Hello and welcome!
Updated: Feb 8
My name is Jenny Stamm and I am the writer of this blog. I figured my first post would give you some more information about me, personally. Hopefully you'll be interested in sticking around, asking questions, and seeing what gets posted here! (And heads up, this is a long post. They won't normally be this long!)
Let's start at the beginning. As a person on the autism spectrum, I have never understood how emotions motivate behavior (and vice versa). So, I've been fascinated in behavior (both human and animal) since I was very young. I started learning how to train dogs when I was around 14-16 years old and even got paid by some family friends as I was the only one able to work with their dogs, even though I was still very young.
I originally wanted to major in some form of animal science/behavior when I went to college, but as that wasn't offered, I nearly majored in Psychology in college (and was only missing 1 or 2 classes when I graduated). I'm currently in a Masters program for Anthrozoology: the study of human-animal interactions and relationships. My focus for research and projects is service dogs, especially those partnered with people with invisible disabilities (disabilities that can't be seen easily, such as diabetes, epilepsy, or migraines).
My passion for this subject comes from my own traumatic experiences when it comes to service dogs (I even owned and ran a company that helped people owner-train their own service dogs for several years until, recently, my health forced me to close the business). I mostly owner-trained my own service dog back in 2008 or so. He was a rescued black lab mix who took to service dog training immediately.
Unfortunately, I got him for my debilitating anxiety and depression and since those things aren't visible (and "Psychiatric Service Dog" wasn't a recognized term back then), my college denied that I had a disability and said they wouldn't allow my service dog on campus. I ended up suing them to get my dog on campus, but over the next several months (while still trying to go to classes and do homework), the stress of attempting to fight this large organization with an unpaid lawyer and with no other real support was too much for me. I gave up my dog.
That broke me further for many years and it took until around 2014 for me to even consider getting another service dog. In the meantime, I had barely graduated college, tried working a number of different jobs (mostly for myself), volunteered at several wildlife rehabilitation centers, and briefly gone back to college for pre-veterinarian medicine before deciding that wasn't the career for me. I finally realized (once I'd recovered from the second undergraduate experience) that it was behavior I loved... and I followed it into dog training.
Since I didn't trust my skills (imposter syndrome, anyone?), I joined a dog trainer training program and was able to join their first (and one of only two) in-person, on-campus 6-week intensive course. After graduating from the program, I was better able to recognize my skills and knowledge and I got a job at a service dog training organization as their head Psychiatric Service Dog trainer. That job didn't last very long for a number of reasons, but I ended up getting my second service dog out of the relationship: Orion.
Orion was a bit nervous, but otherwise, was great at working and learned soooo quickly. He went through a public access test at about 1 year old and passed with flying colors. Within a few months, he was diagnosed with bilateral hip dysplasia and bilateral knee luxations. The knee luxations (where the kneecaps don't stay in place) were very mild, but the surgeon we were referred to recommended surgery. Long story short, after three surgeries on one knee, Orion was permanently disabled and it was no longer ethical to work him as a service dog, even after his rehab.
In 2018, I finally decided to look for another service dog candidate. Since I was supposed to have the help of a couple of fellow dog trainers that I knew and trusted, I decided to go with a puppy. Note: Getting a puppy when you have severe mental health problems is a BAD idea unless you have plenty of money and/or support to help properly take care of and train the puppy.
As you may have guessed, it was hard. I struggled a lot with raising Perseus (named after a constellation, just as Orion was), from when we picked him up at 7 weeks old until today, when he's around 1.5 years old. More so, I really struggled to get him trained, but luckily, he's a super confident and intelligent boy who picked up on the things he was trained for very quickly.
Now, during all of this, I mentioned my mental health troubles. However, simultaneously, my physical health was slowly deteriorating. This past August, it took a much sharper downturn and I'm now using a cane 24/7. The doctors have no idea what's going on, but thank goodness Percy was able to learn more skills to help me get through.
So I have a lot of experience as a dog trainer, a service dog trainer, a service dog partner, a researcher, and an invisibly and now visibly disabled person. I want to educate others on what service dogs are (and are not!), how to treat service dogs and their partners, and how service dogs are beneficial to their human partners.
If you managed to read this whole thing, thank you! I hope you find my story interesting and that you will stick around! If you want to know when new blog posts are published, you can subscribe at the bottom of the page and you'll get an email when that happens (nothing else!).