Our dogs are a part of our families. They provide love and laughter, comedy and comfort, and they share our homes and our lives. We wouldn't have it any other way! But they are also so much more, to so many people. Dogs are truly amazing creatures. Here are some of the many ways dogs help people.
There are many types of service dogs. Here are a few of the more common:
- Hearing dogs are trained to alert their handlers to household sounds such as doorbells or knocks, a ringing phone, smoke detector alarms, oven timers, crying babies, etc. Hearing dogs are used with both deaf and hearing-impaired people.
- Guide dogs ("seeing eye dogs" help people who are blind or visually impaired. They are trained to help navigate around obstacles, under the direction of the person they are paired with. Guide dogs help people have more confidence in going about their day-to-day activities.
- Mobility dogs help with physical tasks. They do things like stabilize someone while they're walking, turn lights on or off, pick up dropped items, opening and closing doors, etc.
- Medical alert/response dogs have the ability to sense seizures before they actually occur. It's not known how they can sense this - but speculation is that these dogs can either sense a change in our body chemistry or in tiny muscle movements that humans cannot detect.
Medical alert/response dogs provide people with advance notice that something is about to happen, giving the person time to take medication, move somewhere safe, or call for help. Dogs can also perform tasks like blocking people from stairways or helping them to rise to their feet, among many other tasks.
Search and Rescue
Search and rescue dogs are used to help find people. They can work in a variety of situations including tracking through wilderness areas, locating people after a natural disaster, cadaver search dogs, and rescue / recovery situations.
Detection or Sniffer Dogs
A dog's nose is an incredible tool - one capable of distinguishing individual scents even if those scents have been masked by others. Detection dogs are used to sniff out explosives, drugs, firearms, mold, and many other scents ... even bed-bugs!
'Therapy dogs' are used to help provide comfort, affection, and a cheerful presence to people. They can help to decrease stress and to ease grief. Therapy dogs are usually pet dogs who have been appropriately trained and socialized. They are regularly screened for suitable behavior and temperament. Therapy dogs and their handlers visit places such as long-term care facilities, hospitals, hospices, schools, and prisons, and sometimes work in disaster areas or to help provide comfort after a traumatic event.
Therapy dogs have to be comfortable with giving and receiving affection from strangers, calm and patient, confident and at ease with loud noises, strange or unusual situations or people. Therapy dogs visit as part of an organization who visit facilities on a regular basis. Many people with therapy dogs have reported that people who have become uncommunicative with other people, will open up and talk to the dog! Therapy dog visits are a much-anticipated highlight in many facilities. Contact your local organization if you would like to volunteer!
Emotional Support Animals (ESA)
Many people suffer from isolation, depression, and mental illness, sometimes to the point where it significantly interferes with day-to-day life. An Emotional Support Animal provides unconditional love and companionship as well as something for the person to focus on. Studies have shown that pets contribute to our well-being by helping to lower blood pressure, stress levels, and feelings of loneliness. They also encourage us to get out and exercise and can even lead to increased opportunities for socializing - people with dogs often love to chat with other 'dog people'! ESA don't require any formal training or screening.
Many dogs also served in times of war, alongside the soldiers. This Remembrance Day, please take a few moments to remember the sacrifices made by all of our soldiers - both human and animal.
"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion." (Source Unknown)