Service dogs are trained to help handicapped people with simple tasks that keep them living independent lives. For example, a mobility assistance dog is trained to make life easier for a physically disabled individual. These dogs quickly learn skills like picking up objects, opening and closing doors, and operating light switches. Larger breeds of dogs learn to pull individuals in wheelchairs, wearing a specially-designed type of harness.
Guide dogs are trained to lead the blind and visually impaired around obstacles and out of danger. The first guide dog training schools date back to WWI when veterans blinded in combat returned home. German Shepherds were the first guide dogs.
Breeds that trainers typically like to work with are Golden Retrievers, Labradors and German Shepherds, although other large breeds like Dobermans, Rottweilers and Collies can prove suitable. Pairing a guide dog with a handler requires a “sizing up.” The dog’s shoulder height is measured to see how it suits the individual’s height along with the harness length.
About a hundred specially trained FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) dogs were sent to Ground Zero just after September 11th, 2001 to search for survivors. Trained in places like Cypress, Texas and Ipswich, Massachusetts, these dogs quickly adjusted to the New York City’s adverse environment of broken concrete, shattered glass and billowing smoke. They searched tirelessly for days, and even their quiet presence served as consolation to the handlers and firemen who worked alongside them.
There are as many jobs as there are bright, happy-go-lucky dogs to fill them. Reading with Rover was a 2009 winner of Seattle, Washington’s Favorite Local Charities. This community-based literacy program in Washington State encourages children with reading difficulties to read aloud to a dog, a successful activity for all involved. The dog has been trained to sit quietly and listen, and the child who might otherwise be hesitant to read aloud to peers is usually less stressed about reading to a dog.
Town N Country would like to give a heart-felt salute and a “hats off” to the hard-working dogs in our lives. When your favorite pet (working or not) needs special care, please don’t hesitate to call us to schedule an appointment.
Image: Donated and specially bred service dogs of Hawaii Fi-Do pause for a photograph during a training session. The specially trained dogs provide physical, psychological and therapeutic support for people who face the daily challenges of life with a disability other than blindness. Photo Credit: Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs, courtesy of Beverly and Pack.