A strand that runs common between humans and dogs is a need for companionship. Our mental health is directly tied to our sense of belonging. Our pets often play an integral role in our overall well-being and happiness. In 2016 when Marley’s Mutts started the Pawsitive Change Program in California City, CA, they introduced the loving nature of dogs to inmates in California’s prisons. The result is that these “unadoptable” dogs and unaccepted people find transformation. Even an unruly dog with no boundaries can be our comedic relief, listening ear, best friend, and protector wrapped into one.
Although we tend to lump the service of dogs into just this one term, they provide so much more than that. Autism support dogs are there for children who communicate differently to provide a sense of normalcy and comfort in social situations. Diabetic alert dogs notice scent changes in their human at the onset of a hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic attack and alert them, giving that person a level of security. Seizure response dogs are trained to bring cell phones to their owner coming out of a seizure, offering a critical level of safety and dignity.
So what makes an emotional support dog? Emotional support dogs provide affection, security, and a daily (sometimes hourly) dose of cuteness in moments of chaos and in moments of isolation. If it sounds like your dog fits the bill of “emotional support”, it’s because he or she does – no special training required! On one hand, they remind us that we are truly unique creations worthy of unconditional love, even when we don’t feel it and even when we don’t deserve it. On the other hand, they bring responsibility into our lives. How we take care of our dog reflects how we care for ourselves and how we treat others. With them we learn the balance between discipline and grace, work and play, excitement and tranquility.