I had this undeniable connection with him. We've been best friends ever since."
But, as she wrote in a powerful Instagram post that is now going viral, not everyone believes Theodore is a service dog since Bethune doesn't have a visible disability.
On a recent trip to Disney World, she experienced strangers making "rude comments" and giving her "dirty looks," which sadly, isn't anything new for Bethune.
There was the father who scoffed and said, "Yeah right, that's not a real service dog," and then there was the woman who snidely remarked, "Looks like anyone can put a vest on their dog and call it a service dog these days."
"You judge me without even knowing me," she wrote in the Instagram caption. "Don't I look fine? I look like I've got it all going for me. … You wouldn't think anything could even be wrong with me."
But what they don't know is that Bethune has PTSD and has struggled with panic attacks ever since Ethan's death.
"I see the image of my child being killed every day of my life for the last eight years," she wrote. "Every. Single. Day. I have awful panic attacks that happen at random and I can't predict them. I have terrible night terrors and severe anxiety."
Theodore has been fully trained to help Bethune deal with her panic attacks. He can even sense them before they happen, and he knows exactly how to help her feel better.
"He immediately leans against me, I bend down to him, he puts his nose to my nose and he brings me back to reality without having to use seriously addictive medication," she wrote.
"Theodore gives me the confidence to know that no matter where I go, he's got my back and I can do anything," Bethune told Best Life. "If I have a panic attack, he's going to be there to help me."
And while Bethune tries to ignore the snide comments from ignorant strangers, sometimes, she admits, it hurts.
"It typically happens a couple of times a day," she said. "I've learned to block most of them out, but it can be so upsetting to someone who has a service dog. It makes you embarrassed and ashamed of your disability."
Which is why Bethune concluded her post by reminding people that "you have no idea what someone has gone through and what they have lived. … You never know what disability someone has by looking at them on the outside."
And if you're not totally convinced that dogs can be expertly trained to deal with emotional pain, check out 25 Incredible Things You Never Knew Dogs Could Do.
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