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animal therapy/assistance?

BarbF01BBarbF01 Posts: 124
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:47 AM in Fibromyalgia
Backstory: I have a wonderful 5 yr old pitbull/corgi/black lab/boxer mix (humane society homeless puppy from hurricane katrina who is now beyond spoiled), who is a trained and certified therapy dog. Ike (the dog) already goes to work w/ me each day as I counsel kids who are in state care, and are open abuse/neglect cases.

Question: Has anyone, or does anyone use an assistance animal for help with their pain or "issues"? I have balance issues, depression and pain mgmt. problems - and Ike has taken it upon himself to be my angel. :) On the days when Im in worse pain than usual, and/or have balance issues - he takes it upon himself to walk right up against my side (as it helps steady me and I can lean on him if I feel like I may fall). Ive also noticed that hes a big help on those days when I feel down, and sorry for myself. Being a therapy dog, hes so used to being affectionate with anyone who is upset - and hes overly so with me. He knows when Im feeling down, and will bring me one of his fav. toys, or just stay by my side for comfort. So, I guess Im asking - if you do use an assistance animal - was it difficult to get your team of dcos on board with this idea? Or to even get the animal certified as necessary?


  • The closest I've come to this is I use to babysit a "Helping Hands Monkey" a Capuchin. Part of the baby sitting was continuing to reinforce her training. "Open, get, give, etc." So I understand the help these animals can give. I would guess that most doctors would be on board with such wonderful assistants? Please let us know how it goes. I see a helping animal as a win-win!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Naturally, since Im thinking about this, I have no upcoming Dr. appts! :) But, I am very lucky in knowing that Ike can come with me to work each day - no matter how Im feeling. And, hes also been trained to go out in the community (in a working capacity), and since he wears a working vest - I've never been asked to leave when I have him in stores. Although, when he's working now - it's to help the kids I counsel re-intergrate into society and re-learn how to be in public situations. Some of the kids I counsel are too shell shocked to even make eye contact with adults, never mind taking part in any type of conversation. Ike acts as a buffer for them, people pay attention to him - taking the focus off of the kid Im working with. Ike and I take kids out in the local community (where he's now well known and most people know what we do for work), and we slowly, but surly work on all sorts of things from their treatment and behavior objective plans.
  • Barb,

    Even though you are unselfishly sharing Ike with kids from all manner of "bad" things, it sounds like you are also reaping benefits of his skills. :) I would take him with you on your next doctors appointment, and let your doctor meet your wonderful assistant, and then let him know *how* Ike has been of such help to you and your condition. What better proof than that? I can feel the bond in your posts alone!!! :X

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I don't know why, but I feel so selfish for feeling like I need the help. I'm guessing that stems from me always being the one who gives the help, and Ike not fitting into the traditional role of an assistance animal (I know, I see the irony as I feel no hesitation in touting the benefits of how he helps the kids we counsel). So, this is why I waiver on even asking my Dr.- Im also afraid of looking like Im seeking sympathy, or looking to "cash in" on my pain issues (yet another issue that I know I have...stemming from family issues where I was the one who was told to "suck it up" and played 2nd fiddle to a younger sister who had a medical issue when he wwere growing up - parents have acknowledged this and admitted that this was wrong, but I still harbor anger over it). Is it just my old issues stopping me, or is Ike actually a help to me??? Hmmm.... a social worker trying to evaluate herself!
  • Sorry Barb, I forgot you are a social worker! :) Makes no difference except...except...except...that you are trying to treat yourself as though a client came in. Stop that woman!!! :)

    Selfish, nope. Some of us get help with medications, canes, the hubby, a wheelchair, a "helping animal" fits right in there. You should NOT feel any guilt or thoughts that others (who cares what they think anyway) might think you're trying to play the sympathy card. Let them have your issues for a week, no a day, and see what they think then, right? Forget them. If Ike is helping these kids, and as an added bonus YOU, then you get the win-win here, okay?

