Animals and Dementia Symptoms Part3

819 Various Speakg Engagmnts 04in125ppiTru here.  This is last installment of answer to those who have asked about Service Dog issues.

Assistance Dogs International (ADI) approximates 120 hours over 6 months. A well-trained Service Dog should be trained 1 to 2 hours per day over 6 months – in other words 180 to 360 hours.

ADI “Benefits of Certification:  Since there is no standard certification process, this would vary with the organization you chose. Some programs offer a thorough certification process that can take two or more years and could include training classes, field trips and in-home instruction. In addition to being able to take pride in what you and your dog have accomplished, as a “certified” graduate, you might receive the program’s identification card and dog equipment, be included in the program’s liability insurance coverage and be offered assistance from the program should you be denied public access. Each program’s requirements and benefits are different and it is up to you to be a good consumer and find the program that best meets your needs.”


My thanks to International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) for the following information since I have been “out of the loop” for Service Dog information in the past 6 years;
Dept Of Justice definition of SrvAnimal was revised in 2010 to read : Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

Also noted is: (4) Animal under handler’s control. A service animal shall be under the control of its handler. A service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal´s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler´s control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means).

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And special thanks to Joan Froling, the current Chair of IAADP for personal response and sending me the following link of letter she wrote about task often associated with Service Dog task for Dementia Symptoms:

Some excerpts from above link regarding specific task of SrvDog alert (for dementia patient attempting to leave the house) as PRIMARY preventative for wandering are: “As wonderful as service dogs can be, they are not the right kind of assistive technology for every disabili…ty and every situation.” … “Ill health, thunderstorms, anxiety over changes in the household routine or lack of practice are additional reasons why reliance on a service dog in ((some situations)) is akin to playing Russian Roulette.” … “I can appreciate the benefits of a facilitated partnership. But on a pragmatic basis, with regard to this particular safety issue, the caregiver needs to find something more dependable out there than a dog’s desire to earn a treat.”

(((It appears that she does not negate this as a task, but rather strongly feels that the Service Dog should not be the ONLY tool in the tool box of dealing with this particular safety issue.)))

And this is her extensive write-up of Service Dog tasks for Psychiatric DisAbilities:

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Other Notes I found:

Blessing’s Vocabulary on 02/20/05:  All-done, Bark, Bath, Come, Drink, Lay, Mouth, Nosey, Over, Potty, Pull, Roll, Scoot, Scratch, Shake, Sit, Stand, Still, Take, Visit, Walk,

Combinations: Look _____, Bring _____ , Go to _____, Leave _____, Jump _____, Want _____ ?

Blessing Vocab Nouns & Names on 02/20/05:  “B” (for me) Apple, Baby, Banana, Bed, Bird, Blanket, Blessing, Bowl, Brush, Carrot, Cat, Cauliflower, Chip, Collar, Couch, Dog, Ear, Fence, Foot, Hero, Hole, Hose, Jessie, Keys, Kid, Kitchen, Lap, Pool, Porch, Skateboard, Tail, Thing (whatever I point to), Trailer, Van,

Will “Bring” these items:  Blanket, Bowl, Brush, Carrot, Cauliflower, Chip, Collar, Thing (whatever I point to), Keys,

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Found text from part of my speech from later in 2005 so thought it might interest folks.

Notes for my Speech: Value of a Service Animal 2005 Aug 10

I have been asked to demonstrate the value of a Service Animal.

According to 1990 ADA, a Service Animal is any animal trained to do one or more tasks that will mitigate a disability. There are many disabilities that a Service Animal can help with. My disability is neurological and rheumatological. I have neurological damage or disease, osteoporosis, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, extreme hypoglycemia, irritable bowel, and many of the other maladies that I inherited along with Fibromyalgia. (By the way, today is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day for 2005.)

My physical disability stems from continual pain and compromised energy; my energy can go so low that I can’t chew. Energy is very connected within your body, and when my physical energy goes flat, my mental and emotional energy are also extra low.

However, I have been mentally alert enough to drive every day for over a month now. That’s extremely exciting! In fact, this Sunday was my first day at church without the wheelchair. Hero helped me with just the walking harness.

