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“Main Line Deputy Dog offers hope for local disabled”

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This August

A service dog putting keys into his owner's hand.

A service dog putting keys into his owner’s hand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

19, 2014 MainLine article talks about Main Line Deputy Dog where owners can learn to train their own service dog to meet their individual physical or mental health needs.

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“Pet Tales: Dogs help autistic children”

English: Suzi Q, a certified service dog, work...

English: Suzi Q, a certified service dog, working in snow in Finland. She wears a colorful vest and an insulating underjacket with reflective markers, useful in winter when it’s dark up to 22 hours a day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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This February 23, 2013 article on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website talks about Service Dogs trained to aid kids with Autism.

“Man’s Best Friend Lives Up to the Name”

English: A Psychiatric Service Dog In Training

English: A Psychiatric Service Dog In Training (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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This article doesn’t have a date on it, but I received  link to it in an email directly from NAMI on Wednesday, July 11, 2012.  The article was neat for me to read, because I have a Psychiatric Service Dog, and I love hearing about others being able to benefit from these awesome dogs.  prior to getting Tippy, I was in he hospital at least once per year for mental health reasons, but I’ve had Tippy for about 6 years now, and only had to be hospitalized once in that time frame.  The reason for the hospitalization was the result of eating too much grapefruit which interacted with my medications negatively and caused me to have a serotonin overload, which I later found out was more serious than I realized at the time.  At any rate though, I’m finding that Tippy helps motivate me to get out of bed on those days when depression is trying to creep in, she helps me remember to take my medications on time, and my panic attacks have decreased significantly since I got her as well.  I now find that going out in public while still challenging, is much more tolerable then it had been before I got her.

One thing I would like to remind folks of though, is that despite Guide Dogs for the visually impaired being the type of service dog that people think of first, it is important for folks to realize that not all disabled people are visually impaired.  Service dogs have been trained for all sorts of disabilities, including but not limited to, hearing, seizure alerts, diabetic alerts, mobility, psychiatric, and other types of disabilities that have a huge impact on the individual’s ability to function in everyday life.  Not all disabilities are visible to the naked eye, so if you see someone who is accompanied by a service dog, don’t assume the handler is visually impaired, or that the dog is in training both could be wrong assumptions, and for me personally, I get frustrated with it when people make such assumptions about me, because it comes across as rude on some level and like people view me as a diagnosis and not as a person.  Treat folks who are accompanied by a service animal the way you would want a stranger to treat you if you were seen in public, it’s ok to be friendly, and say hi to me, or commenting on the weather or whatever other small talk you might encounter while shopping, but please respect the fact that disabled people are not required by any law or regulation to discuss their disability in detail with anyone, and that despite out disability, we are people first 🙂

“Pet Tales: Therapy dogs a hit at Pitt”

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This article found on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette site on April 21, 2012 talks about one of the many ways dogs are trained to help others.  The dogs in this article are Therapy Dogs not to be confused with a Psychiatric Service Dog.  A therapy dog is typically trained to act sort of like Wal-mart greeters in a wide variety of places such as waiting rooms, hospitals, nursing homes, or as this article indicates even on college campuses like Pitt.   A Psychiatric Service dog, like mine is trained to work with a specific disabled individual meeting that individual’s needs.  the big difference though is that a therapy dog is not allowed the same level of public access as a Psychiatric service dog,  the Therapy dog needs to get permission to be in places in many cases, where a psychiatric service dog is covered by the ADA the same way as a guide dog for a visually impaired person would be.  Therapy dogs still have an important job, and I’ve heard of situations where service dogs sometimes go into a partial retirement and will work as therapy dogs, therapy dogs are awesome, and do help many people, their training just isn’t as specialized as a service dog’s training, though there are similarities in what they do.  Therapy dogs typically are there to bring hope and smiles to the faces of many while a service dog’s purpose is to help an individual.   If you aren’t sure if a dog is a Therapy dog or a service dog, ask the handler they will be able to tell you if it is a service dog, therapy dog or a pet.

 

Mandy was much more than just an assistance dog

I found this article in the Saturday, May 3, 2008 edition of the Warren Times Observer.  I realize it doesn’t pertain specifically to Mental Health Issues, but I felt it was a good article to post here, because it demonstrates how having and utilizong a Service Dog goes deeper then the dog simply being a tool.  There is a bond between the handler and the Service Dog that runs very deep, some might even say it runs deper then the bond between a pet and it’s owner.

I have personally met Many and her handler, Deb, and know how devestating this has been for Deb to lose her Service Dog it is something that happens to teams and it is probably the one thing every handler dreads, but the service provided by these wonderful Service Dogs outweighs the knowing that the dog will not live forever and often times will open doors for the handler that the handler may not have been able to walk through prior to utrilizing a Service Dog.  I know in my own life, Tippy has brought a huge amount of confidence into my life while enhancing it in ways I never dreamed would be possible.

