Mango’s Job as a PTSD Service Dog and Emotional Support Animal



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With my help, mom’s PTSD is more dormant, like Mt. St. Helens since 1980!

Go to Everyday Life with Mango: Chihuahua Service Dog

I would not have survived my PTSD without Mango’s help over the past decade.

Even with the aid of a neuropsychologist and an army of doctors, I struggle day-to-day coping with PTSD, panic disorder, agoraphobia, chronic spine pain, headaches and sleep deprivation.  I was lucky my doctor encouraged me to adopt a dog, when I asked him if it was advisable with my psychological conditions.

As a newly diagnosed PTSD patient years ago, I knew nothing of emotional support animals, or psychiatric service dogs. I was young, in my twenties, petrified that my life was imploding after a concussion from  my taxi accident.  I only knew that with Mango’s company I was more functional.  I was so desperate for her help, on days I was badly triggered, I would try to smuggle her inside my coat to places she may have been prohibited (such as my friend’s workplace) because I was too terrified to venture out without her. If I took too many anti-anxiety meds, I would be too drowsy to walk to the destination safely and I could not ask my friends to pick me up at my apt like a child every time. So the only options were to be a shut in or be an outlaw of sorts with furry contraband. I didn’t just want her company, I needed it. The city was overwhelming and just getting to the pharmacy or my doctor was an almost insurmountable task without my tiny sherpa. But over time, the stress of hiding her, made elements of my anxiety worse.

ADA laws were created to protect the right of the invisibly disabled, people like me.  Had I just gotten Mango service dog training immediately, she would have legally been able to accompany me. I also would have been able to fine tune the tasks she did to assist me sooner. I hope with Mango’s story, people suffering with similar ailments can learn from my mistakes and benefit from a SD or ESA sooner. You don’t have to suffer in silent exile.  When you have a SD or ESA, no matter how bad things are, you are never alone.

Mango was adopted from the rescue group NY Peticare in 2003.  She was pulled out of a NYC Animal Control high kill shelter only days before she was about to be put to sleep.  Mango knew instinctively that I was unwell.  She was an emotional support animal (ESA) for me from the second she was healed from her multiple surgeries.   ESAs do not have the same access as service dogs because they have not been trained specific duties to help your disability.

Below I’ve broken down what she did as an ESA and as later as a service dog.

I want to pass on the information of the health benefits of having a dog, so others in my shoes can share in their natural healing abilities.  Mango understood me without saying a word, without me having to defend or explain myself for not feeling well.  I owe my life to Mango and this site is dedicated to her brave actions that kept me going.

My tiny hero passed in August 2013, after a courageous thirteen hour battle with a seizure from a brain tumor.  Her heart was still fighting to stay with me, but she deserved more than to come back to a broken body. She lived her life with zest, dignity, and a lot of big opinions.

More on Long Live the Mighty Mango!

I hope this site will allow her legacy to go on.

She continues to live forever in my heart and guides (with her usual cheeky humor), Keanu, my newly adopted rescue dog from Life for Paws Oregon, a 501(c)(3) non profit corporation that rescues and rehomes, abandoned, neglected, and at risk animals, to be trained as a future PTSD chihuahua service dog. His training and journey will be posted weekly.


Don't let the pretty mug fool you! I work for a living.

Don’t let the pretty mug fool you! I work for a living.

Mango’s Service Dog Work (2010-2013)

When Mango and I moved from NYC to the Pacific Northwest in 2007, some helpful strangers stopped me to let me know that she was trying to alert me to my panic attacks before it happened.  She would bark and “act fussy”.  They told me to look into it and they have seen this for seizure alert dogs. In New York, several of my friends witnessed it as well, but we never made the connection.  Mango’s warnings were overlooked in the chaos of my panic attacks. I started researching PTSD service dogs, as I grew more dependent on Mango after I became isolated in the suburbs.  It was beneficial to avoid my triggers, but in a way I had managed to cage myself at home, unless I relied on Mango more.

Using helpful literature such as Healing Companions by Jane Miller, LISW,CDBC and resources like,  I trained Mango as a legally compliant medical alert service dog.  It took me over six months to train and modify her helpful behavior/tasks to respond consistently to commands.  Physically and mentally I could only train her a few minutes several times a day, every day. Over the years, as my emotional support animal, she had been educated how to behave with good manners.

