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Four-Legged Help

At his age, Alex Carpenter’s life could be in danger and he and other people around him may have no idea.

At 2 years old, he was diagnosed with diabetes, and now at age 3, he still doesn’t understand the symptoms or warning signs that his blood sugar is running too low, nor does he know how to tell others when it occurs either.

“Alex is still very unaware,” said Sara Carpenter, Alex’s mom. “He’s only 3, he got diagnosed at 2, but it should come in time as he gets older… He might not start recognizing it until he is 5, 6, 7.”

Although Alex may be unaware of the dangers of low blood sugar, Brody, a 6-month-old silver Labrador Retriever, will become Alex’s new alarm system when he needs help. Brody is currently in Nevada training where he is learning how to sensw Alex’s glucose levels and alert others when blood sugar drops too low. “He can fluctuate up and down, so we have to keep a close eye, especially because he doesn’t say anything,” Carpenter said. “So the dog is going to be a huge help with all of that.”

For months, the Carpenters had been saving up $15,000 to pay for a support dog to be Alex’s shadow, and it was through the help of their Barrackville Community and the Barrackville Fire Department, that they were able to afford the expense.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without Barrackville,” Carpenter said. “We would have never been able to pay $15,000 for a service dog.”

Now, Carpenter maintains a Facebook page, Alert Dog for Alex, to update the community and everyone interested on the progress of Brody’s training. She receives photos from the trainers, which display the tiny pup following commands given by trainers.

“In these pictures you can already tell he’s sitting, holding up his paw and walking with them on leash and everything,” Carpenter said. “I can’t even imagine how good this dog’s going to be once it has six to eight months under his belt.”

Brody is one of the few silver labs to go through these trainers, according to Carpenter, which made him popular with the group. She said the trainers suggested him because of his unique breed, as well as his temperament and personality, since he will be handled by a young child.

“They said he had such a great personality and he was already so calm,” Carpenter said. “That was our most important thing… We just said lab and we don’t care about anything else as long as it’s a super calm dog.”

Carpenter said the family hopes to get Brody by the end of November or December, at which point, a trainer will show them and Alex the ropes of handling. She said the whole family and the community are excited to meet Brody, even after only seeing pictures of the support dog.

“When he’s ready, he gets flown in with the trainer, and he spends a couple days with us to teach us everything we need to know,” Carpenter said.

K-9 Thor Wears Mask

Police K-9s are mostly known for sniffing out narcotics and tracking down suspects or missing persons, but Bluefield’s K-9s are making time for public health promotions and birthday party appearances.

Bluefield Police Department K-9 Thor recently did his part against the COVID-19 pandemic by doing what many humans don’t like to do: Put on a mask.

Both federal and state authorities are urging the public to use masks, so Thor demonstrated the right away and the wrong ways to wear one. The photos were posted on the department’s Facebook page.

“I think Kevin (Fleming) had seen it somewhere with some other program. We thought it would be a good idea with our Explorers Program,” said Thor’s handler Lt. B.W. Copenhaver.

Children are more likely to heed Thor and his fellow K-9s than adults when it comes to advice about health issues such as wearing masks.

“They do, hands down,” Copenhaver said.

When K-9 units started working the department again, one goal was to have them doing more than traditional police dog duties.

“I think the biggest thing is whenever we reinstated the (K-9) unit, we wanted to make it more than things like the eradication of narcotics,” Copenhaver recalled. “I wanted us to be involved more with the schools and the community. That’s why we wanted to do more festivals, the ball games, things like that.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed many public events, Thor, Gregor, Ace and Maverick frequently attended fairs and sporting events, sometimes wearing equipment such as special goggles and boots that help protect them during searches and pursuits in heavy brush and other environments which could injure them. The K-9s have proven to be a good way to start conversations with the public and encourage them to ask questions. Children especially like Thor and his colleagues.

“We want to educate the kids on the service dogs,” Copenhaver said. “One of the things we do is teach kids not to pet a service dog or any dog unless you have permission from the owner.”

Copenhaver said when Thor started duty, one goal was to use him to help educate the public.

“I can’t even tell you all of the things he has done. He’s even been to birthday parties,” he stated.

Copenhaver and other officers were eating lunch one day when a woman came over and asked if Thor could come to her son’s birthday party. The other dogs have visited birthday parties, too.

Thor recently performed some public service when a series of pictures appeared on the police department’s Facebook page. He demonstrated the right and the wrong ways to wear face coverings or masks.

Like many humans, Thor doesn’t care for masks, but after several attempts and plenty of coaxing, he did his part to help protect the public’s health.

“He’s been phenomenal for us. He really works well in the community,” Copenhaver said.

Thor and the other K-9s have played a big role in the department’s Explorer Program which offers fun activities and education to local children. The program saw its largest attendance when more than 20 children attended a session at Tiffany Manor before the COVID-19 pandemic made public gatherings hazardous.

“It’s been a great experience,” Copenhaver said of the Explorers Program. “There’s no question about that.”

And the pandemic won’t shut down the dogs’ public service duty. One future activity will feature K-9 officers reading books aloud with their dogs and posting videos for children.

“We hated it when COVID-19 hit,” Copenhaver stated, “But we won’t let it stop us or slow us down.”

Cooper Retires

Marion’s most beloved police officer will retire at the year’s end.

While he’s known for his affection for children and love of a good game, this officer also produced results as a crime fighter. He is credited with about 120 arrests in his four years of service to the MPD, as well as helping remove about 17 illegal firearms and a significant amount of drugs from the community.

Best known as Cooper, the 8-year-old yellow Lab has helped with searches in Smyth, Washington and Russell counties and assisted the Chilhowie and Saltville police departments, the county Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police.

In his MPD tenure, the K-9 officer has taken part in more than 200 service deployments, according to a Marion press release.

Cooper has also been an effective community outreach officer, performing demonstrations for schools, churches and other organizations.

