From the category archives:

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Rescued Dog Eases Burden of Marine Combat Veteran

by Sue on May 15, 2012

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Here is a wonderful article submitted by one of our blog readers…

Thank you Terri D.

Gunny, Rainy, Lucy and Squeaky
(AKA The Fearsome Foursome)


A little interaction…

by Sue on May 9, 2012

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Do not feel obligated to participate in this if you do not feel comfortable about doing so.

I am trying to keep this blog active but am running out of articles about Service Dogs. So I decided today to make it a little more interactive…

What type of breed of SD do you have?

What made you decide on that particular breed?

Was this originally your own personal dog that you trained (or it came by the task naturally) to be a service dog, or did you obtain it already trained?

If you live in housing with a no pets policy, was it difficult to obtain permission to allow you to have your SD?

Have you ever flown with your SD?

What airlines did you use and were they accommodating to you?


Sussie, Gunny, Rainy and Lucy


A personal note from your moderator

by Sue on March 20, 2012

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Last year I posted a complaint about the fact that Costco would harass me each time I wished to enter their warehouse (as they call them) with my PTSD dog. Several of you replied that you had been having similar problems where as others replied they had never had a problem at all. This is an update as to what eventually happened at my end.

Everything finally came to a head of February 5th. They not only flat out refused me but also harassed me to the point of making me have a break down in the store. One so strong that my service dog could not help me. I decided that enough was enough and contacted Costco. After many emails, many negotiations, many hours of educating them on the ADA rules and regs, ending with having a conference call with their Lawyers; they sent me a formal letter and a follow-up email stating in so many words that I would no longer be hassled about my PTSD service dog.

I am happy to say that I was able to accomplish this without consulting or hiring a Lawyer.

So why am I telling you readers this?

Two reasons.

One. I will no longer speak ill of Costco as they have agreed to allowing my PTSD dog in.

Two. Anytime any of you run into a problem with your service dog at a place of business, don’t immediately get all upset and threaten to sue or contact your lawyer, etc. Try to work it out with calm negotiations and having done your “homework” on the ADA rules and regs and the Service Dog rules and regs in your state, city and county. It will get you further than threats. That’s what I did. And I’m glad I did. Everyone was happy. Especially me.

I can now take my PTSD Service Dog into Costco and she can do her job that she was trained to do.

Sussie, Gunny, Rainy and Lucy


Reminder of the new law changes by ADA as of March 15th, 2011

by Sue on December 28, 2011

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I do customer service for Service Dog Tags. Today I spoke with someone who was not aware of the changes in rules about service dogs. The new one that took affect March 15th of this year. The one that includes anxiety and PTSD as a disability and any dog that is used to control that is now a service dog.

I actually kinda felt sorry for this man as he was under the impression that, even though his dog helped him, since he could hold down a job, he was not disabled even though he was formally diagnosed with PTSD. I politely told him that he was wrong.

There are many many disabled people that can hold down a job. The presence of the service dog makes them able to do so. I am one of those. I work full time for Service Dog Tags. However I honestly feel that if I did not have my service dogs (my retired one, my current one, and my one in training) that I probably would not be able to work. Or, even worse, not even be able to function or maybe not even be in existence.

This gentleman that I spoke with had pretty much limited his lifestyle due to the fact that he felt he was not disabled. This was due to misinformation on his part. Since speaking with me he now understands and will probably be doing a few more enjoyable things in his life now that he can take his “service dog” with him.

Please be aware of the new ruling change. Be aware that anxiety and PTSD, correctly diagnosed by someone in the medical field, IS a disability. And any dog that is used to prevent or control the symptoms of such IS a Service Dog according to ADA.

Sussie and the Y Team
(Gunny, Rainy and Lucy)


Bill approved to make VA service-dog friendly

by Sue on September 19, 2011

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I find the below article quite interesting. Only because my husband and myself have been taking our Service Dogs in to the VA for a long time and no one ever questioned us. We both have PTSD.


Bill approved to make VA service-dog friendly

By Rick Maze – Staff writer
Posted : Monday Sep 12, 2011 16:55:07 EDT

The House of Representatives could vote as early as next week on sweeping legislation that makes the Veterans Affairs Department more dog-friendly.

A House committee has approved legislation that would allow service dogs to be used on any VA property or in any VA facility, including any facility or property receiving VA funding.

“I’m really pleased this legislation is moving, just for the sheer fact we have been trying to do this for so long,” said Christina Roof, deputy national legislative director for the veterans’ service organization AmVets. “VA could have done this itself, by regulation, a long time ago if they wanted, but they haven’t done anything so it looks like Congress will.”

