Saturday, August 6, 2011

Assistance Dog Day

Today is Assistance Dog Day.  I used to think these dogs were only for people who were blind.  After my husband became disabled, we joined an organization called LIFE, living independently for everyone.  It was there that we saw a beautiful Siberian Husky.  He looked just like a wolf, but was a service dog for one of the conference participants.  We learned that these dogs were also used for those who were disabled in other areas as well.  In fact, there are 3 areas for assistance dogs:
  • Guide dogs to assist the blind and visually impaired
  • Hearing dogs or signal dogs, to assist the deaf or hard of hearing
  • Refers to dogs not specifically trained for visual or hearing impairment, but trained to do other work, such as mobility assistance dogs, seizure alert dogs or other medical alert dogs, and psychiatric service dogs.

Assistance dogs are either bred into the training facility, or adopted from rescue centers.  They are trained for a specific purpose.  Once they have been assigned to a person, they go through a few weeks of training with the dog to learn how to use commands.    It is very important not to distract these dogs from their duties.  

Do not pet, play or feed them without the owner's consent

Of course once my husband found out about these wonderful animals he wanted one immediately, but since he had his own service pet (me) I knew he would never qualify for one.   These animals play an important role in the lives of those who are disabled.  There are ways you can be involved in their lives as well.  Not only can you donate money for the training of these dogs, but you can also volunteer your time in helping to train, some places place the dogs in homes until they are old enough to train, while some find homes for those who have retired.

For more information visit these sites: http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org/ and
http://www.canineassistants.org/

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