According to MPD Chief John Clair, Cooper “provided emotional support for children in our community during their most difficult times. Cooper interacted with children countless times and helped our department to provide a more positive interaction with the youngest of our community, in addition to his record of fighting crime.”

At a recent Marion Town Council meeting, Clair said Cooper is the MPD’s “most popular officer bar none.”

Cooper was first introduced to the Town Council in December 2016 when he broke new ground for the law enforcement agency. The roughly 80-pound Lab and his partner-handler, Sgt. Jeff Horn, are the MPD’s first full-time K-9 team.

In 2016, Cooper and Horn graduated from the Virginia Department of Corrections’ 12-week canine program.

Lt. Andrew Moss had written a grant request seeking to add a canine unit to the department and was awarded $10,000, but the MPD lieutenant knew it wasn’t enough money. However, the pieces began to fall into place.

The Department of Corrections found out about the town’s effort and donated Cooper to the MPD. The state agency also helped with Horn’s education and lodging and meals while he was in training. The Smyth County Sheriff’s Office helped out too by donating a cage for Horn’s vehicle.

At the time, Moss lauded Horn for volunteering for the training and assignment.

Over the years, Horn has forged a friendship with Cooper. The sergeant plans to keep him as a pet when the K-9 retires.

“He’s a great dog, but we all get to the point where we’re better meant for a slower pace,” said Horn. “As much as I’ll miss having him at work, I’ll look forward to seeing him at home at the end of my shift.”

At the meeting, Clair told the Town Council that working as a service dog is demanding. Cooper has developed hip dysplasia, which is causing him pain.

Before he retires, Cooper will continue to engage the community, continuing to do a number of appearances.

Cooper is not aggressive. He passively signals Horn when he has scented an illegal substance. In his first seven months on the job, he detected hydrocodone, marijuana, meth, mushrooms and oxycotin, among others.

When he was brought on, Moss said, even though having a K-9 was new territory for the MPD, Cooper would be “a new crime-fighting tool.” That prediction proved to be true. Clair said his service has been quite successful.

Sometime next year, Clair said the MPD will look at bringing another K-9 officer into the department.

Guide Dog Graduates

Fromm Family Food is helping guide dog and service dog graduates from Southeastern Guide Dogs receive premium dog food free of charge through Southern Guide Dogs’ Alumni Support program.

In addition Elanco, veterinary practices and individual donors are providing monthly preventatives, vaccinations and yearly wellness visits to graduates free of charge. The contributions are saving guide and service dog handlers an estimated $1,000-plus out-of-pocket per year, according to Southeastern Guide Dogs officials.

“We are deeply grateful to Fromm, Elanco, the veterinarians and private donors who are making it possible to offer these benefits to nearly 600 alumni,” said Titus Herman, CEO of Southern Guide Dogs. “The people we serve tend to experience a high level of unemployment and limited, fixed incomes, so these benefits are making a significant difference in the quality of their lives.”

For more than 35 years, Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto, Fla., has provided guide and service dogs free of charge to people with visual impairments and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other disabilities, thanks to the generosity of private donations

Bryan Nieman, brand director of Fromm Family Food, noted that the company is impressed with—and deeply respectful of—the work of Southeastern Guide Dogs and the impact the organization has on the lives of graduates.

“As a fifth generation family-owned-and-operated company, we appreciate the joy, freedom, and companionship these dogs provide their caregivers,” Nieman said. “Our commitment to excellence and unsurpassed quality is mirrored in the Southeastern Guide Dogs Organization, and we are proud to partner with them in the Alumni Support Program.”

Guide dog graduate Rachel Weeks has first-hand experience caring for her guide dog, Plum, and a personal understanding of the value and impact of this new set of alumni benefits. She is applying her knowledge to overseeing the administration of the program at Southeastern Guide Dogs.

“This is an amazing gift,” Weeks said. “I know exactly what it is like to walk into the vet office hoping the bill will not derail my budget. It is important to put food on the table for a family and also imperative for Plum and other dogs like her to receive top-of-the-line care. Our graduates can now go forward confidently to the highest level of independence and freedom.”

Assistance Dogs Train

A slight paw to the leg could be the lifesaving alert people living with type 1 diabetes need.

It’s in the realm of possibility, now that SA charity Australian Lions Hearing Dogs is training canines to sniff out and alert to low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycaemia.

As one of the hundreds of thousands of people in Australia who has type 1 diabetes, Eliza Bartlett said having a medical-assistance dog would be life-changing.

“Having a dog that can wake you up and alert others would be not only lifesaving but also something that would just take [away] that pressure and anxiety of having and living with diabetes,” she said.

“I’ve had times where I haven’t woken up during the night because of being unaware of having a hypo [hypoglycaemia]. I’ve had my family basically finding me in a coma overnight unaware of what my body’s going through.

Ms Bartlett said diabetics could struggle with their mental health, because it was such a life-consuming illness.

“Whether it’s the weather, stress, going out with friends and having a drink, everything changes it,” she said.

“Hormones, you don’t get a break and it’s something that’s really exhausting to live with.”

Cody, a working English Springer Spaniel, will be the first puppy to be trained, alongside Millie, who is learning to be a hearing and diabetes dog.

The Diabetic Alert Dog Project coordinator, Laura Harris, who will also be the dogs’ primary trainer, said the training program would be intense.

Cody and Millie are expected to be placed in families within two years.

“The dogs will be trained using saliva samples from type 1 diabetics when they’re having a low blood glucose event,” Ms Harris said.

“So, they’ll collect the samples and they’ll be stored in tubes and then we can use those tubes in the training of the dogs.”

The Australian Lions Hearing Dogs has been operating for 40 years and has so far homed 600 dogs.

The charity’s chief executive, David Horne, said it would be hand selecting people from the local community for the first few diabetes medical-assistance dogs.