What took me longer was to come to terms that I had a service dog. When many people saw her with a medical alert service dog tag, they would ask out of curiosity what was wrong with me. Legally I am not required to answer. However, it never failed to make me feel ashamed I had PTSD. What indeed was wrong with me? Why can’t I shake this off? I was no heroic war veteran returning from battle. I was a simple girl who couldn’t take a blow to the head from a minor taxi accident.


I may be tiny, but I will wage a war on mom's PTSD more effectively than Napolean tried to conquer Europe!

I may be tiny, but I will wage a war on mom’s PTSD more effectively than Napolean tried to conquer Europe!

My head rarely goes without aching everyday, but I manage to deal with it, some days better than others. I am no longer embarrassed to have PTSD. It is like being ashamed to have high blood pressure or something else I cannot control, but it is too late. I should have been openly proud of everything Mango did to make my life better. I will never stop regretting caring what other people thought of me. My heart bursts with pride of what Mango learned in order to help me. If speaking up and giving her credit about how heroic she was, exposes my weaknesses, I accept that.

These are some of the tasks I trained her to do:

My disability: (Panic Disorder) Disorientation, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, blacking out.  This happens more frequently if I am alone, experience a trigger, had insomnia for a few days in a row, or a night terror earlier.

Her task: Getting my attention by pawing on my chest from her pouch and giving me full eye contact.  This was modified from her original untrained alerting behavior where she would act agitated and whimper.  By alerting me prior to a panic attack, I quickly remove myself from the trigger and take a fast acting anti-anxiety medication.


Rain or Shine. Snow or Sleet. Mango is there for me.

Mango does not take snow days off!

My disability: (Panic Disorder) Disorientation, shortness of breath, increased heart rate.

Her task: “Chest” command.  Mango would jump on my chest and lay across my chest over my heart and lungs.  She would stay until I tell her, “O.K.” The pressure from the weight of her body and her steady breathing and heartbeat would calm me.   It grounded me from the disorientating onslaught of the panic attack.  It helped keep me present.  This command shortened the duration and the severity of my panic attacks.  Combined with her medical alert duties this command allowed me to go on a “as needed” basis with my anti-anxiety medications instead of daily, which greatly improved my quality of life.

This “Chest” command has similar to the effects indicated in the clinical study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology by Temple Grandin, Ph.D. on the Calming Effects of Deep Touch Pressure in Patients with Autistic Disorder, College Students, and Animals, where she stated, “In anecdotal reports, deep touch pressure has been described to produce a calming effect in children with psychiatric disorders. Deep pressure stimulation, such as rolling up in a gym mat, has been used to calm children with autistic disorder and ADHD (Ayres 1979, King 1989). Lorna King (personal communication, 1990) reports that children with sleeping problems appear to sleep better inside of a mummy sleeping bag, which adapts to fit the body snuggly. It also has been used to reduce tactile defensiveness in children who cannot tolerate being touched.

New products such as the Thundershirt designed for canine separation anxiety or fear of thunderstorms have been developed using a theory similar to this as well.

Outta my way! I've got work to do!

Outta my way! I’ve got work to do!

My disability: (Panic Disorder) Disorientation

Her task: “Get help” command. Mango would find the nearest person and herd them to me if I needed assistance.

My disability: (Panic Disorder) Disorientation, shortness of breath

Her task: “Find dad” command.  Mango would herd my husband to come urgently. This was originally used during playtime for her, but became crucial when I had shortness of breath and couldn’t yell loud enough to get my husbands attention for help.

My disability: (PTSD) Paranoia of turning my back to people when things where moving behind me loudly or quickly

Her task: “Watch my back” command.  She would perch and turn around to watch the people behind me.  If they got close, she would bark or paw me to let me know.  She performed this task for me at the atm or when I got electrostimulation on my back muscles at my chiropractors office when there are unpredictable people around and I felt anxious.


No one sneaks up on mom when Officer Mango is on guard duty!

Every command she learned greatly improved my quality of life.  I was able to cope with being out in public more without being full of medication. I had some degree of normalcy in my life thanks to Mango.


Mango’s Emotional Support Animal (ESA)Work (2003-2013)

These are Mango’s self trained emotional support animal duties.

