I had been there for her through her treatments for infertility,a long and painful recovery from a motorcycle accident and a divorce. Our doctor-patient relationship lasted for over 15 years. It ended over a dog.
Even though she already had a dog, she moved into a new apartment that did not allow pets. Rather than find a new apartment or a new home for her dog she decided to have me write a letter saying that her dog was necessary for her mental health. She was happy with her dog and would be sad without it, which to her thinking meant that her dog was medically necessary. She scheduled an appointment specifically to get the letter.
As nicely as I could I informed her that it was my policy to never write letters for therapy pets. I explained that while pets do provide comfort that is not the same as a pet being medically necessary. As most of the requests I received were from patients who had not been previously diagnosed with a mental disorder I was concerned that I many of the requests were not genuine. As I did not want to make false or incorrect statements it was my policy to ask patients to direct these requests to their therapist or psychiatrist.
She was livid. Her voice rose as she sternly replied, “If you do not write me this letter I will find another doctor.” Never one to give in to threats, I wished her the best of luck with her new physician.
Requests such as hers have become increasingly common as more and more people have discovered the “letter from your doctor” loophole to pet exclusions. Privacy laws prohibit the disclosure of patient information to potential landlords so there is no way for anyone to confirm that a therapy dog is truly necessary. Many eager to please or afraid to offend doctors have joined in the deceit.
I realize that there are people who feel calmer and more secure when accompanied by a pet but I wonder if our society has not taken things too far. We have reached the point where people are averse to even the slightest discomfort. The feelings and comfort of others are ignored as personal desires have become God given rights. People are taking “therapy dogs” on airplanes, supermarkets and shopping malls. I have even seen them at Disneyland. (I would think that being at the “Happiest Place on Earth” would be therapy enough!)
I have decided that it is not my duty to cater to every desire my patients express and that sometimes saying, “No” is the right response. I consider it a form of therapy.
Comments and questions are welcome. Click the subscribe button to have future posts delivered to your email inbox. The next post, coming on Monday, is the continuation of my series on the evil of adultery. Finally, Yes those are my dogs in the picture!