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New breed of assistance dogs hone skills, including ‘scent-abilities’ 29 July 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Disability, Mobility, Partnership, Seizure-alert, Service Dogs, Tasks, Training.

Posted by Kathleen Longcore | The Grand Rapids Press July 29, 2008 05:51AM

GRAND RAPIDS – Eight-year-old Cieran Boyle is about to get his first friend, a sturdy pointer assistance dog named Denver.

But Denver won’t be helping him cross streets, open doors or turn the lights off, as do many service dogs. He’ll be detecting subtle changes in Cieran’s body odor that predict he is about to have a seizure.

Denver’s training is an example of how today’s service dogs are being prepared in new ways to assist people.

Some organizations train dogs to help children who have autism. The dog can be tethered to a child, preventing the child from wandering or getting into harm’s way.

Other organizations train seizure response dogs, who get help when someone has had a seizure.

Some dogs, including some hounds and pointers, have very heightened “scent ability,” said Liz North, a master instructor at Pawsabilities Unleashed.

[– MORE –]

Actually, seizure-alert dogs are not new, but this method of training them is relatively new. There are also dogs (and cats!) which can detect when a diabetic is going into either INSULIN shock or diabetic coma (the two opposites that are so dangerous for diabetics).

It looks to me as if some of the assistance dog organizations are beginning to “specialize” in certain types of dogs – mobility, seizure-alert, hearing, seeing, autism, etc. Some lean more toward children, others toward adults. Most are still very general, however, and may offer several different kinds of assistance animals. They may offer both therapy and assistance animals, and may offer both in-home assistance animals and therapy sessions on their site with, perhaps, larger animals, such as horses or even dolphins.

There are also cancer-detection dogs which are offering a different kind of service. They are not “personal” assistance dogs, however. I perceive them eventually being in many oncologist’s (cancer specialist’s) offices, working in conjunction with them to detect cancer in it’s earliest stages.

My “Woof” will be a mobility assistance dog, and will assist me with getting up and down from chairs and the toilet, as well as helping me with balance. He will help me by picking up things (especially my cane, which I seem to drop frequently), and to carry some of the things I need to carry to my client’s offices (a few files). He will help drag the laundry basket to the laundry room, help remove laundry from the washer and then from the dryer, and then drag eht laundry basket back to the bedroom. He will be able to pick up bits of paper from the floor and put them in the trash. He will be able to use a “tug” to open doors at the store for me. This will be more and more important as I will need to move to a wheelchair more in the future. He will be able to bring me my cellphone which I am constantly leaving all over the house, and go get my beloved Ol’ Curmudgeon. Most importantly, should I fall getting in or out of the tub or fall in the house, the dog will be able to go to a special 911 phone and push a big button which will alert the 911 service in our county. They will know that I have a service dog and that he is trained to do this, so they will know where to come and how to access the house. They will know my daughter’s phone number and my son’s phone number and my husband’s phone number at work so the closest one can come over to let them in and take care of “Woof.”

So I’m looking forward to my “Woof,” and I’m very happy that Cieran Boyle is going to get his friend. Sounds like he’s a little boy who really needs one – and his family could use the relief, too! A win-win situation all the way around.

= = = = =

[NOTE: Waiting for the Woof ended 10/2/08. Living with the Woof picks up with the addition of Emmy to our lives! Please join me at: Living With the Woof for the ongoing saga of the Woof! Our adventures and our foibles will be chronicled there.]



1. George - 14 August 08

One small note … diabetic shock and diabetic coma are not opposites. They are both different names for low blood glucose. You hit the “shock” level first and if nothing is done you descend further into the coma stage. You can die if you are in the coma stage.

It is probably better to use the proper terms if you want to make a difference between low anf high blood glucose.

Hypoglycemia is low blood glucose

Hyperglycemia is high blood glucose.

Hypo is dangerous immediately while hyper is dangerous long term if your levels are normally high

2. turtlemom3 - 19 August 08

Thanks, George.

As a PhD nurse, I know the difference. That was a typo, since corrected, as I intended to put in INSULIN shock, not diabetic shock.

Just goes to show that from time to time any of us can start typing without “editing” as our fingers move!

Thanks, again, for the heads-up!

3. Connie LaCour - 23 August 08

Can an assistance dog also be a close companion to it’s master, as well as a working dog?

My Daughter has been through Diabetic coma and as a result has some brain damage. She is no longer able to detect when she is going into insulin shock, consequently she resides in a nursing facility. However, since her blood sugar levels can drop rapidly, without usual symptoms it would seem that an assistance dog would be advantageous with her circumstances.

My daughter has had a lifelong love of animals, especially dogs, hence, the reason for my initial concern. How wonderful it would be for my sweet daughter to have such a gift. A dog she could love as a close companion and friend, as well as a valuable aid for her special needs.

Your input would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for the above article.


4. turtlemom3 - 27 August 08

Dear Connie –

Absolutely! Working assistance dogs ARE their partner’s best friend! I anticipate my Woof will be my best friend and provide much companionship as well as being my primary helper. It’s just not conceivable that a dog would work so closely with a person and not also be his partner’s companion and friend.

You will need to contact both assistance dog organizations and private trainers. If your daughter is in a nursing home, she may not be able to attend a training session at a distance. It may be that a privately trained service dog would be more feasible, although more expensive. I encourage you to investigate where you would best obtain such a dog to work with your daughter.


5. greatdaneservicedog - 29 December 08

My SD in training is totally by companion. The longest we’ve ever been apart is 2 hours. Anywhere I am, Kenai is. Just having him near is reassuring, relaxing, and encouraging. Assistance animals are also outstanding emotional support animals too.

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