“There’s a great need in the community [and] there is no other organisation that will give out diabetic-alert dogs free of charge,” Mr Horne said.

He said the program had been in the works for several years.

“We’ve got an expansion of our facility, which we’ll be looking to triple our capacity of dogs we can hold here in SA,” he said.

“It’ll give us the capacity to deliver over 100 assistance dogs per year, and in that, we feel that we can expand our range and help more people because as a Lion’s project we serve the community.

“They’re not an electronic aid, they don’t just perform the service that they’re trained to do but they perform so much more. So, it’s companionship, it’s security, it’s independence and this is something we’ve provided for 40 years with our hearing-assistance dogs.”

It’s hoped the program will grow to train dogs to help people with other medical illnesses, like epilepsy and seizures, in the future.

Service Dog Tasks

The most important task for service dogs of veterans with PTSD is interrupting episodes of anxiety.

A study by researchers at Purdue University found that of all the tasks service dogs perform for their veteran owners with PTSD, disrupting anxiety was the most helpful.

“We found that veterans with PTSD service dogs rated all of their dog’s trained behaviors as important for their PTSD, but the most important task that was used most frequently was the dog’s ability to respond to the veteran’s anxiety. Veterans also rated untrained behaviors, or things that any dog might be able to provide like a source of love, companionship, and routine, as equally important for their PTSD symptoms,” Kerri Rodriguez, Ph.D, author of the study and a researcher at the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University told Theravive.

Research has proven that service dogs can benefit veterans who experience PTSD and there has been debate surrounding what sort of training PTSD service dogs need to be the most effective for their owners.

Rodriguez says the research suggests veterans use and benefit from specific tasks PTSD service dogs are trained, which set them apart from emotional support animals or regular pet dogs.

“PTSD service dogs are trained for a variety of behaviors aimed to help a veteran’s PTSD symptoms such as alerting to anxiety, waking from nightmares, and assisting the veteran in public and crowds. Our research suggests that all of these trained behaviors are important for different aspects of a veteran’s PTSD and mental health and most were used on a daily basis,” Rodriquez said.

“Veterans also perceived the dog’s untrained ability to provide a source of love, companionship, routine, and comfort as very important for their PTSD symptoms. Veterans with a stronger bond to their dogs also perceived their dogs as more important for their symptoms. This bond with a dog can be therapeutic in itself, which allows the veteran to form an emotional attachment. So, the service dog is likely benefiting the veteran in many different ways,” she said.

As part of the research, veterans were asked to rate tasks of trained service dogs. Some tasks the dogs are trained in include noticing cues displayed by veterans when they are distressed or anxious, and then pawing, licking, or nudging the veteran to encourage them to focus on the dog. Other trained tasks include noticing if veterans are having nightmares during the night and waking them up.

In public, the dogs are trained to perform tasks like looking in the opposite direction in a crowded room to provide a sense of safety and security for the veteran.

Veterans rated all of the dogs’ trained tasks as “moderately” to “quite a bit” important for PTSD. The researchers found that trained tasks were used on average 3.16 times every day.

Rodriguez says that though service dogs are not a cure for PTSD, they can make a significant difference for veterans with the condition.

“It is important to note that both our research as well as studies from other research groups have found that service dogs are not a cure for PTSD, but may help symptoms. Specifically, veterans with PTSD service dogs do report lower PTSD symptom severity than veterans on the waitlist to receive a service dog, but not below the diagnostic cutoff for a PTSD diagnosis. Secondly, PTSD service dogs should not replace or eliminate other treatments that a veteran is receiving, such as psychotherapy or medication. Rather, service dogs may be an effective integrative or complementary intervention that can benefit veterans in addition to their evidence-based treatments,” she told Theravive.

“It’s not uncommon to hear veterans talk about how they wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for their service dog, or how their service dog has allowed them to become a husband and father again. For years we have heard stories such as these, but now there is finally emerging scientific data to show that those changes are real. We hope our research can continue to provide the PTSD community, mental health professionals, and veterans and their families with more information about the specific potential benefits these service dogs can provide.”

Perfect Pawtners

You make your way around the drive-through at the Auburn Way S McDonald’s. You order, pay, and get your warm bag of food. Little do you know, there was an adorable, alert Labrador Retriever also working the drive-through you just got your tasty McNuggets and fries.

Meet Joell Nylund and Andy: McDonald’s employees who happen to be a service dog team. Andy may look adorable and ready for belly scratches at any moment. Still, he is working – and not just for McDonald’s.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal “is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.” Considering the diversity of the human race, the number of unique circumstances and disabilities is vast. A majority of these disabilities can benefit significantly with the use of a service dog.

While similar to service dogs, emotional support animals are not trained to identify and assist with different tasks and functions specifically. ESA’s primary duty is to provide emotional comfort- simply by being

With the recent increase in individuals using the rights of service dogs and emotional support animals (ESAs), there is unfortunate uncertainty between the two.

On a brisk Sunday in October of 2008, Joell Nylund woke up with a headache. By Friday, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in her right frontal lobe. Four days later, she was undergoing surgery.

The right frontal lobe of the brain handles critical functions related to multitasking, memory, attention, and motivation. That’s where Andy comes in. Born and trained at Brigadoon Service Dogs in Bellingham, Andy’s specific training was catered toward mitigating the symptoms Nylund was left with from the tumor.

Service Dog breeders look at temperament, health, and behavior when selecting a dog for the handler. They found Andy to be an excellent match for Nylund, and he certainly has proven that to be true. “He and I are a team; we are partners,” said Nylund. “It’s not owner, not master- we are equals.”

Because of Andy, Nylund says she can get out of the house and work a job she normally wouldn’t be able to.After a substantial job search, accompanied by many rejections, Nylund accepted a position at McDonald’s. She struggled with obtaining a job while being partnered with a service dog but states she is so grateful that McDonald’s gave her a chance.

