Mentoring Monday: A service dog is not the answer for every disabled individual. Service dogs have helped people accomplish miraculous things---we see it every day at OFP. But the most important part of these miracles is the work the handlers do on themselves.
Being paired with a service dog does not mean that a person's medical and psychological challenges magically disappear. Ultimately, the dog is a tool---just like a wheelchair, medication, or therapy---something that the handler can use to effectively MANAGE or MITIGATE a disability. How well the person uses all these resources determines the impact on their health. Almost all dogs are very good at finding ways to make people feel happy, temporarily changing their body chemistry. When those “feel good” chemicals are in the bloodstream, a person’s depression or anxiety may be less severe, so it’s easy to assume that having a dog around all the time will eliminate depression. But that’s just not the case. Learning to manage depression and anxiety requires hard work under the guidance of multiple medical experts.
Providing proper care for any dog is a lot of responsibility. Having a service dog accompany its handler everywhere exponentially multiplies that level of responsibility. Preparations need to be made for an entire day's events. The handler must give the dog frequent opportunities to eliminate, especially before entering any building. Access to water must be provided. Scouting out the best place to sit in every location, so other people and the dog will be comfortable, is important. The handler must become accustomed to being stared at, talked to and challenged about bringing a dog into an establishment, and learn to respond calmly. And as Mary says, “A service dog is not a light switch you can turn on and off,” so the dog has to accompany the handler even if s/he doesn’t feel like it.
In addition to all the hours the person must put into directly addressing his/her medical issues, thousands of training hours are required for both dog and handler to develop their "miraculous" working relationship. We take these and many other factors into consideration when deciding if an individual has both the physical and psychological stamina to cope with all the aspects of becoming an OFP service dog handler. ... See MoreSee Less
Operation Freedom Paws wants to say thank you to all the incredible moms in our community. And to the moms who serve our country and the moms who support their spouses and children who serve our country, our deepest gratitude. You are the embodiment of strength and love.🙏❤️💪