Informing East TN On Psychiatric Service Dogs

A local news outlet, Hometown Sevier, approached me about writing a story for them about PTSD service dogs after seeing my fundraiser. I don’t know when they’ll post it on their website, but I’m going to post it here for now.

…     …     …     …     …     …     …     …

While I grew up in Georgia, my home is Sevierville.  Some of my best friends still live in Georgia, but then so do the people that treated me in ways that led to my post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and agoraphobia.  I was abused sexually, stalked, and harassed.

One of my best friends, Brandi Paul, is the owner of DreamRun Dog Training in Clayton, Georgia.  DreamRun offers many different training services, including group obedience classes, private lessons, trick training, and service dog training.  DreamRun has experience with training diabetic alert dogs, hearing alert dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and mobility assistance dogs.

It is a common misconception that all disabilities are visible, and that only war veterans suffer from PTSD.  I would also like to clarify the definition of a service dog.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.  Psychiatric service dogs are not therapy dogs or emotional support animals.  Service dogs are granted public access rights. The ADA states that places must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas where the public is normally allowed to go.  By law, service dogs are not required to be registered.  Therapy dogs are used to bring comfort in places such as hospitals, schools, and retirement/nursing homes.  The only special rights emotional support animals have are in housing where policies against pets will be waived, as dictated by the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

A psychiatric service dog is trained to assist those with disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.  Some common tasks that psychiatric service dogs are taught include deep pressure therapy (DPT) that calms their handler down during an anxiety or panic attack, interrupting self-harm and grounding during a dissociative episode or flashback, reminding their handler to take their medication, and using blocking techniques with the dog’s body to create an area of personal space when the handler feels closed in.

I received my Service Dog in Training, Honey, on January 26th.  Honey is a one and a half year old golden retriever, and has already been trained in basic service dog tasks by Brandi.  Honey has only been in my life for a month, but she’s already made a world of difference.  None of this would have been possible without Brandi and divine intervention.

Before asking for Brandi’s help, I’d done research on where to get psychiatric service dogs in East Tennessee.  There were two organizations – Smoky Mountain Service Dogs in Loudon and Wilderwood Service Dogs in Maryville.  Smoky Mountain is exclusively for veterans, while Wilderwood charges $13,000 for a service dog plus graduation fees.

The financial situation of my father and I is not ideal, seeing as when we moved to Tennessee we were in a car accident that totaled our vehicle and injured us both.  My father missed months of work before finally finding a full-time job at Smoky Mountain Knife Works.  He supports the both of us on his minimum-wage income, and we receive help in the form of groceries from Sevier County Food Ministries.  I am fundraising for the $500 cost of Honey, and other related expenses (training, supplies, etc).  I am owner-training the specialized tasks I need for my disabilities with Brandi’s guidance.  I’ve created a Facebook page and a WordPress blog to follow our journey, as well as a fundraiser on GoFundMe.

Snow Days & Birthdays

Even though I have a horrible headache, I thought I’d write on here.  It’s been awhile…

My birthday has kind of snuck up on me this year.  It is now technically, my birthday.  Around 9pm, I will turn 26.  It’s hard to believe that I’m almost 30.  Some days high school feels so far away, but then other days it seems like just yesterday.  When I was younger, I was a bit spoiled.  My birthdays were celebrated for the whole week.  Now here I am with no plans for my birthday, aside from my dad bringing  home my favorite meal (hibachi chicken and rice) when he gets off work.  Of course, seeing as my birthday is also Valentine’s Day, I understand how other people are busy on that day.  Plus, most of my best friends still live in Georgia.  I guess my fur-babies will be my “valentines,” as I watch a marathon of my favorite rom-coms (including Valentine’s Day, Dirty Dancing, He’s Just Not That Into You, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.)

