Miriam Richard from Dogs in Vests on the Healing Power of Emotional Support and Service Dogs
What is your title exactly and what does it mean? What type of work do you practice?
My name is Miriam and I am a physical therapist, author (Gut Feeling : Gut Healing and Dogs In Vests,) researcher, and service dog trainer. Gut Feeling: Gut Healing is under the Pen Shannon Eavenson and is about a special diet for Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, Ian’s more. We used the many of the common unlabeled avoid foods from this diet to train our first service dog.
Dogs In Vests is an over view from several perspectives of owner training a service dog and an emotional support dog. This book was written to educate others that owner training a service dog is possible and that looks like so they can decide if owner training is right for them.
More options are now available for owner training which can be solo, involve a trainer, or be through an online course with monthly mentor visits.
I volunteer my time helping educate/train others and their dogs about food allergen detection. This is among various other tasks a dog may be able to assist or mitigate regarding disabilities.
What made you become interested in exploring the therapeutic possibilities of animals?
I have always had dogs in my life and started to train my toy poodle, Muffin, from age 8. She was my best friend as well as emotional support during my childhood when I faced my learning disability and bullies.
Who are the typical clients you work with and what do you provide them?
I have puppy raised and trained a scent detection service dog that we donated to a family with two children that are diagnosed with life threatening medical illnesses. We were able to capture and train scent detection for low blood sugar and help alert to low cortisol also known as Addison’s disease.
Additionally, I trained my two dogs to detect 16 different grains and starches for my son who is on a special diet, which is his main treatment for Crohn’s disease.
I also inspired Victor Fadool to cowrite Dogs In Vests.
During this time he was motivated to train his beloved Malachi, a wolf Husky hybrid, his emotional support animal to a higher standard and he now wants train him for a specific task so that he will be a true service dog.
Without betraying any confidentiality, of course, could you cite a couple of examples or share a couple of stories of people you’ve worked with who’ve found benefits and made what you’d call improvements in their ability to live fuller lives with their disability from getting an emotional support dog or service dog?
One example is the daughter of the family with major medical illnesses we described above. We gave the family a service dog, Mazie, which benefited her by helping her achieve her lowest number of hospitalizations to date since diagnosis. She was able to finally experience sleep overs away from home at age 15 years old. Mazie now goes and gets another family member if the daughter does not respond immediately to her alert. This same family is very hopeful to be able to train another service dog for other family members and they are now empowered to do so.
One other way a family has enriched their lives is, now, two of their children are proud contributors to the book Dogs In Vests!
We also have two other families we are hoping to help in 2020, by partnering with them to help train a mobility/medical alert dog as well as a PTSD service dog.
Another story is about Victor Fadool who is our contributing author of Dogs In Vests:
“My experience with my emotional service dog has created a deep desire to know Malachi better and help him, help me, better! He’s given me three years of love and support during major transitions in my life. He’s a staple at any family gatherings and even traveling abroad. He certainly makes flying easier when I experience anxiety from turbulence. My goal in training him for a specific task is to take his service of emotional support to the next level. We all feel accomplished when we work and fulfill a purpose, right? I apply similar logic to working with and loving Malachi. Applying deep pressure during anxiety provoking situations is the primary task I’m working toward.”
Is taking care of a service dog different from taking care of an emotional support dog?
Taking care of a service animal does require much more training through out the dogs working life to keep the skills up to the desired level. Once a dog is trained the dog needs to use the task, or lose it, so to speak.
Keeping in mind that a dog ages 7 years per human year even missing a few weeks of training would be similar to how kids need refreshers after summer break. It is highly recommended that a service dog teams run through tasks at least once a week.
An emotional support dog should be able to pass the public access test and keep up it’s skills of good behavior out in public. It cannot be aggressive toward humans or other animals, it may come in contact with, especially while traveling.
How do you advise your clients to speak about their service dog or an emotional support animal with others, be that family and friends or people they travel or live with? Do you have any advice for how people can help make others around them more comfortable and accepting and less prone to hassles, ridicule or embarrassment for living and traveling with a service dog or an emotional support animal?
We highly recommend those with service dogs willingly share what task their animal performs. They do not need to break HIPPA to educate others but if they are willing to share any specifics of how their dog helps mitigate hidden disabilities, I feel that is important even if they use a generic story about the fact that there is a large range of how dogs can serve from Migraine alerts, to food allergen detection, to autism recovery for runners, to diabetic alert dogs, to mobility for debilitating arthritis, to PTSD service dogs being more highly trained and helping more intensely that an emotional support animal.
Despite the fact that emotional support animals are not required to be trained, do you recommend that people give their emotional support animals any particular types or degrees of training?
Yes, I believe the laws are getting stricter and it should become necessary for an emotional support animal to be trained to behave and not be aggressive or a hazard to the public. I recommend Good Canine Citizen and Public Access be passed for emotional support animals that are traveling via public transportation, or living in community style settings as apartments, or dormitories.
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