jump to navigation

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.]


Boy wants a dog’s help 22 April 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Mobility, PAALS, Service Dogs, Support PAALS.
add a comment

Dog would help Tucker Griggs, 10, with tasks he cannot do on his own


This is the kind of story I was talking about when I said I would be blogging  more news items. Please let me know when the link goes dead!

And remember, we are working to raise money for my “Woof,” too! We are, in particular, seeking corporate sponsorships for PAALS, the organization that is providing my “Woof.” My “portion” is approximately 1/3 of the total cost and is $7000. The costs of specific items are broken out HERE.

Maybe you can’t afford a large amount, but you could contribute a few toys (which are very important in socializing the puppies and in keeping the dogs interested during training) every so often. Every little bit will help!

And when you do contribute to PAALS, please remember to tell them your contribution is in support of my dog and me. [elizabeth riggs]. Thank you for any tiny bit of support you can give!

Lending a Helping Paw 15 April 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Behavior, Mobility, PAALS, Retrieving, Service Dogs, Support PAALS, Tasks, Team, Training, Wheelchair, Working Dogs.
add a comment

This is the kind of article I like to see. An article that emphasizes the kinds of things service dogs DO for their partners!!

The Milford Daily News published a lovely story, Lending a helping paw, by Paul Crocetti of the daily news staff.

When a dog goes to fetch something, it’s usually a toy or newspaper.

Michelle Romiglio-Mathieu’s service dog, though, is all business when she gets something for her owner.

Amanda can grab anything from a phone to a cane for Romiglio-Mathieu, who has multiple sclerosis. The dog, a 2-year-old standard poodle, also stands by Romiglio-Mathieu’s side when she needs it – helping her to walk, stand up and climb stairs.

“That’s when she’s happy – when she’s working,” Romiglio-Mathieu said. |–MORE–|

And that’s when all working dogs are happy – when they are working. But they think they are playing! To them, work is play. That’s something too many people don’t understand. Helping a dog to understand his “position” in his pack (the household) is not cruel, it is generous and makes the dog happy. He knows his limits, he knows his place. Giving him things to do makes him happy – he loves to do things. A working breed (especially like retrievers or herders) will “make up” things to do, jobs to have, if we don’t give them things to do. They can get into trouble, even become trouble-makers if we don’t give them the “right” things to do.

Service dogs are among the happiest dogs around. They know their “place in the pack,” and they have jobs to do. They can play, they can retrieve objects, the herders can herd and lead. They love their “work.” The breeds are chosen for their work type. Great Danes are frequently used for Parkinson’s patients. They can help them walk, can brace them, and will place their foot on the right place on their partner’s foot when they “freeze” when they are trying to walk. German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers are used as guidedogs for the blind. Labradors are used as mobility service dogs, as are standard poodles and some other medium and medium-large breeds. Mixed breeds are frequently used, also, but they don’t have the “pure” instincts for retrieving or herding or leading you find in the pure breds. They can be trained to it, but it frequently takes more time.

Beagles are great for smelling out drugs, explosives and other contraband. And German Shepherds, Rottweilers and other large breeds have been bred for and used as guard dogs.

Usually, a medium-large breed is used for autism service dogs because they must have the strength and mass to stop the autistic person from going places or running away.

So this article is a really great example of the kinds of things service dogs can do and the process the dogs go through before being placed.

OK – it’s begging time! Happy Dollar Eyes!Please don’t forget to support the organization supplying my service dog: PAALS is working to find the puppy that will “match” me, and will grow up to become my “Woof.” This is time-consuming and expensive. We are working to get our share together, and need some help. Any help you can give us will be greatly appreciated! And PAALS will appreciate it tremendously. PAALS needs all the help they can get because they are a new and struggling organization. They have experienced people organizing, administering and working there, but the organization itself is new. New organizations need extra support, so I’m asking you, within your ability, of course, to give PAALS that extra support. Thanks!!

