This Article is About
depression
mini strokes
chronic depression
definite signs
severe depression
modern medicine
lap dog
walmart
mood changes
emotional support
walk in the park
passions
Have Depression? Do You Need An Assistance Or A Therapy Dog?
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Have Depression? Do You Need An Assistance Or A Therapy Dog?

If you have severe PTSD, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, chronic depression, problems with socializing or perhaps you are a recovering alcoholic, have you ever thought about owning a dog who could provide the emotional support and incentive to get you outside your door; to help you gain back control of your life in general?

We all have mood changes, but the unrelenting fear and loneliness of severe depression is experienced by many at some point in their lives. Living with chronic depression and trapped in isolation, many people are alone without physical or emotional support. Some may be fortunate to have family and friends who provide support, but in spite of modern medicine and all that their doctor, family members and friends can do, they simply cannot sustain the effort needed to pull out of the fog. A well-behaved dog under adult control loves a walk in the park, a ride in a car, a visit to a dog park, and gives the bonus of companionship and physical activity desperately needed by the depressed.

An interesting encounter with an elderly couple happened to me while shopping in Walmart awhile back, and because dogs are one of my passions, it got me to thinking about all the pleasure - emotional and physical support - that I have experienced with dogs in my lifetime. For some reason this encounter has been tugging at me, so I decided to do a little research on dogs (& other animals) benefits to human beings.

This elderly couple had the cutest, most precious, little lap dog in their shopping cart - so naturally I had to stop and talk to the dog. Ever curious, I asked them how in the world were they able to bring the dog into the store. The lady said "no problem - he is a service dog". She went on to explain that her husband had a stroke several years ago, and continued to have mini strokes from time to time. She began to notice that the dog would come to her in another part of the house and show definite signs of anxiety through barking, whining, and turning in tight circles. Having the coincidence of the dog's actions and the occurrence of another attack in her husband, it quickly became obvious to her that the dog was signaling another pending attack in her husband. Those who "know" animals know they have another "sense of knowing" and without any training, the dog felt the distress, and sought help. (My research found that this dog may or may not technically (or legally) qualify as a "service" dog, but this couple felt that the dog did provide a valuable service and I agree)

I share this because there are many people in need of support who do not know the medical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of owning a dog. We all know about guide dogs for the physically disabled - these animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (which has a broad definition of where the animal can go) which means they can legally go into most public places. I did not find a Federal law available to protect "Therapy" dogs, so research is needed to find out which category your support dog would fit so you can be certain of where the dog can go. For those with Service" animals or "Emotional Support" animals, The Fair Housing Act allows tenants to live in housing that has a "no pets allowed" policy, however tenants do have certain responsibilities, can be charged fees and deposits, and the animal must be well-behaved.

If you are contemplating a support animal, please do your research first. Know into which category the animal fits, and research the laws available for that animal category. And good luck and welcome to a new life if this will be a new experience for you - the right dog (attitude & size most critical) can change your life if you are willing to take proper care of, and give back love!

I would appreciate your comments and especially if you have anything to contribute that would help a person in need who might read this - be sure to share your experience.


Street Talk

Great article...my daughter has been going through depression and panic attacks. We can't have a dog in our apartment...but I know she wants one. We have a cat for now! Not quite the same though.

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Hi Vivian ,and thank you for awesome article. My dog, astor is the best medic I have in my life,and I know meny dog owners who will tell the same about their dogs.

Reply
  about 6 years ago

this is a nice articia

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Thank you shurnette, I appreciate your comment!

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  about 6 years ago
Sherry B.  

Hi Vivian, What a great article! I believe that owning dogs and even other animals is so beneficial to our attitudes and feelings of well being. No matter how down I might feel our dogs always find a way to cheer me up. I work at a nursing home and they do allow animals there such as cats, birds, guinea pigs, and even some dogs. The dogs usually are ones that come with some of the workers though since it is always an issue on who is going to be responsible to take the dog outside for potty breaks during all the different shifts...so, I do not think they usually allow that too often, but they have in the past. It really cheers them up to have these animals around to pet and cuddle.

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Thank you so much for the comment Sherry! Some dogs are naturally inclined to interact well with patients in a nursing home setting. Many are used extensively by their owners to bring comfort to people and it is gratifying to see the smiles on their faces. It is a great concept. Thanks again!

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Hi Vivian, very touching article, thank you for sharing. I grew up with a dog when I was younger and look forward to becoming a dog owner again in the very near future. I always enjoy seeing those bumper stickers on cars that say "Who saved who?" in reference to people adopting dogs from shelters. I completely agree about the therapeutic powers of dogs, and their positive effects on everyone that has an opportunity to enjoy their love and compassion. Thanks again for a great article.

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Thank you for your comment Jeff! I love to hear from folks who grew up with dogs as I did - you just always know that those folks more than likely have special hearts and will display compassion through-out their lives. I've always thought that horses and dogs were the best animals in the world to help train-up children. I've had both and taking seriously the needs of these animals, working with them, and experiencing the love they give back in return....it would be extremely difficult for one not to be affected in a most positive way in our relations with those of the human race. I hope you follow through and become a dog owner again!

