Tuesday, July 7, 2009

'Sit! Stay! Snuggle!'

'Sit! Stay! Snuggle!' is a story from the Wall Street Journal about a new sort of service dog--one for the psychologically afflicted. It's very interesting.

"NEW YORK -- Like any other golden retriever seeking a treat, Tuesday nudged his owner's hand with his snout one recent morning and waited expectantly.

Luis Carlos Montalvan got up from a chair in his small Brooklyn apartment and walked to the kitchen. Tuesday followed close behind, eyes fixed on a white cabinet. The retriever sat alertly as Mr. Montalvan, an Iraq war veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, reached for a vial of pills, lined a half-dozen on the table and took them one by one.

The dog had gotten what he wanted: When the last pill was swallowed, he got up and followed his master out of the kitchen, tail wagging.

Tuesday is a so-called psychiatric-service dog, a new generation of animals trained to help people whose suffering is not physical, but emotional. They are, effectively, Seeing Eye dogs for the mind.


Tuesday, now 3 years old, listens to the daily alarm on Mr. Montalvan's wristwatch, his cue to make sure he takes his pills. Wearing the red harness of a work dog, he accompanies Mr. Montalvan to Dunkin' Donuts and the movie theater, to Veterans Administration group counseling sessions in Manhattan, and to Columbia University, where Mr. Montalvan is studying journalism and communication.

At Mr. Montalvan's apartment -- decorated with his Purple Heart and Bronze Star certificates, and pictures and paintings of Tuesday -- they sleep in the same wooden sleigh bed.

On a recent afternoon, Mr. Montalvan and Tuesday walked to a nearby subway station. The platform was crowded. Mr. Montalvan began to look agitated. Tuesday, who had been lying at his feet, jumped up and stood between his master and the nearest cluster of people, creating a buffer. Mr. Montalvan's breathing noticeably stabilized.

The train approached. Mr. Montalvan bent down to tie his Army combat boots, scratched Tuesday behind the ears, and they made their way aboard."

(From PopUrl, Metafilter, Mr Messy)

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