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‘It’s not the size that matters’: Motorcycle-riding Quesnel service dog helps with PTSD

Rosie the motorcycle riding service chihuahua helps retired nurse Alison Prentice

It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.

That famous Mark Twain quote couldn’t be more true for Rosie the chihuahua.

Rosie, a rescue from Mexico, is a service dog for Alison Prentice, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a motorcycle crash.

“I was in a very, very dark place, and Rosie came into my life at a time where when I look back, if she hadn’t come into my life at that time, I don’t know if I’d be here today,” Prentice said.

Prentice got Rosie in March of 2019, only a couple months after her PTSD diagnosis.

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“All I knew was I had to walk with her to save my life,” she said.

“The PTSD was so bad I was becoming a recluse. I didn’t talk to people. The lights, the noise, the crowds, all of that would really trigger me. I stayed in my house more and more and more and more, and Rosie came, and I knew to save my life, I had to walk with her. So that poor dog walked with me five times a day.”

After seeing the effect Rosie had on Prentice, her doctors recommended Rosie get certified as a service dog.

To be certified, a dog must pass a 40 point practical test. If the dog fails any of the 40 tasks, then they do not receive certification.

The test, which was conducted in the Quesnel Walmart, tests a dog’s ability to behave in public.

Despite certification, Prentice said people don’t believe Rosie is a service dog, recalling a story of hearing comments about Rosie being a fake service dog in a restaurant.

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“It’s not the size that matters with service dogs,” she said.

“I do understand that people have what they call a service dog that isn’t a certified service dog and some people take advantage of it, so it’s hard to know, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss everybody who has a dog as not being a real service dog. That could be a real trigger for people, as it was for me.”

Prentice said Rosie helps her deal with crowded spaces, and can even detect when panic attacks are coming and keep her calm.

“She’s sensing something before I’m sensing it,” Prentice said. “If I focus on her, that helps me close out the sound and lights and noise around me. And if that doesn’t work she has been known to pull me on the leash to get me moving.”

Prentice, who is a retired nurse, didn’t think she would get PTSD, recalling how before Rosie she would be yelling at loud trucks driving down the street.

“Once I started learning about PTSD through the counsellor and the medical team who was treating the motorcycle injuries, I thought ‘Okay, now everything’s starting to make sense,’” she said. “Until I knew what it was, I thought I was going crazy.”

Rosie is often seen riding on Prentice’s motorcycle, complete with goggles to keep the wind out of her eyes.

“I call her the motorcycle chihuahua,” Prentice said.

As more people got to know Rosie, she has become a bright spot to people’s day, recalling how she’s been greeted by people inside stores.

“Most of the stores in town know Rosie and staff greet her by name when we go in,” Prentice said.

“I’m known as ‘Rosie’s mum.’ Over and over when people stop to admire Rosie, they talk about how much she puts a smile on their face, and that they look forward to seeing her each day.”

But Rosie still has a key job, helping Prentice live with her mental illness.

“Because you can’t see it, people think it’s not really there,” she said.

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