If you’ve ever wondered why some dogs get to stay in the cabin on planes and some don’t, we’ve got your back with the Healing Companions’ Categories series. In the next couple of posts, we will be talking about the different types of support dogs, their training, roles, and legislation concerning each type. First, let’s talk about the ones we train here at Healing Companions, Inc.: Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD’s.)
Brian and Colton are really learning to work together.
From Brian’s mom after their first night and a recent dental appointment:
“Colton did excellent last night. He slept through the night without a bark or a whine. He used the Bell to go potty this morning and he helped Brian when he was anxious twice yesterday.
Good news today Brian was able to go to the dentist with Colton’s help! I have not made him his own appointment in 6 years. I have made an appointment for myself and then tried to get him to go. and then if he would not go he had to wait another 6 months to my next appointment. I just had my appointment shortly before we got Colton and Brian would not go and I decided to make an appointment just for Brian and risk it. So this was a tremendous accomplishment! I just tell Colton go get him and Colton kissed him until he could leave. Brian was saying he would not go and after a few minutes with Colton’s intervention he was able to leave. I didn’t even have to call my friend to come over. Haven’t been able to get Brian to do the halter yet but he did get the call made for the veterinarian and we have an appointment on Friday.”
Healing Companions, Inc. believes in saving lives on both ends of the leash – not just with individuals who receive Psychiatric Service Dogs, and the shelter dogs themselves, but also with the inmates who assist in training our PSDs. Healing Companions, Inc. takes great pride in the recovery efforts of those inmates who are enrolled in our training program. There, they not only learn positive reward-based dog training, but they also learn relaxation and stress reduction techniques for humans and their animals. Plus, they become certified in canine First Aid and CPR! These inmates grow their confidence in their ability to do a job, get in the habit of committing to work, and leave prison with the opportunity to have real-world job skills.
At Healing Companions, Inc., we believe in compassionate mentoring and allowing these inmates to prove themselves, reducing potential recidivism and improving their own outlook, as well. Inmates get an opportunity to embrace hope and actively participate in society. After being imprisoned, these individuals can trust themselves again, bringing their skills to work and playing a role in the world – in this case, the crucial role in the recovery of a person with mental health issues.
Here Leo* gives us his take on his experience. Leo was able to witness the powerful impact of his basic training for a client’s dog. Leo was able to empathize in a meaningful way with the client, finding similarities in her story and his own daughter’s life with Asperger syndrome.
Story by Lucia Martínez ~ Martin knows by heart what it’s like to suffer from a mental illness himself. He’s experienced the challenging symptoms, and has dealt with the great stigma of living with an illness such as bipolar disorder, as well as the one that comes with being convicted of a crime. In prison, a person has to learn on his own how to cope with these exhausting issues, especially when one has had a lot of time on one’s hands, which can lead to increasing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
By being part of the dog training process, Martin has not only proven to be proficient in managing and working with the shelter dogs, but has also perceived the calming and beneficial effects of sharing with the dogs, and has become more capable in controlling those anxiety/panic attacks that are common in people with bipolar disorder. While at the same time, helping someone in need.
Listen to Martin’s touching words on his healing experience training shelter dogs for the future and overcoming the symptoms of his own mental illness while imprisoned:
We are happy to claim this a win-win-win situation, for the shelter dog, the person the dog is being trained to assist and clearly the individuals who participate in the program who value it highly and derive a ton of personal benefit. And that’s why we love what we do!