“We are going to make this work,” Operations Supervisor Ann Beurskens told Nylund upon offering her the position. “Andy is just a part of hiring Joell (A cute part!)”

Beurskens states she diligently works toward removing stereotypes and fallacies in the workplace. “I have always looked at hiring people with physical or cognitive challenges,” said Beurskens. “Some have worked out fantastically and others not so well, just as any other potential new hire.”

“Our people are the heart and soul of our organization,” said McDonald’s Owner Operator Stan Pennock. “As a local McDonald’s owner, I remain dedicated to accommodating [all employees’ needs] to create a comfortable and dynamic workplace for them where they can feel empowered to offer our customers the experience they have come to expect from McDonald’s.”

Having a fair and inclusive workplace is rewarding, but does come with its unique challenges. Some have voiced their concerns over hygiene and a dog’s role in a restaurant. Before hiring Nylund, Beurskens verified the different rules and regulations with the Health Department. Not only is Andy groomed daily, but “he [also] is not walking around the restaurant the entire time,” adds Beurskens. “Joell may place him in a down/stay position while she works in an area.”

Before the restaurant seating closures as a result of COVID-19, Nylund and Andy worked the dining hall, providing customer service to the patrons. “Joell has a fantastic personality, and I knew she would be great with our guests!” said Beurskens.

Seeing a dog in public is naturally exciting for kids and young children. Some do not understand he is working, and not there to play and be pet. Nylund typically sees this as a learning experience and seeks to educate the importance of service animals and the role they play in the community. To supplement this, Beurskens has made and hung informational posters around the restaurant. She has been told this was helpful.

Nylund is now training at the drive-through window, with Andy working right beside her.

Under the ADA, service dogs are permitted access, with their handler, almost anywhere the general public is allowed. This access applies to restaurants and businesses. Unlike a service dog, an ESA does not have public access rights (except for air travel).

“The disabled want to be treated just like everybody else,” says Nylund. Some businesses have turned Nylund and Andy away, on the pretense that dogs are not allowed in the establishment. While that may be true, service dogs under the law are considered medical equipment, not pets.

Nylund said it can be nerve-wracking, leaving the house daily with Andy, continually preparing for access denial. “When it comes to access denials, I do work on educating them, even after I’ve been thrown out.” Joell explains, “I will call or print out ADA fun facts and send them in the mail. Most of the time, employees will apologize and say they were not aware of the laws.”

Service Dog Event

The term “service dog” is new to some and part of the daily vocabulary for others, and getting the word out about how service dogs can help humans is the goal of an upcoming event.

Service dogs can help so many people in a number of ways: the veteran with PTSD, the 20-year-old girl with diabetes, the 70-year-old grandmother with mobility issues. Many people in the United States who are disabled have acquired a service dog to help mitigate the effects of their disability, and the trend is growing.

On Sept. 26, 2020, we’re expecting to have the second-annual event called “Task Dogs: A Service Dog Expo” at the Purina Event Center in Gray Summit, Missouri. The event initially was conceived to help veterans learn how they can get a service dog to help with PTSD, but since the first event last year, a number of others with disabilities have taken interest.

As of June, we plan to have service dog organizations for veterans and non-veterans, and we have vendors interested in selling items like dog harnesses and other related equipment.

We also have several guest speakers lined up, but a complete list may not be available until just before Task Dogs 2020. The virus going around has a lot of events in flux.

One returning guest speaker is Army veteran Justin Tucker of Waynesville, North Carolina, owner of Roxy the PTSD Service Dog who won the service dog category of the American Humane Hero Dog Awards in 2018.

Because my late yellow lab duck dog, Belle, was the inspiration for this one-day event, I began to wonder if anyone had a service dog with which they also hunted, and after a few inquiries, Alyssa Curtis of Retrieving Freedom in Sedalia, Missouri, said their other location in Waverly, Iowa, was responsible for helping Army veteran Trent Dirks and his PTSD service dog, Tracer, learn how to duck hunt, also. Basically, Tracer helps mitigate Trent’s PTSD, but he also gives Trent the freedom to go ducking and retrieve the ducks for Trent.

Please go to Facebook.com/taskdog and read the pinned post about Trent and Tracer. It’s Trent’s personal account of his struggles with suicidal thoughts and alcoholism, showing how ultimately, Tracer saved his life. It’s a wonderful story.

For this year’s event, we hope to have nearly 40 vendors and organizations available to help educate the public, and we also have a number of guest speakers, including 22-year-old Ashton Gurnari who has 160K followers on Tiktok. She and her service dog, Moose, plan to discuss mental health issues. Did I mention they’re coming all the way from Connecticut?

We also expect speakers and vendors from California, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, possibly Texas and more.

Donations are down because of the virus disruption, but if you want to donate and help make this event a success, please visit the Task Dogs GoFundMe page at: gf.me/u/x5sw8i. Any contribution will be helpful, and we need all we can get, especially to help pay for a videographer.

Kane’s Tale

For children, police stations can be scary. That’s where facility dog Kane comes in.

For five years, the nearly eight-year-old yellow lab— who partners with Moose Jaw Police Service Victim Services co-ordinator Donna Blondeau — has been comforting both children and adults alike.

While his work with adults — including members of the police service — is crucial, his interaction with children can work magic.

To help children understand more about what Kane does and how he can help them should they need to come into the police station, Blondeau has written a book entitled Kane’s Tale. Geared toward elementary school-age children, Blondeau intends to hand the books out to students in the Moose Jaw public and Catholic school systems in the fall.

“The book was written with the message that some of these children may have to attend to the police service for one reason or another,” said Blondeau. “That can be a pretty scary prospect for a lot of children … We want them to know that Kane may be available here for them, so it’s a friendly face.”

Combining Kane’s story with pictures of the photogenic canine, the book introduces Kane — a facility dog from B.C.- based Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS) — as “your furry four-legged friend.”

