Service or assistance dogs serve people whose medical or emotional conditions limit some of the everyday tasks they can do. Service dogs learn how to help people with visual difficulties, hearing impairments, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), seizures, ambulatory issues, mental illness, autism and more. They receive special training to learn how to do tasks that will help the people with whom they’ll be partnered.
These service or assistance dogs will eventually live with those people and act as daily companions for them – they’ll lead the blind as they walk, help deaf people hear the phone, an alarm, or the doorbell; bring household items to people in wheelchairs carry keys or wallets, press elevator buttons, switch lights on and off, retrieving all sorts of items, and much more.
Service dogs accompany their human patient/partner everywhere – to work, school, church, plays, movies, restaurants – those lucky enough to have a service dog or K9 partner, say their dogs miraculously improve the quality of their lives.
Desirable character traits in service animals typically include intelligence, good temperament or a balanced psychological make-up that incorporates the dog’s biddability and trainability with good health that includes good physical structure and stamina to withstand the workload. Needless to say German Shepherds are among the most common breeds used as service dogs.
This is the story of Mason, his current service dog and their new puppy in training “Bella.” Born with Cerebral Palsy, Mason has lived all of his five years in a wheelchair, unable to walk, move his limbs or even see very well. With his current service dog getting older, our member Deborah Stern heard that the family needed to have a puppy in training. When selecting her new puppy “Rave” (from daddy “Dante’s” new litter) she also picked the long-coated “Bella” for Mason.
While waiting to meet Bella, Mason’s brother and dad left to go get some food. Unable to speak all Mason could do was cry as he was unhappy being left alone with his caregiver. That’s when Bella arrived and his tears stopped. The caregiver put Bella in Mason’s lap and lifted up his hand to feel her soft, fluffy coat. Mason finally smiled… the one sense he DOES have is touch!
Most often we focus on the strong bond the service dog has to his human handler, but when a human (in this case a soldier) entrusts his life to his German Shepherd, that human will do everything in his power to keep his companion safe and healthy.
Service dogs receive training to assist humans with specials needs or disabilities. Sometimes organizations breed and train their own dogs, other times individuals obtain and train their own dogs to suit their own personal needs.