The past few days have been rough, stuck at home, lying in bed — just trying to get through the constant, relentless pain. That’s a day in the life of Katie Perilloux, a soon to be fall freshman from Louisiana, majoring in marriage and family studies.
She suffers from chronic, disabling migraines which can last from four days to four weeks. Along with the migraines come symptoms like fainting, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light, shaky hands and overall weakness. She is also anemic, which elevates her heart rate at times.
“It is hard explaining my migraines to my teachers because they don’t get them, so they can’t really relate to the pain I’m in most of the time,” Perilloux said. “The side effects don’t go away until the migraine does. It helps when your teachers are willing to be understanding and compassionate enough to give you extra time to get your work done.”
Perilloux gets through these migraines with help from her medical alert and response service dog Sha, who she will be bringing with her to school.
“My service dog helps me with my disabilities by nudging me with her nose whenever she senses my heart rate go up, or smells a migraine coming on,” Perilloux said. “Once she alerts to my oncoming flare-up, I can take medicine, make sure my blackout curtains are on my walls, then go and lay down and try to sleep it off. She will always lay on my legs or stomach and rest her head on me until I feel better. Sometimes, she will bring me her toys and put them on my stomach like she’s presenting me with a gift so I will cheer up.”
Perilloux grooms Sha once a week, giving her a teddy bear cut and shaving her feet so they don’t pick up dirt. She brushes her dog at least three times a day. Sha is an energetic, purebred miniature poodle, a breed known to be well-suited for service training.
“I personally love having a small service dog because Sha never gets in my way or in anybody’s way,” Perilloux said. “It is very easy to have her tuck down by my feet if I’m in class or on an airplane.”
For their daily routine, she takes Sha to the park for some exercise every morning. Perilloux spends three to four hours training her dog, which sometimes involves going around horses or some construction. She goes to the local Walmart to work on public access training for part of the day.
“Sha is such a proper lady,” Perilloux said. “Since we go to Walmart daily, the staff members always compliment Sha and how well behaved she is, which really makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside because I’ve spent a lot of time, money and effort on her training.”
In her spare time, Perilloux helps train service dogs for other clients.
“I want to help as many disabled people as I can train their service dogs so they can have more freedom and be able to live an overall better life,” Perilloux said. “Service dogs give us the wings we lack.”
Before getting a service dog, an individual must be deemed legally disabled, according to Perilloux. She explained how a service dog is trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities and emotional support animals provide comfort by just being present. Perilloux said Sha has months and months of training.
“So many people bring their ESAs into non–pet friendly places, which is sad to see because they aren’t supposed to be there,” Perilloux said. “I once had an encounter in Walmart — a non-pet friendly store — with my service dog. A lady with her ESA walked past me and my dog as her dog pulled at its leash, lunging and snapping at my well-behaved service dog.”
Perilloux warned against interacting with service dogs without permission from the owner, explaining that it could cause the handler to get seriously hurt. By distracting the dog, you could prevent it from alerting its owner to an oncoming episode.
“I know people don’t mean harm by petting and or talking to service dogs, but just don’t,” Perilloux said. “It is illegal to interfere with a service dog and will end up putting the handler in the hospital. Having these disabilities is hard enough, but it’s even worse when our dog isn’t able to alert us because you were petting it. If you ever see a dog with a vest on, please do not pet it.”
Perilloux will be in Rexburg year-round coming fall, and anticipates training more service dogs there to help others with disabilities.
“I know that before I got my service dog my disabilities made me feel so helpless, and I don’t want others to feel that way,” Perilloux said. “I want to do something to help others and society, make peoples’ lives better. This world is already hard, I want to help make it easier.”