By Linda Cole
Future guide dogs begin their lessons as puppies. They go through extensive training and socialization before they are ready to safely guide a sightless person through a busy, and at times chaotic world. However, matching a guide dog with a blind owner isn’t as simple as it may seem.
Potential service dogs are bred by guide dog schools and begin their training when they are 8 weeks old. Volunteer puppy raisers take the pups into their home, teach them basic commands, housebreak them, and socialize them to different sights, sounds, other dogs and animals, people of all ages, different terrains and surfaces.
Puppies are exposed to things like escalators, waxed floors, kids running around screaming, and noisy traffic, so that when they encounter something new or different while they are working it’s not a big surprise. When pups reach 16 to 18 months, they return to the guide school and begin their training. Professional instructors work with the puppies over a period of four months.
By Linda Cole
Colleges and universities often bestow honorary degrees to individuals for outstanding contributions or distinction. Sometimes it’s a four legged individual that impresses committee members. Ellis, Samson, Zeeke and Elvis are dogs who received honorary degrees for their contributions to their humans, and Dylan received a posthumous award for his owner.
Amanda Davis is legally blind, but having a disability didn’t stop her from realizing her dream of getting a law degree. While she was getting her undergraduate degree at the University of Tampa, she was paired with a black Lab named Ellis after she applied for a guide dog from the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ. Davis was accepted into the New York Law School to continue her education, and Ellis was by her side the entire time. The school made room in the classrooms and gave Ellis time for breaks when they were needed. When Davis and Ellis crossed the stage on graduation day in 2012, she received her law degree and Ellis was given an honorary degree for his outstanding work as a service dog.
In 2011, a 2 year old yellow Lab named Samson graduated from and received an honorary degree from Oklahoma University. He entered the hallowed halls of higher education as an eight week old pup. Occupational therapist and faculty member in the Rehabilitative Services Department, Dr. Mary Isaacson, would spend the next two years training Samson as a service dog. Part of his training included learning how to hold open doors, retrieve objects on the floor, and turn lights on and off. Samson completed his education, donned his cap and gown, and graduated as a certified service dog ready to assist someone living with a disability in Oklahoma. When Samson received his honorary degree, he sat and shook the Dean’s hand, like any other graduate. The 300 other graduates were thrilled to share their special day with a dog they knew and loved.
By Linda Cole
National Pet Month is a perfect time to celebrate how special our furry best friends are! This month dedicated to pets was started twenty years ago in England as a way to promote the love of pets with five specific goals.
1. Responsible Pet Ownership
Bringing a pet into your home is a serious decision. Pets aren’t bookends or accessories, and it’s important to get a pet for the right reasons, as well as to find one that fits your lifestyle. There are many considerations to think about before adopting a pet, because you are making a commitment to be a responsible pet owner for their lifetime.
We want to make sure our pets are up to date on their vaccinations, get enough exercise, have a safe and comfortable place to sleep at night, and eat nutritious food like CANIDAE All Life Stages dog food or FELIDAE cat food to help them maintain a proper weight and stay healthy. It’s our job to worry about our furry friends and make sure we have a plan in place for emergencies and a pet first aid kit for unexpected needs.
2. Benefits of Owning a Pet
Children who grow up in homes with a pet are less likely to develop allergies, and being exposed to a pet in the first year of their life may have a positive impact on their developing immune system. Studies have shown that pets help kids with social, emotional, cognitive and physical development, and help teach a child responsibility and empathy. Having a pet at home helps us recover faster from an illness or surgery and they help lower stress levels, which reduces the heart rate and blood pressure.
By Julia Williams
Where else can you win a stockpile of premium-quality pet food just by subscribing to a blog? I don’t know, but I love that the sponsor of this blog, CANIDAE Natural Pet Foods, awards one new reader every quarter with their choice of a six-month supply of CANIDAE dog food or FELIDAE cat food. I can only imagine how exciting it would be to get THAT email! I’d probably fall off my chair…wouldn’t you?