“If you need to come to the Police Station, I may be there to help …,” reads part of the book. “I am here to comfort and support you.”

Paired with a picture of Kane snuggled up against a child, the book says, “I can give you comfort by staying close to you. I want you to feel safe.”

Blondeau’s office walls contain the expected photos and certificates, but it holds something else: four paper paw prints. As Kane sprawls on the floor, work vest off and belly up for a rub, Blondeau explains the prints were gifted to her and Kane by a child who’d once come into the police station to provide a statement. But for Kane, the girl later said, she wouldn’t have been able to get through it. That’s Kane’s gift, said Blondeau — one the 26-year victim services veteran has witnessed again and again in police interviews and in the courtroom. Like other trained facility dogs— including Merlot in Regina and Beaumont in Weyburn — Kane gravitates to those who are anxious or scared, then lends a gentle paw to comfort them.

“Kane is a soft touch,” said Blondeau. “He’s very gentle, very quiet, and he knows when people are upset and he presents himself. He will just be there with that person, whether it’s in court, whether it’s in an interview.”

Blondeau hopes — the COVID-19 situation permitting — to go into schools with Kane in the fall and read the book to children, before providing each with their own copy to take home and read with their parents or guardians.

The book will be free so all kids can get one, regardless of their family’s financial means.

“I want to ensure that all children in those age groups get the books,” she said. “I think it’s extremely important because I don’t think it’s worth anything if only a few people are able to obtain that book.”

Service Dogs

Science has shown that service dogs can benefit some veterans with PTSD. But the exact role service dogs play in the day-to-day lives of veterans — and the helpfulness of the tasks they perform — is less known.

A recent study led by Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine shows what trained tasks service dogs perform the most often and which ones are the most helpful to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. The study found that the task of disrupting episodes of anxiety ranked among the most important and most often used.

“There has been some debate on what kind of training PTSD service dogs need to be effective and how their assistance may be different than what a pet dog can provide,” said Kerri Rodriguez, a human-animal interaction graduate student and a lead author on the study. “This study suggests that veterans are, in fact, using and benefiting from the specific trained tasks, which sets these dogs apart from pet dogs or emotional support dogs.”

Rodriguez led the work with Maggie O’Haire, associate professor of human-animal interaction. Their research was published in Frontiers in Psychology. The study was done in conjunction with K9s For Warriors, with support and funding from Merrick Pet Care, and is in preparation for an ongoing large-scale clinical trial that is studying veterans with and without service dogs over an extended period of time.

The study found that, on average, the dog’s training to both alert the veteran to any increasing anxiety and providing physical contact during anxiety episodes were reported to be the most important and the most often used in a typical day. Veterans with a service dog also rated all of the service dog’s trained tasks as being “moderately” to “quite a bit” important for their PTSD.

Some trained tasks include picking up on cues veterans display when experiencing distress or anxiety and consequently nudging, pawing or licking them to encourage the veteran to focus on the dog. The service dogs also are trained to notice when veterans are experiencing anxiety at night and will actively wake up the person from nightmares.

The dogs also are trained to perform tasks in public – such as looking the opposite way in a crowded room or store to provide a sense of security for the veteran.

The study also found that trained service dog tasks were used on average 3.16 times per day, with individual tasks ranging from an average of 1.36 to 5.05 times per day.

Previous research led by Rodriguez showed that the bond between a service dog and the veteran was a significant factor in the importance of untrained behaviors. Although all trained tasks were reported to be important for veterans’ PTSD, those with a service dog actually rated the importance of untrained behaviors higher than the importance of trained tasks.

This suggests that there are some therapeutic aspects of the service dog’s companionship that are helping just as much, if not more, than the dog’s trained tasks, Rodriguez said.

“These service dogs offer valuable companionship, provide joy and happiness, and add structure and routine to veterans’ lives that are likely very important for veterans’ PTSD,” she added.

The study surveyed 216 veterans from K9s For Warriors, including 134 with a service dog and 82 on the wait list. The study complements a previous publication published last year that focused specifically on the service dogs’ training, behavior and the human-animal bond.

While service dogs were reported to help a number of specific PTSD symptoms such as having nightmares, experiencing flashbacks, or being hyper-aware in public, there were some symptoms that service dogs did not help, such as amnesia and risk-taking.

“Both this research, as well as other related studies on PTSD service dogs, suggest that service dogs are not a standalone cure for PTSD,” O’Haire said. “Rather, there appear to be specific areas of veterans’ lives that a PTSD service dog can help as a complementary intervention to other evidence-based treatments for PTSD.”

Veterans on the wait list to receive a service dog expected the service dog’s trained tasks to be more important for their PTSD and used more frequently on a daily basis than what was reported by veterans who already had a service dog.

“Veterans on the wait list may have higher expectations for a future PTSD service dog because of feelings of hope and excitement, which may not necessarily be a bad thing,” Rodriguez said. “However, it is important for mental health professionals to encourage realistic expectations to veterans who are considering getting a PTSD service dog of their own.”

The work was funded by Merrick Pet Care, Newman’s Own Foundation and the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.

Firefighter Dog Hallie

With four paws and fur, Hallie has become the newest fixture at the Forsyth County Fire Department headquarters.

The Australian Labradoodle joined the fire department this summer to enhance the agency’s outreach program. Once fully trained, Hallie will be used to teach children about fire safety and also serve as a emotional support animal for fire department employees.

Forsyth County Fire Department Division Chief Jason Shivers explains that Hallie’s role in house will be just as critical as her role in the community.

“Firefighters get exposed to things that no one should have to see. And throughout a 25 or 30-year career, those stressful moments can really take a toll on someone if you don’t shed them off,” explained Shivers.

The pup lives with her handler and Forsyth County Fire prevention educator, Erin Long. Long proposed the idea of getting a fire department dog last year, after seeing the potential impact it could have on the outreach program.

