Join Date: Oct 2006
OneMoreTime on The Psychiatric SERVICE Dog
First of all, I wish to reply to Amy (DesertRanger) from another thread - I think it may have been the puppy-training thread --- you said you "disagreed with some things (I) said.
You mentioned that you had lots of experience with "working" dogs and how you had discovered it took "the right person for a particular dog". I didn't say anything one way or another regarding that actually - tho as someone who has many family members with several cattle working breeds, pointers and retrievers, and highly trained scent dogs and those perfectly trained to many voice commands... So I understand what you are describing, but fail to see how it applied to anything I said. Actually, I said it was far far preferable to select an ADULT dog so you COULD know the dog's personality, to see if you were a match. And shelter dogs are returnable.
And as I have stated in other threads, almost all shelters now have employees capable of assessing a dog's trainability, test for shyness or aggressive traits, territoriality, possessiveness, etc - qualities that might render the dog unsuitable for your needs (and don't be shy at letting them know EXACTLY what you need). Don't fall for a pretty face or a shiny pretty coat - look for TRAITS and basic obedience and house training.
You also misread what I said when I pointed out that a larger dog on a leash could easily tip someone right off their feet if they didn't realize an animal was in a business and their concentration was on shopping, not where they put their feet. I didn't say that your own dog would pull you off your feet (no well trained dog would do so), but that accidents can happen - and you would be sued (as would the store).
You, as do the many regular correctly educated owners of a non-psychiatric service dogs, cite one or more sources that specify a psych service dog be, by legal definition, specifically trained in one or more specific spontaneous or command acts commensurate with our specific disabilities.
At least once, perhaps several times, I have provided the link to the United States very own lawyers ordered to prepare a definition of a disability that complies entirely with the ADA law (Americans with Disabilities Act) and their jointly constructed and officially and publicly released definition states that a disability is a condition that prevents the patient from achieving a level of functioning of certain functional indexes of "normal life" that are not achievable otherwise.
Which specifically applies to things like severe social anxiety (C-PTSD post severely abusive relationships and a terrible two years of interminable bullying) which literally confines me to my apartment for months at a time.
This confinement is broken only by trips every 2 weeks across the street (at night) for fresh milk, bread and to stock up on a few other necessities.
And by a trip of 2.5 blocks -sometimes only every couple of months (at night)- to pick up my mail.
And taking out garbage (to a dumpster mere steps from my front porch) "only when I can't live with it anymore" - and even then in the middle of the night when I am almost certain to not encounter anyone - when the presence of someone, a neighbor, can send me scurrying back inside as fast as I can go, triple locking the door behind me.
THIS is a severe disability that, along with bipolar, developmental learning difficulties, put me on SSI after years of trying to become (and failing miserably) self-sustaining -ie, make enough for a roof over my head and being unable to take care of myself in some of the most elementary ways - like opening up mail (less than a year ago I finally became able to open up my mail), managing my own finances, keeping my apartment at even a minimally acceptable level of cleanliness and orderliness.
I am a very messed up person and there is NO ONE, not even my two daughters in their 30's, who do not see me as an embarrassment, a profound disappointment and a pathetic excuse for a relative. Did I say that I was lucky to not be buried?
Regardless, yes I made it to doctor appointments to have Rx's renewed (a few more blocks -tiny tiny town) and with a companion, to WalMart on occasions for clothes, etc... but I was severely restricted and suffered from a great deal of anxiety. I was so inactive and suffered such relentless anxiety (both gave me HBP I didn't recognize as the highly dangerous thing it was), that I developed a permanent and progressive heart disease, CHF which will, most probably, eventually kill me - so says the cardiologist...
So what did I discuss with my psychiatrist? What did he specify in his letter that I carry with my dog's other documents? AND, just how does my dog help me? SPECIFICALLY?
When I finally (after a month of anxiety of filling out my first application form - a few blanks a day) applied for SSI and then got it, I asked my now available psychiatrist if it could be possible for me to have a dog as a psychiatric service animal. I showed him the papers citing the law, the government's own definition of DISABILITY so he could see how the dog I would be seeking would be able to provide a service that would decrease some of my psychiatric disabilities so I could assume a somewhat more "normal" life.
I told him how a small dog could provide me with therapy ---- Which not only would make me leave my apartment at least twice a day for elimination purposes, but would put me in proximity of others, running into neighbors --- but that I would have a DOG for others to look at and talk about, putting me in the background, of less direct attention, and providing a source of smiles and small chit chat about the dog. It proved just as I had found it to in the past and DID get me out and I became less afraid (but ONLY when I had my dog with me).
