Service dogs and therapy dogs

I was reading my Bangor Daily News this past weekend and the cover story on the USA Weekend pullout was called “At Your Service”. The article contained inside talked about the role of service dogs in the lives of their people. From helping a little diabetic girl know when her blood sugar was spiking, to a story about a German Shepherd that helps his man (a veteran) cope with PTSD, it’s not surprising that dogs are helping their people.

There have been lots of stories about animals bringing comfort to people with medical conditions and mental health problems. But beyond that people who own pets are generally healthier, happier, and remain grounded. In fact, many nursing homes and assisted living facilities have an in house cat or dog (usually a cat) to bring comfort to the elders who live there.

But it’s more than just showing up. Dogs that are certified as therapy dogs and service dogs go through quite a bit of training. There are a lot of distractions. And not every dog is capable of doing it. But that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. They’re just not right for the job.

In 2010, I had the pleasure of shadowing a local therapy dog named Hunley as he made his rounds. I’ll post that another day, but I was impressed. And touched to see how much this one dog could make a difference.

If you’re thinking that your dog might be right for the task, consult a local training center or dog trainer to find out about the training and testing dates. Talk with other owners who have therapy or service dogs. And remember that your pets own happiness should come into play.

Here’s a link to an article about therapy dogs: http://www.greenacreskennel.com/dog-behavior-and-training/what-is-a-therapy-dog