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Thank you C Hughes for the nice comment - it is so good for people who have depression or other disabilities to hear comments such as you made. I have found that people who love (and protect) dogs have great hearts. You just never forget the bond you had with a special dog. I just wish there was some way that people in nursing homes could have their own dogs with them, but I know that is impossible. Take care.

Reply
  about 6 years ago
C. Hughes  

As a dog trainer, I have 2 Labs that are certified with Therapy Dogs International. We have a group that visits several nursing homes on a monthly basis. The folks that receive our visits absolutely love the attention that they get from the dogs. There are many folks that hold their collars and won't let go. They will share their memories of their own pets and have a nice journey down memory lane. Many of these folks have memory issues but it is surprising that the memories of their pets are retained even through some debilitating illnesses. Many dogs are used specifically for depression. We have many dogs that we train for soldiers suffering from PTSD. Unconditional love is a great healing touch. Thanks for sharing Vivian.

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  about 6 years ago

I was just wondering Craig if there are specific breeds that are known to be particularly good for folks with depression and anxiety?

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  about 6 years ago

Personality and attitude are critical considerations Rob - but don't forget the other considerations. Do you have allergies to dogs (some breeds do not cause allergies - to any degree), are you willing and able to keep the dog inside? What about shedding - there are some breeds (poodle for example that do not shed except for maybe a soft furry hairball from time to time). I am interested to hear what Craig has to say about a particular breed that would be good for a person with depression and anxiety. There are some dogs who just seem to be "little humans" and seem to fit into all routines and needs of its human owner. Just thinking this type dog might be good, but I am still learning on this subject myself.

  
  about 6 years ago
C. Hughes  

As you may have guessed, I'm pretty partial to Labs. They have a fun personality, they are not the perfect dog for Nursing home visits though. The small toy breeds are much better for people with disabilities in that setting as they can be put in the laps of the residents. As Vivian says though, personality and attitude are the top concerns. We visit with everything from a Peekinese to a Great Dane. And of course when the Dane sets her head in someones lap it is easily accessible for petting too. Growing up my Grandmother who was deaf, trained a toy poodle to let her know when people were at the door. She was a little pistol but knew that her job was primarily for Gram.

  
  about 6 years ago

@ C Hughes - Thank you for your second post covering Rob's question! I am partial to the poodle breed for many reasons - just love the smaller, easier to handle breeds, great personality, very smart, less allergy and virtually no shed. Personality can be forecast (with no certainty of course) in a pup by looking at the mom and dad's personality. My Jack takes after his mom - laid back, loves to snuggle, you can turn in on his back, roll him around - and he does not resist. He does not like to be outside in the southern heat. My Becca is still young, and I think she needs Ritalin! She is taunt as a wire most of the time, but is a loving dog. She wants to play all the time; just a little pistol, and I hoping she may calm down as she matures. She gets on Jack's last nerve! She is a rescue so have no idea as to the personalities of her parents.

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Thank you Kali for the comment. There is so much more information out there than I presented but I am hoping that the article will trigger a thought process in someone that might benefit from a service dog. So unfortunate about your sister's service dog - such a waste of a good animal. Labs are very athletic dogs so with her being a couch potato, does not sound like a good match with a particular breed. I hope the dog is doing well and getting exercise now. Again, thank you for taking time to comment!

Reply
  about 6 years ago
Kali Webb  

I loved your article. My sister is legally blind but has some vision. She qualified for a service dog, jumped through all the hoops and training and finally received a wonderful Black Lab named Wryan (pronounced Ryan). The dog was so amazing, but my sister is such a couch potato she rarely took the dog for walks. The dog was tied to a post in her house and rarely got exercise. Wryan gained a lot of weight which wasn't healthy. Eventually, my sister got tired of having to feed the dog and take her outside for those necessary functions. She gave the dog away to a friend of hers. That friend is not disabled and I am so disappointed in the outcome of this particular service animal. Anyway, thanks for such a great informational article. I am going to post this on my facebook! Kali

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Rob, I must share with you that your article "What Does Major Depression Feel Like? I Have Found A Friend" prompted me to write this article about Assistance and Service Dogs. While reading that heart wrenching piece, I just knew that you were a person who could benefit from such a dog. You should talk to your doctor, research the laws, and find out what type of dog you need - trained or untrained. Just having a loving dog in your home, in your lap, one to take walks with would be a benefit - a great comfort - whether or not you ventured into public places. I would like to know if you decide to venture down this road. If my article prompts you to investigate the possibilities, then I will be so happy. Thank you so much for the comment - you have made my day friend!

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Thanks Vivian, I'm glad you wrote this article and I'm looking forward to finding out more about this subject. Thanks too for your interest in my recent article. Robbie :)

Reply
  about 6 years ago

Hi Rob - I am still thinking about you....Just ran across an article about Aimee Copeland who is getting a Labradoodle as a service dog. You may have heard about her - about a year ago she contracted a flesh eating bacteria that took her hands, feet and entire right leg. She needs help as she is alone a lot of the time - you can imagine how difficult it would be without your hands especially. I was going to post the URL but had forgotten that links are not allowed so had to remove it. Search for "Aimee Copeland and Service Dog", "Psychiatric Service Dog Academy" located in Cocoa, FL - One way or another you should be able to find it. Take care...

  
  about 6 years ago
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