This is guest poster Gord Wallen’s second posting in a three-part series on service dogs and how his service dog has helped him deal with his Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy. Gord is a frequent commenter on this site and I am so glad to be sharing this post because I don’t have a service dog myself and always wondered about what the experience is like. Make sure to visit Gord on Facebook and read part one if you haven’t yet. ~ Dan
Having a service dog can make everyday living a little bit easier for someone with muscular dystrophy. In my case, my service dog, Halle does a variety of tasks that include:
- Barking for help. All I have to do is whisper “help” and Halle will bark. In the case of a serious injury, my voice may not be enough to get someone’s attention but a dog’s bark gets attention every time.
- Picking up dropped objects. Those of us with Becker Muscular Dystrophy are well aware of the difficulty to bend over to pick things unaided. Halle will “fetch” almost anything including, pens, coins, paper, newspaper, shoes, underwear, etc. In fact, she will pick up objects that she knows do not belong on the floor. The other night she brought a coaster to me in bed from the living room. Of course her hope is that there is a treat in it for her too.
- Opening Doors. The photo in my last post shows Halle opening an automatic door by pushing the button. She can also open and close regular doors that have a latched handle and a cord tied to the latch. This is especially helpful when using a wheelchair.
The above are tasks that Halle helps with most, but she was also trained to do the following tasks.
- Open the dryer and take clothes out and drop them in a basket. No she does not fold or iron!
- Take a plastic bottle or can from the bottom shelf of the refrigerator.
- Help someone who does not have the use of their legs get into bed.
You may think that service dogs are “heaven sent” but they actually come from a number of not-for-profit or for profit organizations around the world. A simple Google search and you will find hundreds of organizations and individuals that train service dogs.
Halle was born and trained at Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides (LFC) in Oakville, Ontario. LFC breeds and trains a variety of service dogs or “Dog Guides” for the visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, epilepsy, autism and those with physical disabilities like muscular dystrophy. Dogs are provided free of charge to qualifying applicants. Visit their website at www.dogguides.com for more information.
Here are a few suggestions when looking for an organization and completing training for your service dog.
- Contact the organization directly to determine eligibility, cost and wait time for a service dog. If able, set up a visit and tour. Ask if you can speak to a recent graduate for reference. What is the organization’s record for follow up, or contact if you have a problem?
- Visit Assistance Dogs International (ADI) on the web. ADI is a coalition of not-for-profit organizations that trains and places assistance dogs. Select their Member Listing and Links for a listing of associated training facilities. You can be assured that your organization follows established rules for the training and placement of service dogs.
- When completing the required application, be very honest with your abilities. This will allow the organization to properly access the dog that is right for you.
- Be patient. Many organizations have long waiting times due the demand for these dogs.
- When you get your call be prepared for some hard work and maybe a little frustration. The dogs have been trained, but you must now learn the commands.
- When you graduate and take your dog home, follow all the rules, commands and information you where given during training.
In my next post I will discuss some of the hidden benefits of having a service dog. And I will share some of the comical situations Halle and I have experienced.