After beginning to come to terms with my diagnoses and how they would impact my life long-term, I learned about the possibility of a service dog being able to help me. When I brought home my psychiatric service dog prospect, I thought I had researched everything possible: positive-reinforcement training, crate training, potty training, task training to mitigate aspects of my mental illness diagnoses, the best food options, the best veterinarian care, and basic knowledge of the law pertaining to service dogs and service dogs in training. I spent so much time picking the perfect puppy, a qualified trainer, a great vet, and all of the puppy supplies I thought I would need. Then, things started to happen I was not prepared for.
I had an access challenge at a place I least expected it, I could not go out in public without a barrage of questions, my panic attacks and agoraphobia were so intense it made leaving the house to socialize my puppy difficult, and I didn’t quite know how to explain to my family and friends why I was getting a dog. I went from feeling like I was on top of the world to feeling like I was lost in a never-ending maze.
My dog’s trainer suggested I check out the Psychiatric Service Dog Partners (PSDP) website. I slowly began to see an end to the maze I was stuck in. It was amazing to find the answers to all of my questions on one website. The website provided answers to questions I didn’t even know I had yet. I was overjoyed to find information specific to psychiatric service dogs (e.g. work and tasks) because my research online yielded very little results.
Joining the listserv has let my knowledge of psychiatric service dogs and their training continue to grow. I am able to learn by reading the exchange of emails regarding a variety of topics (e.g. new tasks, airline travel, court cases). Also, if someone is having difficulty with their dog (e.g. picked up a bad behavior, difficulty in training a task), there are so many experienced people on the listserv that provide good advice and suggestions; a solution is always found.
With PSDP’s continued support, I have found the assistance and guidance I needed to find my way out of the maze. I know I have a website and a large support group backing me (via the listserv) whenever I get lost again!