Well, I’ve had my new dog for nearly two weeks now, and so far, so good. I can’t believe I adopted such a well-mannered puppy that was ALSO potty-trained. Both of these qualities definitely lessened the anxiety and apprehension I had about adopting another dog. The last dog I had adopted with the purpose of training her to be a service dog backfired so badly, I was really skittish to actually approach any new dogs or open up to loving another one I might lose. But I guess as the saying goes, you can’t be loved until you’re open to giving love…so that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
I’ve spent the last few days looking at potential programs to get us into training him to become a service dog. The issue is a lot of programs in the area only train PTSD dogs for soldiers that they pick out (aka no outside dogs). Luckily, I found a program, albeit quite a drive away, that has a set of classes over a year (as in a few weekends so you can train in between), and at the end of the program you get certified as a pair.
ADA-wise, service dogs don’t have to technically be qualified through any one organization like an ADA placard is at the DMV. Instead, it’s more about behavior-you can tell a dog with a vest on isn’t a service dog if it’s begging for food at a restaurant or growling at strangers. I’ve learned that there are a variety of “assistance” dogs out there-from therapy dogs that visit veterans at the VA for friendly pets, to emotional support dogs that live in people’s homes to provide support there, to the most well-trained and most visible kind of assistance dog, a service dog.
Service dogs can go anywhere their person goes-restaurants, movies, stores, etc. Technically, service dogs don’t have to wear the red vests they’re most commonly associated with, but without them, people frequently mistaken them for pets, which aren’t allowed in most restaurants (at least inside), stores, and other public areas.
This dog I’m going to have trained as a service dog, because I need him to be able to perform tasks when I’m not just at home and have an issue. There are a bunch of skills PTSD (or psychiatric service dogs more broadly) can do. My favorite one I’ve recently learned about is called “grounding,” where the dog jumps up on you and reminds you to be present and to snap out of a flashback or other traumatizing moment.
I was also intrigued to learn these dogs can be trained to give “deep tissue” massages…now I could have an on-demand masseuse! The coolest thing I’ve learned though if someone asks me about him is that- 1) is he for a disability (you betcha!) and 2) does he perform a service (oh yeah, those paws aren’t just for sitting pretty!).
Basically it’s been a few intense days of figuring out how to get him trained tailored to my needs, and maybe having my PTSD more under control, the stress that worsens my GI issues will in turn lessen. Today I was starting to think I was making a comeback after not throwing up in a few days, and then out went my lunch after a nap…
Anywhoo, the nugget of knowledge I learned in therapy today, reflecting on nearly a year with this doctor, is that learning to manage my stress load (class, work, family and friend commitments, etc.) coupled with being more patient with myself to get better is really the key to solving this.
I’m excited for what the coming months have in store, from some basic puppy training, to more advanced service work.