Saturday, November 17, 2012

Service Dog Helping with Dementia

About four months ago we adopted a puppy who we are training to be my Psychiatirc Service Dog. While this training can take years, and our puppy Rosie is still just trying to learn how to contain her puppy energy, I find her to be an amazingly intuitive service dog. I have had many dogs over my lifetime but few have been so in tune with the emotional needs of the people around them as Rosie is, and she is just in the first few months of training.

Today we had a family party and we were able to have Mom over to our house. Rosie was in her crate for the beginning of the party and after everyone arrived, I let her out. We had about twenty people in the house and instead of saying "hello" to the people that were in the room she was in, Rosie instead went directly to see my Mom. A person she has only met twice.

Rosie was so attached to my Mom that my Aunt thought Rosie must have lived with my parents before we moved into our new house. She assumed Rosie knew Mom and missed her. Rosie was jumping up on my Mom, trying to get into the Broda chair with her. While this was not the best choice for Rosie because she was too hyper, her instincts were correct.

Rosie somehow knows to "ground" people when they are injured or hurting. This is a deep pressure therapy where the weight of the dog helps to calm the person who is anxious. Rosie's instinct is to lay herself on top of people to help make them feel safe and comforted. "Grounding" will be a Psychiatiric Service Dog task that Rosie will be able to do, gently, on command but right now she does it in her hyper puppy way becasuse she just wants to help other people.
Rosie "grounding" me.
I am continually amazed at the connection that animals have to us. I can't believe how Rosie knew, out of a houseful of twenty people who were in separate rooms, to go straight to the person who needed the most love and care. I felt so proud of Rosie today and her ability to help others. I also felt a great connection with Mom as she and I always cared for our dogs together throughout our lives. Rosie trying to take care of Mom was, for me, kind of another way that Mom and I are still connected despite the fog of dementia that keeps getting thicker and thicker. I am glad my puppy can see through the fog even better than most people can.


Rev. Katie

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