How My Service Dog Saved My Life

How My Service Dog Saved My Life

Grandma Lucy’s is a proud partner and sponsor of Little Angels Service Dogs. Grandma Lucy’s provides food and treats for the dogs currently in training to become future service dogs. Little Angels Service Dogs is a 501c3 non-profit established in 2006. They train and place fully prepped service dogs with approved disabled recipients, both children and adults. They provide assistance with disabilities such as Autism, hearing impairment, mobility issues, psychiatric needs and seizure alerts. As an Assistance Dogs International accredited organization, their training practices are held to a high standard. Their dogs go through a three-phase training course before they are ready to service someone with a disability and help regain their independence.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and “Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. During May, National Alliance on Mental Illness joins the national movement to raise awareness about mental health. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.” 

A recipient of a Little Angels Service Dog has shared her story of how her service dog has saved her life and helping her regain her independence.

"In 2016 I started my Little Angels journey.  At the time, I was nothing short of a hot mess! I struggled with C-PTSD with dissociation, social anxiety, major depressive disorder and an eating disorder. I ordered everything online. My food restriction was at its height. I suffered from hypoglycemia.  I had not been in public in 5 years. I could not make eye contact or speak to other humans. I was a Netflix binge watching aficionado. 

Today, with my service dog Mollie at my side, my eating disorder is in recovery. My blood sugar is stable. I have 6.5 years of sobriety. I haven’t dissociated in over two years. I know when my anxiety is rising to dangerous levels. My depression is manageable. I no longer have a Netflix account.  I am a Costco shopping queen who gets excited when the new monthly sales flyer comes out.  Mollie and I have hiked 2,650 plus miles with over 100,000 ft of elevation gain all while exploring the PNW.

How does a dog help an individual make that much progress?  Let me count the ways.

Initially, I felt the entire process to get a Little Angels service dog was lengthy and potentially unnecessary.  What I found is that I personally grew and my mental health improved at every step of my journey. Even prior to my match.

The application process helped me to identify my mental health struggles, write them on an application and identify what type of help I was asking for. 

The fundraising process meant I had to reach out, ask for help and ask for money. Sometimes from total strangers.  

The placement wait time taught me how to sit in uncertainty, learn how to deal with what I could control, know what I could not control and understand the difference.

Handler training meant two weeks of daily interaction in public, with people, requiring me to make eye contact and to hold a conversation with others. 

I had to overcome all of these fears at each step if I ever wanted to have a service dog at my side.

At the time of handler training, I was still a little skeptical that a dog could help with mental health disorders.  On the second day of handler training, Mollie signaled me to my rising anxiety.  I broke down in tears with uncontrollable sobbing. I became an instant believer in the innate ability of dogs to help humans. Even if they suffer from an invisible disability.

The two weeks of handler training meant my first visit to Costco. Ever. My first restaurant in 5 years. I found myself in public places daily for the first time in 5 years.  I relearned how to make eye contact and to hold a conversation with someone other than myself.

Once home after handler training, I noticed my self confidence continued to build.  I had to be the alpha dog in the team. I had to learn the new language of being a service dog handler.  I had to teach Mollie to recognize and then acknowledge when I wanted her to alert me to mental health issues.  I had to adjust to Mollie at my side 24/7/365 after years of being by myself. 

More challenges to overcome.  Ever so rewarding when mastered.

After the first year together, I noticed Mollie was alerting me to my blood sugar dropping.  With 4 months of specific training, Mollie now alerts me consistently to blood sugar drops.  A critical  skill when we are in the middle of the Cascade Mountains with nobody around for miles.

It took us about a year to bond and work as a seamless working service dog team.  Since then we have been unstoppable.  Mollie knows when I am in distress and lets me know.  I know what Mollie needs and when to react to her needs.  My therapist can tell my state of mind by watching Mollie.  I may be able to hide feelings, Mollie helps me express them.

Yes, Mollie has saved my life by helping me learn and grow while living with mental health disorders. She has also saved my life by alerting me to blood sugar drops. 

The greatest gift is when Mollie  literally saved my life 16 months ago when I fell through a snow bridge down a 10 ft waterfall in a remote part of the South Cascades.  As I was face down in the stream, Mollie grabbed my backpack and pulled me out.  I still tear up to this day thinking about that moment and how Mollie truly has been my life saver in so many ways!"