This week is both Mental Health Week and Pets Week. This is perhaps fitting, as pets are very therapeutic for anyone, especially for people with mental health challenges. There are even mental health service animals that give individuals the confidence to succeed in the world. In Hamilton, ON, there is an organization called Encouraging Paws Service Dogs that trains dogs for various purposes. Some of the dogs trained by EPSD accompany people with anxiety disorders, keeping them calm throughout the day.
While dogs are the most common animal employed as anxiety service animals, (mainly for people who are at risk of running off), other animals, such as cats and occasionally rabbits, have been employed by people with anxiety disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Dogs have also been trained to assist people with autism. While autism is a neurological difference, and not a mental illness, many people with autism struggle with anxiety. In Ontario, both Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are trained by Autism Dog Services, located in Cambridge, ON. A documentary about Autism Dog Services is currently in production. The documentary project is one of the many projects up for charity grants through Pepsi Refresh.
Other Canadian organizations that train autism service dogs include National Dog Services, Montreal based organization PACCK (who trains white German Shepherds), Alberta’s Dogs with Wings, and British Columbia’s Guide Dog Services.
Service animals are essential companions to people with certain types of special needs. Consider helping out by donating to one of these organizations, become a puppy raiser, or tell people about this cause.