For the past few years, nature’s been sending me snow for my birthday, which I LOVE!  Snow is so magical that it makes you forget the freezing temperatures.  I love feeling like I’m living in a snowglobe.  Like many other things, people seem to either love or hate snow.  I share the same views as Lorelai from one of my favorite TV shows, Gilmore Girls.  Also, if you didn’t know Gilmore Girls is coming back with new seasons on Netflix in the future!!!  Even better, Jared Padalecki is reprising his role as Dean.  YES!  Milo Ventimiglia is also coming back as Jess, but I’m sorry to my friends that like Jess (*coughERINcough*) but I hated that little jerk.  😛

Anyways…  What was I talking about?  Oh, right…Snow.  Honey and Bear have thoroughly enjoyed playing in the snow.  I’ve posted 2 videos on my YouTube channel recently.  One is a short video of Bear and Honey playing together in the snow, as well as Bear performing the “down” command.  I thought when I tried to teach him to pick up my keys and he refused, that the saying was right about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks…but he learned to lie down, so I guess not!  Bear’s 10 years old.  I find that unbelievable.  Another case of time sneaking up on you.  Mom and I adopted Bear before Christmas in 2005 as a present for dad.  The other video is a compilation video showcasing my adventures with Honey so far.  In the near future, I plan on recording a video of Honey’s task training.  I’ll be embedding the videos at the end of this post.

I feel like reflecting on some of my favorite past birthdays… When I turned 21, I spent it with Marella and my parents.  We took a cake into Taco Bell, where Marella coined the now infamous line, “Jessi, eat your dinosaur!”  You see, the cake had these big decorative dots that kind of looked like the back of a stegosaurus.  Then, my parents and I went on vacation to Pigeon Forge.  We stayed at Cold Creek Resort, which has an amazing indoor pool.  I love swimming, and seriously have dreams about that pool.  Marella also wrote me the sweetest message on my birthday card:

You have been an awesome part of my life for many years, and I hope that never stops. I hope you know that even though we hardly see each other or talk much anymore, I’m still by your side and always will be. Love, Marella

For my  23rd birthday, my dad and I vacationed in Pigeon Forge again.  Of course, we were in the process of looking at houses and moving then.  It was the last year that I had a tax refund, and I used it to buy a Juicy Couture purse.

Speaking of my 23rd birthday…I wish I could lose enough weight to even just look like that again.  I currently weight the most I ever have, even though I’m always trying to lose weight.  I have some Facebook friends that are very inspiring to me when it comes to weight loss, and I’m thankful for them.  I’m talking about you girls, Mandy Olson-Sabin and Courtney Hewitt!

23and25.jpg

A running joke of mine about my birthday and horoscope is that I’m a hybrid between Aquarius and Pisces that I call “Aquarisces.”  I was born a month early so technically I’m an Aquarius, even though I was supposed to be a Pisces.  The description for Pisces matches me better than Aquarius.  Plus, I’m definitely a water sign.  Water is my element.  Snow, rivers, lakes, waterfalls…My favorite things – like my mom.  I even have a “happy place” that I dreamed of once where I was on a mountain in a meadow next to a stream where I took a nap.  It was a place where I felt totally at peace.  Is it weird that I dream about sleeping while I am asleep? lol.

Well, i guess I’m pretty talked out now.  This has been my longest post to date.  I hope you enjoyed it!


Sweet Like American Honey

I haven’t updated in awhile, but believe me… This post was worth the wait, because I have BIG news!

Last Tuesday, I went down to Georgia to meet up with my friend, Brandi, to see a possible service dog.  Things went well, so I’d like to introduce you to my new SDiT (service dog in training), Honey!

BrandiHoneyMe

Honey is a year and a half old, a Golden retriever, and already had some basic SD training by Brandi.  Honey certainly lives up to her name.  She’s a total sweetheart, and I love her!  She sleeps with me at night, and stays by my side during the day.

GoodMorningHoney.jpg

(This is how I wake up now, and I love it!)

Last week was the most social I’ve been in a long while.  While in Georgia, I was able to see my friend, Marella.  On Saturday, I met up with my friend, Erin.  Honey went with me, of course!  I introduced her to people at my dad’s workplace, Smoky Mountain Knife Works.  Then we went to a pet store for a Kong toy and treats.  Finally, we had lunch at Taco Bell on the patio.  It was a great day!

I’m going to post some more pictures on this post, but I’ve also started a public photo album on Facebook for my new life with Honey.  I’m still fundraising, so if anyone could share my GoFundMe campaign or donate, I’d be eternally grateful!