Life with a Service Dog

By Ellen Israel

Apr. 15, 2022

Elena Zaug has to steady herself when she stands. Her heart rate rockets up and sweat beads roll down her body as adrenaline washes over her. She’s shaking, not because of a strenuous workout, but because of a medical condition that impedes her blood flow whenever she gets up.

Zaug is a 20-year-old psychology student who suffers from POTS, or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. POTS is an autonomic nervous system disorder that affects one to three million Americans.

Symptoms of POTS are usually triggered when the affected stands after a period of lying down. The cascade of symptoms includes a quickened heart rate, lightheadedness and headaches.

Before being diagnosed with POTS in 2019, Zaug’s doctors recommended she try getting a service dog to cope with her symptoms. She got her first service dog, a Goldendoodle named Jada, in 2018.

But Jada seemed to suffer from anxiety, too—she barked at other service dogs and people for what seemed like no reason. Jada’s stress made Zaug’s worse.

She decided to retire Jada and let her live life as a pet. Now, she’s training a Golden retriever named Roo to take Jada’s place.