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July 11, 2009 11:32 AM   Subscribe

Tuesday is a so-called psychiatric-service dog, a new generation of animals trained to help people whose suffering is not physical, but emotional. They are, effectively, Seeing Eye dogs for the mind.

Tuesday's master is an Iraq war veteran suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Tuesday, and many other dogs like him, are being trained in New York prisons in a program called Puppies Behind Bars (previously).
posted by educatedslacker (43 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Previously.
posted by mek at 11:36 AM on July 11, 2009


Wow. I'm amazed that people were able to train a dog to do all that.
posted by delmoi at 11:39 AM on July 11, 2009


See also Service with a Snarl, about people in San Francisco abusing the generous "service animal" definition and the ADA to bring their pets all over the damn city. I don't mean to conflate trained animals who help people with medical problems from selfish fraudsters. The thing that surprised me in the SF Weekly article is there's no recognized standard for a proper trained service animal.
posted by Nelson at 11:48 AM on July 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


Dogs are too good for people. We are lucky enough to have them.
posted by belvidere at 11:52 AM on July 11, 2009 [22 favorites]


I have something in my eye.
posted by jquinby at 11:58 AM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nelson: that's horrible and amazingly inconsiderate. Not just to the public, but particularly people with legitimate service animals. Carrying an untrained mastiff into a confined space with a well-trained seeing-eye dog WILL result in a fight, and possibly injury or death to one of the animals and bystanders.
posted by xthlc at 12:02 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Goldens are amazing, amazing creatures.
posted by jbickers at 12:04 PM on July 11, 2009


I've only just opened the article to read and I've gotta say I just love that Tuesday got one of those swell WSJ pencil-sketch lookin' portraits. Now, to RTFA.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:12 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Dogs are too good for people. We are lucky enough to have them.

You aren't very familiar with the concept of domestication, are you?
posted by 7segment at 12:17 PM on July 11, 2009


I have something in my eye.

My chocolate lab woke me up at 5:30 this morning to go out. I grumbled and walked outside with him. I walked to the end of the driveway to pick up my paper, opened it, and then read this story.

We sat out in the yard playing fetch for the next three hours. Dogs are awesome. Sometimes we take it for granted.
posted by educatedslacker at 12:32 PM on July 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


A guy, who was sent overseas to kill guys, now has a debilitating mental condition due to another guy trying to kill him (that guy got killed) and is given a dog trained by a guy who is in jail for killing a guy.

And the dog has effectively (if not literally) saved his life.

Universe, I just don't know anymore.

very moving story though
posted by sloe at 12:37 PM on July 11, 2009 [17 favorites]


That was amazing. I had no idea a dog could be trained to make certain that his master took his pills!
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:43 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow. As someone who has dealt with anxiety which has ranged from mild to severe for most of my life, the thought of an animal trained to help people with such problems is a ray of hope.

Now if only assholes will not ruin the concept of a service animal, and other people will get over the irrational fear of well trained obedient animals in public spaces, everything will be ok.
posted by strixus at 12:48 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd begin to write this story's screenplay if it wasn't already being written for me.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 12:51 PM on July 11, 2009


Meanwhile, the psychiatric-service cat ate his plants, threw up on the carpet, and then went to sleep on his laptop.
posted by ScotchRox at 12:55 PM on July 11, 2009 [24 favorites]


Nice post..thanks...

I would like to suggest that the phony, aggressive "service dogs", be set upon those that illegally park in handicap parking spaces.. it just seems like a beautiful form of justice!
posted by HuronBob at 12:57 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mr. Pucci discovered that Tuesday loved the jail's small inflatable pool and would run through commands perfectly if he was in the water.
posted by grobstein at 12:58 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I agree that the definition of service dogs should be strictly defined and not available to just anyone who has a pet they want to carry around with them.

But damn if some days I don't feel like I need a Tuesday of my own. Such an awesome animal.
posted by JHarris at 1:29 PM on July 11, 2009


The thing that surprised me in the SF Weekly article is there's no recognized standard for a proper trained service animal.

Indeed. I was volunteering at a conference once where the academic rockstar keynote speaker was a bit of an eccentric sort. He brought his service dog with him. When I asked what his disability he was in case I had to make arrangements, I found out that he didn't actually have one.

He brought the dog everywhere he went because he wanted to prove a point that humans were specieist. Turns out you can print a license or license-like form off the net anywhere (as mentioned in the SF weekly article). He never had a problem bringing his dog into restaurants, etc. They never checked.

The dog was really friendly though.
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 1:30 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't really have a problem with people bringing whatever animals they want with them anywhere, providing, and this is key, they are held 1:1 culpable for the animal's actions. The animal bites someone? The owner is charged with assault, and has to pay medical bills, etc.
posted by edgeways at 1:43 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


"they are held 1:1 culpable for the animal's actions. The animal bites someone? The owner is charged with assault, and has to pay medical bills, etc."

I agree with this 100%.

I am lucky in that I am able to bring my 1 year old Husky to work with me, she's with me at work about 80% of the time. I'm in an alternative education setting, spend about 50% of my time in the office, the rest out with kids and in classrooms (I'm not teaching). The pup has been coming with me since it was 8 weeks old. This is one very socialized dog, loves people, and has spent enough time with other dogs that she is very dog friendly as well.

