Could a Service Dog Be Right for You?
September was both Spinal Cord and National Service Dog Awareness Month so during that month I, Roberta, was invited to do a presentation about the benefits of having a service dog when living with a spinal cord injury. The presentation went well and generated enough interest and questions that we, The Rollin’ RNs, thought might be a good topic for an article. So let me share a little information about service dogs, the benefits of having one, and how my service dog Patrick helps me.
For starters, I am a dog lover and am so happy to have a dog again. But Patrick is not just any dog. He’s been trained to complete over 40 commands that I can customize for my individual needs. In other words, I have an extra helper and a loving companion that works for me unconditionally.
Some of the tasks Patrick helps me with daily include:
Picking things up off the floor and dropping them into my hands or lap.
Fetching the remote control and bringing it to me.
Closing doors behind me.
Opening and closing drawers.
Pulling a laundry basket from point A to point B for me. This basket can include laundry or anything I load into it so I can move around a full load that otherwise wouldn’t fit on my lap in a wheelchair or that I wouldn’t be able to pick up. I’ve even loaded the basket with delivered packages from my porch so Patrick can help me pull them inside.
Help with taking off my jacket by pulling the sleeves off my arms.
Picking up his toys and putting them in his toy basket.
Walking with me outside so we can both get our exercise.
As a trained service dog, Patrick can also go anywhere I go and help me with opening doors, carrying bags, and even assisting with shopping purchases by handing my credit card to the cashier.
Besides helping me with tasks, Patrick provides me with unconditional companionship that can be so good for my mental and emotional well-being daily. This is beneficial when you’re having a bad pain day or you’re feeling down. One look at the furry face can make you feel better.
Why are service dogs important for people with disabilities?
Dogs like Patrick can make day-to-day life easier for people with a disability. They are specially trained to take care of the physical tasks that their person can no longer manage without difficulty, if at all. This also saves time and reduces energy spent. They also provide unconditional companionship that can be so good for the mental and emotional well-being of an individual.
Some background on Service Dogs:
There are different types of dogs with specific roles to support people depending on a person’s or a facility’s needs. Various organizations provide these specialized dogs. What’s important when doing your research is to make sure you are setting yourself up with the right service dog match to take care of your individual needs and that the dog is recognized as a trained service dog whatever that need might be. This link from Canine Companions gives a good description of the different roles of service dogs.
The organization I chose to use was Canine Companions for Independence. For me, I felt like they were the right fit. This organization breeds its own dogs. They have a specialized training program that prepares the dog for service in about 2 years. What’s unique about this program is that they provide service dogs to people with disabilities free of charge. To read more about this wonderful organization and how to apply for a service dog, click here.
Keep in mind, getting a service dog can and should take time. It takes time to go through the application process as well as find the right dog to match your needs. Of importance, one must also be able to take care of a dog both physically and financially as with any dog. My husband helps me with the early morning feedings and the walks when the weather doesn’t cooperate with my SCI body and rolling in a wheelchair.
We hope this gives you a little background information about service dogs and the benefits of having one. Let us know if you have any questions.
If you’re interested, parts of my service dog presentation were captured on the local news. You can see it here!
It’s all good, so keep on rollin’,
Roberta, RN, and Patty, BSN, RN
The Rollin’ RNs™