WHAT IS AN ASSISTANCE DOG?
An assistance dog is a dog that transforms the lives of their human partners who live with physical, mental and/or emotional challenges. These hard-working dogs serve as companions, helpers, best friends … and family.
August 1st to 7th, 2021 is International Assistance Dog Week.
The goals of this week are to:
- recognize and honor the hardworking assistance dogs
- raise awareness and educate the public about how these specially trained dog are helping so many people
- honor the puppy raisers and trainers of assistance dogs
- recognize heroic deeds performed by assistance dogs in our communities
TYPES OF ASSISTANCE DOGS?
Most are familiar with Guide Dogs, but are you aware of some of the other types of assistance dogs?
Guide Dogs assist people with vision loss and their role is to safely lead their humans. They help with things like maneuvering around physical obstacles, finding destinations, crossing streets, managing doorways and stairways. They become their human’s eyes. These dogs not only perform needed tasks, but they have to be bold enough to stop their human partner if the pending task is deemed unsafe by them. Think about the complications that can arise from simply having to cross the street.
A Service Dog assists people with challenges better manage their daily life. This could be helping with things like walking, dressing, retrieving and carrying items, opening doors, pushing buttons and even household chores. Those living with autism, PTSD, anxiety, FASD, ADHD and mobility issues can benefit from a service dog.
HEARING ALERT DOGS
Hearing Alert Dogs assist those with hearing loss, alerting them to the presence of specific sounds. This might be doorbells, telephones, sirens, another person, knocks at the door or smoke & fire alarms.
SEIZURE ALERT/SEIZURE RESPONSE DOGS
Seizure Alert/Response Dogs are able to let their human partner know if their condition requires immediate medical attention with respect to things like epilepsy and seizure related illnesses.
MEDICAL ALERT/MEDICAL RESPONSE DOGS
Medical Alert/Response Dogs can alert their human partner to on-coming medical conditions which may require immediate treatment like a heart attack or stroke. You will also see these dogs helping those with diabetes and as well, they have been able to detect cancer in some individuals.
As we learn more about the benefits of the human/dog bond, this list evolves and changes as we find new areas where dogs help us live better lives.
For those that are able to benefit – and be lucky enough to be blessed with one – these dogs are life changing. I know because we were lucky enough to be able to get an autism service dog for my son. I’m thrilled there’s a week devoted to acknowledging these dogs and the hard-working individuals involved in raising and training them. It takes thousands of dollars and a year or more of training – depending on the type of assistance dog they become. I only wish there were more of these dogs available for all those that could benefit from them.
Our lives would have been very different and much more challenging without our Ollie-dog. However, it never took a special week for us to appreciate him and even though Ollie is physically no longer with us… he is with us always, in our hearts.
If you wish to learn more, visit International Assistance Dog Week.