I have recognized throughout my career as a social worker in Nevada and New Jersey that there are many people out there who also have a profound love for animals and even consider them a part of their family. My two rescue dogs, a Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix- named “Cannoli” and a Corgi/Rat Terrier mix named “Milo” and I say hello to you all! I wanted to include a picture my two rescues as they have become the true joy of my life and they have partially inspired me to create this blog.
I currently work for a managed care organization that provides Medicaid health insurance and case management for individuals with chronic medical and/or mental health conditions.
Over the last several years as a practicing licensed social worker in the State of Nevada I have observed an uptick in inquiries about animal assisted therapy, service dogs and/or therapy dogs. Most experienced social workers have a mental rolodex of services, agencies available in their minds as to where to direct people for basic services such as housing, financial, and social assistance. Recently I have found myself at a loss because it does not appear that there are truly a lot of services in Nevada that are either no cost, or easy to access for individuals interested in a service animal or emotional support dog.
So today I started with the basics. I first wanted to understand the difference between some of the general terminology that is often thrown out there : Service Dog, Therapy Dog, Emotional Support Dog. I found this great image with a basic breakdown that can be used a reference guide:
Next I began exploring what general information is out there online about how to locate a service animal or the steps required to have your dog become a therapy dog. I included the first few (seemingly) reputable sites on another tab.
Over the next several weeks I intend to do thorough research on the available information about this subject. I also intend to rule out if it is even worth considering as a viable option for my clients and essentially anyone interested in connecting with these therapy services. Long and short of it is- I feel that if it is hard for me- a licensed professional, to access and learn about these services it will be exponentially harder for at risk and vulnerable populations to connect with this service.
Lastly I want to discuss the WHY. I know many physicians or people in the community who scoff at people with therapy dogs and may not see the benefit. I want to also explore through this blog the benefits of animal assisted therapy and if it is actually proven to be an effective method of helping manage chronic medical and mental illnesses.
I look forward to going on this journey together and sharing more about my experiences in the field as a social worker.