A Reply to DeniseP! 10 April 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Cats, Love, Magnus, Mobility, Needs, Partnership.

DeniseP of Hearing Elmo left a fun comment on my post about Magnus the Magnifi-cat, and rather than leave a long comment in reply, I thought I’d post it here. My mind is kind of blank today, anyway! 🙂

Yes, Magnus definitely has a personality. Trying to get a picture of him is a study in frustration. When he isn’t sleeping, he’s in motion – a blur. Even at near 12 years old! He’s black – with white “pits and pubes” – and getting a few white hairs here and there as he gets older. I considered plucking them, but decided against it – they will make him look distinguished – a real senior citizen – as he gets older! LOL!

Magnus is very interested in the squirrels and rabbits in the yard, but since he has no claws on his front feet, we don’t let him out. This is the way he came to us, but since we have a waterbed (needed for my arthritis and the Ol’ Curmudgeon’s back problems – it works nicely, won’t even discuss something else) clawless cats are necessary. Pirate made that most evident with an earlier water mattress – we had to put about 20 patches on it in about 2 months before we had her declawed. Boy! was she ticked off!

We are realistic – Magnus will leave us grief-stricken in the next few years – he has FLUTD, and it is amazing he has lived this long – he’s had 3 major attacks of blockage – nearly died once, and we caught the second and third attacks quickly. I will admit that we coddle and spoil him, but he deserves being coddled and spoiled for all the joy he brings us!

When he leaves us, we will grieve for several months, then we will obtain 2 FEMALE kitens and teach them (hopefully) to use the toilet. Maybe they will even learn to flush it! If that doesn’t work, maybe the Cat Genie will be up to par (we tried it and in our opinions it “isn’t ready for prime time”) and we can use that. Cats are great – but they do have their drawbacks!!

We did specify to the people from my service dog organization that my Woof would have to get along with cats. I am and always will be a cat person. I like dogs, but I am a “cat person.” The Ol’ Curmudgeon, on the other hand, is a “dog person.” This is one of the reasons that we, the two of us, will have to work very, very hard to be sure I am the person the Woof “looks to” as his Alpha.

The training will only start the process. It will be up to us to continue it. And Magnus will help, I hope.


Just as he helped me write this! LOL!

Magnus the Magnifi-cat is Up to Something! 8 April 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Cats, Dog, Magnus, Mobility, Partnership.

Something has his tail in a wad. he is running from room to room, yowrling loudly, messing up the blinds in order to look outside. He’s following us around and pestering us – singly and together.

It isn’t his bladder – I’ve felt for it, it’s nice and empty, and it’s not tender. His kidneys are not enlarged. He’s making urine and feces as usual – no blood, no weird odors. Not spraying around the house. Hust going into his “crazy cat” routine!

I don’t know whether having a Woof in the house will be better or worse for poor ol’ Magnus. Will it help calm him down when he goes into “crazy cat,” or will they heterodyne off each other? Yellow labs, in particular, are what the Ol’ Curmudgeon calls, “enthusiastic, bullet-proof dogs made of mostly plastic materials.” I can just see Magnus and an enthusiastic yellow lab Woof not in vest bouncing all over the house together!! We’ve been that route before – before we had Magnus. We had a yellow lab bitch named Zoar. She used to enthusiastically run around the house with the cat we had at the time – Pirate. They eventually came to an uneasy truce, and actually played with each other.

So, maybe Magnus will help exercise the Woof, and the Woof will help exercise Magnus (who is getting a bit out of shape, but don’t tell him that).

Maybe having to exercise and groom the Woof will help me become more active, too! And maybe I will even lose a little weight, too! That would be soooooo good for preserving the joints in my hips, knees, ankles and feet! Won’t stop the arthritis or the fibro, but it will help me function with them better.

Woof, we will be “up to something,” when you get here! I can hardly wait!!

