We recently asked Becca Mason some questions about service dogs.
What type of diseases can service dogs help?
They assist people who have a variety of disabilities. Like people wheelchairs, people with diabetes, autism, PTSD, seizures, asthma, people with ms, fibromyalgia, food allergies, pain disorders, narcolepsy, Alzheimer’s, memory disorders and mobility problems, and that’s just a few.
Are there service dogs currently being trained to help with Fibromyalgia?
Yes, but not as much as are needed. Most professional training facilities work with the typical disabilities people in wheelchairs people who are blind or partially blind people with PTSD like soldiers coming back from the war and children with autism and diabetes. Those are the typical disabilities training facilities work with but there are a few that work with other disabilities such as narcolepsy, fibromyalgia, pain disorders, people who are deaf, and so forth.
Why do you think people don’t know what service dogs are?
Most people aren’t exposed to them. Even though millions of people worldwide use assistance dogs, a lot of people just haven’t seen them and haven’t been around them to know what they are even there for service dogs and assistance dogs have been around before 1990 it was established by the ADA the Americans with Disabilities Act that service dogs would have public access with there disabled owner, and cannot be segregated or denied access at that time so even though lots of people use them this idea has only been around for 27 years.
Are Service dogs limited to specific breeds or can it be any type of dog breed?
A service dog in any breed. Chihuahuas, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Pitbulls, Newfoundlands, Mastiff, mutts, shelter dogs and even Great Danes can be a service dog. And even though any breed of dog can be a service dog, not every dog is suited to become a service dog. There are specific things that the dog must be able to do, like have the drive to work for a person. Some dogs have a lot of desire to help people while others do not. And some places, cities, towns and even states have restrictions on dog breeds for example of some places do not allow bully breeds such as Rottweiler, Pitbulls, and Dobermans. But if the dog has been trained to assist a disabled Handler and is considered a service animal, breed restrictions and even pet fees do not apply.
How long have you had your service dog?
I have had my assistance dog Quinn for about 3 years. I received Quinn as a medical alert dog and autism service dog that also helps with mobility issues due to sensory processing issues from an agency in Illinois. But due to my several new diagnosis, she is not able to help me with everything that I need. She’s still my service dog and still is just fine but there are few things that I need that she could not provide. And over the last few months I’ve been training to become a certified dog trainer, and also training my next assistance dog Frannie a Newfoundland who will work aside Quinn until Quinn retires.
Does insurance cover the cost of a service dog or does that come out of the individual’s pocket?
No, insurance companies will not cover the cost of the service dog because they don’t consider them a need. Even though these dogs save thousands of lives and can make people have a more independent life because they’re not relying on others to help but instead have a dog. A service dog from a training agency can cost between $10,000 and $25,000. However, some agencies are nonprofit which means they give people assistance dogs for little to no cost. But all agencies require lots of paperwork, doctor recommendations, recommendations from other family members that you would be a good fit to get a dog, and personality tests.
Have you ever had any difficulties when it came to other people accepting your service dog?
Yes because again not everybody understands what a service dog is and why they’re there some people think we just want to take our pets everywhere with us. But even though service dogs aren’t pets but compared medical equipment they don’t always understand. Some people think it’s gross to have a dog and go everywhere with you including restaurants and grocery stores. While some people love that you can take your dog everywhere with you but will try to pet and distract them from doing their job that they have been trained to do.
How hard is it to train your own service dog?
It is a huge commitment. Training facilities can cost a lot and that can cause many people who need a service dog to owner train a service dog. But this requires daily training with your dog understanding what you need to do. But not everybody is a professional dog trainer so most need some help. If a person decides to own or train they must find a dog that meets the requirements.
I have tested several litters of puppies and probably over 200 dogs to find the right one to train. Not every dog can be a service dog. After finding the right dog and it’s important to get a good and stable Foundation to basic training at such a sit-down heal etc. But with training your own service dog there comes up and downs. Sometimes your dog will start out really good and love their training but occasionally dogs lose their desire to work or just incapable of doing it, therefore, they are washed out and drop out of their training. That means the dog will be on capable of being a service animal. And even though this happens quite often with people who owner train, this also happens with professional training facilities. Some even adopt out their dropouts as pets. Training your own service dog is hard work. It’s not suited for everybody and you have to know what’s you’re doing because if your dog isn’t trained properly bad things can happen. Accidents happen. Even professionally trained dogs have bad days, and poop in a store, but that doesn’t mean there untrained, or fake service dogs. Stuff happens, it’s happened to me and my service dog Quinn before, one was in school because she was on antibiotics for an ear infection, that messed up her digestive system. Another instance was I was in the hospital for a week or so, and she was stressed because I was sick, and she was worried more about me than her own needs. And even though I had a nurse push me in a wheelchair to try to get her outside in time she still had an accident. But again things happen and it doesn’t always mean the dog is fake or wasn’t trained properly they’re not robots they’re still dogs.
If you have anything else to add about why service dogs are amazing for people with Fibromyalgia, please tell us:
Service dogs can do lots of things like pulling wheelchairs, fighting the blind, stopping an autistic child from running into traffic and much more but the dogs do different tasks for different disabilities.
Is Fibromyalgia a dog that can pick things up you drop and hand them back to you?
They can carry packs on their backs so you do not have the weight of a purse on your shoulders.
He can retrieve items from other rooms like a cellphone, your drink or even medications.
They can carry messages or other things to family members to save you trips up and down the stairs.
They can turn on and off lights.
They can pick things up and put them away.
They can help you with balance when you’re walking and help you if you fall down to get back up.
They can open doors when you were unable to and even pull your wheelchair if you need it.
One of the biggest things with fibromyalgia is having depression and anxiety and even chronic fatigue. Most people don’t really want to get out of bed in the morning but when you have a service dog or even just to pet you still have to get up and feed them let them use the bathroom and take care of them.