I adopted a dog who began alerting me to migraine attacks. in the car when the sunlight reflecting off vehicles and fast movement around me made it hard to that discern I was having a visual aura. After Shea died I adopted another dog who now also alerts. My local Animal Services will not certify her because her alerts are during the first minutes of the pre-migraine aura but are not yet before the visual aura begins. Is this legal?
There’s a lot of debate in the service dog world about exactly what constitutes as an “alert dog” vs a “response dog.” Most people will say an alert is the dog warning the handler of a physical or psychiatric change BEFORE it actually occurs, and a response is the dog warning the handler of a physical or psychiatric change AS it is occurring. By that definition, your dog would be labeled as a “medical response dog” because she’s alerting to the aura as it’s happening.
HOWEVER… as you mentioned, you may not know you are having an aura depending on the situation you are currently in. If you’re driving with bright sunlight reflecting off of moving cars, you might not notice you have an aura occurring. In which case, you could miss the critical window for taking medication to try and prevent a migraine. That’s where the line between an alert dog and a response dog becomes blurred.
For example, Faith alerts to my panic attacks. I’ve trained her to pick up on subtle changes of my breathing rate which typically corresponds with the start of a panic attack. Technically speaking, this is a response, as she’s warning me of a physical change as it is occurring– she’s telling me I’m breathing faster. However, this change in breathing is something that I do not notice 99% of the time. So… is she simply responding, or is she alerting? I’d say she’s alerting.
Are you located in the US? If so, Animal Services does not have to certify your dog, as certification/registration does not exist here. If you are outside of the US, I’d speak to your doctor about what is going on, and see if you can get him on the same page. Maybe he can write a letter or have a phone chat with Animal Services about your current situation.
Good luck with everything!
~ Lex (& Faith)