    Please, please don't feel that anyone with any brain would think that is what Ike is all about with you. I don't even know you, and I can SEE it. :) Barb and Ike, sounds like a great mix to me!!! *HUG*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Im just so used to being the one who helps others, that it's so out of the ordinary for me to be the one who needs the help. Even the Hubby laughs and calls me "hard headed", as he tries to gently remind me that he can (and does) help out - but sometimes needs to be asked/told what I need help with.
    And yes, I just need to get a thicker skin abotu my own health issues! This is all so new to me (car accident that started this all was in 12/2007) so I think Im still adjusting... But, thank you so much for all of your kind words :)
  • I hear ya woman! I just retired from 30 years of being a helicopter/jet pilot/Law Enforcement Officer, and to have run into those I had to help, verses "hook up" if you know what I mean. That was one of the hardest parts of my personality I had to realize to make my medical treatment and adjustments to same work. I am now the one that needs help, and as such, not feel ashamed, sad, less of a person over it.

    It is an odd adjustment to make. If you are still working as a social worker, that there will make your emotions zing back and forth. Let your heart lead your way. You are not weak or playing any kind of sympathy card, so if you need help, please embrace it. Your hubby is right by the way... wink!!!

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • The Hubby doesn't need to be told that he's right! :) Hes also in law enforcement- like you, and we laugh about him having lots of power at work (as he's the senior Sgt. on his shift), but that he's not in charge of anything at home! :) And, I know that Im hard headed...but I am trying to work on that... at times :) And yes, I still work (basically full time) as Im contracted and have a very flexible/accomdating work schedule....and Ike to help me out too :)
  • I hear ya fellow of the woman club! (G) I was a Supervisory Agent, and many times Acting Director, but at home it is a 50/50 with us. :) Even after retirement in the LEO world, you stay with the Blue Line club!

    It is all an adjustment Barb. It isn't an easy transition, for that I can say with almost certainty, but it can be done. Please try and give yourself a break and realize that YOU are in need of assistance now - not a bad thing, really. *HUGZ*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Brenda,

    You truly have been a godsend tonight :) Thank you for all of your help and kind words :) My meds seem to be kicking in, and I may actually be able to get some rest. So, goodnight and thank you again :)
  • HappyHBmom brought up and excellent point. I've ridden, but never owned a pony or a horse, but PETS, our loved creatures, be them 1 ton, or 10 pounds, all provide psychological comfort and support (and even physical support - purrs, hugs, licks)! Thanks for the reminder HB!!! :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • I miss my horse so much :( He is about 2 hours away and I can't really drive down and see him- plus he's for sale, and it just doesn't feel the same.

    But we do have our puppies. They are pretty good therapy too! Not like my horse was though :( And my daughter's pony just isn't the same.
  • Glad to be here! Hope you sleep well Barb. Night-Night!! *HUGZ* Be hitting the pillows myself within the hour. Sweet dreams!!

    I just sent you a "Buddy request", that way I can be sure not to miss posts of yours I might be able to help with. :)

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • Hi Barb, Just found this thread this morning. How exactly does a dog become a certified therapy dog? I've missed having a dog and while our cats are like babies they are not the same. I'd love to get a puppy to train but didn't think it would be a good idea now.

    What you do sounds amazing. I'm really curious to hear more about it and how your dog fits in.

