When you hear the words, Service and Therapy Dogs, what do you think of? I think of animals who are helping humans in incredible ways. The question remains, how did service and therapy dogs come about? According to Pawsitive Service Dog Solutions, vision impaired individuals have utilized dogs since the 18th century. Even after World War I, veterans were using guide dogs. Germany had the first recorded formal school for service dogs and the Tennessee was the first guide dog school in the USA. Today, it’s estimated there are over 20,000 people with disabilities in the USA and they are “Man’s Best Friend,” indeed!
The Invisible Disabilities Association says Service Animals are more than just pets. They assist people with many Types of disabilities that range from panic disorder, PTSD, depression to physical disabilities. But that’s not all, in addition they can be trained to perform jobs such as:
- Alerting for help
- Alerting prior to a seizure (diabetic, epilepsy and other types of seizures)
- Alerting to a change in insulin levels
- Open/close doors, drawers and refrigerators
- Pick up dropped items
- Assist with mobility issues
- Assist the hearing impaired, those with autism and so much more
If you’re a dog lover, training them as a medical dog for your career might be an ideal choice. Adam Force of The Blue Dot Post has a sister who owns 2 German Shepherds and professionally trains them regularly to perform specific tasks. She is extremely passionate about the relationship and experience training the dogs has provided and it has become a big part of who she is as a person. These dogs really become an extension of a person as well as a best friend.
One breed in particular, the American Staffordshire Terrier (also known as the Pit Bull) has had a bad reputation since it’s media portrayal in dog fighting rings. The truth is this breed will do anything to please it’s owner. The problem stems from owners who raise their dog(s) to be aggressive. In fact, they were known as nanny dogs for more than 100 years. They are not the ruthless killers that they are made out to be. Actually, Pit Bulls make excellent therapy and service dogs. Huffington Post had an article about Alladin, a Pit Bull Therapy dog. Aladdin was painfully skinny in April 2013, when he arrived at a New Jersey animal shelter. He had broken legs and a broken tail in addition to a dozen missing teeth and wounds all over his body. Even with all this, he greeted everyone at the shelter with a happy wag of his tail only looking for love and comfort. A Philadelphia-area hospital stirred controversy in the summer after rejecting Aladdin for its therapy dog program, seemingly on account of his pit bull-shaped head. There is still hope this hospital will come around and see Alladin for the amazing service dog he is! The truth is, any breed of dog can be a service dog. There should be no barriers or limits, even for Pit Bulls.
There are organizations that help returning soldiers who suffer from PTSD. Organizations like War Dogs Making it Home work hand in hand with Soldiers’ Animal Companions Fund (SAC Fund) to help find service dogs for these veterans. Thanks to these service dogs, the veterans no longer find themselves alone and provide comfort and calm in their everyday lives. What’s unique about these two organizations is not only do they select and train the service dogs adopted from animal shelters, they do not require any veteran to pay for his/her service dog. The training cost is about $3,000 dollars and handled by donations given to War Dogs Making it Home and Soldiers’ Animal Companions Fund. Pretty amazing!
Service and Therapy Dogs hold great importance to our world. They help in any situation which requires additional comfort and assistance that we humans cannot provide. Whether it’s helping ease stress at a children’s hospital, giving much needed assistance and comfort to the disabled, or providing our veterans who have PTSD, therapy and service dogs do it all!
Here are five Amazing facts about therapy and service dogs you might not know!:
- They can help children learn how to read.
- They don’t always have to be formally trained.
- Certification requires considerable training for humans, too.
- Use of therapy dogs dates back to World War II.
- Therapy dogs are NOT service dogs.
Want to find a therapy/service dog volunteer group to join or visit in your local area? Click here to see how!
In the infamous words of Roger Caras:
“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”
For the many disabled and impaired people in this world, these words ring true, indeed.