I am on the Service Dog Advisory Committee for my State set up by the Legislature. I have one Certified Service Dog through the Department of Health and Human Services and one in training registered with the same State agency.
The ADA protects the rights of the individual to have a Service Animal which is a dog or small horse (no other animals) to be used for a specific function. The animal is not necessarily protected by the act. Neither are animals in training unless State law allows them as our state does.
There is no country wide registry. Some States have certification. In ours you have to work with a trainer, meet standards. Your dog has to preform at least three tasks which help your disability.
The breed depends on what you need, Form follows function. Some Assistance Programs are finding adult dogs out of Shelters who have the certain something. Some of these dogs work as assistance dogs some go on to homes as great pets. There is a difference between a very well mannered dog and a Service Dog.
Every dog can't do service work. It is hard work. The dog has to have a certain focus and empathy. Many bred for service work wash out of the programs. The main thing is you have to care as much about the dog as the dog cares for you. It is team work. The main compliment I get is I did not know there was a dog in here. I forget Polly is with me.
Training a dog can be hard on someone with MS if you are doing it yourself. I have to take Grady out whether I feel up to it or not. I wish I had the money for a professional trainer to do more than my trainer does. I can no longer drive to go to weekly classes.
Polly is my life line to the world. She sees for me and keeps me from running into things and people from running into me. She also helps when I have my spasms she lies down next to me wherever I am to keep people from stepping on me. She also braces to help me off the floor. She pulls me and my shopping cart when I am tired. She is getting older so I am training her replacement which will take years.
Grady will do more since I am having trouble with my hands. He is hard to train because he has such play drive and loves everyone.
It is all about being a team. Can you care for the dog and be patient no matter what your MS throws at you? If you get a dog and try to train it for Service work and it does not work what will you do? you might have a lovely pet. What do I need in a dog. Am I willing to go through a waiting list for one of the assistance organizations who do a great job with training and matching?
Ditto what Jane said. While I do not have a dog myself, I find this very interesting. It's good to know we have someone on the forum who could point us in the right direction if we ever consider getting a service dog.
Colorado doesn't have certification for service animals. I think the ADA requirement is one task, and Colorado follows the ADA definition.
Gideon does four things for me.
1) He helps me maintain my balance.
2) When I fall, he will lay down, let me crawl on his back and stand on command getting me to my knees and then standing.
3) He carries about 50 lbs of stuff on business trips that I do not have to
4) If I'm down and do not get up, he will bark and howl until I get up
Teaching him number 4 really irritated some folks. The one we are working on now is to let cops, fireman and paramedics (uniforms) near me if I'm "down." The local paramedics and fire dept think this is interesting since they never considered these issues.
If you are thinking about a service animal, the question is: "why?" "What can you do as a team?" My reason was that I work full time and travel. I can't bring my human partner everywhere, but what about a dog? That is where I was coming from.
I have a young friend who has a service dog because she is a heart patient. Gainer is literally her lifeline and has dialed 911 more than once and opened the doors for the paramedics.
Gainer is trained for a variety of tasks and is particularly attuned to my friends pacemaker. When it is pacing, which it does quite often, Gainer is immediately by her, head in her lapwatching her with his trained eyes.
The last time I was there for lunch I got to see Gainer in action - she was walking me to the door and Gainer wanted her to sit down - her pacemaker was going off. She tried to ignore him and he literally stood on his back legs, wrapped his front paws on her shoulders from her back side and walked her to the couch. Gainer was not taking no for an answer.
Service dogs can be a lifeline. Thanks, Alex, for that great write up.
Alex, this is a great post! I was one who responded to Bob's post the other day questioning how one goes about training a service dog. I am looking to do this my new puppy. If it doesn't work out, I will have a great and loving lifelong pet.
I have many, many reasons for wanting to do this for myself. The biggest reason is I need increasing assistance when going out of my home. I am hoping this dog will help me with that if she is able to. There are other reasons as well, but this is one of the biggest ones.
You do bring up an excellent point that did not really occur to me: that we will be working as a team. I did not think of it this way until you said something. Thank you for that. It is something I need to ponder as well.
I plan on enrolling in every class I can and working with a trainer. I already have us enrolled in a puppy class beginning on Monday to begin on the basics. I have a border collie mix, and from all my research, these are very smart dogs who are easy to train. I do understand, however, that every dog is different. So, we'll see how it works out.
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