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Clinical and Research News
Lance Helps Patient Function Well Despite Panic Disorder
Psychiatric News
Volume 36 Number 3 page 17-17

With the help of her psychiatric service dog Lance, Susan Tucker, who suffers from panic attacks, is able to travel on planes, attend community college, and participate in dog club meetings. The 45-year-old Paso Robles, Calif., resident works as a certified dog trainer for the organization Pets and People: Companions in Therapy and Service. She also works as a service dog access specialist for the Delta Society, which educates the public about service dogs and provisions in the Americans With Disabilities Act concerning service dogs.

When Tucker feels a panic attack coming on, she sits down on the floor and says "Lance." This signals Lance, her standard poodle, to come over, sit in her lap, and put his face in hers and continue to nuzzle and lick her face to keep her attention grounded. Lance’s actions have a calming effect, lower her blood pressure, and prevent her from running out of the room, as she would have done before Lance arrived.

Her previous dog, Ivan, was able to sense trouble before a panic attack began, and he alerted Tucker with unusual behavior such as repeatedly shoving her arm upward.

Because Tucker lives with agoraphobia with panic disorder, sometimes when she tries to leave her house she has difficulty maintaining her balance and seeing clearly. "Lance helps me balance and leads me out the door and stays with me in the car until the panic subsides," she explained.

Lance also helps her cope with chronic depression. When Lance hears a preset alarm clock ring, he repeatedly behaves in an "attention-getting manner" until she takes her antidepressants or, if necessary, he brings the bottle over. Also, Tucker gets out of bed in the morning because Lance needs to go out and get exercise.

And when she is running errands, people often come up to her to talk about Lance and compliment her on his good behavior. "This is a real boost for my self-esteem," said Tucker.

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