Originally known as National Guide Dog Month, "National Service Dog Month" was first established in 2008 by actor and animal activist, Dick Van Patten.
Inspired by what was a life-changing visit to The Guide Dogs of the Desert in California, Van Patten launched a fundraising drive to benefit guide and service dog training schools throughout the country - and create an awareness month for the campaign.
Service dogs provide companionship, inspire confidence, and live to serve, protect, and assist their handlers. There are different kinds of trained animals, including guide dogs, emotional support pets and assistance animals. Many help children and adults perform daily living skills, overcome physical limitations, accomplish lifelong goals, embark on adventures and cope with mental illnesses.
Service dogs, and other service animals, have a long and rich history in the mental health field. One type of highly trained service dogs are specifically called Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD). These canines help their humans who struggle with psychiatric disabilities including PTSD, bipolar disorder, anxiety and severe depression.
PSD's are trained to assist in medical crises and provide treatment and security for their owners, including reducing anxiety, interrupting depressive episodes and preventing their handlers from reacting unfavorably in stressful situations. PSD’s can assist with "deep pressure therapy" to minimize anxiety or self-harm by applying weight and pressure to an owner's body. Thus, calming the owner or helping the owner ground themselves in a more positive moment.
Animals are amazing creatures. And those that offer these highly trained services are worthy of celebration not just this month – but every month.