A win/win/win idea 18 March 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Behavior, Cats, Disability, Going Places, Mobility, PAALS, Partnership, Puppy, Raising, Service Dogs, Sponsorship, Support PAALS, Team, Training.
add a comment

Therapist’s network uses inmates and dogs to help people with disabilities

By Abe Aamidor

After earning her Ph.D. in marriage and family therapy from Purdue University in 1990, Sally Irvin took a job at an in-patient youth psychiatric facility in Memphis, Tenn.
That lasted a year.

Later, she trained physicians at Community Health Network in the art of grief counseling.

In the back of her mind, though, were always the dogs. Irvin, 48, had loved dogs, and had always owned dogs, since her childhood in Albany, N.Y.

That led Irvin to start ICAN, the Indiana Canine Assistant Network, in 2001. The nonprofit organization teaches prison inmates to train service dogs, which in turn are provided to people with disabilities.

Irvin is a baby boomer making a difference, even though she resists that title.

“I’ve always thought of baby boomers as someone who’s 10 years older than me,” she said.

ICAN is a pee-wee among giants in the animal welfare as well as disability communities. The group employs three full-time staffers, including Irvin, and operates on a shoestring budget of $267,000. Offices are in donated space on the second floor of the Little Red Door Cancer Agency on North Meridian Street.

But its impact is real. To date, ICAN has trained 18 offenders at three Indiana facilities who have since been released from prison. Six of them have gone on to work with dogs or other animals. The group also has placed 46 service dogs with people who have disabilities. [–MORE–]

This is a fabulous article about service dogs. I was familiar with ICAN from watching Animal Planet. They broadcast a program about it fairly regularly. ICAN is almost as small as PAALS.

At PAALS February was a great month. New volunteers, new events scheduled. And some of the dogs had some wonderful experiences.

Saying Hello -

These Two PAALS pups are
learning to say “hello” properly.

Gypsy at a Valentine Store

“Gypsy” visits a store for the Valentines
Day sale

You see, service dogs need to learn how to behave in as many different situations as possible. They will be exposed to hundreds of different places, situations, and people. Traffic, stores, offices, homes, bars, shops, malls, even, perhaps, jails and morgues and police stations. Hospitals, doctors offices, disasters, parks, funerals, weddings – you name it, service dogs will be exposed to them. Of course, each dog cannot be exposed to each possibility before being paired with their working partner, but they can learn “good manners” in as many new situations as possible so they will know to exhibit “good manners” no matter what.

My Woof will go to Red Hat Society functions where there is loud talking and lots of laughter. And will also have lots of time at home in my office being very quiet. There there is grocery day – when I do all the shopping for the week. There are family gatherings with an aunt with Parkinson’s and an uncle with mild dementia, and a sister-in-law who also has rheumatoid arthritis (only more severe than I have). Visits with grandsons from far away, one of whom is bi-polar/ADHD and another who is Autistic. Then there is the twice monthly Woodturning Club Meeting in our workshop – 30+ people devoted to woodturning. Visits to attorney offices, other professional offices.

Although I am mostly restricted to my home, Woof and I will go to a number of places together. Some places will not have had any experiences with service dogs before. It will be our responsibility to be “ambassadors” for service dogs in those locations. We will show that service dogs are very well behaved, have “good manners,” and we will demonstrate how helpful they can be – how helpful my Woof is for me. I will give out little “packets” with PAALS cards, brouchures, a copy of the ADA law and the GA ADA regulations. These will go a long way to help educate people. I hope we can help people accept service dogs and their partners.

Speaking of Assistance Animals, Magnus the Magnifi-Cat has entered the service animal arena. I’m having some mild incontinence problems (as do about 68% of the older female population “out there”). I had gone to the usual “Serenity” solution. But in the last couple of months Magnus has started pestering me – a lot. After a few days I figured I needed to pay attention to him. So I bestirred myself out of my chair and followed him – down the hall to the bathroom, where he rubbed against the toilet. OK, I used it. He shut up and left me along for another 5 hours! I started paying more attention. he would lead me to the bathroom. I’d use it. He’d shut up. I haven’t had incontinence in over a month. So I now have a service cat! It may not be a “spectacular” thing, but he knows and he lets me know when I don’t know. Mine not to reason why . . .

