Our community members generously open up about the work and tasks their service dogs use to help them, how those work and task items fit into and affect their lives, and how their service dogs in training are learning the job. We asked for just the highlights, but we know these dogs do so much more. See their pictures, stories, and videos below!
Elaine & Rondi
Rondi is trained to make eye contact for grounding, lead me out of a store when I dissociate, and interrupt a panic attack by putting his front paws up on me.
Jazmin & Lady Bug
Lady Bug helps me with tactile stimulation and grounding used for my anxiety and PTSD. Lady Bug also alerts to my dissociative seizures and fainting spells. She has made it bearable to go after my dreams!
Nick & Tanka
First: Tanka “blocks” for me, creating a “comfort-zone” between me and anyone I might be uncomfortable with. This is a task I trained Tanka to do.
Second: Tanka recognizes when my anxiety level is rising, and gets silly, or playful, demanding my attention until my attention is refocused on him through play or walking, until my anxiety level reduces. This was not initially taught, rather it was an innate behavior that once recognized I simply continue to nurture.
In closing: Going out has become more enjoyable and manageable. My wife says she can see less stress, and simple enjoyment in my countenance when Tanka and I are out as a team.
Morgan & Swarley
My service dog, Swarley, helps keep me grounded in times of high anxiety with the weight of his head on my lap, in a form of deep pressure therapy (DPT), while I feel each individual hair on his head and neck. He also brings me back to reality in the event of a post-traumatic response by responding to my anxiety and/or interrupting my fear paralysis. His alertness to everyday life and the assurance he offers let me know if I have a reason to be concerned, taking the hypervigilance off of my shoulders.
Heather & Phoenix
My psychiatric service dog in training, Phoenix, responds as soon as I start to have a panic attack. She performs certain tasks, like pressure therapy, to shorten the duration of the panic attack or halting it altogether. With Phoenix, I am able to confront my agoraphobia and leave the house.
Chanda & Oliver and Peregrine
Oliver’s main job was to alert me to my seizures and actually stop them. He was trained to knock my hands away from my face and prevent huge crying spells, prevent me from running out into the street, and to bark at me loudly to prevent me from my compulsive skin picking.
Peregrine, my service dog in training, has been learning how to follow in Oliver’s pawsteps. He’s training to be ready and able to provide deep pressure therapy while I’m in my wheelchair, as well as learning to push the bathroom door open so that I cannot lock myself in the bathroom.
Patti & Amber and Izabella
Amber is semi-retired and alerts me to my blood pressure being too high and reminds me to take my medicines. Izabella (“Izzy”), my service dog in training, wakes me from my nightmares, helps me through my panic or anxiety attacks with DPT and tactile stimulation, reminds me to take my medicines, snaps me out of a flashback and dissociation, and away from the crowd to focus on her as well as alerts me to my blood pressure being too high.
Deanna & Maxwell Smart
Maxwell Smart is a natural alerter to my PTSD. He comes up and licks my nose or chin to interrupt nightmares/terrors. For my panic attacks he is trained to pull me to a quiet spot or out of the store to our car. He also applies deep pressure with his body to reduce anxiety attacks. For my dissociation, he is smart enough to regain my attention in whatever way is needed; this can include pawing at my leg, whimpering a little, and jumping in my lap until we connect. With Maxwell’s help I’ve been able to return to work, go grocery shopping in the middle of the day, and much more of things I would not do before him.
Christie & Cassie
For my anger episodes, Cassie leans her body next to mine until I calm down. When I fall, she wraps her body in front of mine until I let her know that appropriate help has arrived. If needed, Cassie rides in the ambulance next to the stretcher.
Veronica & Sabrina, Ollivander, and Hestia
My first service dog, Sabrina, was trained to assist me when I dissociated or was otherwise incapacitated by anxiety attack. She was trained to lead me from campus to the BART train station, get me on the correct train, get me off at the correct stop, and lead me home.
My second service dog, Ollivander, was trained to provide deep pressure therapy to me and ground me when I had high levels of anxiety.
My third service dog in training, Hestia, is already able to respond to my anxiety attacks with licking and the start of deep pressure therapy. This kind of response allows my brain to maintain a connection with the world, rather than disengaging.