Sweet Emotional Support

service-dog

About a year ago, my friend told me that her daughter, who had severe anxiety, wanted to get a service dog. My first reaction was, “What? A service dog? For anxiety?”

I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know this existed. Of course I’d seen guide dogs for the sight impaired or legally blind. And I’d heard of dogs that help the physically disabled. And also dogs who can alert people with diabetes that their sugar is too low or too high.

But why didn’t I think about animals to provide support for anxiety? It makes so much sense. There should be dogs to help people with panic attacks, agoraphobia, and other mental illnesses. And there are.

I did some research on service dogs, specifically those who are trained to help people with mental illnesses. I checked out the website for the Americans with Disabilities Act, known as the ADA.

The ADA defines a service animal as “a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.ย  The tasks performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.” These types of dogs are called psychiatric service animals.

Dogs that provide comfort just by being with a person don’t qualify as service animals, because they haven’t been trained to perform a specific job or task. These dogs are called emotional support animals.

The ADA says some state or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places, even if they haven’t been trained to perform a specific job. And, if someone’s dog calms them when having an anxiety attack, this may qualify as a service animal.

I know how comforting it is to have a dog by my side.ย  Our lab follows me everywhere. I love to pat his soft head, talk to him, and cuddle with him. Dogs are lovable and good distractions. They don’t judge, and they’re always happy to see us. I can easily imagine how much emotional support a sweet dog could offer.

A few days ago I was in the mall and saw a woman holding a chihuahua, wearing a service vest. My first thought was that it obviously wasn’t a seeing eye dog. So I wondered if that little pup was there to comfort the lady. Maybe without that dog in her arms, she wouldn’t be able to go shopping or run her errands. Maybe that dog makes a huge difference in the quality of it’s owner’s life.

My friend’s daughter didn’t necessarily want a trained service dog. She just wanted a small dog to be with her at all times. Thankfully, her anxiety improved, and she decided not to get an emotional support dog. Her family already has two adorable dogs, ready and willing to give unconditional love and comfort whenever she needs it.
“Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”
– Roger Caras, American wildlife photographer

dog

First image courtesy of: http://www.urbanvillagelegal.com/condo-association-ban-service-dog/

Second image courtesy of: http://xeon24.com/

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22 thoughts on “Sweet Emotional Support

  1. This is news to me too….and I have to admit I am a psychotherapist (working with kids/teenagers). I think it is a wonderful idea but I didn’t know they make these specific distinctions between the type of service dogs. There have been many moments when I wished I had one in my practice!
    No different than other animal-assisted therapy approaches. They are a wonderful “tool” (if one wants to call them that). Many times they can communicate to the children what no other human can. From soul-to-soul, so to speak. Lovely post

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! And I love what you said… that sometimes dogs or animals can connect to the children, when no one else can. That’s beautiful. I really think a service dog or emotional support dog could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it.

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    • Have you looked into therapy dogs at all? There are usually a pretty good list of local therapy dog organizations for most areas. If you google it, you should come up with something. These are typically pets that also do work outside their home with their handler in nursing homes or working with children. There was a whole program back in my old town where dogs would be brought in so children could read to them if they were having difficulties with reading. There are tons of possibilities out there, so good luck with your work!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you for your suggestions. Unfortunately the idea of therapy dogs isn’t completely new but not that known in Germany (where I am). I’ve heard of a psychiatric clinic where they would bring in a dog for the kids once in a while. It’s not that common (yet) and therefore not quite as easy to do…but I know the numbers are growing

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  2. I’m also working on fundraising for a service dog of my own for severe anxiety and PTSD. For me it should be the comfort I need to be able to just leave the house and do tasks that I desperately need to do, like finally be able to go to the grocery store without fear of getting overwhelmed and lost again, or to so much as go out my front door after sunset to water my plants. They help countless veterans returning home too. It’s amazing how much assistance a dog can be just by being there, but also by being an extra set of eyes and ears that always loves you and never judges.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I agree. Thank you for your insight on this, I appreciate it. I really hope you’re able to get a service dog. I’d bet that dog would be a great comfort and support to you. Best of luck! Please keep me posted, when you do get that dog ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. A friend’s grandson is a vet who was wounded in Afghanistan and suffers from PTSD. I love that he was able to get a service dog.
    The apartment complex I live in is specifically for mentally disabled. We are all allowed emotional support animals. I don’t know what I’d do without my 2 cats.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As much as I love my cat, I can’t exactly take her with me as an emotional support animal – all of my energy would be spent trying to keep her calm, ha! But I have considered getting a service dog to help with the anxiety and agoraphobia – and whatever else may come my way. Thank you for sharing:)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: The Sunshine Blog Award | From Crazy With Love

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