When going to what eventually became a plethora of therapists, doctors and labs and testing facilities, having my dog in her carrier game me a way to reach for her body for the reassurance of her soft fur, head pushing against my hand, nuzzling my hand. In waiting rooms other than psych ones, I would have her in her soft-crate, but once in the room, she came out and lay quietly during the appointment.
She even GOT ME TO APPOINTMENTS - because anxiety that made me an unsafe driver, then the valium that rendered me unable to drive. This way, she was in her harness and seatbelt, in her eye-level home made open basket carrier, where I could easily reach out an arm and pet her head and shoulders, calming me.
She enabled me to shop and bank and go to the post office during the daytime without being so panicky that I couldn't think straight.
After a few years, my anxiety gradually reduced for a number of appointment and shopping settings, so I would not take her for it would have been fraudulent to make it seem that I NEEDED her. I continue to need her (the fear of "being seen") to go for a walk. I still have periodic bouts of months of "I can only go out at night and only then no more often than once a week", so I'm not "cured", just in periodic degrees of remission of varying lengths of time - a common phenomena in a great many illnesses.
So how is my Service Dog (and she IS, according to the government's own description of disability that require special accommodation) specially trained? She is just exactly who she is, a cheerful companion for all outings and a warm furry body within easy reach when I need a dose of FURRY VALIUM.
So what happens without her? I have to rock myself back and forth to try to comfort myself, making me look "mentally ill", and I babble nervously, compulsively, become overwhelmingly scatter-brained and otherwise a mess - a portrait that says, "this woman is NOT operating with a full deck". But with my furry valium, I can look and act normally because I FEEL relaxed and comfortable.
Again, the government, in the division in oversight of compliance with the ADA's provisions to address the needs of the officially legally described functionally disabled, covers her lack of active interventions and her refusal to whine or bark - and her not being trained to "detect my anxiety" ---- tho my sweating, elevated heart rate and mental distress tell ME I have anxiety and I am capable of directing myself to reach out for her and comfort myself.
Now over the past couple of years, having moved far away from family, having virtually broken off relations with all, save limited contact with my mother and grandchildren, and living in such a tiny town (the biggest "crowd" I've been near was around 20) and being familiar with all my doctors and avoiding the grocery store during heavy usage times (still anxiety attacks having to wait in the check-out line), so outside of walking outside for exercise or to enjoy the weather or the mountain views where I still NEED her and will ALWAYS need her badly, I NEED her very infrequently.
When I came to this area of the country generally unfamiliar with PSDs, I carried my papers all the time - I gave my doctor permission to state my diagnoses and EXACTLY what symptoms my dog alleviated. She IS treatment, just like a bottle of valium. It is not legally necessary to disclose to ANYONE AT ALL the nature of your disability. It is against the ADA law for anyone to demand that you disclose the nature of your disability. But it is my nature that I decided to be one of those who educated and habituated people about how a dog could be an important treatment tool in assisting a mentally ill person function in an important way that was not accessible otherwise....
When the post master said I could not bring her in, I brought in my psychiatrist's letter. She declined to invade my privacy by reading it, but I have never had any trouble since then. They have since added a sign on the door specifying that only service dogs are allowed.
WalMart has never ever done anything but give me happy face stickers to put on her bag. Manager or employee, never a single raised eyebrow, never mind a demand to prove my need for her. The local store, citing their getting in trouble with the health inspector, should he visit when I was there, forbade me to walk down the fresh meat and the fresh produce aisles - and that makes me wish so much that WalMart here was a super Walmart with a full grocery section. I knew the demand did not meet the ADA regulations, but the cheap hamburger is right next to the bologna (tho I have to SNEAK down to the bread & peanut butter) and the bananas and potatoes and onions and salad stuff are right at the ends of the produce aisle - and I have found other places to spend my grocery money. AND I scarcely ever buy anything not on sale.
As for Southwest AirLines. I have found Southwest to be fully supportive and accommodating, even if the employees at the check in desk at this or that carrier may be totally confused and baffled about her status, and have even called in a supervisor once. I ALWAYS check in at EACH TRANSFER. It IS necessary. For one thing (a great one), this gives me automatic access to the SHORT line that boards first, with children and those needing physical assistance. This gives me a guaranteed window seat, a bulkhead seat if available, and time to settle in. Most of my seatmates are purely astonished (delightfully so) to discover at the end of the flight that they have sat beside a dog for sometimes hours.