Under current law and regulation, VA is required only to allow guide dogs for the blind onto its property and into facilities because those are the only type of assistance animals specifically covered in federal law. Individual facilities directors can be more flexible, if they wish.

VA officials have been working since March on trying to come up with a new service dog policy but discussions have been bogged down, in part, over the question of whether the policy should specifically list the types of service dogs that should be allowed or to leave that open to interpretation.

Language included in HR 2074, a veterans’ health care bill passed Sept. 28 by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, would end the discussion. The provision is very direct, saying the VA secretary “may not prohibit the use of service dogs in any facility or on any property.” The bill makes no effort to define what constitutes a service dog.

Roof said she expects common sense would be used, with eligible dogs having received some specialized training in order to be considered a service dog and with facilities still able to have restrictions on where dogs could go on the premises. For example, a service dog would not be allowed into an operating room but might be allowed in the waiting room of a medical clinic, she said.

In addition to opening the buildings and grounds to service dogs, the bill would create a three-year pilot program in which veterans with post-traumatic stress or other post-deployment mental disorders would be involved in training service dogs for other veterans. The idea of the test is to see if being a dog trainer has any rehabilitation benefits for veterans.

Veterans who have service dogs would have priority in being hired as trainers under the pilot program.


New wave of service dogs helps people live healthier lives

by Sue on September 12, 2011

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Riley Mers, who has a severe peanut allergy, looks out the front window of her home in Monument, Colo., with her service dog Rock’O, who’s trained to alert the 10-year-old if even trace amounts of peanuts are present.

Rock’O keeps his deathly allergic young pal away from the peanuts and peanut residue that lurk in unexpected places. Kayla pokes and barks at her owner seconds after his body chemistry goes awry and his bipolar medications must be taken. And Alma does rehab activities with patients in the brain and spinal cord injury unit at San Jose’s Santa Clara Valley Medical Center to help them regain strength and learn new ways of doing things.

Rock’O, Kayla and Alma are at the vanguard of a new wave of service dogs trained to handle things their humans cannot. From alerting owners to an impending seizure to helping people with psychiatric or memory conditions (including Alzheimer’s) stay stable and safe, service dogs are helping an ever-broadening array of people live more normal, independent lives, just as they have helped hearing-, seeing- and mobility-impaired people for decades.

“Rock’O is an extra layer of protection,” Sherry Mers of Monument, Colo., says. The Portuguese water dog received service-dog training in Colorado and then spent months of peanut-sniffing training at the Florida Canine Academy in Safety Harbor, which trains bomb- and narcotics-sniffing dogs.

Mers’ daughter, Riley, 8, is so severely allergic to peanuts that she has been rushed to the emergency room simply because she came into contact with particles of peanut dust, and the specter of anaphylaxis hovers whenever she leaves home. The girl attends school in a “contained” environment that assures no contact with anything that has been near peanuts, and her rare outings have always carried risk.

But Rock’O has broadened her world. On a mall visit, he sniffed a bowl of peanut-studded candy several feet away in a jewelry store and prevented Riley from going in, and he warned her away from an area in her own yard where peanut shells were on the ground, apparently carried there by squirrels.

Now the girl is confidently — and safely — getting out more. “She said the other day, ‘I think I will be able to go to college now,’ ” says Mers, who has started a non-profit foundation ( so children with “hidden disabilities” such as severe allergies and seizures can afford specially trained animals to help them.

Sniffing out new ways to help

Experts predict that as time goes on, dogs will be trained to deal with many other human conditions in ways not yet contemplated. Already, for example, returning waves of severely injured military personnel have spurred some service-dog groups to investigate new ways to help.

“There has been an increase in amputees, poly-trauma and PTSD. The assistance-dog industry needs to take a close look at how to serve this group,” says Clark Pappas of Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Canine Companions for Independence (, which launched a Wounded Veterans Initiative in 2007 to provide assistance dogs to injured soldiers and has teamed up 55 so far.

Meanwhile, dogs are helping in a variety of ways. Kayla, the German shepherd owned by David Nowak of New Brunswick, N.J., who was diagnosed in 1998 with bipolar disorder, “has her paws full 24/7,” he says.

His rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, he says, means his moods can shift at lightning speed. Medication helps, but stress and other factors can throw him into a peak or valley almost without warning. When Kayla senses a shift in his body chemistry, she whines and goes to the medicine cabinet, alerting him to take his pills. In some cases, he passes out, and she’s trained to poke him until he comes to. If that doesn’t work, she barks until help arrives.