Please remember to tell your about PAALS and ask them to sponsor a dog or otherwise support us! Think of the specific good PAALS is doing for specific individuals. Do you know someone with mobility problems? Hearing problems? Vision problems? Communication problems? Autism? Cerebral Palsy? Did you know that service dogs help people with all of these problems and more? Please support PAALS!

Happy Note on Disability and Service Dogs! 14 March 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Ability, Equipment, Harness-Based, Mobility, Support PAALS, Tasks, Training, Tugging, Wheelchair.
add a comment

Check this out!

Ms. Wheelchair uses Title to Invite Conversation

Now, isn’t that refreshing! And isn’t her service dog gorgeous?! Notice in the pictures how she TUGS to open a door, and uses SPECIAL HARNESS-BASED TALENTS to pull her partner’s wheelchair! What a smart girl!!

My Woof will be just as smart when she gets here. Please remember to support PAALS!!

Deaf for a day – – 29 January 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Ability, Bond, Disability, Hearing Ear, Mobility, Service Dogs.
add a comment

One of the blogs I read regularly, Hearing Elmo, is by a teacher who lost most of her hearing as an adult. She has a wonderful mixed-breed hearing assistance dog named Chloe. One of the exercises she puts her hearing students through is “Deaf for a Day,” wherein they block their hearing as much as possible in order to experience deafness. Today she described a recent class experience and the frustrations it brought.

“. . . Many think that becoming deaf means that voices are no longer heard. Certainly communication is one of the more frustrating things a late-deafened person experiences. And yet, so much in our world makes sound! Learning to live in an environment where everything is silent can be painful.”

Certainly, as the rheumatoid arthritis slowly and stealthily takes more of my mobility from me, there are times when, as others look at me with unveiled impatience, and even disbelief, I wish they could experience just a day of the pain, stiffness and difficulty with mobility that I do.

Just as Denise Portis, of Hearing Elmo, finds freedom through Chloe, I hope to find freedom through my “Woof.”

With eye upraised his master’s look to scan,
The joy, the solace, and the aid of man:
The rich man’s guardian and the poor man’s friend,
The only creature faithful to the end.

George Crabbe

Trapped in a Box — 15 January 08

Posted by turtlemom3 in Ability, Here Fido!, Mobility, Partnership, Service Dogs, Support PAALS.
add a comment

“I felt like I was trapped in a box … “

One recipient of an assistance dog said that he felt that way until he received his dog.

Until PAALS gets their videos made, I’m posting the videos from other, older, organizations. This one is from Dogs for the Disabled. But I’m still promoting support for PAALS!!

This is about 9 minutes and worth every second!! Enjoy!!

I’m still waiting!!

Where Assistance Dogs Come From 22 December 07

Posted by turtlemom3 in Hearing Ear, History, Mobility, Seeing Eye, Service Dogs.

I think most people are familiar with Seeing Eye Dogs. They have been in use in the USA since shortly after World War I. A lady named Dorothy Harrison Eustis, a wealthy American living in Switzerland, saw trained German Shepherds being used to assist blind German veterans. She offered to work with one interested blind American. Morris Frank was the one person chosen from hundreds of responses. He not only had a drive to be independent, but wanted to establish a program in the US. After being trained with a German Shepherd bitch named Buddy, he came back to the US and publicized the advantages of the blind working with a guide dog.Believe it or not, there was resistance to the idea of developing a guide dog training program from other organizations that worked with the blind. Despite that, Morris Frank and Dorothy Eustis were able to raise public support. The Seeing Eye guide dog organization was founded in 1929.In grade school, I remember seeing a movie about a blind man – I THINK it was Morris Frank, himself! – who had a wonderful guide dog who risked his life saving his master from a swerving car. It never occurred to me that this was unusual. It was simply the way of dogs. And Seeing Eye Guide Dogs were simply a normal part of life, as far as I was concerned. When I saw people who were blind and who did not have a guide dog, I was truly puzzled as to why. I have to admit that I still am. It is so natural.

