Q & A Day! August 13, 2021
Hi everyone. Here it is! I first thought that I would simply be linking people to my original Tumblr blog. But then, I found a way to post directly to my site! Thank you, Wix.com. So, I'm going to start off my weekly Q & A by sharing an edited version of a post from my Tumblr blog, posted a couple of days ago. Without further ado...
To start things off, I thought I’d answer a question that I get a lot. It’s a question that relates closely to the weekly dog facts that I've posted about on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CanineGoverness). What does a service dog do? This is a hard one to answer directly. The simplest way to answer this is by first telling you that there are 8 different types of service dogs (SD) in North America, as well as those with mixed jobs.
One type of SD is the Autism SD. This is part of what Billie does for me. Generally speaking, these dogs work with autistic children and adults who have a difficult time in public settings. Sometimes, they help their handler (and maybe their handler's parent/aide) to stay calm in public. They can also help their handler avoid sensory overload or reground after a minor panic attack caused by sensory overload. They can help their handler interact with the neurotypical world when that becomes challenging.
Another type of SD is the Hearing Dog. These SDs help their deaf or hard-of-hearing handlers respond to all sorts of sounds from the doorbell to the fire or smoke alarm. They can also help their handlers by alerting them to the sound of a vehicle coming up the street or let them know that there is somebody behind them who is trying to get their attention.
Then there’s the Alert Dog. These SDs alert their diabetic handlers to the smell of blood glucose levels falling beyond a certain level. These are also the SDs who are being trained to alert to other illnesses that involve things like changing hormone levels. And these are the SDs who help those of us with the widest range of disabilities out there.
A similar type of service dog is the Seizure Response SD. These dogs are trained to alert other people when their handler is having a seizure. Or they can be trained to get help when their handler is unable to get to a safe place. Some Seizure Response SDs are also trained to activate a special medical alert button/switch when needed.
Similarly, Allergy Detection SDs are trained to let their handler know when there’s a specific allergen in the food or environment that could cause serious harm to their handler because of their allergy. Unfortunately, I don’t know very much about the specifics of this type of SD. But I do know that they do some pretty great work.
Mobility Assistance Dogs are another great type of SD. These guys help their physically disabled handlers move around in the world. Some of these SDs are trained to help pull their handler’s wheelchair, or they can help stabilize their handler while sitting or standing, or they can help their handler with other balance issues. These dogs are also often trained to help their handler pick up dropped items, open doors, and press buttons that would otherwise be out of reach.
Another type of Service Dog is the Psychiatric SD, also known as a PTSD SD. These amazing dogs are similar to the Autism SD in that they help their handler stay calm or reground after something triggers panic. And before you ask why the military has their own type of SD, they don’t. Psychiatric disorders and PTSD don’t just happen in the military. Like most other things in life, the cause of a person’s disability is unique to their own situation. But that's a subject for another post.
To get back on topic, there’s also the Guide Dog. A guide dog is an SD who helps to guide their blind or visually impaired handler more through a sighted world. Similar to hearing dogs, these highly trained dogs alert their handlers to visuals that may otherwise be obvious to sighted people. Most guide dogs are also trained to do something called intelligent disobedience (Billie also does this if I have a panic attack). This is when the dog will ignore their handler’s command in order to prevent harm.
And finally, another relevant question that I'm asked a lot is what does Billie do for you? Well, I have several disabilities that are interwoven. The first is Asperger’s Syndrome, commonly known as a high functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). For this, Billie helps me stay calm in stressful social situations and creates a particularly cute barrier when people get too close to me. I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Catamenial Epilepsy. For these, Billie knows most of my anxiety triggers and helps me avoid or adapt to them. This, in turn, helps to prevent my hormones from getting too far out of control, which could trigger a seizure. When I do have a seizure, Billie is also trained to get help when needed and to help me recover from the side effects that my seizures cause. In ‘short’ her specific task is “tactile stimulation for the disruption of sensory and/or emotional overload”. This means that despite my ‘not looking disabled’ Billie is a real service dog and a pretty gorgeous one too!