“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”
I’m easy to spot in a crowd. I’m the one with leash in hand and, I hope, a well mannered psychiatric service dog (PSD) trotting along at my side. I’ve had a service dog since 2008 and almost can’t remember what it’s like NOT to have a leash in my hand.
People will ask what the dog does and I must admit that while having the dog is a game changer for me, you aren’t likely to see her do much more than walk calmly at my side, sleep contentedly under my desk, restaurant table or beside my chair at the theater or concert. For me the dog is a game changer, she is helping me navigate change that must come from within.
As I write this post, I am experiencing an embarrassment of riches as I actually have two service dogs: Rosie, who I am easing into graceful retirement and Ivy, the energetic upstart being trained to fill her paws.
I’ve come to think of the dog like dressing for my complicated and sometimes category five weather. She helps me shift the energy from talking about it to navigating it. She is in the trenches with me, she has my back, a silent sentinel helping me to confront my demons and navigate the challenges life puts in my path.
I have a favorite passage from the Tao Te Ching that speaks to the impact I feel from walking through life with a psychiatric service dog at my side.
Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at Peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
But contemplate their return.
Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to source is serenity.