According to the government, “Emotional Support Animals provide some therapeutic benefit to person with mental or psychiatric disability, requiring no specific training. The mere presence of this animal mitigates the effects of the emotional or mental disability.” There was no command I used to ask her to perform these tasks, and this was not a taught behavior, therefore legally these did not qualify her to be a service animal yet.


Mom you better check yourself before you wreck yourself! That's right! I'm bringing it back to Ice Cube '93!

Mom you better check yourself before you wreck yourself! That’s right! I’m bringing it back to Ice Cube ’93!

My disability: (PTSD) Anorexia due to headaches, medication side effects, and sometimes I would not eat for days if a friend did not visit me before Mango.

Her task: Herding me to fridge.  Then, she would insisted I eat by sitting in front of fridge and staring at me, making an upward motion with her nose.  I would usually feel too nauseous to eat or rarely feel hungry.  In the beginning, she would sit in front of the fridge and bark at me, but she saw it made me double over from my headaches and she modified her communication with expressive eye contact, head movements and facial expressions.  She would refuse to budge.  If I physically tried to carry her back on the couch, she would just hop off, run in front of the fridge and continue sitting there until I ate. If I tried to ignore her, she would try to herd me like a sheepdog and get me to follow her.  I would feel guilty she was sitting on the the cold kitchen tile for so long and force myself to eat. At my worst, without her, I dropped to 79 lbs from 100 lbs.

My disability: (PTSD) Sedation due to medication

Her task: Barking and alerting me when danger was close.  Sometimes I would dose off while trying to cook, even boil pasta.  This was very dangerous when I lived alone when I first adopted her. She would make such a commotion to wake me, that I was able to get  things under control before a fire blazed out of control.

2013-06-09 15.53

Sleeping on the job, literally!

My disability: (PTSD) Night terrors

Her task: Wake me by nuzzling my cheek or pawing my neck. Later on after I got married, she woke my husband.  She slept burrowed in a folded twin sized comforter next to my head so she would always be close by. She was such a light sleeper she knew even when I peel one eyelid open to quietly peek at her in the middle of the night.

As a emotional support animal, Mango was also very comforting to be around after a night terror to bring me back to my current surroundings.  Without her, it is very jarring and the disorientation repercussions lasts longer (Nausea, headaches, increased heart rate).

My disability: (PTSD) Disassociation

Her task: Lead me back home.  She was able to do this for over a 10 block radius from our home and also my friends home that we stayed at when I was unwell.


Follow me mom.  I'll show you the way!

Follow me mom. I’ll show you the way!

My disability: (PTSD) Self destructive behavior/disassociation

Her task: Interrupting and breaking me out of this state. She would paw my legs or cause a racket to get my attention. When I would stand in the shower too long, not noticing the hot water is used up, she would stand up at the edge of her tub barking and push back the shower curtain. Concern from seeing her small face get soaked with water would jar me back to reality.

I'm here for you mom!

I’m here for you mom!

My disabilty: Anxiety

Her task: Just her presence and a head nuzzle or snuggle calmed me down sometimes.  I disliked using the pneumonic neck brace above, the choking sensation makes me panic, but it helped relieve some pressure off my bulging discs in my spine.  Mango’s comforting behavior allowed me continue with the treatment.  I focused on her presence and not the brace.

My disabilty: (Injury to C4-5, 6-7) Chronic left side pain due to spine compression on nerves.

Her task: Curl up on the painful area.  She used her body to warm the painful spots, for example there is a pressure point on my left arm called the “three rivers”, she would instinctively know and lay on top of it.  Later on, when I researched Chihuahua heritage, I was shocked learn that this behavior dated back to Toltech times when their alleged Techichi ancestors were used specifically for this purpose, almost as live heat packs.

Is this what off leash is like!! Wooooooohoo!

The Pacific Ocean can’t keep me away from helping my mom!

This is only a fraction of what she did for me on a daily basis.  She dedicated every second of her life to make sure I was safe.  We lost the battle with her brain stem tumor on August 25, 2013. I can never repay how much she helped me, but her efforts to keep me alive was not in vain.

At MangoDogMD, we hope to help get Dog M.D.’s for those that need them, by raising awareness and sharing Mango’s story. Dogs seem to have an innate ability to naturally heal us humans and all they ask for in return is water, some kibble and some kindness. Such a small price to get your own guardian angel here on earth.

I've got you're back mom!

I’ve got you’re back!



