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Assistance Dogs Open Up Many Possibilities for Owners

July 27, 2015

service dog in hotel

Morgan assisting Marcie with hotel registration. Photo courtesy of Doug Reeves.

The week of August 2-8, 2015 is International Assistance Dog Week. Author and assistance dog recipient Marcie Davis created this week in recognition of the devotion and hard work that assistance dogs  gladly offer their owners without any hesitation. These amazing dogs are able to transform their owners lives by being their constant companion, helper, aide and best friend. To help spread public awareness, the goals of International Assistance Dog Week are:

  • Recognize and honor hardworking assistance dogs
  • Raise awareness of assistance dogs
  • Educate the public about the work these specially trained animals perform
  • Honor the puppy raisers and trainers of assistance dogs
  • Recognize heroic deeds performed by assistance dogs in our communities

Assistance dogs are trained to assist their owners with many varied tasks, and are trained in four different areas for specific handicaps. Most commonly known are the seeing eye dogs or guide dogs. There are also hearing alert dogs, seizure alert or seizure response dogs, and service dogs. Seizure alert dogs or response dogs alerts or responds to a wide variety of medical conditions such as heart attacks, epilepsy, panic or anxiety attacks and post-traumatic stress. The service dogs assist those with limited mobility do many of the tasks that physically capable people take for granted, such as carrying items, opening doors and drawers, pushing buttons, helping with the laundry, bringing over the phone or picking up dropped items, and offering them a sturdy body to lean on when getting up or walking.

service dog

Closing the door. Photo courtesy of Alicia Chatman.

These dogs offer freedoms that the recipients never dreamed of having as they allow them to finally be able to go out on their own and explore the world with many obstacles removed. Ms. Davis explains in her book Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook, “Suddenly, a whole new world opened up for me. I had considered myself fairly independent prior to getting Ramona. However, it soon became clear that I really was not independent, and there were numerous things I never considered until she came into my life. This same eye-opening experience is reported by many new service dog recipients. All of a sudden the impossible seems possible, and things you thought were out of your reach literally and figuratively are now obtainable. Virtually every area in your personal and professional life can be expanded and explored, including your vocation, travel opportunities, housing options and transportation.

…After the first year with Ramona, I began to notice some changes in my own behavior. Suddenly, I grew impatient waiting for Franz to pick us up after work. I began to question myself about my independence. Franz was an absolute saint, but why shouldn’t I be able to drive myself to work and go to the mall by myself to shop? One day as Ramona and I were waiting for Franz, I looked at her and said, “What do we need to really be independent?” In my mind, the answer was a power wheelchair, an accessible van that I could drive, and a service dog. I already had the most precious one of those three things. How hard could it be to obtain the other two?

That is when my life was really transformed. Because of Ramona, I had the confidence to get an accessible van and a power wheelchair. After that, there was no stopping the two of us. For the first time in my life, I was able to run errands, go to the mall, and do anything that I wanted to do. My professional life improved. I was promoted at work and began traveling the state to fulfill my new duties. I remember Franz saying that Ramona was as much a gift to him as she was to me. Now he did not have to worry about me as he had in the past. He knew I was in “good paws” and that, together with my service dog, I could go anywhere and do anything. It was pure bliss and a match made in Heaven!

service dog

Freedom at the mall. Photo courtesy of Doug Reeves.

For me the ability to drive was equal to greater independence. In today’s mobile society, transportation is one of the keys to independence. Even as an adult, I never went anywhere by myself due to my fear of becoming stranded. Ramona alleviated those fears with her ability to retrieve my dropped car keys, get the cellular telephone from my purse, and provide a sense of security that I was not alone. Franz’s worst nightmare was coming true – me with a service dog, car keys, and a credit card! Yet, Franz’s hope for me to become independent was becoming a reality. I could share in the daily responsibilities of our household such as going to the bank, picking up the dry cleaning, and other daily errands.”*

During the week of August 2-8, 2015, there will be various activities in different locations that will help promote assistance dogs and raise awareness of how assistance dogs help the community. They will also honor the puppy raisers and trainers who work just as hard to provide quality, well-trained dogs for the recipients.

For more information on the International Assistance Dog Week visit http://www.assistancedogweek.org/

 

*Excerpted from Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook http://www.alpinepub.com/working-like-dogs-the-service-dog-guidebook.html by Marcie Davis and Melissa Bunnell.

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