Psychiatric Service Dogs

I recently have become obsessed with getting a psychiatric service dog (PSD). Whether it is fortunate or unfortunate for my bipolar mind that the process can take anywhere between 6 months and up to 2 years. That doesn’t jive too well with my need for instant gratification.

However with my bipolar obsession, I’ve done a bit of research on PSD’s, what they do, and how they can help someone suffering from a mental illness. PSD’s are legit service dogs just like service dogs for the blind and deaf. They are not the same as emotional support animals (ESA) which have become somewhat of a craze for people wanting an excuse to bring their pets wherever they want to go.

On average, PSD’s know between 30-40 commands. They perform tasks such as waking their handler up and making sure they get out of bed, that they take their medications, interrupt hypomanic and manic episodes, alert handler to overwhelming emotions, distract handlers from repeated destructive behavior, among other tasks.

Unlike my two rat terriers, whom I suspect are planning to eat my body as soon as I die, PSD’s are NOT pets. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) they are classified as a working dog and are exempt from most rules and ordinances that normally govern where a dog can and can’t go. A PSD can go anywhere the public has access to; including restaurants, movie theaters, stores, and other places. They go where you go.

Ultimately, the role of a PSD is to help establish a stable routine for the handler and aid in managing symptoms. Obsessed or not, I do need the aid of a service dog. Getting the animal is my new adventure.

For the Veterans Administration (VA), the process begins with the recommendation by a doctor or psychiatrist. Then the request is sent up the Chain of Command to other departments for approval (or disapproval). With COVID going on right now there is no telling how long this process is going to take. I must remain patient and keep a positive attitude.

My current psychiatrist is reluctant at best to do this for me. Already we have butted heads over the matter. We are to discuss it further in an upcoming appointment. Hopefully he’ll get with the program and send in his recommendation.

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