What is your service animal’s name? How old are they? Where are you from? What breed?
Her name is Essie, short for Espresso! Her birthday is 11/7/17, and she is a red standard poodle from Tennessee. I’m originally from New Hampshire but I’ve been living in Florida for over 3 years now.
What is your diagnosis and how long have you been diagnosed?
I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, along with POTS, fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue whatever, cervical syringomelia, ADHD, anxiety, depression, etc. I didn’t know my symptoms were abnormal until I was 18, so I wasn’t diagnosed with anything, but I began to learn what was going on when I was around 19 and since.
In what way does your service animal provide services to you?
Essie is a mobility support and medical response service dog. She does forward momentum pull to help me walk longer, and counter balance. She also does retrievals/ picking up items that I drop or point to as small as a dime which is very helpful in limiting the amount I have to bend down. Essie also does crowd control in where she circles around my body to give me space from people, and does a stationary block for similar reasons. She does behavioral interruptions for repetitive motions, mostly itching when I don’t realize I’m doing it. She also performs deep pressure therapy on different parts of my body to alleviate pain. She likes to push buttons that open doors! We’re currently building up duration for her holding/carrying items for longer periods of time.
Tell us about a proud moment:
There’s plenty! I remember the first time I took Essie out on her own at around 6 months old. This was when I wasn’t sure if she would end up working out as a service dog, but that was the day she proved herself to me. After that, I started taking her out more consistently and she took wonderfully to her job!
How long did it take to train your service animal? Did you train them or did you go to an outside source?
I got her as a 9 week-old puppy and did all her training on my own. I had worked with other service dog and sport dog trainers prior. Once she was up to par with the ADA’s definition of service animal, I discontinued her “in training” label, but we still actively train to improve on current skills and she loves to learn new things. So while she was legally considered “fully trained” at around a 18 months, we still train!
What were the struggles of training? How long did it take to train?
A lot of the struggles of training have to do with my varying energy levels. Essie is smart, she learns quick and enjoys it. Being consistent is just…tough.
What advice do you have for those who are considering a service animal?
If owner training, then you have to keep reminding yourself that you’re investing energy now for help later. Understand that dogs are dogs before anything else. Get a good puppy from a good breeder, don’t stress it out. Training must be a paced game. No one’s dog on social media is as great as their handler’s make it out to be. Know what behaviors are unacceptable, it’s kinder to wash a dog that shows discomfort than to force it to work.
What are common misconceptions?
My service dog is, first and foremost, a dog. She does get pet, even strangers pet her sometimes. I only tell you not to because she is to be in a calm headspace when working, and the added excitement is harmful to her focus. (Also, she’s a dog not a carpet!)
Please share a little blurb about you:
I love to make things and learning about anything that fascinates me. I also have a wicked dry and dark sense of humor, so I can definitely come across as…quite strange!
Please share a little blurb about your service pet with some fun facts about their personality:
Essie is hilarious, and she moves like a horse. She makes weird noises and likes you to make them back to her. She punches you when you blow on her face—and sometimes when we’re out she’ll get creative in order to task. Is she bored? She might take something off my lap and drop it so she can pick it up. Or she’ll interrupt whatever I’m doing (typing, etc.) by shoving her nose into the situation.