I would like to explain life “before” a Service Animal (SA), and “after” a SA, but I really can’t because my disability took effect gradually, and Hero’s abilities to compensate kept pace with my dis-ability. My leg pain and fatigue became noticeable by about 18 years old, but then went into remission for many years. I enjoyed dancing, skiing, and most of the things other people do. In 1992, I was holding down the job of office manager at a hazardous waste facility. I was walking more than one mile during lunch break every day, and was considered somewhat of a ‘workaholic’. That job became complicated when we were bought by a company I couldn’t respect, and I quit. I worked several temporary jobs. One summer I was hired by an attorney.  I was hired as secretary to the Controller of a large organization. (In other words I was in BookKeeping.) One day, in 2000, I called the doctor at noon. I told him that I had too much pain to concentrate on work. I needed to go home because I couldn’t do my job.


Change of Scene: My dream dog was a newfoundland – bred for ocean rescue and the “Nanny” of the dog family. For 13 yrs I had wanted a puppy but they are not a common dog and very expensive. On the afternoon of that first day with too much pain to work, I received a call from a newfoundland breeder saying that a 2-1/2 year old male needed a home. His first home considered him aggressive and dominant, and his second try for a home only kept him one night before deciding that he wouldn’t work, so we could have him for vet expenses. We were warned that he was allergic to protein and would require prescription kibble all his life. The vet told us he also had one severely dysplastic hip and would require “mild to moderate exercise every day of his life to keep the muscles strong enough to hold that hip in place”. (Which is also why he is kept at the low weight you see.) With what we consider his MISdiagnosis of aggression and dominance we were not surprised to discover that he had been hit more than once.

Carting is a traditional Newf task, and the vet approved, so we joined the local newfoundland club and began draft training to pull a cart.

My health continued to go downhill. Soon I was tripping, fell in the rose bushes several times, and began using a walker. My employers said they couldn’t meet my doctor’s criteria for return to work, and I began the long process for disability. Six months after we got him, we transferred Hero’s training to pulling a wheelchair instead of a cart. He was certified six weeks from when I got the wheelchair.

Six weeks is a remarkably short training time. The Delta Society estimates 4-12 months training, and Assistance Dogs International expects 120 hours over 6 months, but you need to remember several things: 1) The Newf was bred to pull; to pull people and boats in the water, and loads of fish on land. 2) Hero had six months of intermittent cart training before we got the wheelchair –and all newfs that I know of required very little training for their mobility tasks. I think Blessing must have loved pulling a wheelchair even before she was born! 3) I believe that G0d didn’t make Hero to be hit, he was created to be my partner, so very little time was required.


Notes for during DEMO of wheelchair: One difference between my partnership with Hero, and partnerships with a Service Dog trained in an organization is that (obviously) we self-trained Hero to meet my specific needs. At the time, I saw no need to prevent Hero sniffing the ground as he walked. Later I discovered that it gives observers the impression of an untrained dog if they see this. I decided “so what”; he was meeting my wants as well as my needs, and I didn’t mind meeting his wants. I could do that because I self-trained.


I still have a lot of abilities: I can walk, run and lift boxes; I am able to do a lot of the things that most people can … I just have to pay a much higher price for doing them. An example is when I have to run for some reason. My energy will be low for several days, or it may put me into a “flare” for weeks or even months! My trip to Montana took six months recovery time, even though I tried to not push myself very hard.

I do lifting, I do walking, and I’ve got good muscle tone. I just have to pick when I do them and budget my energy. A wheelchair has been one of my budgeting resources. To start with, I only used it for long-distance outings like a car show, but as my available energy dropped it became necessary for anytime I wouldn’t have easy access to chairs, like shopping.

I walk a fine line of energy output. Now I use legs and feet to steer, brake and help my dog pull me. If I had a motorized wheelchair I wouldn’t – actually, I couldn’t do that. With my dog’s help, I can conserve energy while still moving major muscles to avoid atrophy and permanent muscle damage. Depending on available energy and sitting areas for a safety net, sometimes I can use a walking harness instead of the wheelchair.


During DEMO of walking harness: Several times, Hero just seemed to know when my mother-in-law was having balance problems. He would walk beside her, keeping pace with her while pulling me in the wheelchair. When needed, his shoulder was right there to steady her. That’s what gave me the idea to use a walking harness. He did not require training for this task; it was a natural.


I have a prescription for water therapy, which is another tool to provide exercise within a safety net. When we moved to Fort Bragg I was pleased to find the town pool had an arthritis class. My driver’s license had been removed due to my lack of physical and mental energy, so Hero and I took the bus twice a week.

