Rudy on Duty: How I Advocated for my Pet to Become An Emotional Support Dog

Rudy on Christmas

Rudy reminds me of the simple things in life like a good meal. No matter what we have for dinner, Rudy is under the table begging for his scraps.

By Ron Sandison

In December 2018 I was experiencing severe anxiety and depression. I felt overwhelm by traveling and speaking at over 70 events a year and working full-time with acute and sometimes aggressive psychotic patients as a psychiatric care specialist. This stress caused me to have painful digestive issues leading to my first visit to a gastroenterologist and a subsequent colonoscopy.

I decided to adopt a puppy to help me cope with my depression and anxiety and also as a Christmas gift for my family.

My coworker, Brittany, the charge nurse of our unit helped me search Pet Finder. The moment I saw Rudy’s picture (a Jack Russell Terrier mixed with Pomeranian) I knew he would be part of our family.

Three days later, my wife Kristen, daughter Makayla and I met Rudy. We quickly noticed Rudy’s go-getter temperament like an Energizer Bunny intoxicated on Red Bull with a honey badger perseverance.

It was love at first sight.

Rudy & Family

After adopting Rudy we discovered his bad habits. Rudy loves to feast on plastic toy fruits and Barbie dolls. He is obsessive with fetching his favorite toy bone. If Kristen and I give attention to our cat, Frishma, Rudy responds with a canine barking meltdown. Nothing seems to slow him down except a two mile fast-paced run through the snow.

On July 11th I returned to my apartment to find a note on the door from the apartment management informing us

Apartment Building 1# does not permit dogs.

I advocated to the apartment management concerning my autism and need for Rudy to help me deal with anxiety and depression. The office management graciously gave me time to gather paperwork for Rudy to be an emotional support pet.

I setup an appointment with a psychiatrist to write a prescription for Rudy to be an emotional support pet. The doctor wrote an order. I also wrote a letter to the landlord advocating my need to have an emotional support pet. I collected letters from my neighbors testifying that Rudy is a good fit for our building and does not bark loudly.

After two months of waiting the landlord approved Rudy living in our apartment!

Rudy was now official on duty.

Rudy may be the first emotional support pet who needs more emotional support then his autistic owner.

Five benefits I have experienced having an emotional support pet.

First, companionship.

When I come home from an emotional day, Rudy is always happy to see me. Licking my face and jumping into my arms. He lays on my lap as I watch movies and sleeps next to me in the bed providing comfort and rest.

Second, keeping my sensory issues in balance.

I have sensory issues with certain sounds and smells. Bass sound is a killer for my sensory issues and I hate the smell of nail polish. When I feel sensory overload, Rudy is quick to nudge me with his paws. This helps me stay calm.

Third, exercise.

I know what you’re thinking, “How can a dog help with exercise?” By barking softly to remind me to take him for a fast pace two mile run during the summer. We also play squirrel hunting. Which is really Rudy terrorizing the local small wildlife.

Fourth, enjoyment.

Rudy brings joy to our family as we watch the cat chase him around the living room or his jumping with Makayla and me on the bed. My favorite game to play with Rudy is Wolf. I call Rudy, a wolf and he growls and play fights.

Finally, purpose.

Rudy brings meaning into our family’s lives with his enthusiasm and playfulness. He is an important member of the Sandison family. Rudy reminds me of the simple things in life like a good meal. No matter what we have for dinner, Rudy is under the table begging for his scraps.

After adopting Rudy, my digestive issues were relieved by my stress level went down.
The American Veterinary Medical Association states, “The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors essential to the health and well being of both. This includes, among other things, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.”

For young adults and children with autism an emotional support pet can provide unconditional love and support.

Rudy & Makyhala

Rudy is my writing companion and has earned the nickname Little Man.

Living in the freezing State of Michigan, Rudy is already looking forward to summer and chasing squirrels around the neighborhood.

Ron Sandison

Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House and Thought, Choice, Action. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.

He frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016. You can contact Ron at his website or email him at

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