Service dog helps PTSD, anxiety

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English freshman Lacey Haugse enjoys the day with her service dog, Chance, Thursday west of Moody. Chance, a Labrador retriever mix, can sense when Lacey’s heart rate increases and ease her anxiety. Photo by Milena Arias

Chance gives English freshman Lacey Haugse a kiss.  Milena Arias

Chance gives English freshman Lacey Haugse a kiss. Photo by Milena Arias

While not required, a student can register with disABILITY support services.

By Nathalie Mora

English freshman Lacey Haugse’s dog Chance is more than just a pet.

Chance helps Haugse deal with the anxiety and depression of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Chance knows deep pressure therapy, which is similar to a hug.

When Haugse is having an anxiety attack, Chance hops on her lap and adds pressure on her chest.

“He helps me with mobility, helps me up stairs and helps me up when I’m on the floor,” Haugse said.

Extreme bullying in high school triggered the beginnings of PTSD.

“One time, a girl spilled milk on my head, then ‘Got Milk?’ was part of my name.” Haugse said.

Her psychiatrist recommended she get a service dog.

“I’ve had this feeling like something wasn’t complete,” Haugse said. “I had been looking for other ways to cope with my anxiety, depression and PTSD.”

She said she noticed an immediate change in her anxiety levels after adopting Chance and training with him.

“I had a sense of belonging,” Haugse said.

“He is just there and that’s what I like, the constant reminder of ‘it’s OK; it’s going to be OK,” she said.

Counselor James Brandenburg said animals are very calming and a dog’s presence can help soothe a person’s anxiety.

He said when there are triggers present for her anxiety or panic attacks, the dog will sense it and try to comfort the individual.

Brandenburg said overcoming PTSD is hard and having a service dog does not guarantee the patient will overcome it, but having one certainly helps.

Haugse and Chance are living proof.

“If my heart rate goes above 110, he starts looking at me and I will know that my heart rate has to go down,” Haugse said.

“Even just being around him makes me feel so much better,” Haugse stressed.

According to the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, during the 83rd legislative session in 2013, House Bill 489 guaranteed the right to be accompanied by a trained service animal in all public places.

The person may also take a service animal on public transportation without paying a second fare.

If a person’s disability is not visible, an authority figure can only ask if the animal is required because the person has a disability and what task or work the animal is trained to perform.

Delia De Luna, student success senior generalist, who works in disABILITY support services at this campus, said according to Alamo Colleges policy, students may, but are not required to, show documentation to the college.

De Luna said, “We prefer and strongly suggest the individual come through our office so we can have them on file and best accommodate them,” De Luna said.

A confidential letter is sent to instructors so they are aware of the student’s disability and required accommodations.

According to district policy, an emotional-support dog is not permitted on campus; however, the district does not require documentation and cannot ask the student for a proof of service animal certification.

De Luna said that there is a fine line differentiating a service dog from an emotional-support dog.

Most of the time you can tell when a dog is trained because they are very well behaved and listen to commands, De Luna said.


Service animal etiquette

English freshman Lacey Haugse stressed the importance of service dog etiquette and respect for the dog’s job.

“There’s a certain etiquette that you have to maintain. You don’t look at the dog, you don’t speak to the dog and, especially, you don’t pet the dog.”

Most service dogs will have, even though not required, a vest “working dog, do not pet” or simply “service dog.”

Haugse said it does not bother her, but it makes her uncomfortable to be stopped every five minutes. That alone could trigger an anxiety attack.

“He has a job to do and his job is to focus on me and my well being,” Haugse said.


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