During stops when we stay on the plane, I open the end of her carrier so she can stand up and stretch and enjoy the attentions of the stewards --- but like a baby in a car, she sleeps like a top all during the flights. Plane seating area keeps getting smaller and smaller til there is truly no real "under the seat area", so I have to lift my legs in the air or spread them to either side of her carrier. It is sucky.
I have never had problems with restaurants of any sort - they don't even ask or comment.
For those of you who have not gotten bored, fallen asleep or drifted away to something else, I will bring you up to date on the state of public acceptance of PSDs (psychiatric support dogs). There has now been SO MUCH ABUSE of this classification, with so many persons getting even their primary care physicians to give them the easily procured generic permission letter, that there is beginning to be a widening public backlash against the entire of letting ANY dogs other than for the blind and significantly physically disabled have access for their dogs.
WHY? Because even in this tiny town, I have seen other people walking their dogs in the pharmacy and doctor offices beginning to put up "no dogs allowed except to assist the blind" signs when all of them have been delighted to understand how she is my furry valium.
People ARE allowed to just take their dog with them where ever they go (since the ADA does not allow managers and such to demand "proof" of disability). The store owner or doctor's office or such, if suspicious, has only ONE recourse --- to file an official complaint alleging their suspicions that you are faking your need. Then it will be up to a federal prosecutor or judge to determine if you broke federal law.
Since back in the early 50's, people have been accustomed to the idea of Seeing Eye Dogs... And the harness, the short rigid grip (rather than loose leash) and total obedience and incredible calm and total ignoring of anyone but their charge gave the entire service dog concept an incredible start. For other types of disabilities, it has been a bit stop and go, but progressing. But for the HIDDEN disabilities such as of Mental Illnesses, it -was- taking longer --- but now that there are so many so-called PSDs showing up, demanding access and privileges, there IS a growing backlash, putting the entire category back back back.
Let's think about it. How are you going to prove that your dog's pawing you is not for attention or a sign of a full bladder, but instead because he senses an impending melt-down. And are you really going to find a spot to sit in the store until your next medication time and let them see how he signals you that it is time?
And if one more person tells me that my dog can only be a service dog if she wears a buckled cape (which with her flat face and long heavy black coat would quickly give her heatstroke), I will scream. I have said til I am blue in the face that anyone can go online and not only buy "service dog" capes and such, but even documents alleging training and certification, even sit down at a computer and create facsimiles of official training program documents.
A cape proves NOTHING but that you can find a website and have a credit card or a paypal account.
Now THAT is educating the public.
Again, I make a plea to those with mental illnesses. PLEASE DO NOT request a letter of pretense from your mental health provider. And if and when you are able to perform an outside the home task without the dog's presence, please do so. I, in fact, make will POINT OUT that I don't have my dog "this time" and explain why I am able to do without her "this time" and state that there may come a time when I WILL need her again... all awhile reminding them that my disability includes the symptom of crippling anxiety and that she is my Furry Valium. This earns me (and ALL mentally ill who benefit from a psd) brownie points by showing them that just because you have a mental illness, you have no desire to "play it to the hilt" to get Special Privileges.
Now YOU and YOU and YOU may always need your dog and need never apologize for it - but do always remember that you and your dog are Ambassadors to the cause of public acceptance. Never encourage someone who CAN function but who WISHES they could take their dog everywhere to "just ask your doctor for a letter"... To do so is to set the road to acceptance into a continuous curve back to where we started.
Sorry for all this "oh so long" letter... But know that I am ALWAYS working for public understanding and acceptance of the VERY REAL VALIDITY of the Psychiatric SERVICE dog.
Thank you always.... keep posting and keep teaching others...
ps: My sister was nearly murdered by her estranged husband a number of years ago (6 or so at least) and still suffers terribly from PTSD. My mother was so offended that she showed up from out of state at my father's funeral with her tiny dog curled up in her arms... I stood up for her. Family is as stressful for her as it is for me. It was the only way she could have attended.
And this is the sister who liked and owned ONLY very intelligent, trainable large working and sporting dog breeds... But she got a small poodle, an intelligent easily trainable breed, because she KNEW that a small dog in arms (not at the end of a leash) would gain acceptance and cause her less grief that a lab with a tail that can knock a small child down <smiling> and leave hair in every waiting room, never mind needing her to buy an extra seat on airlines <laughing>
All of you, live life to the fullest that you can - then stretch and grab a little more!
Last edited by OneMoreTime; 01-31-2011 at 06:58 AM.
Reason: big blooper in identity - read too many threads & got mixed up