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People & Pets

Jocie gives hope

2/6/2019

Service dog supports those with invisible disabilities.

Jocie tricks: In addition to being a service dog, Jocie has been trained to perform a variety of tricks by its owner Amanda Cantwell.

When Amanda Cantwell received a puppy for her 20th birthday, the dog did more than play fetch or go for walks; it helped relieve her anxiety and panic attacks. She initially didn’t intend to train her dog Jocie as a service dog, but…

“She fell into the role of a service dog and helped ground me when I’ve suffered from panic attacks,” says Amanda.

In fourth grade, Amanda was hit by a truck, causing brain trauma. With short-term memory loss, it added to her issues of anxiety. She found Jocie would jump on her and keep “pawing” her with deep pressure therapy.

“It shortens my anxiety attacks, grounds me and pulls me out of the episode,” she says. “It’s like she’s telling me, ‘I’m going to help you, and you’re going to let me.’ ”

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Jocie accompanies her in public, and Amanda dispels myths about service dogs.

“There are numerous invisible disabilities. People assume only the blind or wheelchair-bound have the right to a service dog,” she explains. “There are so many other things, such as those with diabetes or PTSD. People often don’t look skin deep.”

Jocie’s trainer inspired and mentored Amanda to also become a dog trainer. She has trained dogs for veterans with PTSD. For example, a PTSD victim suffers from unannounced strangers approaching him, triggering a flashback.

“What the dog does is step behind the person and give their owner breathing space,” she says. “If they have night terrors, deep pressure therapy helps calm them down.”

She’s trained dogs who monitor diabetics. A chemical imbalance from either low or high blood sugar is detected from the owner’s saliva, and the dog alerts the owner by pawing on him or her.

Amanda suggests asking the owner before petting a service dog. The dog is trained to ignore other people or dogs, but it’s also trained to protect the owner. Other people’s scents can throw off the dog’s abilities to detect certain smells.

“Petting a dog could distract them from doing their job,” she warns.

Because of her love of dogs, her K-Nine Coach business helps train stubborn dogs, including one who was tied up on a chain, to one who now behaves.

“It’s seeing people at their wits’ end with no hope, ready to put their dogs down. The moment you’re ready to give up, the dog has a light bulb moment, and everything clicks in place,” she says.

That’s rewarding for her — seeing the change in herself and making a difference in someone’s life.

“Jocie brought me from my lowest point. There was hopelessness, and now there’s hope. Folks might say it’s no big deal; it’s just a dog; it’s not life and death. But to that person, the service dog can save their life,” she says. ♦

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