So, while this article doesn’t pertain to Mental Health Issues directly, it demonstrates what a Service Dog can do for it’s handler to enhance the quality of their life, and as a side benefit, increase the handler’s self-esteem and emotional well-being.  You can visit New Hope Assistance Dogs, Inc., the organization where Tippy and Mandy were placed through, by clicking this link …. http://newhopedogs.org

Mandy was much more than just an assistance dog
By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com

She was a helper, a link to a life that seemed lost, and a provider of emergency medical services.

 

Mandy was many things to Deb Fitch-Devore, but most of all, she was a friend.

 

Mandy, a golden retriever trained by New Hope as an assistance dog, passed away on Saturday, April 12, with her leash in her mouth.

 

She was six years old.

 

She had shared four of those years with Fitch-Devore.

 

“I had no idea the bond that could develop between me and a dog,” Fitch-Devore said.

 

New Hope assistance dogs go through very specialized training for two years to help people with certain disabilities.

 

When health problems forced Fitch-Devore to stop working, she went into a downward spiral. Mandy was just what she needed.

 

Fitch-Devore worked at Rexnord for 21 years before her health forced her to leave in 1998.

 

Her hip and back cause her pain and put major restrictions on her mobility.

 

“It got to the point where I just couldn’t work anymore,” she said.

 

Without work, she seldom left her house in Lander.

 

“I was so afraid I would drop something and not be able to pick it up or I would fall and not be able to get back up,” Fitch-Devore said. “I was staying home so much I was almost reclusive.”

 

Barb Ruhlman had been involved in training one of Fitch-Devore’s other dogs. Ruhlman is a trainer for New Hope and she introduced her to Mandy.

 

“At first I didn’t understand why she was with me and why we were going to the mall,” Fitch-Devore said of her first meetings with Mandy. “I didn’t know why we were going out in public, why she was supposed to go with me everywhere.”

 

Fitch-Devore quickly got used to the idea. So did Mandy.

 

“During the day, she always stayed with me,” Fitch-Devore said. “Laying by my side, bringing me things, picking things up for me.”

 

“She gave me the confidence and the motivation to go out and do things,” Fitch-Devore said. “She just made all

things possible.”

 

“Suddenly, I wanted to go places and have people look at this wonderful dog that was helping me,” she said.

 

The pair met many people while raising awareness and funds for New Hope or just out and about.

 

“So many people knew Mandy,” she said. “They don’t know who I am, other than Mandy’s mom. They ask about

her.”

 

Fitch-Devore said she still reaches out her right hand and is surprised when it doesn’t find Mandy.

 

“I always walked with my hand here and her head was always there,” she said. “She was my security blanket.”

 

Mandy had her own version of a security blanket.

 

She got in the habit of carrying the wrist-loop end of the leash in her mouth. That didn’t leave much for Fitch- Devore. “She would take the end I was supposed to have,” she said. “I was allowed to have this little piece.”

 

“It seemed to work as a security blanket,” she said.

 

Mandy was trained to pick up objects that Fitch-Devore dropped and return them to her. She could also pick up something Fitch-Devore pointed to. She could even help pick up Fitch-Devore.

 

“Especially in the winter I fall a lot,” Fitch-Devore said. “She always came running to help.”

 

“Mandy was trained to brace, feet apart,” she said. “I could use the cane on one side and her shoulder to help get back up.”

 

That skill probably saved Fitch-Devore’s life. “I fell on the ice in minus-10 degree weather,” she said.

 

It wasn’t the only time Mandy helper her escape from serious danger.

 

“The bond is so strong between a dog and a person, they know when something is not right and can communicate it somehow,” Fitch-Devore said. “Some of the dogs alert on seizures.”

 

At one point, Fitch-Devore wore a patch that released pain medication into her body based on body heat – a higher temperature meant more medication. “My husband was out of town,” she said. “Mandy, Lucky (a black Lab) and I were working in the yard.”

 

“I didn’t realize that I had got sunburned,” Fitch-Devore said.

 

The patch responded to the increase in her skin temperature by releasing too much medication.

 

“I got very sick,” she said. “I couldn’t move. I could barely breathe.”

 

Mandy came to the rescue.

 

“She would not leave me alone,” Fitch-Devore said. “She barked, she walked on me, pawed at me and pulled the blanket off.”

 

“Finally she got me up and moving,” she said.

 

That’s when Fitch-Devore realized the patch was the problem.

 

“I didn’t know it at the time, but my doctor said, yes, it was life-threatening,” she said.

 

As Mandy was sensitive to Fitch-Devore’s moods and health, the reverse was also true.

Fitch-Devore noticed something was wrong with Mandy.

 

“She was having problems,” she said. “She wasn’t eating. She wasn’t acting right.”

 

At Russell Veterinary Hospital, Fitch-Devore got terrible news. “There was a large tumor on her spleen and liver,” she said.

 

She was told an operation may have extended Mandy’s life by a month to a year. That was all.

 

“My husband and I couldn’t put her through that,” Fitch-Devore said. “I couldn’t stand to see her suffer.”

 

Instead, she did what she could to make sure Mandy’s last moments were comfortable.

 

“When she passed away, I let her have her leash in her mouth,” Fitch-Devore said. “She’d get nervous. I’d let her have her leash and she’d be fine.”

 

Section: News Date Posted: 5/3/2008

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