    Thanks and thanks for what you do for those kids.
  • That's really amazing what the dog can do assisting you with balance while walking. I think they wound be helpful to fetch things for you like newspaper so you wouldn't have to bend down etc. I imagine these dogs would be deductible for taxes? It sounds like great therapy for traumatized children good to hear. TC. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • It would be wonderful if he would pick up things for me, like papers,keys.. But, I'm trying to figure out the best way to train him to do that. For now, he looks at what Im pointing to and put his nose on it - for that he gets rewarded (cookie or lots of praise). I just have to figure out how to get him to the next step of actually picking the item up for me. Does anyone have any ideas?
  • In order to get a dog certified and registered w/ the American Therapy Dog Assoc and/or the International Therapy Dog Assoc, you need to have your dog enrolled in obedience classes (or be able to test out of the classes). I started training Ike in Puppy class (which was basically obedience level 1 for him). We then researched dog trainers in our area, and went with someone who trains with a positive approach (no shock collars!), and only uses praise and treats for rewards. We also looked for a trainer who had a therapy dog progam that had been around for quiet some time (and ours also happened to be linked to someone who also came in and gave the test - all included in the price of the class). I also suggest that you look for someone who works with the dogs in getting them used to all sorts of medical equipment and situations (ie. kids running, loud noises, leaving food that they can easily find on the ground). This ay, when you're out and about w/ your dog, he/she woln't be so afraid of young kids tugging on their ears, people in wheelchairs or with walkers, and they also won't be tempted to eat pills that you may see on the ground...esp. if you do volunteer in a nursing home setting w/ your dog - the residents w/ demetia are known to try to feed the dogs anything and everything..even their own meds!).
    Feel free to ask any question you may have! :) I started the therapy dog program at my work, after getting my own dog trained. Although we originally started thinking about agiilty training - once he saw the tunnel, he climbed in and thought it was a great place to sleep - even w/ all of the other dpgs racing by him! :)
  • That would be my dog :)
  • He's a pit/corgi/lab/boxer/?? mix so hes always been so much shorter than all others. So, he would s\run and slide under the other dogs who were growling over a toy and then trot off with it, and go lay don in the tunnel (still holding onto the toy), and fall asleep. All of the other puppies would mump over him (and sometimes use him as a springboard) and he'd just grunt and roll over! Even the trainer laughed and stated that she thought that he may not have the drive, nor the energy level to do agilty. With therapy dog training, they get to learn how to ask to be let up into someone's lap/bed/chair. Since he's still a short guy (but wide w/ those pittie shoulders), he now likes to put his cold nose on the hand of the patient in the bed (when we volunteer) and keep nudging them until he gets patted, or invited up :) The only issue that we've had with him in the nursing homes, is that he likes to try to take all of the stuffed animals he finds.... a fav. thing for the demetia patients to have on their beds.
  • I have been training my dog to be a service dog for almost a year now. He can help me get up, turn on light switches, turn on touch lamps, and help steady me. We are now working on identifing objects and retrieveing.

    If you are in America your dog does not have to be certified to be a service dog. If you are disabled as defined by the ADA, that is, if you have a condition that substantually limits a life function, and your dog does one thing for you, like picking up dropped items, or helping you walk by supporting you, or responding to a medical condition in a manner that you trained, then your dog IS a service dog. Certification is not required.

    However, there are expectations for a service dog in public. Google public access test, that is what is ussually used to test service dogs. There is also a place called Top Dogs, that can certify your dog.

    There are a few different websites and books that I am using to help me. Hopefully I am not breaking ant rules by listing them here. Teamwork I and II are excellent books. One of the authors suffered from cerebral palsy and trained dogs since he was 4 years old.

    Vancouver Island Assistance dogs is a site devoted to training your own service dog.

    The lady that does most of the videos with her dog Jesse is also on Youtube as Supernaturalbc 2008/2009. Kiko pups is another you tube channel hat has alot of great training advice.

    If there are any questions feel free to PM me.

    The best books that I have found are Team
  • How is the training going? I have a Sheltie that will pick up items for me. I started the same way you are. I also would hold the item and have him take it from me to get him used to it in his mouth. It took time and practice and now he will retrieve most anything if I say "get for mommy". Items he has never retrieved may take a couple of times before he gets it picked up, but he usually gets it to me. I have to be careful now, because he will pretty much go to get whatever I drop even if I don't say anything. I dropped a knife the other day and he started for it and I had to stop him.

    Keep working on it.
  • Thank you for all of your suggestions! I will have to look further into all of the resources you spoke about for training. Ike is doing well, but is still stubborn (being part terrier, one should have guessed!). :)
  • What is Ike motivated by? Tahoe (the dog I am training) is very food motivated. I have been using Roll Over, it dog food that comes in a tube that's sort of moist (kinda like a hot dog but bigger). I cut it up really small, and take it ut of what I usually feed him. Some dogs like toys as a reward, For Tahoe, he gets too excited when I have a ball, so food works the best. With food, you can also use it as a lure, to get encourage the dog to do what you are asking for. Or to get the dog away, eg when I was teaching Tahoe to turn on the light switch he would get a "yes" when he touched it, a treat and then I would throw another treat a couple of feet away. Then he would come back excited to do it all over again. Then you keep making them do a bit more for each treat, or only give it after 2 times then 3, so they don't become so that they only do what you want if there's a treat.
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