“We’ve seen dogs at other fire stations. They’re used sometimes to actually work investigations, but we wanted a way to communicate with those hard to reach children about fire safety,” added Long.

Hallie is being trained to work with children of all ages including children with disabilities. She is also learning tricks to demonstrate simple fire safety tips such as ‘stop, drop, and roll’ through donated lessons from Peach on a Leash.

“She needs some time to still get the puppy out of her. She’s still young, but she’s learning quick and once she gets her energy out – she is very relaxed,” added Long.

Canine Firefighter

A Charlottesville-area organization is training a canine to help a firefighter with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“PTSD and other mental health disorders are fairly common in the fire service, and truly in any public safety,” Interim Fire Chief of the Charlottesville Fire Department Emily Pelliccia said.

Pelliccia has 25 years of experience in public safety and knows the toll this job has on firefighters’ mental health.

“This stuff that we see and deal with on a daily basis really requires some type of outlet, or some type of support beyond just daily living,” Pelliccia said.

That outlet can be as simple as a dog by your side.

“A dog can’t solve the huge problem, but they can be a piece. A dog is with someone constantly,” Service Dogs of Virginia Executive Director Peggy Law said.

Law has been training a canine, named Lewis, to help comfort a firefighter suffering from PTSD in the Hampton Roads area.

“This is our first placement for a firefighter, so I’m very excited,” Law said. “This firefighter is in therapy. He’s doing a lot of things to support his mental health, and the dog will be a constant that is with him.”

Lewis and other dogs in training visited Charlottesville Fire Department’s station on Ridge Street Friday, July 24, to get acclimated to the sites and sounds.

Through the ups and downs a firefighter may go through, Pelliccia is grateful for the outlet Law is providing them.

“This is one-on-one support that will be with him personally and I’m grateful that we’re able to assist her with this,” Pelliccia said.

Lewis is set to meet the firefighter on Monday at the Service Dogs of Virginia training facility where the two will get to know each other for a few weeks.

War Dog Monument

North Conway Public Library recently held an unveiling of a new monument to grace the entrance to the building, which is still in the process of a major renovation.

The construction project, which includes an addition that will double the size of the building, along with extensive renovations of the interior, is expected to be completed by Labor Day.

As part of the project, a new main entrance has been created just off the parking lot at what was the rear of the building. The monument, a bronze life-sized statue of a German shepherd sitting atop a granite cube, has been installed to the right of the entrance. With the redesign, the old front door is no longer near the circulation desk and will be used as an emergency exit only. The former side entrance from the parking lot has been removed.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unveiling on Friday, July 16, was attended only by a handful of people, including Library Director Andrea Masters; board members Paula Jones and Karen Arendt; library patron Sharon Wroblewski and Lyman Pope, lead contributor to the library’s addition and renovation project.

It was a short ceremony, without speeches, but following the event, Jones said, “It’s a wonderful day. We’re so excited to see the finished statue and thrilled for the progress of the library.”

The monument includes the inscription: “Dedicated to the memory of the war dog. Erected by Lyman Pope Jr. to honor all dogs who served as man’s best griend during World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and to the memory of all German shepherds, most notable among them Maximillian, 2019.”

Pope, a retired real estate developer, has donated $3 million to the project, and plans call for library will be renamed the Pope Memorial Library in his honor. He asked for the monument to war dogs to be included in the construction project.

Although the building has been closed to the public since mid-March, Pope stops by regularly to check on the progress, and was closely involved in the design of the monument, working with Nicolleti Monuments in Berlin.

“I liked working with him,” said Don Piper, who operates Nicoletti Monuments along with his son, Eric, who owns the company. “I think he reached out to us with confidence. He was interested in us building a monuement to war dogs, service dogs, police dogs, particularly German shepherds. He struck me as a very determined person who wanted to get this done.”

They began working on the project last fall, ordering the bronze statue of a German shepherd and then designing the monument for it to sit on.

“We worked to design something appropriate to the library both in size and nature,” Piper said. They settled on a 3-foot cube, raised up on a square base, both of Barre Granite from Rock of Ages quarry in Barre, Vt.

The Maximillian mentioned in the inscription was Pope’s own service dog, a German shepherd from Dresden, Germany, who died in March 2019.

“Max was with me night and day,” said Pope, but added the Max was only the last in a long line of German shepherds he has had over the years.

“I’ve always had dogs. I grew up around them,” he said. He is also a Korean War era Army veteran, and as a former serviceman, he said, he wanted people to know and appreciate the importance of dogs in the military.

Pope is well known around New England for his love of dogs and advocacy on their behalf, having helped create animal shelters in Dover; Concord; Rockland, Maine; and Orleans, Vt. North Conway Public Library is his first library, but he wanted the building to also reflect that love.

As to the switch from shelters to libraries, the 92-year-old Pope said he has lived in the Mount Washington Valley since he was a small child and he wanted to make sure the library was taken care of because it is a landmark of the village.

“It’s a wonderful library and I want to save the building. We don’t need any more restaurants or any more auto parts stores. It’s an 1890s building,” he said.

Wroblewski agreed: “I just think it was such a lovely historical building and they’ve only done a wonderful job at enhancing and creating and saving it. We have all these new buildings like the community center and the Vaughan Center — which are great — but we’ve done something very important by saving this building and enhancing it.

“I just think it’s remarkable when you drive by it in the front and in the back. It’s a blend of the old and the new,” she said.

But Pope also found a very dog-friendly environment at the North Conway Library, which has its own dog, the library director’s dog, Dusty, who often greets visitors to the building.

“This is how we started the relationship, because we both have dogs, Masters said. “Lyman always brings treats and he always comes upstairs for the history books, and my office was right next to those shelves.

“He would complain about the stairs. He’d say you have a great library, really good books, but we need an elevator. I joked, ‘Sure, give me the money and I’ll build you an elevator.’ And now, here we are.”