Early on, it was determined that there were three breeds that work best as guide dogs: German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers. Extensive breeding programs have been established to ensure that there will be an adequate supply.

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that service dogs dealing with mobility issues came into official existence. Surely there have been dogs who picked up dropped objects for their masters for centuries! Surely they have braced and pulled their masters from chairs and cars. Dogs have been used to pull carts for centuries – pulling a wheelchair is simply an extension of an existing talent and activity! How on earth could it be that it took until the latter 1/2 of the 20th century for mobility service dogs to be recognized!! Well, it did.

The person we can thank for pioneering in this area is Bonita Bergin. She had observed not only dogs, but **donkeys** and other animals in underdeveloped areas helping disabled people. When she sought advice from the guide dog training programs as to starting programs for mobility, they weren’t very responsive. She persisted, however, and finally Canine Companions for Independence was founded – the first such program in the US.

Since then, the need for such dogs has practically exploded and the number of training programs has likewise exploded.

Service Dogs are required to perform varied tasks, and a larger number of breeds can be used, although there is still a focus on the three central breeds. Many may come from rescue organizations or humane societies and some may already be the pet of the disabled person. There are the ubiquitous tasks of most assistance dogs such as picking up of dropped objects, opening doors, drawers, flipping light switches on and off, going and getting another person. Then there are the specific tasks of each assistance animal which are dictated by the needs of that animal’s partner.

A Hearing Ear dog will alert his master to special sounds – the alarm clock in the morning, the doorbell, the baby crying, the timer in the kitchen going off, the phone ringing, the smoke alarm going off, etc.

One woman with fibromyalgia uses a chihuahua as an assistance dog. This breed maintains a high body heat, and she uses hers as a little heating pad on those muscles that are stiff and painful.

Many mobility service dogs work with people who are quadriplegic, paraplegic or hemiplegic. Their duties may include alarming if a respirator does not function, pulling a wheelchair, notifying if the doorbell rings, helping position a leg or arm the person cannot move voluntarily, the picking up of bandages, notification of an attendant of soiling, etc. The tasks, of course, depend on the specific needs of the person involved. To be fair to other assistance animals, there are several mobility impaired people who have assistance monkeys, parrots, mynahs, cats, and other animals. Miniature horses are being used as Seeing Eye Horses!

Back to the topic at hand – canines! There are some dogs who can determine if a seizure is about to occur or if a diabetic is going out of control – either because of too much or insufficient insulin. Both of these are of critical importance. Not all dogs can do this. And dogs who can do these thing often cannot be identified until they spontaneously begin doing it for their partner. (As another aside, there are also “seizure alert” cats and “diabetes alert” cats as well.)

Finally, there is another type of dog that can’t really be classified as a “service dog,” but, nevertheless deserves much more widespread publicity. The “Cancer Detection Dog,” can, by smell alone, determine the presence of certain cancers that often cannot be seen on radiographic studies nor detected yet on most microscopic exams. How these dogs do it, we do not know, but they are more accurate than our most accurate machines. There are not enough of them as yet, but more are being trained, and eventually, I predict, they will become a recognized part of the medical establishment. The cancers which have been detected by dogs include skin cancers (malignant melanomas, basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas) and some breast cancers. Whether other cancer types can be detected is up for grabs. We just don’t know. It is likely.

Dogs and people have come a long way since we first domesticated the wolf and formed our partnership with it thousands of years ago. It is one of the most successful partnerships going.

I’m looking forward to my own partnership – when my Wait for the Woof is over!