“They quickly become indispensable”: assistance dogs to tame the handicap

Since the arrival of Loustic in her life, Fanny hardly ever misses school anymore. A carrier of autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), she struggled to manage her anxiety attacks. Each time I exploded and the school had to call my parents, confides this 18-year-old high school student. Today, my dog ​​reassures me in five minutes and I can go back to class. » She is the first in her department to have benefited from an assistance dog in class. “He sleeps under my desk and it’s going very well, but my mother fought for a year to obtain this authorization. »

INVESTIGATION. Guinea pigs at school, dogs in the hospital… The virtues of animal mediation

This lowland Polish shepherd, a very soft and very hairy 6-year-old dog, was first a simple pet. He has undergone training provided by the association France personalized and individualized assistance dog (FCAPI), based in Teillé, near Nantes (Loire-Atlantique). Its president and founder, Florence Joulain, is the first beneficiary. Hemiplegic, asthmatic and autistic, she can count on the vigilance of Leïa, her 6-year-old dog, a French bulldog with large round eyes, who never leaves her side.

Adapted breeds

Trained in the United States, she started her activity in 2012 in France. It educates both its own dogs, which are given to the beneficiaries for a few years (as the Handi’chiens association does) and the pets of the people concerned, provided that they have the necessary skills. Some breeds lend themselves better to these missions: golden retriever, labrador, australian shepherd, etc. “French bulldogs are very popular in the United States but they have a lot of character. »

The trainer, who works with canine educators, prepares these animals to accompany all kinds of disabilities: hearing, balance, neurological or psychiatric disorders and certain illnesses (epilepsy, diabetes, heart disease and severe asthma). They are able to smell a seizure, thanks to prior work with the sweat of their owner, she describes. They can also spot racing heartbeats or blood pressure. »

Gain autonomy

For example, fifteen minutes before an asthma attack, her dog Leïa comes to scratch her until she takes her Ventolin. The dog can also put his head under that of the person who risks hitting the ground or accompany him towards the exit of a store in the event of an anxiety attack. After two years of training, he should be able to understand 50 commands, both verbal and gestural. “You should not believe that these dogs are miraculous and will cure the handicap, says Florence Joulain. But they are so soothing and reassuring that they quickly become indispensable. »

→ READ. Does mediation benefit the animal?

Beyond his academic progress “huge”, Fanny is more successful in making friends. Before, the students didn’t always dare to come and talk to me, she says. The dog facilitates contact. » Finally, she gained autonomy. “My parents are much less anxious for me and finally dare to let me go out alone with Loustic. »


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