Service dogs paws-itively enrich lives

A dog may be man’s best friend, but some canines provide a service far beyond companionship.

Although doctors treat most medical conditions, some people need constant care and attention to help them live their daily lives. In lieu of a nurse, these people turn to the help of a service dog. Service dogs can help with a wide range of issues, such as aiding those who are visually impaired, have frequent seizures or need help with emotional stability. The trust between the animal and the person goes far beyond that of a traditional owner and pet, but the process of getting a dog can be lengthy.

A senior is currently going through the process of applying to own a service dog. After an event over the summer worsened her pre-existing anxiety issues, the family decided that a service dog would be the best fit to help her cope with emotional needs. Due to the sensitivity of the mental health issues, she asked to remain anonymous.

“I have really bad anxiety, and my neighbor has PTSD. She has a service dog and said it was something that might work for me. The other option was using medicine, which I don’t like the idea of. The service dog would offer a healthier life for me and I would feel more comfortable,” the senior said.

Printed with permission from Samantha Loya

The process of obtaining a dog has been a long and difficult one because the animal needs to properly help with the senior’s issues.

“I’m in the process of training the dog to be comfortable with me, and I hope that after that life will be less stressful and hopefully I will have less anxiety problems,” the student said.

As a field representative for the service dog group Paws for a Cause, local parent Cindy Dasbach works professionally with service dogs and sees daily the amount of effort that goes into training the dogs.

“We start training our dogs when they are still with their mother. The puppies stay with their mom until they are eight to 10 weeks old. They then get placed with a puppy raiser until they are 12 months old, at which point they go back to the headquarters and get matched with an inmate in a correctional facility in Michigan and work on perfecting their basic commands while in prison. After two to three months, they return to the headquarters and get matched to a client. Once the dog knows everything they need toassisttheirclient,theygotolive with them, but a field rep works with the dog and human for four to six months making sure the dog and human are a working team,” Dasbach said.

2017 graduate Samantha Loya adopted her service dog, Koda, in January 2016 and realized a few months later that the dog could double as both a companion and a service animal to help with her depression, anxiety and mood disorder.

“Having Koda has (made) me more comfortable in public. I don’t mind the stares I get anymore because now I know the people ar

en’t staring at me, they’re staring at her,” Loya said. “Since I’ve had Koda, my overall health has improved both physically and mentally, and when I have her with me, I become more comfortable in my own skin and do. consider what other people think of me. She’s made me happier and continues to surprise me every day with what she does.”


Print Editions

Online Editions