Searching for more than just a companion

MARSHALL – Service dogs have been around for helping people with physical disabilities since the 1920s. However, psychiatric service dogs have only been available since the 1990s. Similar to dogs that can help the blind or deaf, there are also dogs who are trained to help people with psychological disorders. These dogs are often used to give the owner a sense of reassurance and comfort when they are experiencing difficulty with their disabilities.

Michael Serreyn of Marshall is in need of a psychiatric service dog. Serreyn suffers from bipolar disorder and schizoid-effective disorder – serious conditions that cause him to feel panic, anxiety and paranoia at times.

“When I’m home alone is when my paranoia gets worse,” Serreyn said. “My kids are gone at school most of the year, and my wife works full time.”

Serreyn cannot be employed because of his condition, so he spends most days home alone. Having a service dog would ease the time that he has to spend by himself by providing company and companionship. He is also faced with a social phobia where he feels anxiety and panic when meeting new people. In this situation, his dog could also help him.

“The (service) dogs will brush up against you or hug you and bring you to the place where you need to be,” Serreyn said. “The dogs comfort you and calm you.”

With a service dog, Serreyn would have more confidence making friends and doing simple things that he enjoys, such as going outside.

Only being available for a couple decades, obtaining a psychiatric service dog is not an easy process. Just like an adoption, there’s an abundance of paperwork that has to be completed before receiving a dog. An individual must also show proof that he or she has a disorder before he or she is deemed eligible to own a service dog, and then an over-the-phone interview is conducted.

Dogs are selected based on the applicant’s personality and then trained to fit his or her needs. Service dogs cost a great amount of money; typically they are between $16,000-$25,000. The wait can also be lengthy – anywhere between three to six months and one to two years, sometimes three. How long an applicant will wait depends mostly upon how much money he or she can raise.

Serreyn’s condition is worsening with time so he knows that he needs a service dog as soon as possible, but he could use some help.

“I just want the community to know that there’s people like me who might look normal but need a service dog just like a blind person would,” he said.

Serreyn asks the community to realize this and if it is able to help those who suffer from psychological disorders. To read more about Serreyn and aid his cause, visit