“I have FMS, CFIDS, hypermobility, migraines and a few other issues. My dog is already tremendously helpful to me. She can pick up things I drop and hand them to me, carry a pack so I don’t have the weight of a purse on my shoulders or waist, fetch things I ask her to get, carry messages or other things to my husband to save me trips up and down the stairs, and is learning to do things like turn lights on/off, pick up things and put them away, and even strip the dirty bedding off the beds and take them to the laundry room.” – Mira
Just What Is a Service Dog Anyway?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal is “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities.” For example, alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds, pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments, and assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance. However, “A service animal is not a pet.”
What Does This Have to do with Fibromyalgia?
Oh, let us count the ways! When your fibro has you in so much pain that you don’t want to get out of bed, that puppy still has to be fed and walked so you are forced to get up, if only for a bit. But that’s the “worst” part about a service dog to help with your fibromyalgia symptoms, and it’s not a bad thing either.
Can you identify with the needs in this story? “Lily (57# Siberian mix) will jump off her bed from two rooms away and come to steady me when I wobble. It’s amazing how she knows. She also scans my body at nap and bed time to see which area needs her warmth the most. I’ve seen her give Moira a look like, “Get over here and help me”, but Ri [Moira] is oblivious. On the other hand, this morning I couldn’t get out of bed because there was a pillow on the floor and I couldn’t step over it at that time of day. Moira accessed the situation and pulled the pillow out of the way.”
Think through your symptoms, everything from fatigue and muscle pain to being foggy and depressed. Service dogs can help with all of these symptoms. In fact, “Anything from sitting on your lap, helping with orientation, finding calm spots, mobility support, retrieving meds or certain things you will need, even keeping eye contact is a task if it is necessary for you,” say the pros at Dogster.
Service dogs can pull you up inclines or guide you downstairs to keep your balance. They provide body heat and contribute to overall well-being. As one happy fibro sufferer states, “I haven’t broken another bone since he has been trained to assist me, so I walk more in spite of the pain.” They can help you out of the tub and off the floor if you fall. Service dogs can also be trained to catch you just before your joints or back gives out and can even alert you before you overdo it or are about to crash.
Sign Me Up!
You can get a Program Dog which has already been through all the training, train the dog yourself, or enter your own dog into a training program. Good resources include Canine Partners for Life and Service Dog Central, which provides several resources, including a list of tips to find a program or trainer.
Already have a service dog to help with your fibromyalgia? Tell us about it please!