Service Animals That Provide Psychiatric Service

image_eeLast week, I posted twice on the recent controversy surrounding service animals. (See Table for Two, Please–Me and My Seeing-Eye Horse; Quit Monkeying Around: Court Rules Monkey Is Not a Service Animal).    Apparently, I’m not the only one who finds the issue interesting. Over the weekend, the New York Times’ Week In Review feature included a piece on the same topic.  In Good Dog, Smart Dog, Sarah Kershaw writes about service animals that provide “psychiatric service.” Certainly, the animals discussed in Kershaw’s article appear to provide far more meaningful services than those discussed in some of the news pieces I cited last week.  

Although it is not clear how these animals are able to do it, they are said to have certain cognitive powers that enable them to detect the onset of conditions, such as seizures, minutes before they begin. The abilities of these animals is tremendous, to say the least.  It appears that they have the ability to save the lives of their owners in remarkably astonishing ways.  Take, as an example, the labradoodle who has been trained to:

anticipate seizures, panic attacks and plunging blood sugar and will alert his owner to these things by staring intently at her until she does something about the problem. He will drop a toy in her lap to snap her out of a dissociative state. If she has a seizure, he will position himself so that his body is under her head to cushion a fall.

The piece is timely and fascinating.  It is well written and insightful and provides an entirely unexpected perspective of an already complex issue.

One thought on “Service Animals That Provide Psychiatric Service

  1. A child at a local elementary school has a seizure dog. She has had him since she started in kindergarten. The dog alerts the child’s attendant just BEFORE a seizure. There is a small bit extra work for the administration…..for example they have to make sure no other child in the class is allergic, make sure the dog is taken out to “do his business”, and make sure the other children know the dog is working and not there to play with them. Overall I think this has been a positive experience for all concerned and makes it possible for the child’s parents to have her in a public school.


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