I am well aware of my responsibility regarding her behavior. She is never off leash if she's not in my office, and I respect those that tell me they are afraid of her.

The up side is that I've seen interacting with a dog calm down some pretty stressed out kids (and staff!).
posted by HuronBob at 2:05 PM on July 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm not a dog person, but an amazing thing happened to me with my roommate's dog. Amazing to me, anyway; maybe this happens a lot with dog owners.

Long story short, I was at the apartment alone with the dog, sitting by the window, staring blankly out. Through a perfect storm of bad things going on in my life (of which I won't bore you), I was having a minor emotional breakdown. I started crying, and roomie's dog comes up to me and starts licking away the tears. Normally I would've thought that gross--like I said, I'm not a dog person--but I was incredibly touched and am still amazed that he understood my state of mind.
posted by zardoz at 2:23 PM on July 11, 2009 [7 favorites]


Lots of nice dog stories out there. I am impressed with the newer studeies that show that dogs can sniff out cancer in a person before the person knows he or she has some form of cancer. But that said: if we take the thousands of military now suffering from PTSD, we simply can not use dogs for so many of those in need. And thus we turn to other forms of help.
posted by Postroad at 2:52 PM on July 11, 2009


Normally I would've thought that gross--like I said, I'm not a dog person--but I was incredibly touched and am still amazed that he understood my state of mind.

Yeah, uhh, tears are salty. Dogs like salt.
posted by Justinian at 2:52 PM on July 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately, the many people with allergies don't get to declare an allergen-free zone. The asshats who have fake or spurious service dogs will screw it up for everybody and there will be legislation, and more bureaucracy.

There was a guy at my old job who had a well-behaved service dog Jack Russell Terrier. The dog provided socialization for the guy, and possibly more. It was needed for him to be able to work. The guy in that dept. who had allergies had to move to a different office. Conflicting needs must've been a pain for HR.

Time for me to have a dog in my life again.
posted by theora55 at 2:52 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great piece. But he needs to feed that dog better food.
posted by vito90 at 2:57 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dogs like salt.

Yeah, not to rain on your parade, but every day when I bike home my dog has a sudden love affair with my knees. I'm just a human salt lick.

Also: crazy San Francisco abusing the service dog ordinance. Too bad they can't get some sort of dog that helps mitigate narcissistic personalities.
posted by GuyZero at 3:04 PM on July 11, 2009


"But that said: if we take the thousands of military now suffering from PTSD, we simply can not use dogs for so many of those in need. "

Why? I mean why not use dogs for all those that it'll work for?
posted by Mitheral at 3:23 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


For complex mental disorders like schizophrenia, even "untrained" dogs can be effective in helping the sufferers, other family members and third parties manage the condition. My mutt, a Lab/chow mix of no provenance whatsoever, is a reliable indicator of my schizophrenic brother's negative symptoms, in particular. Whenever my brother is suffering specifically from affective flattening, avolition, alogia, or social isolation, the dog becomes much more attentive to him, tending to sleep by his doorway, or in his room, and directing most of his requests for attention and care first to my brother, and only later, if he gets no satisfactory response from my brother, to me, even though he was "my" dog, for a couple of years before my brother came to live with me.

In the four years my brother has been living here, I have come to respect this dog's opinion of my brother's mental state, about as much as I value my brother's own comments about his situation. For a person with a condition which can manifest alogia, a dog's persistent and obvious behaviors can be more easily recognized in trying circumstances than can waiting for the affected person to vocalize intelligibly.

Some months ago, I began to include comments regarding my dog's behavior in response to some issues my brother has been having to my brother's psychiatrist in such joint sessions as we have, and was surprised to find out that the doctor gave them enough weight to make clinical notations of such.
posted by paulsc at 4:25 PM on July 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Good. In my opinion trained and responsibly supervised dogs should be allowed anywhere that their presence does not pose some genuine danger or a health risk. Landlords being allowed to forbid a tenant to own a pet for no other reason than bigotry bothers me, and I'm delighted to see that people have found a loophole in the law to let them keep both their pets and their homes.

On the other hand, irresponsible ownership of a pet (a line I would draw at a much higher standard than "not letting it bite people") is much worse than not having one at all. As an absolute minimum, a service animal should be trained to a standard where it can reliably perform its specified duties (proper specification of its duties should be central to the certification as a service animal), which includes posing no real threat to other people or animals. That's a definition I'm comfortable with pets being under as well: "making the owner happy" is a service, and so long as it doesn't cause anyone to be harmed, the pursuit of happiness ought to be welcomed.

The major concern I have with Tuesday's situation is this: "blocking" or similar behavior to defend and calm her master could cause offence, or be interpreted as an attempt to harm. He starts to have a panic attack, she tries to make space for him, and someone gets up in his face and starts yelling about it. The absolute worst time for such an argument. What happens? They don't even have to be a caniphobe; even a total dog-lover would be annoyed if the dog tipped over their coffee. At a minimum, any dog expected to do that kind of thing needs to be marked, eg wearing a bright-colored "SERVICE ANIMAL" vest.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:45 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


GuyZero Too bad they can't get some sort of dog that helps mitigate narcissistic personalities.

