By Taplan Ardis and Misti Blu Day McDermott
My name is Peach the Wonder Doodle. I’m a one-year-old Australian Labradoodle that works as a multipurpose service dog. When I’m not working, I like chasing and playing with my kitty brothers and sisters, hunting for lizards in my backyard, and playing fetch with my bacon ball! What is the difference between a service animal and a therapy animal? So, there are three types of assistance animals; service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals or ESAs. A service animal is a highly trained dog (or in some cases, miniature pony) that performs tasks that mitigate their handler’s disability. A task can be anything from alerting to blood sugar drops or other chemical changes in the body, to picking up a dropped item for their handler. Therapy dogs are dogs that are trained to provide comfort and affection to several different people. For example, dogs that visit the elderly in nursing homes or patients in children’s hospitals would be therapy dogs. Unlike service dogs, they do not have public access rights. Emotional support animals, or ESAs, are pets that do not have to have any formal training, that act as a companion for those who struggle with mental health problems. A therapist or psychiatrist must recommend them; they do not have any public access rights, but are allowed to fly with their humans and live in non-pet friendly housing. Again, it’s important that the individual get a letter from their mental health professional, as ESA registries are a scam and do not offer any legal protection. -Peach
Learning about Peach is an important way to raise awareness on service animals and invisible illnesses. I met Taplan at a local market. She happened to also have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a rarely diagnosed connective tissue disorder, as well as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, which affects blood pressure and increases the heart rate upon standing. I was shocked to meet someone with similar health issues, as they often get dismissed or misdiagnosed.
Misti: What special skills does Peach do to help you in your life?
Taplan: Peach does a lot to help me, he’s trained to perform over twenty tasks and the list grows every day. First and foremost, he is trained to alert to spikes in my heart rate and drops in my blood pressure, allowing me to get in a safe position prior to losing consciousness. He picks things up when I drop them, is able to bring things to me when I need them and don’t feel well enough to get them myself, is able to detect my allergens in food, and so much more!
Misti: What is the most amazing thing to date that Peach has done to impress you with his work ethic?
Taplan: His first trip to Disney was when he was six months old. We had never taken him to somewhere with so many different distractions. He had experienced crowds before, but Disney is on another level. Not only is it like a sardine can with how packed it is, but there are brand new smells, fireworks, people in costumes, kids trying to grab at him, adults lunging at him to pet him without asking, and even tons of spilled popcorn on the ground. He completely aced it. He ignored everything and everyone and even focused on me and didn’t flinch when a child in a stroller grabbed his tail. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but for a six-month-old puppy, I was really amazed.
Misti: What does Peach love to do on his spare time?
Taplan: His all time favorite thing to do is to play with a human. Whether it’s tug, or fetch, or just having someone hold onto his bone while he chews it, he loves just spending time with someone. He loves to hunt for lizards in the backyard; he’s only ever caught one once, but he never stops trying. He also loves to do his puppy puzzle! It’s a plastic tray with different boxes you hide treats in, he opens the boxes and has to sniff out the treats to find them… it’s a great brain sharpening toy!