(93) Service Dog for a Day

Molly, the service dog

Golly, Miss Molly

A Blog about a Service Dog and her Veteran with PTSD

(Supporting the Veteran and the Family Caregiver)

Public service organizations often encourage employees to go without eye sight for a day or use a wheelchair to see the world from the perspective of individuals with unique challenges. I am told the experience not only heightens the sensitivity of the employee to those he/she serves but it also helps the employee understand the barriers that individuals with disabilities must overcome to do things others take for granted.

I wondered what it would be like to be a service dog the size of Molly. Of course, I can only imagine her life. At the risk of giving her human characteristics, I will attempt to get into her head.

Early Morning at Sunrise

Stimulus: Birds singing, sunshine streaming through slats in bedroom blinds.
Response: Eat bird food. Oops, gotta go. Wake up alpha male human (alpha male). Gotta go.

Stimulus: Clock shows 6 am. Pillow thrown in the air by alpha male.
Response: Alpha male scent. Nice pillow. Take nap. Oops, still gotta go.

Stimulus: Door opens; alpha female human (alpha mom) unhooks Molly from outdoor leash.
Response: Stampede; slip and slide to get to food bowl. Food, food, food. Sniff. Cereal again. Nobody loves me.

Stimulus: Alpha mom bangs pots in kitchen; bacon cooks; she pets Molly with something in hand.
Response: Sniff. Food, food, food. Yum. So good to be loved.

Veterinarian Appointment

Stimulus: Alpha male enters pet store with Molly on leash; little yapping dogs surround Molly; people stare at her, telling alpha male things that make him smile
Response: Eat little dogs; eat little dogs; yanks on leash; Let me at ‘em. Chock

Stimulus: Receptionist coos and shuffles paper.
Response: Sniff, sniff. Nice Ashley. Pet me.

Stimulus: Alpha male yanks leash. Molly steps on scale. Ashley and alpha male clap. Alpha momMolly on scale flashes camera in Molly’s face and pats Molly’s head.
Response: Wag tail vigorously. Small dog yelps. Sorry, pal. Stay clear of tail next time. Another flash. Just great, alpha mom will blog and tell everyone my weight. Hides face under paws. Embarrassing.

Stimulus: Harsh voice from alpha male of small yelping dog. Molly’s alpha male sweats, smacks lips, and drinks water.
Response: High alert. Alpha male needs me. Pushes against alpha male. Brace for impact.

Stimulus: Alpha male stumbles, grabbing Molly. “Good Molly.” Alpha male rubs Molly’s head.
Response: Protect alpha male.

Lunch at Fast Food Restaurant

Molly stuffed under tableStimulus: “Under.” Alpha male shouts three times, yanking on Molly’s leash.
Response: I get it. Wait, you want me under the table? Dirty. Sniff. Food, food. Squeeze. I can do this if I let my butt hang out. Alpha male will protect me.

Stimulus: French fry drops on Molly’s head. Alpha male pats Molly’s head.
Response: Eat. No eat. Working girl. Protect alpha male.

Stimulus: Kids run to Molly.
Response: High alert. Pet me. High alert. Protect alpha male. Please, can I lick them? Protect alpha male.

Back Home in Evening

Stimulus: Alpha mom in kitchen, banging pots.
Response: Sniff. Oops, gotta go.

Stimulus: Alpha male is taking nap; more banging of pots in kitchen.
Response: Protect alpha male. Sniff. Alpha male smells. Sleep here. Protect alpha male.

Stimulus: Fragrance of roasted onion, mushroom, and garlic tickles nose of alpha male. Alpha male gets up from nap.
Response: Alpha male needs me. Brace for impact. Sniff. Food, food. Cereal again. Nobody loves me.Molly sleeping on back with legs extended

Stimulus: Alpha male pours broth over Molly’s food. He hugs Molly.
Response: Food. Good food. Good to be queen. So tired. Worked all day. Need sleep. Snores on back with legs in air.

Final Word

Just as with people, dogs can become physically ill from stress. (Ensminger, 106)

A service dog’s work provides life, strength, and hope to disabled Veterans and others with special needs. The work exhausts the animal as much as coping with a disability exhausts the Veteran. Remember to give your service animal time off to be just a dog and relax without commands. Emotionally, the service animal often carries the burden of stress for a Veteran with PTSD. An extra treat may be in order at the end of a long day.

Post your Comments:

If your service dog or pets could talk to you, what would they tell you? Please comment below.

Photo credits: pculbrethgraft

Source cited:

  • Ensminger, John J. Service and Therapy Dogs in American Society: Science, Law and the Evolution of Canine Caregivers. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 2010.

About the blogger

Dr. Penelope “Penny” Culbreth-Graft is a retired city manager and graduate professor. She lives with her disabled Vietnam Veteran husband, William, and his service dog, Molly, on Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado. She writes, paints, cares for her husband, and spends time with her grandchildren.