The launch of my website and Facebook page would not have happened without the support of my dear friend Charlotte Farhan. She helped me find some confidence and inner strength, encouraged, supported and loved me. This is just what Charlotte does, love people and help them. She has seen me through many a dark time , showing immense loyalty and compassion. She is an incredible women who works tirelessly to campaign and raise for various causes, giving a voice to the unheard.
Now I get to help Charlotte, because she has given me the honourable task of training her new psychiatric assistance dog, Amadeus. I am delighted to be given the opportunity to use my skills for this. Yes, it is a massive challenge and the perfectionist in me is already giving me a hard time, but only because it means so much. I get to combine 2 of my biggest passions… Animals and my loved ones! I also get to spend a lot of time with a very adorable Poodle puppy, who is yet to realise that he has the ability to create such positive change.
Research in pet therapies reveal that a service dog can help manage symptoms by helping you feel less stressed and alone. As Charlotte spends her days working non-profit as a MD of Art Saves Lives International from home and is alone, she often feels abandoned and scared, reinforced by the fact that she cannot go outside by herself at all.
She would love to be able to do what ‘ mentally abled’ individuals can do and carry out simple tasks such as crossing the road and walking to the corner shop to buy milk, as well as exercising more, meeting people for her charity work and as Charlotte is a visual artist she dreams of painting outside in the summer.
A suitable dog would be a dependable companion, helping aid her confidence and give her more freedom. Dogs are great lovers of affection and their unconditional love can help overcome self-loathing problems and inward negative thoughts.
A assistance dog will help Charlotte feel more comfortable with the idea of being able to stand closer to strangers and have more contact with others. This is a fear of Charlotte’s brought on by her trauma, she feels unsafe and in danger around others causing extreme anxiety and emotional regulation problems. This will also positively encourage her in new situations without scanning for danger.
As we know dogs are particularly vigilant and are able to assess whether this danger is real or fantasy, something Charlotte is unable to do, offering a form of logical determination and protection. The dog will also help with grounding exercises in situations that are overwhelming due to too much sensory information which will stop Charlotte from detaching as much and having debilitating anxiety attacks.
The NHS have said they can do no more for Charlotte and left her to deal with psychotic depression, borderline personality disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, agoraphobia and OCD by herself. However, there was an option, one that is not readily available in this country …not to mention expensive! A psychiatric assistance dog!
Psychiatric Service Dogs can offer the following:
Just as a dog can be trained to alert to seizures and other medical conditions, a dog can also be trained to sense the changes in a person’s body when they are beginning to have a panic attack, flash back, anxiety attack, or other psychiatric condition. The dog is able to paw at the leg of their disabled recipient and interrupt what would otherwise be a debilitating and destructive behaviour for the individual. This helps the handler to refocus on their dog and work through the problem.
Deep Pressure Therapy
Just as medical wraps are used to alleviate anxiety in persons with psychiatric conditions, dogs can be trained to put the pressure of their body weight on their handler’s lap and abdomen to physically, and then mentally relieve anxiety and induce a sense of calm.
When the individual suffers from anxiety due to the close proximity of others, or due to claustrophobia in a crowded room, the dog can be trained to stand in between their handler and others to gain more personal space. The dog is not being protective, but is simply following a simple cue from their handler to move their body into the space surrounding their handler.
A frequent problem for those suffering from PTSD is to negotiate corners without the fear of what is waiting on the other side. Our dogs can be trained to go around corners in front of their handler and then alert their handler if there is someone waiting on the other side. Over time this form of therapy can assist the disabled recipient when becoming more comfortable with going into public.
There are many situations when a recipient will need to excuse themselves from a classroom or meeting due to personal psychiatric concerns. With a discrete signal to the dog the handler can command his dog to paw at the leg, making it look like the dog is seeking attention. The handler is then able to comfortably leave the situation with the excuse that his dog needs to relieve itself.
It goes without saying that any service dog’s greatest assistance is the emotional support they can offer their handler. Most disabilities present trials than can be relieved on a mental level simply by the dog’s presence. A well behaved dog can help to lower blood pressure and give a sense of ease to anyone who is near.
Unfortunately, in the UK, service dogs are only given to those with physical disabilities, children with autism and war veteran with PTSD. So, we were just going to have to find a way of overcoming this!
Our very close friend Lisa, another lady who has benefited from Charlotte’s compassion and love, set up a crowd funding campaign to make this dream a reality. The response has been so positive and we have almost reached half the target in 2 weeks.
Charlotte, knowing that poodles are one of the most intelligent and trainable breeds, did some research and embarked on a search which led her to a very handsome chap looking for his forever loving home! And what a home he is going to, Charlotte, her husband Mohammed and their 3 beautiful cats are welcoming Amadeus on Saturday and there are many an excited Aunty and Uncle on hand to help,
In keeping with my holistic approach, I will be using crystals to have a positive, nurturing effect on Amadeus . The main ones I will be using are Citrine and Black Tourmaline.
Citrine is a golden-brown or orange-white stone that is extremely versatile and one of its principal uses within animal therapy is to help decrease emotional or sensory overwhelm.
Sensory overload causes mental fatigue, stress, confusing and lack of concentration.
A new puppy will be facing so many different influences and impressions when it first enters the world of humans, such as traffic, noise, crowds and smells. It takes time to adapt to these and the effect they will have , so Citrine is the perfect choice to make this easier and lessen the effect on immunity. It will also help them concentrate during training, by reducing exhaustion and helping them understand what is required of them.
Black Tourmaline, in the jet black form, provides protection for animals that are prone to picking up on its owners emotional negatively. This will allow Amadeus to recognise and assist with Charlotte’s complex issues without absorbing any damaging negative energies.
My role is to train Amadeus to a level where he will be immaculately trained and provide Charlotte with the support and assistance she so desperately needs and is so worthy of. I accompanied Mohammed on a visit to Amadeus recently and although it is early days, I felt confidence in his abilities. He is starting to show confidence, but calmness and willingness too!
I will be regularly updating my website and Facebook page with video footage, photographs and #pupdates. This way, the wonderfully generous people who have donated will be able to see the good that have contributed to and we can be a part of the campaign to raise awareness and the fight to get psychiatric assistance dogs more readily available and accredited in the UK.
The first five things I will teach Amadeus, are as follows:
- Clicker Conditioning:
Allows precision within obedience dog training
Marks the exact moment you want repeated
Is clear and precise, allowing the dog to know exactly what is expected of them.
He must know his own name
Will positively reinforce his name with a reward to teach him
Name recognition enables him to reorientate himself and concentrate on what he is doing.
- Settling quietly for long periods:
Tether train with a mat to settle beautifully when required.
Teaches him to calmly accept his boundaries
- Sit Command:
Provides reference point to teach him all other position commands such as lie down.
- Walking on a lead:
Fundamental requirement for any dog.
For further information:
Agoraphobia – what is it? https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help-now/anxiety-information/anxiety-disorders/agoraphobia/
Borderline Personality Disorder – what is it?http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/borderline-personality-disorder-bpd/#.Vxd50TArLIU
Psychotic Depression – What is it?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychotic_depression
The GoFundMe campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/PsychiatricDogFund
Lisa Reeve: https://lisareevephotography.com/
Charlotte Farhan: https://charlottefarhanartactivism.com/