A girl sits on a couch and hugs her white fluffy dog.

Emotional Support Dogs and Sickle Cell Disease

Last updated: November 2022

A couple of weeks ago my princess started to suffer from back pain again. This officially started last year, and it seems to knock on the door for weeks now.

My daughter's chronic pain journey

I remember the doctors saying that she had chronic back pain, and I was devastated because I couldn’t accept the fact that she would suffer from chronic pain. I wrote an article about this as well.

A year later she is experiencing the same pain again and it is a tough, painful journey to be on. The same discussions I’ve had with her medical team in New Jersey, I need to have here with her medical team in Florida. And the same conversations with the school as well. But that is another story.

It was a crazy Saturday and I tried to walk with my princess around the house because she was lying in bed for days. She didn’t want to walk, or even play with her friends or Roblox. Seeing her in bed with a lot of pain is one of the hardest things to go through as a mom.

A real puppy?

That Saturday I decided to do something else to make her excited to get out of bed. I asked her if she want to go to the store with me, and she said no. For a drive? No! Starbucks? No! Do you want to get a puppy? She looked at me and asked, “a real puppy???” I said yes! She looked at me and said “Yes!!!!”

She has asked me for a puppy for years! But I couldn’t imagine having a puppy, taking care of a puppy in combination with all the other things that I need to do. But I’ve had some long conversations with doctors about emotional support dogs for kids living with a chronic illness and I started to read more about it. I believed that she could use some good, fluffy, snuggling, and happy distractions.

Welcome home Cooper

Up we go! On our way to the puppy store. After seeing hundreds of puppies, she saw one specific fluffy puppy and fell in love the moment she held him in her eyes. She was sitting on the floor in the store with the puppy in her hands and said, “I want him!”

We drove back home with our newest family member to start a new life. My princess enjoyed giving him his name “Cooper”, looking for fun things to give him and educated herself and me on the best food, drink, snacks, etc. She was enjoying the journey since day one.

How Cooper helps

Cooper is a lifesaver and keeps her moving and keeps her happy. He literally came into our life as an angel. He is such a blessing to our family. He is a Bichon Poodle, and he fits perfectly in our family. He has the same sunshine character as my princess, and he loves to cuddle. When you see my princess, you see Cooper. Everywhere we go, we go with Cooper.

When she is in pain, Cooper is not able to take away the pain, but he can cuddle with her, comfort her, play with her and let her focus on other things instead of her pain. It’s not an easy journey, and I don’t know all the answers, but I know that I will keep trying to figure out what the best fit is for our family.

Emotional support dogs for sickle cell

Let us begin with the definition of an emotional support dog with what it isn’t—a service dog. Most people mistakenly categorize emotional support dogs as service dogs. Emotional support dogs do not require specific training, and they are meant to provide mental or emotional stability to their owner through companionship and love. As very affectionate animals, dogs fill this role incredibly well.1

What makes an emotional support dog?

So, what differentiates an emotional support dog from any regular dog?  Well, an emotional support dog is one that a licensed mental health professional designates as an animal that provides mental and emotional benefits to someone with a disability. Do note that dogs are not the only emotional support animals (ESAs) out there. All domesticated animals can qualify, including cats, hedgehogs, teacup pigs, miniature horses, rabbits, mice, and even snakes.1

There is a lot of information on the internet about emotional support animals, but the best person that can guide you through this is the doctor. Because they know the journey best and they know exactly what the needs are of your dog.

A dynamic duo

Every time that I see her being happy with Cooper, my heart smiles at them. Taking care of a puppy is a full-time job, and costs a lot of money and a lot of energy. But when I look at my princess and the progress she makes, I feel so grateful to be able to support her in the best way possible.

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