Dogs That Work – Star & Dude
Dude, or officially “The Dude,” was named after the main character in The Big Lebowski and didn’t begin his career as a service dog until he was ripe into his eighth year of life. Dude, a Fox Red Lab, was Star Amaya’s family pet. When her previous service dog retired, her mother insisted that they train Dude to do the job. At first, Dude, akin to his name, was a bit too chill for the job. But after working with him, Dude learned to be the top dog in his new role as Amaya’s mobility and psychiatric service dog.
Dude helps Star, a junior at Atherton High School, with tasks made difficult by her cerebral palsy and through her PTSD episodes. A psychiatric service dog’s function is not to provide emotional support but to enable the handler to navigate through times of stress and anxiety. He performs deep pressure therapy that triggers a calming response, and “alerts” by jumping on Star when she begins hyperventilating, crying, and/or displaying anxiety tics. This response signals Star to take a seat and work to calm herself down. His mobility tasks include bracing, momentum pulling, counterbalance, and picking up and carrying items such as the remote or phone. Dude knows how to fetch help for Star when needed, and can open and shut doors and drawers.
Ironically, the one task that Dude has struggled with the most in his 10 months as a service dog is in the art of retrieval. Despite his breed’s predisposition, Star said when she would throw a ball, Dude would just sit and stare, not interested in playing the game. Now, however, Dude has learned much more than to fetch — and has changed Star’s quality of life in the process.
P.S. An incredible dog.