Samantha the Service Dog

March 7, 2011  

A pit bull who helps her “mom” cope with her medical conditions

Diana Russell and Samantha

By Micaela Myers

For Diana Russell, going out in public can be a daunting task. “I have Tourette syndrome and bi-polar disorder,” Russell says. “What happens [with the Tourette syndrome] is that I have a lot of facial tics, neck tics and vocal tics as well. … So when we’re in public and this happens, I have severe anxiety. I also have a lot of anxiety and depression with bi-polar.”

Luckily for Russell, her pit bull service dog, Samantha, has made a world of difference. Russell explains that Samantha can tell when she’s getting ready to go into an anxiety attack.

“She nudges me a couple of times with her nose, and then she does a couple of ‘ruff, ruffs’—not barks, but kind of between a bark and whine … so I can take my medication right away,” Russell explains. “Sometimes, if I feel that it may not be a very bad anxiety attack, I will just stop whatever I’m doing and either pet her or just give her a big hug and hold on to her for a little while until I calm down.”

Russell explains that it’s the pit bull’s friendly nature and loyalty that can make them awesome service dogs.

Samantha and Russell’s pug, Elvis, also help take the focus off of Russell when she’s out in public by herself or with her fiancé. “Having Tourette syndrome causes anxiety in itself because people stare a lot, and when they stare that gets me really anxious or uncomfortable. But when we take the dogs with us, people pay more attention to the dogs than they do to us,” she says. “They get so much attention and they bring so much happiness to people.”

Samantha’s breed gives Russell the opportunity to educate the people she meets about pit bulls.

“Samantha is friendly with kids and with adults, and she loves other dogs,” Russell says. “And people see that when I take her out. They will end up having a long conversation. They will say things like, ‘Thank you so much because we didn’t realize that pit bulls can be such wonderful dogs.’ So it definitely changes their minds [about pit bulls] or has a big impact on them. That’s what I get the biggest kick out of. ‘Yes she’s an American Pit Bull and yes, she’s my personal service dog.’ It’s really cool for people to start to realize that pit bulls are not mean dogs unless their owners make them that way.”

Russell explains that it’s the pit bull’s friendly nature and loyalty that can make them awesome service dogs.

“She is truly my angel and life saver.”

“I think it’s the fact that they’re so in tune with their owner because she will not leave my side,” Russell comments. “That’s the best quality. I had no idea they were that loyal.”

Samantha is very sensitive to Russell’s moods and adjusts her behavior accordingly.

“If I’m really depressed, she’ll come to me and lick my face. She won’t leave my side at all. She gets really mellow and calm when I start getting depressed. She lets me pet her and hold her – whatever I need to do. When I start getting to be my normal self again, she starts getting more active. It’s just amazing how in tune she is with me,” Russell says.
Russell met Samantha when the pup was just 8 weeks old. It was shortly after Russell lost her last service dog, a Rottweiler/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, to cancer. Now Samantha is 8 months old, and Russell knows the bond between them will to continue to grow.

“Once the doctor saw [how devoted Samantha was], he was the first one to say, ‘Let’s get the paperwork filled out to get her registered [as a service dog],’ ” Russell explains. “He said, ‘I can tell how much she helps you, and she’s with you all the time.’

“She’s amazing,” Russell comments. “She is truly my angel and life saver.”

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14 Responses to “Samantha the Service Dog”
  1. Roxxy says:

    Awesome article! I love reading all your articles…I wish more people would give pit bulls a chance! Hopefully your articles will help with that.

  2. Anne Hanley says:

    More stories like this need to make their way around the world! Just think, Samantha is only 8 months old, and look what an angel she is! I’m thinking it’s this kind of story that will truly change the bad rap pit bulls have been getting for far too long! Keep them coming!

  3. Holly says:

    I have to admit that before my son “tricked” me into allowing his Pit Lucky to come live with us I had a very bad attitude towards Pits. Now 5 years later I own one of Lucky’s daughters. Daphney will be a year old this month! And she is the funniest most lovable cuddly pup we have ever had. She is almost always on somebodies lap or begging to play. And when our grandson comes over they are inseparable.I can’t imagine not having a Pit as a part of our family. Unfortunately our town has an ordinance against owning Pits, so we have to disguise her heritage when registering her.IF they only knew!

  4. diana russell says:

    thanks a bunch to stubby dog for publishing the article on my baby samantha. We all went to the zoo yesterday and the attention she got was unbelievable. people were so suprised to see how sweet and
    friendly a pit bull can really be. I truly belive in educating the public about this wonderful breed of dog and the fact that she is also my saving grace by helping me with my medical conditions al well. Thank you Micaela.

    • StubbyDog says:

      You are so welcome Diana. Both you and Samantha are an inspiration and go a long way to change the perception of pit bulls. We are all richer for sharing your story with others.

  5. Stacie Yale says:

    I am Samantha’s auntie- and I am prejudice. I know for a fact that Samantha-Elvis and our beloved Cinnamon are true service dogs. One time in a Costco- Elvis and Cinnamon knew I was having a diabetic attic and told Diana and her husband. Cinnamon has passed but forever in our thoughts each and every day. Samantha has brought joy to Diana and knowing that she keeps Diana safe…. is a great thing .
    Wonderful story ……………

  6. davesprettylady says:

    What an awesome story! I have a pit service dog. He helps me with anxiety and depression as well as mobility support for virtigo and syncope attacks. So cool!!!

  7. StubbyDog says:

    @davesprettylady Thanks! If you want to share your story with us, we would love to hear it and share it with everyone. If you’re interested, please email

  8. mjones1965 says:

    I would like to say i have a american pit that i rescued. She is now my service dog and i wouldnt give her up for no amount of money! she is the the loving dog to me and everyone she meets. I do run into people

    that are scared of her because of her breed but the people that ask to pet her get a over amount of licks from her. Some people believe that a service dog shouldnt be pet while working but angel is out there spreading her love around! I know angel has changed some people minds on pitbulls. what can i say she is always there for me.