That's not a silly suggestion. Narcissists in general have severe problems recognizing others' needs, their independent existences, and caring for them, all of which are central to pet ownership. Getting one's child a puppy to care for is commonly believed to help teach the kid empathy and responsibility. Whether a fully developed adult narcissist can be redeemed is an open question, but I'd expect a supervised program of bonding with and learning to train and care for a dog to result in some improvements, at least in overt behavior if not in underlying motivation.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:54 PM on July 11, 2009


Well, I mean narcissism in the non-clinical, non-DSM context, that is to say, people who are merely jerks. But your point is well-taken, especially with kids.
posted by GuyZero at 5:22 PM on July 11, 2009


GuyZero Too bad they can't get some sort of dog that helps mitigate narcissistic personalities.

That's not a silly suggestion. Narcissists in general have severe problems recognizing others' needs, their independent existences, and caring for them, all of which are central to pet ownership.


Where it gets really fun, with the "cluster B" types: I have a relative who has split her pets into the "all good" dog, and the "all bad" dog. They act the same...only her projection/reaction is different.
posted by availablelight at 5:22 PM on July 11, 2009


I don't really have much to add, being a cat person, but I wanted to share this regarding the capacity of dogs to care:

Years and years ago (circa 1992), I had a really bad bout of flu--the "Please, Jesus, take me now" variety. Fortunately, I was still living with my parents, and they could take care of me.

During all this, one of my mother's dogs-- two basset hounds, which are rock-stupid but loyal and affectionate to a fault--came up to me while I was lying in a fever-induced near-coma on my parents' couch.

She sniffed at me a bit. Then she licked me. I didn't respond, being fairly well out of it. She sniffed me again, then licked me again. I still didn't move, and then she let out the most piteous sound you've ever heard in your life--a kind of desolate whine. To this day, I'm pretty sure that she thought I was dead.

I'd recovered enough by this point to flail one arm over and pet her weakly on the head, reassuring her that yes, I was still among the living. She immediately wagged her tail and settled down on the floor next to me, which I can only assume was for purposes of keeping watch over me while I recovered.

Rest in peace, you silly, goofy, dorky, wonderful dog.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:44 PM on July 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


Service animals would work for semi-functional people who have borderline personality disorder. They would especially help with depersonalization and disassociation, and transient psychotic symptoms. Possibly help avoid self-harm and feelings of rejection.
posted by kathrineg at 9:02 PM on July 11, 2009


By the way, this story is true. And it's not the only one.

I don't actually know any of these dogs, but it's an interesting path.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:29 PM on July 11, 2009


my brother used to have a couple of labradors (with no special training beyond basic obedience) who did occasional duty as therapy dogs at a couple of local nursing homes. they'd go visit and spend time with any of the seniors who wanted to see them. the folks at the home loved it, and the dogs loved it (and not just because some of the people saved leftovers to sneak to the dogs).
posted by rmd1023 at 4:37 AM on July 12, 2009


The coolest thing I ever saw a service dog do was on the subway. The dog (a Golden lab) was lying on the floor at his man's feet. The subway car entered 42nd street and began to fill up. The dog looked around at all the new people and then ... carefully, and with the most thoughtful expression I'd ever seen on an animal, pulled its paws in and tucked them under to make more room but did it slowly enough not to upset his charge. It was so small and subtle that I was completely bowled over. Service dogs rock.
posted by The Whelk at 4:46 AM on July 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Meanwhile, the psychiatric-service cat ate his plants, threw up on the carpet, and then went to sleep on his laptop.

Reminds me of this (around 2:00 or so).
posted by Hal Mumkin at 12:35 PM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fascinating. My girlfriend takes our greyhound to a psychiatric hospital under a "pets as therapy" scheme... I am well convinced of the psychological benefit of animal contact.
posted by primer_dimer at 6:10 AM on July 13, 2009


Last night I was visiting friends who breed Golden Retrievers, and they told me that among other talents, Goldens can find submerged bodies (drowning victims) by smelling the small traces of gas bubbling to the water's surface. They will stand in a boat and "point" the way to the corpse. Divers will then go down and find it.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:17 PM on July 13, 2009


As others have noted, often untrained animals are of remarkable help to those suffering severe psychiatric disorders. I've known several patients who relied on their pets as their only real social contact on a day to day basis, or the only company they could tolerate. It can be devastating to lose one of these animals, as well. I can easily imagine scenarios in which someone would need to company of their animal just to accomplish every day tasks. There should be an easy way to have an animal evaluated as a companion animal or something to distinguish between trained service animals and others that may be necessary in some situations.

That being said, I am horribly allergic to dogs and even being on allergy pills daily, I know I would not be able to work in the frequent company of a dog.
posted by threeturtles at 8:34 AM on July 15, 2009


This just in, sort of. Another therapy dog, formerly an actual fighting pit bull.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:00 PM on July 16, 2009


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