Friday, December 23, 2016

Superhero Service Dog

I am extremely blessed to have constant heartbeat at my feet. My partner in crime is a two year old, female, yellow lab. Jenny, whom I have had for a year, is my psychiatric medical alert service dog.

I received Jenny from an organization is San Diego, California named Little Angels Service Dogs. They have a ranch where they train service dogs for all different types of disabilities including psychiatric, autism, hearing, and seizure alert dogs. A lot of their dogs come from their breeding program, but they do rescues as well. Jenny's training started at six weeks old. I met her shortly after she turned one. When her training was finished my mom and I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego where I spent two weeks in Handler Training learning how to work with Jenny.

This is the first day I met Jenny. 
This is her preforming Deep Pressure Therapy

Jenny is a Psychiatric Service Dog. This is different from a therapy dog or an Emotional Support Animal. Jenny is specifically trained in different tasks to help with my mental illnesses.  Her basic obedience tasks include sit, stay, down, wait, come, off, inside, out, and watch me. Then she has the tasks that help me personally. Her main task is medical alert. Jenny is trained to notice changes in my body and can alert me to panic attacks before they happen. She notices when my anxiety rises. She alerts me when I am holding my breath. She has also recently started alerting me if my physical pain becomes too high. When Jenny alerts me I am then able to assess my situation and do the steps I need to in order to take care of myself. 
Jenny can also help with that. Another command Jenny knows is "paws up." When I say this to Jenny she jumps up in my lap if I'm seated in a chair, or lays across me if I'm laying down. This uses her body weight to hit pressure points that relieve anxiety. It also gives me a good chance to hold her and pet her which takes me mind off of whatever has me upset. 
Her last task is Non-Protective Boundary Control. Most of the time when Jenny is doing this others around me will have no idea. I simply hold my hand in front of her nose and say "touch" and she will follow my fingers wherever they go. Normally she just lays in front of me or behind me in order to provide more space and keep people from getting too close. 

Since Jenny is a service dog she is covered under the American's with Disabilities Act. Federal law gives me the right to take Jenny into anywhere the general public is allowed to go. There are a few exceptions to where we are allowed to go such as certain areas of the hospital which require sterile protocol such as burn units and operating rooms. I also have to ask permission to bring her with me when I am entering another persons house. This usually isn't a problem. I've only had one person tell me that I could not bring Jenny with me if I wanted to come over. 

Since I got Jenny when I was seventeen she finished out high school with me. We walked the stage together at graduation. Now she lives in the dorms with me at Cal State Bakersfield. 

Having Jenny has allowed me to be able to do these things and many more. She has vastly improved the level of independence I can have. I am grateful every day to have her. I look forward to all the new adventures we will have together.  

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