thoughts on getting an mh service dog certification?

It has been recommended to me for several years (by psychiatrists, therapists, and my pcp) to try to get a service dog for my symptoms. I took the step today to contact a training center about training one of my own dogs (because she already seems attuned to my dissociation, depression, and flashbacks). I’m wondering though, what she really could do at least for the dissociation. I know she could probably fit the definition of an emotional support dog, but I’m not sure what else she could do…

Does anyone have a PTSD or Depression (or any mental health issue) service dog? I was trying to look into it, and the examples they give for PTSD dogs wouldn’t fit my symptoms so much. My flashbacks are mostly emotional and physical sensations. There’s very little outward evidence of them. Right now, she’s just more present and literally in my face when they happen. Sometimes she crawls on top of me. It helps in grounding… I guess I’m wondering if anyone has any thoughts on the severity of the symptoms that would warrant a service dog. Also, would needing a dog around for personal accountability and safety meet the requirements of having a service dog? If I’m driving when triggered, I can get quite impulsive at least in my thinking. At one point, Dr. C strongly recommended I don’t go anywhere without the dogs in the car because she knew I wouldn’t do anything to endanger them. It’s much harder to do that and have to leave them in the car at my destination in this hot weather. Having one of the dogs be a service dog, I would pretty much be guaranteed impulse control with my driving… Would it qualify if I need my dog to be able to help ground from either flashbacks or dissociation more effectively, remain physically safe from myself when triggered, help keep functioning when the depression gets really bad, help drag me out of a crowded/anxiety-provoking situation, stuff like that? This stuff is not necessarily a daily occurrence, but when it does hit (goes in cycles of weeks or months) it is very debilitating.

I think I also am wondering if I’m not just enamored with the concept of being able to take my dog with me everywhere… I can see the benefits of having her there and trained during stressful situations, but is that then conceding that I’m more messed-up than I want to believe myself to be? Does getting a service dog mean I’m hopeless? If I get to a point of “remission” enough to be able to function more freely on a daily basis, would I need to give up my service dog? Will this end up making me feel as defeated as the disability determination did? While having disability helps in so many ways, it also makes me feel so hopeless about recovery and how well I can manage my life… I must be really fucked-up to have qualified. Would having a service dog, while hugely helpful in the day-to-day of the ptsd/depression/anxiety, also just prove to me how worthless I am?

I know I often have trouble grounding, and that deep pressure helps me ground. I’ve been trying to teach the pack a “cuddle up” command that would have any or all of them pile on top of me when I’m sitting or in bed. The few times they did this during flashbacks on their own accord, it helped a lot. I would love to be able to utilize that at any time (maybe TM would be less frustrated with me if I could manage to stay present during therapy). It would also be helpful to be able to have help “finding the exit” when I start to get overly anxious in a store (holy cow does walmart ever bring that out in me?!). Chow already bugs the heck out of me if I’m in bed for too long or too often in the middle of the day. It would be good if that was one of her trained responses.

I dunno. I really like the concept, and even the thought of being able to bring her with me everywhere is calming… but then how does that impact pack dynamics? Will she be able to adjust to the new role? Will the others? Will I have the dedication to keep on her training? When I get too depressed, I stop functioning. That includes being consistent with what is acceptable behavior at home for the dogs. Would that make having her trained as a service dog not work? She’s been a pet with us for 3 years, can she handle the switch to becoming a “working dog”? I know she is super-chill and generally non-reactive. I think that would help her a lot in her duties. She already seems to have a lot of the skills/behavioral traits of service dogs, so does that help? Will the other dogs resent both me and her?

Also, how in the world will I pay for this? The guy I contacted today is MUCH less expensive than a lot of the national places, and he’s local, but it would still be most of my annual income to get her trained… I will have to check to see if my insurance will cover the training somehow, or at least cover part of her training. One pamphlet on my horrid state insurance seems to imply covering at least the care of a service animal. Other resources (not the state pamphlet) claim that service animal training and care is not covered. I guess I should call the state or 211…

If this doesn’t pan out, I could always hire my trainer friend up north, but that would require me to wait till I return there to get her trained and certified. If it’s at all possible, I would want to get Chow trained and certified asap. My symptoms are all worse down here anyway… :/

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5 responses to “thoughts on getting an mh service dog certification?

  • somberscribbler

    Having a service dog does not mean you are hopeless or any of those adjectives you used. People have service dogs for all sorts of reasons from blindness to mental health to allergies. It’s about making you safe and feel more comfortable. There is nothing hopeless about that.

    I would look in to pack dynamics though. I imagine there would be some adjustment to one dog going everywhere with you. I don’t know about the logistics of service dog training, I hope the people you call can answer all your questions. Good luck!

    • Samantha Jane

      Thanks 🙂
      I think the pack dynamics and the dog adjusting to her new role are the biggest barriers aside of the financial piece… I did look a lot more into it today, and some of it made lots of sense in terms of how and why it would help. Even the thought of having a dog trained to do a number fo those tasks was comforting.
      I still question the “severity” of symptoms requiring a service dog. I don’t want to trivialize it for others who may really need one for more than what I would need one.
      I think of it as a sign of “hopelessness” because I know having a dog around is a huge investment. I would not want to go through all the training and work to find I no longer “need” her as a service dog. I feel like conceding to train a service dog also means that I am conceding that none of this will go away any time soon, that meaningful recovery is not in the cards for the near future. Part of me is blaming my location for the severity of my symptoms (though if I were truely honest with myself, I would admit that the symptoms were bad up north too, before I returned to the Land of Triggers)… I dunno. I feel like you get a service dog for the long-haul. I don’t want to be “disabled” for the long-haul… but omg would it be helpful to have the dog trained to help me ground, and to help calm the axiety, and to help feel safer… :sigh: SO conflicted… but you are correct, people have service dogs for all sorts of reasons. It doesn’t mean they are hopelesss. It just means in my head, there’s one more check for the “hopeless” colum.

  • Abigail

    I have a service dog for depression, anxiety, and a form of dissociation. You are eligible to attain a service dog if your mental or physical health is affecting your day to day life. What you have described would make you eligible. What my SD does when I start to have an episode is he licks me all over the face and jumps up on me. He will also give Deep Pressure Therapy by sitting on my lap a certain way. It’s more like he lays on my lap because he is a Great Dane and wouldn’t fit.

    He doesn’t do that when I’m driving though… Rather he will lean against me and lick my face. That is him telling me I need to take a break and pull over. I didn’t think I was eligible same as you until I met a family member who was a veteran and has PTSD and dissociative disorder. He has a service dog and helped me pursue it.

    I hope this helps you and you will be able to acquire a Service Dog of you own.

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