By Lyndsay Marvin
Not only do dogs make amazing pets, many of them make wonderful service dogs. A service dog means “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability, as defined by Title II and Title III of the ADA” (https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet).
Ruby Jean Furth, 17, started training Elliot as a service dog a few years after she received a diagnosis for bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disorder characterized by extreme episodes of depression and mania. Ruby graciously answered a few questions for BOGO Bowl about Elliot and how he helps her live a better life.
1. Where did you meet Elliot? Was he chosen specifically to be a service dog?
I met Elliot on a rainy day, April 29, 2012. He was not chosen to be a service dog; he was meant to help lift my depression (this was before I was diagnosed bipolar at age 13). I got him from the Humane Society [when he was] 11 weeks old.
2. What led to the decision to train Elliot to be a service dog? What is he (will he be) a service dog for?
What led to the decision to train Elliot to be a service dog was simply the need for one. I read more about Psychiatric Service Dogs and knew having one would benefit me. Elliot is an Australian Cattle Dog, known for their excellence at herding and being good farm hands. We live in the city and Elliot was raised with an iron fist as his breed was one known to be hard headed and stubborn. Elliot proved to be a fast learner, a cooperative friend and someone to teach me how to love again.
I didn’t know until he was 4 years old that he would be my service dog. I came across Aurum Canine Services, a small local service dog training business run by a woman named Dana Daniels. She evaluated him and said he’d be a great candidate, a rarity when adopting a dog from the shelter. Within less than two months, Dana realized how much training Elliot had already been given by me and turned the time to train him from 6 months down to only 2. I started teaching him alerts during his Public Access work and he excelled at both.
3. What are some of the things Elliot does to help you?
Elliot is in training to alert my anger episodes, respond to my anxiety by interrupting, interrupting self-harm such as hitting myself, deep pressure therapy during anxiety episodes, blocking me from the front and back when I feel anxious about people around me, and being there whenever I need him.
4. How long does it/will it take to train Elliot? How does he become certified?
There is actually no such thing as “certifying” a service dog. The IAADP states that a service dog must know at least 2 tasks that mitigate the handlers’ disability, have at least 120 hours of training, and 30 hours of public access work. This means getting them used to everything and anything, like taking them to crowded areas, passing another dog, going to movies, attending their handler to doctors appointments, all while being focused on their handler/ being relaxed or sleeping when necessary, as well as “tucking” under their owner in public setting to remain as unnoticeable as possible and out of the way.
5. What makes Elliot the best pup ever?
Elliot can be the perfect gentleman when out in public and then be there to be my running or biking partner after his working is done. He is such a versatile dog, I couldn’t ask for anything else
6. Is there anything else you’d like to share about Elliot?
We get plenty of hate from other service dog handlers since I don’t have a “typical breed” for service dog work, as well as judging Elliot before they know him, such as assuming his height, weight, and what gear he wears as well. People assume I use him for mobility, which is not true. I’ve been called a dog abuser, scum, the worst handler ever, but my trainer, Elliot, family, and all my friends know that is not the case. Elliot loves me and loves his job as well as the rest of his family. I just need to stand through the hate.
Thank you Ruby for sharing with us, and we are so glad you have Elliot to help you with every day life!
Each month, BOGO Bowl will be spotlighting a service animal on our blog. Elliot is the first of the series.
Training Video: https://youtu.be/d40Vfl7VmVQ