One day, about 15 minutes before the end of class, Hero barked. I got out of the pool immediately. This happened a couple times before I ignored him. I really miss dancing and on this day I was dancing in the water. After two more ignored barks, Hero stood at the instructor’s feet and wouldn’t leave until I got out. Guess what? Before I could get dressed (dressing takes a lot of energy) and to the bus stop across the street, I couldn’t even hold up my head, let alone hold onto his lead. I learned how extreme my fatigue could become, and that Hero could predict it.

“Alerting” (or predicting) dogs are some of the most valuable Service Animals there are, and are very frequently used by persons with “invisible disabilities”; disabilities that don’t show. I think most people know that some dogs alert to epilepsy, diabetes emergency, heart attack, and panic attack (and I hear many cats are even better than dogs). This gives the patient time to get to a place of safety or time to prepare wisely.

The dogs I know of give about a 30-minute warning, whether it’s a blood sugar emergency, a seizure, or a panic attack. Hero gave me more than 30-minutes before I couldn’t hold up my head – and I suspect his prior warnings actually prevented the extreme fatigue on other occasions, because I discontinued the exercise that would have triggered it!

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Since we’ve still got a few minutes, I’d like to introduce my Blessing. I bought her as a healthy young pup, with what I thought was a good healthy pedigree; specifically as a Service Dog trainee. Since then she has needed eye surgery, multiple x-rays, and she just had her first knee surgery. She reacted to the stainless steel pin and is scheduled for another surgery in a couple weeks. Blessing has not been a low-expense dog! With her joint complications we (the vet and I) don’t know whether I will be able to finish training her as the Service Dog to pull my wheelchair. But… this has given her time to focus on a few other skills. Do you know how much energy is spent pulling off a sock? For me, it’s a lot. She has begun learning how to do it for me. When I drop something, she is right there to pick it up. I can ask her to bring my keys or several other items. When she and Hero finish eating, she brings me their bowls. DEMO of Blessing’s Retrieve

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A Service Animal gives me the independence to function without a care-giver. Hero and I have flown alone to Oregon, and last year, after Hero blew his knee, Blessing and I went to Montana. Like I said earlier, recovery time was six months, but we did it!

Any discussion on the value of a Service Animal wouldn’t be complete without adding a note about their emotional value. Not only do they themselves provide emotional support, but their presence prevents the isolation so frequently seen in disabled persons without a Service Animal. People don’t know what to say to a person with a visible disability. If the person is blind, it’s easy, just say nothing and they won’t know you noticed. But someone in a wheelchair is another matter. When I have needed to function without my Service Dog (due to their illness) I discovered my environment changes. Children point and parents tell them not to notice the wheelchair. The little boy asks “What happened to you?” and the mother says it’s rude to ask things like that as she pulls him away. Believe it or not, one day a couple actually held their nose as if they expected incontinence! It sounds like something from a melodramatic movie, but it all happened to me in the span of a few days without a Service Dog. With a dog, it’s a different movie altogether! Everyone is comfortable talking about a dog. People may not remember me, but they remember my dog! Frequently they don’t even notice the wheelchair unless I mention it; I must be the owner of that magnificent dog! Typically, I am stopped every 50’ with questions or with requests to pet my dog.

Please, NEVER pet a Service Animal without asking! What if the Service Animal alerted for epilepsy, and he was distracted from his duties… It could become very dangerous. At the least, it can be a major problem. My biggest problem in finishing Blessing (before she blew her knee) was her visiting. Finally I made two big signs; one hung down each side of her back; “I’m working – no visit”. You know what? She did a great job of paying attention to her job when people weren’t reaching out to her while she was working.

((End of my notes for speech from 2005 Aug 10))

Here are some other Service Dog links:

TopDog Trng Bks & Videos
Bk4trng Alz SrvDog
SrvDogs: A Brain’s Best Friend
Stonehill Kennel: SrvDogs
Memory Assist SrvDogs
Memory Abilities of Dogs
Trng SrvDogs on Dementia Scale
… Change Lives of Alz Sufferers
Dementia Dog Stories x2
Dementia Dog Photos
Mike Good on SrvDogs Alz
FB Dementia Dog
DementiaDog Case Study
Assistance Dogs Inrntnl…/training…/
IAADP Conf w/video4Selecting SrvDog Candidate
FB Grp: Dementia SrvDogs
Joan Froling Article re Safety concern
Joan Froling SrvDog tasks4Psy DisAbilities
Sue’s Temperament test
SAFER Aggression Assessment
Meet Your Match Tool
AKC – Canine Good Citizen


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One thought on “Animals and Dementia Symptoms Part3

  1. Pingback: Choosing a Dementia Service-Assistance Dog | Truthful Loving Kindness

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