Service Animals and Familiars

One of my best friends is only three years old. I’ve watched her grow from a small thing that couldn’t even climb up into bed. Rosie, is a Pyrenees and Jack Russel Terrier mix which means she’s a medium sized dog who thinks she’s a puppy. Her favorite place is on the coach with her head on someone’s lap and her feet on the other person.

My husband and I both have epilepsy. We’ve discovered that when one of us is going to have a major seizure, she comes up to us whining and prancing. Rosie is by our side after a seizure laying down by our feet or on the floor within reach. After being through the muscle and head pain of an episode, it’s nice to run my toes or fingers through her fur.

Service dogs can be trained to aid people with epilepsy. Rosie isn’t trained and I wonder if she’s too old now. These animals aren’t trained to detect seizures though families and individuals have reported this behavior, it isn’t proven. Roger Reep, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Physiological Sciences at the University surveyed epileptics in 1998. 31 of the 77 participants owned dogs. He asked how the dogs responded before and after seizures. “three out of the 31 felt that their dogs seemed to know when they were going to have a seizure (10 percent). Another 28 percent said their dogs stayed with them when they had a seizure.” (Epilepsy Foundation) I would like to see more research done on this. Can some dogs detect seizures? Is is a behavior change in their compassion or a difference in their smell? Mike and I learning the warning signs so we can aid each other and sit or lie down before we are affected. Such warnings are disorientation, flashing lights, halos, slurred speech, or vertigo. It’s different from time to time and each person experiences seizures differently. Companion animals that aid epileptics are sometimes called seizure dogs. The Epilepsy Foundation offers more information on how these dogs assist

If we used the definition of a familiar as an animal attuned to their human’s magic ability, Rosie isn’t my familiar. We don’t hang out at the altar or do circles together. I’m not sure if we have a psychic bond through there’s been a couple times I was in the bedroom screaming in my mind and she ran in with her ears perked. Mainly we’re friends.

I’m interested in other people’s stories about their animal companions and service dogs.

About Tara Miller

Tara "Masery" Miller is a panentheist Gaian mage living in the Ozarks with her husband and pets. She's also a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church. She writes the Staff of Asclepius blog. She's also a new author and editor with Megalithica Books. If you would like to be notified when Rooted in the Body, Seeking the Soul: Magic Practitioners Living with Disabilities, Addiction, and Illness will be available please email her at tara.miller21 (at) gmail.com Donations for the blog can also be sent through PayPal to the same email.

  • kadiera

    You know, some places train rescue dogs as assistance dogs, and there’s no formal certification required to declare a dog as an assistance dog. Someplace like http://handi-dogs.org/home/seizure_dogs might help you find someone local to help you train Rosie for more specific service dog use.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/ Tara “Masery” Miller

      Thanks. Too bad they are in Arizona! I did find out that dogs can be trained up to 4 years old.


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