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.
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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.
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[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.]