For many people going to the movie theatre is a great way to relax and still feel like you got out of the house. But for someone with anxiety, my Person at least, it is far from relaxing, enjoyable experience it should be.
The stress usually starts the night before, when the decision is made to go to the movies. My Person spends hours (literally) checking session times, checking maps and making sure that the place actually exists. Because of stress my Person won’t get a good night sleep, imagining all the problems that may happen; driving there, buying tickets, finding seats, and the usual public access disputes that come with having a service dog.
In the morning my Person wakes up early, packs her bag and a bag for me (dog treats, a blanket to lay on, my ID card and other important documents, dog poo bags etc), gets dressed, checks that all the windows and doors are locked, that the car has petrol and then waits for another two hours until it is actually time to leave.
All this preparation may seem ridiculous to some but it makes my Person feel better, knowing that she hasn’t forgotten anything important.
The most stressful part of going to the movie theatre, for my Person at least, is waiting in line. Wondering whether or not we are going to be pulled aside by a security guard or staff member and told to leave because of me (a clearly marked and well behaved service dog), or whether the person at the counter is going to charge us for another seat or make us sit in disabled only seating or otherwise treat us differently because my Person has a service dog.
But today was very easy. The person at the counter didn’t say anything about me, they didn’t even look at me. It was like I was invisible, which is the best way to treat a service dog. My Person really appreciated it. Though the people behind us in line and everyone else waiting to go into the movie behaved just the way you would expect.
“Wow! A dog!”
“Look! A dog!”
“What’s a dog doing here?”
We requested a seat at the back of the theatre, because there is more leg room so that I can lay at my Person’s feet. And we had the whole back row to ourselves, so I could stretch out as much as I wanted. My Person brings for me a blanket to lay on because theatre floors are usually pretty gross, and I also have a biscuit to snack on.
When the ads, previews and eventually the movie starts I always sit up and look at the screen. Not because I’m interested in the movie but I like to know where sounds are coming from, otherwise I get a little anxious and stressed. When I know where the sound is coming from I lay down on the ground and go to sleep for the rest of the movie.
During the movie my Person can relax, but there is still the mild worry of what to do if you need to go to the bathroom? Obviously you leave the theatre and then come back when you’re done. But remember, these seemingly simple things are usually major dramas for people who suffer anxiety.
When the movie is finished my Person is usually quite relaxed and in a good mood. She finds it funny when we leave the theatre all the people going “I didn’t know there was a dog in here!” or “Hey? Did you know there was a dog in here?”
I am a service dog. What do people expect from me? Should I be barking at the screen, stealing popcorn from strangers, whining and complaining throughout the movie? No. I was asleep. Each time we leave the theatre there are a tonne of people who are AMAZED to discover that there was a dog in the theatre the entire time.
The best part about going to the movie theatre is going home. Not because the movie was awful, or the people were mean, or anything like that. But just because it has been an incredibly stressful 15 hours, and it is a relief to be able to get home and have a nap on the lounge.