Service Dog Helps Owner Having Asperger's Meltdown, And 5 Other Things You Probably Didn't Know Service Animals Can Do

We all like to fawn over videos and images ridiculously cute pets (that is, after all, the reason that the Internet was invented, right?), but it’s easy to forget that, for many people, animals are more than simply loyal companions and adorable snugglebunnies. Every day, service animals perform essential, life-saving tasks for people with a wide variety of disabilities and health conditions, a fact that is amply illustrated by a recent viral video of a service dog helping his owner having an Asperger’s meltdown.

In the video, Danielle Jacobs can be seen having what she describes as a “meltdown.” In the video’s intro, she writes, “This is what having aspergers is like. Please no negative comments this really happened and it's not easy to open myself and share what it's like on a daily basis. This is what's considered a meltdown.” As she sobs and hits herself on her chest and head, her service dog, Samson, intervenes, pulling her arms away from her head. When she collapses to sit on the floor, he comforts her and continues to keep her hands away from her face. Jacobs explains that his response is exactly what it should be, writing, “It appears the response is late but it's actually supposed to be as I'm coming out of the meltdown as I tend to have a panic attack after.”

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Jacob’s video has gone viral, with more than 2.4 million views since she posted it on June 1. It’s important for two reasons: First, for giving a brave, realistic look into what living with an autism spectrum disorder is like, and, second, for showing just how important service animals are to their owner’s daily lives.

When we hear the words “service animals,” we often tend to think of guide dogs that help the visually-impaired. Those dogs are amazing, of course, but they aren’t the only ones who help people with disabilities and difficult medical conditions. Here are just a few other ways that animals help their humans:

Detecting peanuts for people with peanut allergies.

DetectiveDJCheckit on YouTube

Contact with peanuts can be life threatening for those with severe peanut allergies. Service dogs can detect even minute traces of the allergen.

Helping people cope with PTSD.

USA TODAY on YouTube

This video shows a veteran's service dog intervening when he become agitated during an interview. Smithsonian.com also suggests that service dogs can help veterans with PTSD by "assuag[ing] the hypervigilance common in vets with PTSD" and heightening their levels of oxytocin.

Detecting blood sugar fluctuations in people with diabetes.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, dogs with sensitive noses have been trained to detect when owners with diabetes experience low levels of blood sugar. They are often able to alert their owners to the problem before symptoms have even presented themselves, allowing them to adjust their glucose levels before dangerous consequences can occur.

Detecting seizures.

Seizure alert dogs are able to detect when a person with a chronic seizure disorder is going to have a seizure. The dog's alert allows the person to take medication, seek help, or get into a safe position before the seizure happens.

Helping with balance and mobility.

DonnaScarpa on YouTube

This miniature horse, named Tonka, has been trained to help his owner, who has mobility and balance issues, get around safely. If she does fall, she can also use him to get back up to standing. Miniature horses have also been trained as guide animals for the visually impaired.

Images: YouTube (2)