GuidingGolden provided a really thorough blog post examining the benefits of a service dog for persons with eating disorders. I encourage everyone to read it from start to finish- there’s a lot in there on how and what to train a dog to do.
Here’s a really important quote from their post, regarding the status of being disabled in order to qualify for a service dog at all:
“It’s important to emphasize that a diagnosis is not synonymous with a disability. While two people may receive the same diagnosis, that doesn’t mean they are both affected by the criteria an individual must meet to receive such a diagnosis in the same manner. The manifestation of a diagnosis for one person may be significantly life-limiting, while the other is able to manage symptoms and care for himself or herself independently. This is not exclusive to eating disorders; it is applicable to any medical condition, whether it is psychiatric, neurological or physical in nature.”
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2013
We are currently in the midst of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2013 (Feb 24-March 2nd). The message NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association) is promoting is, “Everyone knows someone.” The unfortunate reality is that this holds true with far more prevalence than most people are aware; According to NEDA, “30 Million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder during their lifetime.” Don’t think you know someone with an eating disorder? If you know me, you do. I’ve lived with an eating disorder for the past ten years.
In honor of ‘NEDA Week 2013,” I’d like to dedicate this post to exploring the potential for assistance that service dogs may offer to those struggling with eating disorders.
A Brief Review of the Role of Service Dogs
Service dogs are dogs who receive individual training to do work or perform tasks which mitigate their handlers’ unique…
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This is an excerpt from my extensively detailed Bringing a Service Dog to Treatment master post.
Having a service dog is like having a toddler. And, just like with a toddler, having a service dog typically involves carrying around a bag of supplies just for the dog. This is where I introduce our “Diaper Bag”.
The diaper bag contained everything for my service dog that I would not be allowed to have with me in my bedroom at treatment due to contraband rules or safety restrictions (sharps, ligatures, etc.). But, these are things that I need multiple times on a daily basis for my service dog and cannot be locked up because of this frequency. So, I got myself an actual diaper bag and loaded it up with everything we would need that would be kept at the nurse’s station in a secure location.
Some of the things kept in the diaper bag were:
- poop bags
- eating disorder facilities do not allow patients to have plastic bags or containers
- psychiatric facilities in general could consider plastic bags a safety risk for suicidal patients
- cans of dog food (sharp metal)
- be sure to pack wet food that doesn’t need a can opener
- dog food in general
- unsealed kibble is a hazard because contraband could be hidden in the kibble
- a patient (even the handler) could potentially choose to eat the dog food, thus, a safety hazard
- sometimes dogs need human food and eating disorder patients are not allowed to have access to food that is not on their meal plans
- dog food bowl (container)
- metal grooming supplies (sharp)
- metal tooth combs and brushes, nail clippers, etc.
- I highly recommend bringing some grooming supplies that aren’t contraband to keep on hand in your room for daily touch-ups (Kong Zoom Groom is terrific). It’s just easier sometimes, especially if the mood strikes you in the middle of the night to brush your dog.
- doggy first aid kit
- pretty much everything in a first aid kit will be considered contraband in a psychiatric facility
- we used our first aid kit several times
- I highly recommend having one for your service dog as the facility will not be able to distribute medications or supplies to the dog
- however, the facility did provide hydrogen peroxide for an injury my dog sustained because I needed a lot to clean a wound (they were not obligated to do this in any way and it was merely an inexpensive favor). I was closely supervised during this.
- collars and leashes (ligatures, metal)
- charger for an e-collar (ligatures)
- a favorite dog toy that might be considered contraband (ligatures, stuffed animal)
- some facilities might not permit cloth toys due to sanitization issues
- some toys *could* be used as a weapon
- some toys could be used for self harm in various ways
- stuffed animals can be used for smuggling contraband
If I think of anything else we had kept in the diaper bag, I’ll add it in.
I had no problems at all at Renfrew asking for the items and dog food in our diaper bag. It was usually easy for staff to access and I could ask any clerc, counselor, or nurse to grab something for me.