I attend a large university and am going into my third year. I love my school and have made really wonderful and supportive friends. However, I would love to find a romantic partner. I’m a straight woman, and I’ve been on a few dating apps and gone on many dates in the past couple of years, often with plenty of mutual interest, but my chronic illness and service dog make things complicated. He goes everywhere with me in order to detect if my medical condition is becoming dangerous and I need to take action. He makes me feel safe, is extremely well-behaved, and unless I’m in need of medical attention or we’re out walking, no one usually notices him.
I try to be up-front about my service dog, but I usually don’t bring him with me on first dates out of fear. My siblings sometimes feel uncomfortable with the dog and say that I’m “attracting too much attention,” so I fear that men I want to date will feel the same way. I usually mention my dog on first dates, and it’s almost never well-received. Sometimes guys say they’re allergic, which is legitimate, but sometimes they say they aren’t comfortable or that they’re not looking for a relationship with someone who needs a service dog. Some just say, “Oh … ” Others start asking a lot of intrusive questions about my medical condition and express reservations about dating someone with “constraints.” I don’t want to date an asshole who secretly hates my service dog and resents me for my chronic illness, but I’m tired of being completely shut down just because I have different physical needs than they do. How can I find people who don’t feel intimidated or weirded out by my service dog? Is there a way to bring it up that won’t make people jump into panic mode? Is there a way that I can respond to people who do express concern about my service dog and dating to make the situation more comfortable?