Disclaimer: Please seek immediate professional medical attention if you or your pet partner are not feeling well. This site is for entertainment and informational purposes only. Mango would like all her online friends to be safe and happy.


9 comments on “Mango’s Job as a PTSD Service Dog and Emotional Support Animal

  1. Scott C on said:

    How can I find my Mango? I am a disabled veteran with PTSD and a wife that no longer wants me. I saw another veteran with a Chihuahua and he had her in a shoulder bag where she would make him pet her when he started feeling down.

    • mangomom on said:

      Hi Scott, I am not a trained medical professional and I only have my own personal experience to try to offer insight from.
      The first thing I would recommend is to know what breed of dog suits your lifestyle. Make of list of exactly what you are looking for. Anytime you think of something jot it dow. You will have it handy then, when you speak to the rescue groups and when you meet the prospects. Activity level, temperament, size (remember the larger the dog the higher the cost of food and larger potties to clean).

      If you feel a chihuahua is what you are looking for, you may want to start contacting your local rescue groups. is a good source to find these groups. One thing to remember is not to get your heart set on one dog due to looks. It is your chemistry that will matter the most so a face to face meeting is crucial. For example, if playing catch helps relax you, bring a ball for your first meeting. I knew Mango was the one for me when her foster mom took us to Central Park. Normally, I am too anxious to sit out in the open on a park bench, but Mango hopped up on my lap, and her calmness and presence helped me be able to do it.

      For shelter dogs, sometimes it takes patience for them to start coming out of their shells due to their own trauma. It took Mango a week to become more sure of herself and a month to not bark at men. However, I think because she did go thru trauma, she was able to understand and empathize better. I have heard many dog rescuers speak about how the rescue dogs seem to understand that they pulled out of a dire situation. Mango knew and I think she was bonded to me strongly because she understood that I protected her the best I could. She wasn’t just trained to do a “job”, she did it voluntarily.

      Also, I would recommend looking at Jane Miller’s book, Healing Companions. (link is on homepage). It will help you think about what tasks you may want to train your service dog in the future.

      This website has a wealth of resources to help get you started if you want to find trainers or trained services dogs.

      I will be posting more about how to find a chihuahua service dog in the following weeks.

      In addition to having a PTSD service dog, it is important to have a psychologist/psychiatrist to offer insight and help. It was the combination of both that kept me alive.

      Good luck on finding your Mangodog M.D.!
      Anne&Mango forever

  2. barbara seay on said:

    I would really like to talk to you about my dog that I would like to make a service dog. I have a few of the same problems as you and my Chihuahua does these things for me as well. Please email me and I will explain further. Thank you

  3. Robin Gordils on said:

    Chihuahuas are the second breed most killed in shelters due to overbreding. P!ease rescue a dog from a shelter or Chi Rescue. My g/f has 2 Chis, one we are training as her SD for panic/anxiety from past trauma. I also own 2 Chis and both are preowned rescues, one privately and one from a shelter. The first was a pup and earned her AKC CGC with a few weeks of training. She was 8 1/2 mos when she earned her CGC. My shelter rescue was almost dead and totally untrained but 8 weeks after adoption also earned his AKC CGC title and got first place in class for his drug sniffing routine. He would make me a great SD as he is very stable, low key and positions himself to watch over me when out with my other 5 dogs. He is bonded like glue without being stressed when we are apart.

    • mangomom on said:

      Hi Robin, Both Mango and Keanu are both were on death row at Animal Control and saved by a wonderful rescue groups. The euthanasia numbers of chi’s in shelters are tragic. I posted about the severity of the situation here:
      It is fantastic that your girlfriend is training her chi as a service dog.
      Due to bad publicity, most people do not give chi’s the credit they deserve for being a highly intelligent, selfless, helpful breed. I am so happy to see that you are not only giving these dogs homes, but getting them trained so quickly and passing the CGC. Your boy sounds like he has the perfect temperament to be your SD. Thanks for your comment. It is fantastic to hear that you and your partner is on your way to enjoy the benefits of a chihuahua service dog! 🙂

  4. leeosha deleon on said:

    im trying to get a service dog Chihuahua but how do u get one

  5. Love your puppy. Got a teacup myself. I can attest to the chihuahuas innate ability to equalize, calm and cheer a person up. She has carried me through some rough times.

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