Most of the work on the exterior of the building is complete, and work inside — which, yes, includes an elevator — is at a point that the library is not only closed to the public but also had to halt curbside service for a few weeks.

Currently, work is being done to build a walkway to connect the two balconies in the old building.

Curbside service is tentatively scheduled to start up again in two weeks.

The building is not expected to open again to the public until construction is done in September.

“It’s just going to be great when it is done. It will be nice to have a space for the community again,” Arendt said. “We’ll be able to offer so much more.”

Service Animals

If the past three months without a service dog have been a challenge for Ann Moxley, the next year seems poised to be a struggle.

The Victoria resident, who lives with physical disabilities, used to rely on her faithful companion Gretzky for a variety of household tasks. She fondly recalls times when Gretzky would pick up a wallet that slipped from her pocket or retrieve a toque and mittens blown into the road by a gust of wind.

But Moxley has been without his support since his death from a rare liver condition in April. And since the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Canada’s service dog training schools to halt or suspend their programs, she isn’t scheduled to meet his successor until at least July 2021.

“It’s hard, it’s all I can do to exist,” Moxley said in an interview. “It’s incredibly lonely.”

Moxley plans to get her new companion from Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, a school based in Oakville, Ont., that trains service animals to support people with a range of physical and sensory disabilities.

Chief Executive Officer Beverly Crandell said COVID-19 has forced the school to cancel in-person training classes, adding more names to an already-lengthy waiting list of people eager for service dog support.

She said while dogs have been successfully placed in foster homes while classes are on-hold, addressing the needs of their future human partners has proven much more complex.

“Clients are a different story,” Crandell said. “… They have been put on hold.”

Figures provided by the school estimate approximately 80 disabled Canadians have had their training deferred due to the pandemic. Officials said the school is offering virtual support to its existing clients and looks forward to the day when it can “create more life-changing matches for people with disabilities.”

Pandemic-related setbacks also abound at Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, an Ottawa-area training facility that cancelled all in-person classes at the end of March when public health-related lockdowns took effect across the country.

Manager of Development Alex Ivic said the school has had to explore alternatives to replace the residential model at the heart of its usual training program. Local clients, for instance, began receiving home-based training in May.

Ivic said the campus reopened to students last month, though only one person at a time is allowed to occupy the residence.

“The pandemic gave us new challenges,” Ivic said. “We had to push everything back and the wait times for those waiting for a dog are variable.”

Moxley anticipates additional struggles when she’s finally cleared to train with a new dog, saying COVID-19-related restrictions make the prospect of travelling from Victoria to Oakville daunting and possibly risky.

Canada’s service animal training schools don’t generally receive government support, relying instead on charitable donations to stay afloat. Both the Lions school and Canadian Guide Dogs for the blind said the financial squeeze caused by the pandemic adds another dimension to their struggles to keep going during a time of upheaval.

But Ivic, for one, remains optimistic, saying schools are committed to matching successful service dog teams while preserving the health of all concerned.

“I hope things will go back to normal one day to train multiple clients at once,” he said. “I know there will be changes in our protocols to keep people safe,” Ivic said.

Loving Canines Of America

Guide Dogs of America, a non-profit organization that empowers the blind and visually impaired to live with greater confidence, mobility and independence, recently announced their merger with Tender Loving Canines in an effort to provide even more services to Veterans, Individuals with Autism and facilities in need – ultimately transforming lives through partnerships with service dogs.

The newly formed organization will be headquartered in Sylmar, California, on Guide Dogs of America’s 7.5-acre campus. TLCAD will retain its name and local offices in San Diego, California.

“TLCAD shares our goal to transform the lives of people through partnerships with highly trained assistance dogs,” said Russell Gittlen, president of Guide Dogs of America. “This merger will allow us to put more dogs into the hands of people that need them – which is our ultimate mission.”

All programs and services are provided at no cost to the recipients, and will be offered to individuals throughout the United States and Canada.

What is a Guide Dog versus a Service Dog?

A Guide Dog is a type of service dog that is specifically trained to assist someone who is disabled by a visual impairment/blindness. A guide dog can help their visually impaired partner confidently navigate the world by avoiding obstacles, remembering common routes, stopping at changes in elevation and avoiding traffic.

A Service Dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. Other service dogs can assist veterans, individuals with learning disabilities and other disabled populations. Service dogs that are not in the guide dog category may perform behaviors that interrupt physiological responses to stress. They can also assist with mobility limitations, retrieving objects, opening doors, etc.

The work that is done through Guide Dogs of America and Tender Loving Canines would not be possible without the contributions of generous donors. More than 170 fundraising events are hosted on an annual basis across the US and Canada – however with COVID-19, many 2020 events were cancelled, which is why they need your help now more than ever.

To mark this momentous occasion, Guide Dogs of America is celebrating the many contributions of their staff, volunteers, partners and students. Funds raised this season will allow them to continue providing Guide Dogs and Service Dogs free of charge to qualified recipients.

Pups Are Training And Graduating

Four soon-to-be Seeing Eye dogs are ready to move on to the next phase of their training after spending almost a year in Saskatchewan.

Indy, Percy, Wallace and Lulu are four black lab puppies who have spent the last 11 months doing the basic Seeing Eye dog training with the Canadian Institute for the Blind (CNIB).

The four pups arrived in Saskatchewan in August 2019. Indy and Percy have now graduated and are moving to Carleton Place, ON, to begin the next phase of formal training. Wallace and Lulu will move in the fall.

Kerry Macdonald volunteered to raise Indy and has been with him for the last year.

“Stay. Keeping off the couch – all the things they want us to teach – always a challenge,” said Macdonald. “But the great thing about it was a sense of accomplishment every time you got to a new stage – they suddenly start doing what they’re supposed to be doing – you’re like, ‘yes! Let’s go!’”

