I have been around dogs all my life. Due to life circumstances, my only “siblings” and my only “children” have been dogs.
When I was growing up, I remember a young blind woman named Pat who functioned very well with her seeing eye dog in my very rural town of 600. When I went away to college, I was surprised to see her walking down the street one day in that larger college town with her dog leading the way. She had gotten a job and moved away from the familiarity of home, and her dog was an integral part of that.
Dogs are a large part of my life, and I am always curious about the roles they play in our lives.
Services dogs, and particularly psychiatric service dogs, are receiving more and more press as veterans return from wars with all the trauma that goes with that. For many, dogs have become a an important part in the transition back to civilian life. Dogs have also come to serve many other people with various emotional and psychiatric issues. Anne Martinez’s book, Saved by the Dog: Unleashing Potential with Psychiatric Service Dogs is a welcome guide to the world of psychiatric service dogs.
Martinez begins by clearing up many misconceptions.
Just what is the difference between a service dog, an emotional support dog, and a therapy dog? What are the qualifications for each, and exactly who do each help? Each of the above has a different job and is covered under different laws. Their ability to accompany you on planes or in restaurants varies, for example.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Air Carrier Access Act, the Fair Housing Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act are among the relevant laws covered in the book. There are also state laws which cover things like access to certain locations for service dogs in training, which are not covered under the federal law.
Martinez covers all the ins and outs of having a service dog, and of deciding whether or not one is right for you. She emphasizes the importance of remembering that service dogs are sentient beings with their own personalities and abilities, not robots. Not all dogs are not cut out to be service animals. Likewise, many people are not cut out to live with dogs.
When it comes to finding a service dog, Martinez offers practical ways to connect with other people who have or train service dogs, and may be able to help interested readers find one. She also provides practical tips for getting out and about with a service dog, and helps readers understand what owner responsibilities are in a variety of situations. Martinez also provides insight into understanding whether a dog would be a good match, where to look, how to finance the process, training styles and more.
Martinez provides common sense direction for things like when to take your dog along, and when it might be better to leave him or her home. She also touches on the latest research to enhance the capabilities of service dogs, such as backpacks with electronic interfaces that would allow dogs to call 911 through an owner’s cell phone.
Readers are asked to consider important questions such as, what do you do when people approach you and want to pet your dog, or they begin asking intrusive questions? What questions are allowed to be asked under the ADA, for example, from a store proprietor before allowing you entrance with your service dog? How do you file a complaint when someone violates access laws?
I really appreciated the appendices, too. There are sample letters in topics like asking for housing accommodation, and tips for medical professionals in writing support letters. There are fund raising tips. There is an extensive frequently asked questions list on the laws, and a glossary to help keep track of the variety of acronyms and language (for example, work versus task) in the world of service dogs.
I highly recommend this well-researched and thorough book on psychiatric service dogs. I think it would be a very useful book for a person with an interest in any type of service dog.
I do wish that the English language had some pronoun other than “it” for referring to nonhuman sentient beings. Otherwise, Martinez gives a very respectful overview of the working relationship between a person and a service dog, and I appreciate that very much. I also appreciate that she provides details about finding a trainer, and emphasizes reward-based training.
Dogs bring so much to our lives. We owe them compassion and respect in return.
Saved by the Dog: Unleashing Potential with Psychiatric Service Dogs
Anventure LLC, December 2016
Softcover, 256 Pages