Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hero Dogs

or Service Dogs for Veterans

Recently, I attended a program about service dogs for injured or disabled veterans.  While we learned about the overall program, my attention was focused mainly on York, an older puppy in training who was there with his handler.  To demonstrate some of the things a service dog might do, he retrieved hidden keys, opened doors, pushed buttons, pulled a chair, and all the while was very happy to be doing them. That's what so great about dogs. They are eager to please. (Not so with our cats. They have a way of making YOU eager to please them.) Another one of the important things the dogs are trained to do is help if a veteran is getting agitated with an impending panic attack or similar problem from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The dogs also learn how to take their owners through narrow spaces which can also be a problem with PTSD. It's amazing what a service dog can do and the difference it can make in someone's life.

As you can imagine, the show was fun to watch. A couple of times, York got to be off duty and let all of us pet him. (Service dogs are not to be petted or played with while they are on duty.) A special treat for him as well as us. However, during the Q&A session, he got a little restless and started to talk to his trainer with a bark then and again and a pull on his lead. He was just like a child who was trying to get his mother's attention when she had been talking too long. The trainer said that that is one reason that York is not ready to be placed yet. He's still a bit too young and impatient to be a good service dog at this point.

There are many service dog organizations out there that could use your help. First of all, they need money--it takes approximately $30,000 to raise and train the dog until it is ready for placement.This organization provides the dog at no cost to the veteran. However, there are many other ways to help. They also have need for puppy raisers, trainers, and people to play with the dogs. They could also use donations of materials such as paper towels, wipes, and old towels. If you are interested in helping, you can google service dog and your location to find out what organizations are available close to you.

Want to Read More:

--Ever wonder what the difference is between a service dog and a therapy dog? Here's a good explanation

--There are several prison programs where the inmates raise puppies that will become service dogs. They are quite successful in changing the prisoner's behavior in positive way. Here's a story about one of them.