Next week, from Aug. 2 to Aug. 8, the world will celebrate and give recognition to the four-legged friends that make living easier for people with disabilities.
International Assistance Dog Week (IADW) was created to recognize the assistance dogs helping people mitigate their disability-related limitations, raise awareness and educate the public about assistance dogs, honor puppy raisers and trainers and recognize deeds done by assistance dogs in communities by holding events throughout the globe. All events happen within a seven-day period.
Bake sales, dog washes and walks, fundraiser sporting events such as golf, and police dog press conferences are just some of the event ideas that IADW suggests for those that want to recognize assistance dogs.
Edward Crane, a Clovis man that has lived with epilepsy, diabetes and balance issues for over 30 years, said that his assistance dog has made his life markedly better.
“This battle with my body has been truly challenging and frustrating, yet my life changed for the better thanks to the partnership with my assistance dog, named Zern, a cream Labrador retriever,” Crane said. “Zern truly restored a level of normalcy in my life.”
Zern warns Crane of oncoming seizures, provides balance and support to prevent him from falling, opens doors, picks up items on command and more.
“He also provides a necessary distraction that I need when I have to deal with my severe chronic pain that I suffer from due to my epilepsy,” Crane said. “He knows when I am feeling pain and he works to distract me during these terrible times.”
There are three basic types of service dogs: guide dogs for the blind and visually impaired; hearing dogs for the deaf and hard of hearing; and service dogs that are for people with disabilities other than those related to vision or hearing.
Other examples of assistance dogs include those that help with mobility, medical alerts and psychiatric and autism care.
The dogs are 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 and poodles, Crane said. They can be identified by a jacket, backpack or harness.
“Take time to learn more about these amazing dogs and the wonderful work that they do everyday for their human partners,” Crane said. “Plus, show your interest and support any way you can to the assistance dog community at large.”