By Edward Crane
Founder/President, My Assistance Dog Inc.
Each year during the first full week of August, International Assistance Dog Week is celebrated around the world. It is a time we celebrate the contributions of all assistance dogs around the world and educate everyone regarding their importance in our lives. The celebration runs from Sunday, Aug. 5, through Saturday, Aug. 11.
Both my assistance dog Alepo and I look forward to participating in this important event because we are proud of the assistance dog community around the world, and this is the time each year that we recognize all these devoted, hard working dogs helping individuals (like myself), mitigate their disability related limitations.
The goals of IADW are to: 1. Recognize and honor assistance dogs. 2. Raise awareness and educate the public about assistance dogs. 3. Honor puppy raisers and trainers. 4. Recognize heroic deeds performed by assistance dogs in our communities. It is also important to remember that IADW was originally established thanks to the efforts of Marcie Davis, a paraplegic for over 45 years and CEO of Davis Innovations, a consulting firm based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thanks, Marcie.
I myself am an individual who is fighting a battle with epilepsy, diabetes and balance issues each and every day. This battle with my body is truly challenging, yet my life changed for the better thanks to the partnership with my assistance dog Alepo, a cream Labrador Retriever. Alepo was raised and trained by an organization called Canine Partners for Life, both who truly restored a “level of normalcy” in my life.
Alepo has been trained to warn me in advance of each oncoming seizure, provide me balance and support, thus preventing me from falling and injuring myself, opens doors for me, picks up items on command, and much more. He is trained to respond to dozens of my verbal commands. He also provides me a necessary distraction that I need when I have to deal with “severe chronic pain” that I suffer from, due to my epilepsy. He knows when I am feeling the pain and he works to distract me during these terrible times.
During IADW, I wish to express my thanks and appreciation to my assistance dog and the organization that provided him to me. Thanks, “Alepo” and Canine Partners for Life.
There are three (3) basic types of Assistance Dogs (under ADI Standards):
· Guide Dogs – for the blind and the visually impaired
· Hearing Dogs – for the deaf and hard of hearing
· Service Dogs – for people with disabilities other than those related to vision or hearing
But, there are many other common examples, such as mobility assistance dogs, medical alert dogs, seizure alert/response dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and autism dogs.
Assistance dogs are either bred in selective breeding programs or rescued from animal shelters and raised by volunteers prior to their formal training. Most service dogs are Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, collies, standard poodles, etc. Service dogs can often be identified by either a jacket, backpack or harness.
So, during IADW, check out and participate in the numerous local events held all around the world, all coordinated to take place during the same seven-day period. Take time to learn more about these amazing dogs and the wonderful work that they do every day for their human partners. Plus, show your interest and support any way you can, to the assistance dog community, at large.
It is time to honor these amazing dogs and those who raise and train them.