I always enjoy getting to know the winners and finding out their unique story. Our latest lucky winner was Deborah Van Gelder, who lives in California with her canine friend Denver, a purebred Australian Shepherd. Denver is both a Service Dog and a Therapy Dog, and he and Deborah go to visit the veterans every Friday at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda, California. “Denver and I LOVE going to the VA hospital,” said Deborah. “He will pull me down a certain hallway so that he can visit his favorite patients.”
Deborah and Denver also participate in a fun reading program at local libraries called “Sit, Stay and Read,” which is very popular with both children AND adults. During the summer, they volunteer at a special Kids Kamp helping children who have been abused or neglected. Deborah is a K9 Specialist who trains Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs, and has been doing this for several years.
Since Deborah and Denver do so much for others, I was particularly pleased they won this fantastic prize. I was also happy to find out that Denver has been a “CANIDAE dog” for about three years, and that Deborah credits the food with helping to save Denver’s life!
As Deborah told me, “A while back, Denver suffered from intestinal shutdown (I almost lost him) and had to be placed on bedrest. During that time, I gave him the CANIDAE grain free pureSKY formula. That’s what kept him from being sicker, and it stabilized his system. Since then he’s been doing great!”
By Linda Cole
When you think of service dogs, it’s the German Shepherd or Golden Retriever that comes to mind, not a huge dog like a Great Dane. However, this breed is finding a place as a service dog precisely because of their size. The Service Dog Project has been training these massive dogs to assist children and help war veterans have a better quality of life, and you can follow the development of six puppies on two different puppy cams.
The Great Dane is second only to the Irish Wolfhound when it comes to height. This working dog is from the mastiff group, and known as the “Apollo of all dogs” because evidence of the breed dates back to 36 B.C. The Great Dane is most likely a combination of the Irish Wolfhound and the old English mastiff, and was used in the early years as a war dog and hunting dog. Regardless of his name, the Great Dane is of German origin. This dog has the stamina that was needed to chase down wild boar and bear, and the strength and courage to stand up to his prey. He has also been used as an estate guard dog.
A service dog is trained to assist their owner with a specific disability. Mobility assistance dogs helps people who suffer from diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Parkinson’s Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, spinal cord disease, stroke and brain injuries, as well as other diseases or conditions that limit a person’s mobility.
The Great Dane is a perfect breed to train as a service dog because of their giant size and gentle personality. Any dog that’s used to help give balance support for their owner needs to be at least 45 percent of the person’s height and 65 percent of their weight. It takes a strong, tall dog to give confidence to someone who needs support to walk and help to regain their balance if they start to fall.
By Linda Cole
Many people rely on service dogs to help them get through their day. Therapy dogs bring a smile to sick children in hospitals or an older person living in a nursing home. Our amazingly talented canine friends can assist people with disabilities, detect medical issues and make it possible for people with disabilities to live a normal life as best they can. Service dogs are in a class all their own. What are some of the different jobs service dogs do?
There’s a difference between therapy pets and service dogs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as one that has been trained to give assistance or perform a specific task to aid a person with either a mental or physical disability. A service dog is a working dog. The correct definition of a therapy pet is an animal that has been trained to give comfort and affection to people in nursing homes, hospitals, schools and retirement facilities, and to help disaster victims deal with stress. The therapy pet usually belongs to the person handling him/her.
A disabled person assisted by a service dog has access to businesses because the person’s rights are protected under the ADA. Therapy dogs are not under the protection of the ADA and their access can be limited or restricted. It’s important to point out, the ADA protects the rights of the disabled person, and not the rights of the dog.
Mobility assistance dogs help people who have physical impairments. These dogs are trained to help open/close doors, push buttons, and retrieve objects for their owner. They can give assistance to people who need help with balance and to walk. Larger dogs can be trained to pull a wheelchair with a specially made harness to prevent the dog from being harmed or injured.
Walker dogs are in the same category as mobility assistance dogs. They provide help for people who are recovering from a physical injury and need help walking. If a dog’s owner falls or loses their balance, the dog is trained to be a brace the person can lean against or use as a “crutch” to get back up. Walker dogs are important for people with Parkinson’s disease; they assist them with walking and helping them keep their balance.