A dog trainer for many years, Nowak has trained two dogs to help him, as well as two service dogs for others with bipolar disorder. Without a service dog, he says, “I probably wouldn’t leave the house much. Anxiety can make me pass out, and then, of course, you wake up disoriented, which could lead to another spiral.” Kayla, who carries his medications on her service-dog vest when they go out, “has given me comfort and stability.”

‘Facility dogs’ to the rescue

Alma, the San Jose hospital dog who dons a name badge and goes to work each day, is one of a growing category of service dogs referred to as “facility dogs.” Alma had almost two years of service-dog training by Canine Companions for Independence, but instead of being assigned to a person requiring everyday help, she — and others like her — are assigned to a health professional.

Occupational therapist Carole Adler is Alma’s handler, and the dog’s duties depend on the needs of the person she’s helping: She might get brushed by someone trying to rebuild upper-body coordination, or she might serve as a four-legged “cane” for someone who is learning to walk again.

The golden retriever/Labrador retriever mix also is regularly invited to the burn unit to assist with rehab there. Healing skin is extremely sensitive, and “the kids are often afraid the therapists will hurt them as we put them through exercises to stretch a burned arm, for example,” Adler says. But “we can get them through the necessary movement with Alma — kids will throw a ball for her to fetch and have such fun they’re not focused on the pain.”


Weather and Service Dogs

by Sue on June 23, 2011

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When the weather is hot, I tend to stay home more just because it’s more comfortable for my dog. I can handle heat OK. And Gunny would not say a word about the heat just as long as he is by my side. But I think about him and his needs.

How about the rest of you? Do you tend to gear your day towards the weather and how it will affect your service dog?

Sussie, Gunny (service dog) and Rainy (in training)


Assistant Dogs and Housing issues

by Sue on June 10, 2011

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I get phone calls and emails almost every day from people who have suddenly ran into a problem with a landlord.

I find it interesting how landlords and HOA, despite being told of the laws regarding assistance dogs, will still act as though the laws do not pertain to them. In truth, it pertains to all. New landlords and old landlords.

Today I actually stumbled across a really nice site that covers many laws pertaining to animals. Including a very well written page which describes housing accommodation and assistance dogs.

This is one I will be passing on to people time and time again.

Sussie and Gunny


Your most embarrassing/funniest moment?

by Sue on May 24, 2011

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Because occasionally dogs will be dogs, even well trained service dogs, what is the more embarrassing thing that your service dog ever did in public or in the company of others?

What is the funniest thing your dog ever did?

The only embarrassing thing that comes to mind for Gunny is the cat incident. Gunny gets along with cats. For the most part he ignores them, but if one comes up and says “Hi” he will say “Hi” back.

We were at a clients house, and I felt comfortable there, so I released Gunny from service dog capacity so he could wander around and explore. The client’s cat came into the room not long after. At first my client was a little concerned but I reassured her, stating that Gunny loved cats, to which she replied that her cat was dog friendly. We continued to discuss things and then, after a bit, she looked past me and said “Um…you were not kidding when you said your dog loved cats”. I turned to look and Gunny had the cat on the floor trying to be romantic with it. Without saying a word, I quickly scooped him up, carried him out to my truck, put him away and came back in the house. My client and I sat there and looked at each other for a couple seconds and then burst into laughter.

The funniest thing that ever happened was at the Doctor’s office. My husband uses a walker and is on oxygen. As we were chatting with the Doctor in the examination room, Jorgen became a little distressed. Gunny, being in tune with him as he is with me, went over to make sure my husband was OK. When he felt everything was alright, he turned to return to me and got his back half tangled in my husband’s oxygen line. Gunny knows that the oxygen line is very important so rather than trying to pull himself out of it, he carefully picks up one leg and tries to step over the line, and then tries the other leg. Not quite able to step over the line each time, he is alternating between the two legs trying to step over the line. First one leg…then the other…back and forth. In the mean time I see Dr. Beck’s face getting redder and redder and it suddenly dawns on me that she was trying not to burst out laughing. As I went over to help Gunny out, I said “It’s OK if you laugh Doc. Even I have to admit, there really isn’t anything much funnier than a high centered weiner”

Sussie and Gunny


Service Dog Magazine

by Sue on May 21, 2011

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I have a friend that runs a publishing company. She is always trying to come up with new ideas for a new magazine.

Which leads me to ask the readers.

If a magazine geared towards Service Dogs and ESA’s and their owners, would you subscribe to it? Would you submit stories to it? If you were a trainer or sold Service Dog goods, would you advertize in it?

Sussie and Gunny