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Service Dogs: Co-Caregivers Blog Post

Service Dogs: Co-Caregivers Blog Post

Service Dogs: Co-Caregivers and Hidden Heroes

by Mary Hahn Ward

Mary, her husband, Tom, and their service dog, Maddie.

Many people do not realize how helpful service dogs can be to primary caregivers. Service dogs often relieve caregivers of some of their daily concerns.

A service dog is not trained to specifically assist a caregiver. They are trained to help the person who needs them, usually a care recipient. A positive, unintended consequence is they often become co-caregivers.  

While it is true the primary caregiver must devote time to assisting their care recipient adjust to having a service dog, it is well worth it. It is a true investment in peace of mind.

Caregivers of veterans with service dogs have shared their value.

A veteran who has post-traumatic stress will derive a sense of calmness when their service dog is with them. This provides comfort and security for the caregiver because they do not feel they have to be with their veteran every minute of every day.

Some veterans have violent nightmares, which impacts their caregiver as much as it impacts them. The service dog is trained to quiet the veteran during these events. This relieves the caregiver’s anxiety during the night as much as the
veteran’s.

My veteran has a disease that is paralyzing his muscles. He has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). His service dog, Maddie, has figured out when he has new weaknesses in his body before I do. I have learned to trust her instincts. For example, when she sits on his feet I know his legs are weaker than usual and I need to ensure his wheelchair is within range for his use. Maddie is also trained to come get me, or anyone in range, if he should fall. This allows for my veteran, and me, to have more independence than we would without a service dog. It gives us some needed space from each other during the day.
A service dog is a true hidden hero. They ask only for love, affection, and the respect to be left alone by the public while they diligently work with their person.