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Service dogs protect us and help us reestablish bonds

Dog alerts owner about medical emergency 0:39

Editor’s note: Shauna “Doc” Springer is a leading expert on psychological trauma, suicide prevention, and close relationships. She is the author of “WARRIOR: How to Support Those Who Protect Us” and is Stella’s chief psychologist.

(CNN) – Leadership trainer John Bates was giving a TED lecture in front of a large audience when his dog Flash walked across the stage and began repeatedly sniffing and sniffing him.

In the world of service dogs, Flash was doing what’s called an “alert,” signaling to Bates that he might not be okay.

At the end of the lecture, Bates returned to his room, took some medication and went to sleep, thus avoiding a possible medical emergency.

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Leadership coach John Bates suffers from a rare disease called Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Thanks to his service dog, Flash, he is able to travel internationally to give lectures.

“A dog’s sense of smell is about 10,000 times better than a human’s,” says Mary Cortani, CNN hero and founder and CEO of Operation Freedom Paws, an association that provides service dogs to veterans and people with disabilities. .

“A service dog can smell the differences in our chemistry, when we are stressed or ill. This is how they can track down a person who gets lost in the woods. From miles away, they can smell fear or anguish. ‘

Service dogs can change the life of those they help, and can even save it, Cortani said. They help their humans develop deeper connections and may even save them from themselves.

Have dogs gotten smarter? 0:46

Service dogs keep their humans out of emergency rooms

Bates, founder and CEO of Executive Speaking Success, frequently travels abroad to speak in public. He has a rare disease called Stevens-Johnson syndrome, which can be triggered by stress, time zone changes, and sleep disturbances.

“It’s not pretty,” says Bates. “It starts with mucosal injuries, progresses until the skin falls off in large pieces and can lead to blindness and death in a burn unit.”

Dogs could understand words by hearing them 4 times 0:48

You’ve already had to go to hospital emergency rooms a couple of times during the early stages of a potentially dangerous medical crisis.

Flash, who has been protecting Bates since 2009, alerts him whenever he senses that his stress is reaching an unhealthy level. Thanks to his protection, Bates has gained “enormous freedom of action” and has not had to go to the ER again.

Trained dogs can help with PTSD

Exposure to trauma can lead people into a state of what is called a ‘chronic threat response’, which means that their fight or flight system is continuously activated and they view the world through the lens of possible threats.

Thanks to their dogs’ “sixth sense” for detecting danger, owners with post-traumatic stress disorder are often able to relax if their dogs are calm.

“Service dogs can literally ‘clear a room’ by walking into the room, turning on the lights, and giving their owners the assurance that there are no intruders,” says Andrea McCarren, vice president and chief content officer for PenFed Digital, which breeds dogs from service for veterans and first responders through America’s VetDogs and Canine Companions for Independence.

Veterans tell McCarren that their service dogs make them more comfortable in public because “it is their dog and not their disability that is the center of attention.”

Develop a deeper human connection

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US Navy veteran Dave Jennelle, pictured with his service dog, Laddie, is now the head trainer for the Operation Freedom Paws association.

When US Navy veteran Dave Jennelle came to the Operation Freedom Paws, he was cautious. He wanted what he thought would be an intimidating dog, the kind that turns people away: a Rottweiler, a Doberman Pinscher, or a Pit Bull.

This was not the case, according to Cortani, who is known to be a “dog whisperer.” “I don’t give people the dogs they want,” Cortani said. “I give them the dogs they need.”

Jennelle, who is now the organization’s head mentoring coach, was given a white fluff ball named Laddie instead. Laddie, a border collie mix, is a magnet for positive attention, which was uncomfortable for Jenelle at first. Now “I wouldn’t trade Laddie for the world,” he said.

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Pictured US Army veteran Paul Whitmer with his dog, Paul, now enjoys going out in public.

When US Army veteran Paul Whitmer began working with his Got Your Six Support Dogs service dog, he suffered from great anxiety, especially when he was around strangers. Working on this issue with your dog by your side has greatly decreased his symptoms of anxiety and hypervigilance.

After three years, Whitmer says she enjoys many positive interactions with strangers and is glad to be out in public. Whitmer feels that her capacity for empathy has grown in direct proportion to her work with her service dog, also named Paul.

“Now I am able to feel what others are feeling and know how to respond,” he says.

Service dogs can even save us from ourselves

Whitmer said her dog probably saved her life. “If Paul hadn’t helped me, I’m not 100% sure I’d be here today. I’ve been circling the drain, and now there’s a plug in it, and the sink is filling up again. It’s really amazing”.

Trained service dogs are working dogs, which are motivated to bond with and tend to a person. They can be trained to perform nearly 50 tasks, such as retrieving items, opening doors, clearing rooms, and mitigating symptoms of trauma.

It is important to remember that the rules of interaction with service dogs are different from those of family pets.

This is how you have to interact with them:

Look at the vest. It is likely to say, “working dog – no pet.” Service dogs will always wear an official vest.

Ask permission before touching or interacting with a service dog. You can say, “Can I get close to your dog?” If the owner says no, don’t take it personally. It is impossible to know the nature of your challenges or why you are requesting space.

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Author Shauna Springer gently extends the back of her hand as she visits a service dog at Operation Freedom Paws.

How to pet the dog. If the owner agrees, stand at a 90-degree angle to the dog and extend the back of your hand. Usually the dog will sniff your feet first and work its way up your leg to your hand. Pet the dog below the chin and slowly move up around the ears, rather than down directly above the head, as this can be perceived as threatening behavior for the dog.

Keep calm. Show a calm and open demeanor throughout the interaction. If you succeed, you may be part of a healing journey, although you may never know it.

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