“They’re still puppies,” said puppy raising supervisor Kezia Gray. “We just really want the volunteers to lay a foundation. At the end of it, we just want a happy, fairly well behaved, puppy and that’s what we’ve got

Guide dogs allow for blind or partially sighted people to have independence they would not otherwise have.

“Being able to get up and go out of your home independently and not rely on someone to guide you or to rely on your white cane,” said Christall Beaudry, Executive Director for CNIB Saskatchewan. “But to have this companion with you that you trust and will take you around – it’s a huge support.”

Beaudry says raising the dogs in Saskatchewan better equips them for the harsh Canadian climate. CNIB is also hoping to get more puppies in the fall.

“We started our program only two years ago,” said Beaudry. “We’ve slowly been expanding and we’re looking forward to expanding in our province.”

Gray says only about 50 per cent of the guide dogs around the world who enter the next phase of training become full Seeing Eye dogs. Others become service dogs elsewhere. However, dogs who have training through CNIB see a 65 per cent graduation rate.

Macdonald is sad to have his time with Indy end, but knows he is off to help someone who is in need.

“He loves to train. He loves to be active. I think he’s going to excel at being a guide dog. Someone’s going to get a great dog.”

CNIB is looking for volunteers to raise puppies as they continue to expand their guide dog program. They say raising a guide dog is more intensive than raising a normal pet and the time needed to invest into the dog is more demanding.

Family In Need Of A Service Dog

 

Getting a service animal for those with a medical disability can be difficult, and the lack of resources is causing the Redmond parents of a 5-year-old boy to exhaust all of their finances.

Jaeden Thomas loves dinosaurs and playing in his backyard. He was diagnosed around age 3 with autism and ADHD, as well as neurological issues that cause seizures.

Over the years, Jaeden has seen a multitude of behavioral specialists and speech therapists, but he still struggles with his cognitive development and person to person interactions.

The boy father, Randy Thomas said Wednesday, “In the last four months, we have an estimate, I’d say a dozen doctor’s visits and five procedures. Quite honestly, it’s crippling.”

Jaeden is the youngest child of Randy and Ola Thomas. Because Jaeden is autistic, yet full of energy and still going through many developmental changes, they want to get him a service dog.

Ola, Jaeden’s mother, said a service animal is different than an emotional support animal. She said the dog would be trained to recognize certain cries from Jaeden, as well as be able to take the pressure or roughness of a little boy and prevent him from bolting or running which can lead to him harming himself.

Randy Thomas said he quickly realized resources for people with medical disabilities were far and few in between. He said the search for a service animal for Jaeden has become a very costly rabbit hole.

“Without going into bankruptcy, there is no way to get a service animal for Jaeden — there is just no way,” he said.

Thomas said they’ve researched organizations, and have looked into the Central Oregon Disability Support Network resources. They applied for the Rising Stars Fund and was awarded $400 to help offset the cost of getting a service animal.

Dianna Hansen, executive director of CODSN, said a service animal can cost anywhere between $15,000 and $30,000.

The difference in price of service animals is dependent on the customized training the animal will undergo, as many service animals are trained to support more than one need.

Hansen said it’s very rare that service animals are covered by insurance providers. and Medicaid does not cover them, especially now, amid budget cuts.

The Thomas family has started a GoFundMe page to outsource funds to get Jaeden a service dog. It’s called Jaeden’s Dream and Protector.

The Thomases said they want their son to grow up as a happy, well-adjusted boy.

“That would be my goal,” Randy Thomas said. “For him to grow up and play sports, and not be in special classes his whole life. Is a service animal the end all be all? No, its going to take a lot of work from me and mom. But ultimately, I think it would be a huge, soothing friend — and ‘keep him out of trouble’ tool.”

Freedom Service Dogs

As part of our Serving Those Who Serve project, Fox31 News is proud to join forces with the Freedom Service Dogs to help train puppies to be future service dogs to vets in need.

There are currently 80 veterans on the wait list for a new service dog, so there is an increased emphasis on bringing more puppies into the program, but there’s not enough trainers.

Freedom Service Dogs is looking for volunteers to train these puppies in their home for 10 months. If you or someone you know that would be a great volunteer please contact Freedom Service Dogs.

Zoo Program Trains Service Dogs

 The Memphis Zoo is full of wild animals, but a domesticated one is calling the zoo home for a few months. A Memphis Zoo curator is helping train a dog who will eventually go on to be a service animal.

But like the saying goes, it takes a village. Several people in the Mid-South have been instrumental in raising future service animals.

A group of service dogs visited the Memphis Zoo Friday. It’s not quite the crowd you’re expecting on a summer day at the Memphis Zoo.

Just like the Zoo’s regular visitors, the service dogs in training are interested in the animals, and the animals are very interested in them.

“It benefits both parties because not only is [the dog] getting exposed to a lot, the zoo animals are getting to see an incredibly well-trained service dog,” said Memphis Zoo Curator Courtney Janney.

Janney is training a Golden Retriever named North until November when he’ll go off to service dog school and eventually serve a person with a disability.

For the first year of North’s life, he learned the basics from an unlikely group — inmates from the Hardeman County Correctional Facility.

“We get them in at eight weeks and train them to do their 30 basic commands,” said Hardeman County Correctional Officer Cassie Graham.

Graham heads up the Canine Companion for Independence program in Hardeman County. Inmates there have helped train 23 service dogs since 2017.

After they train the dogs, they go to what are called finishers, like Janney, who introduce the dogs to a home environment.

Clearly North is seeing more than Janney’s home. He also comes to work at the Memphis Zoo with her.

“At work, I have an incredible support system here to go on this adventure with me,” said Janney.

Only a few dogs from Hardeman County go to finishers in West Tennessee. Most are shipped out of state, and Graham hopes more people in the Mid-South are willing to open up their home for a short time to make the dogs the best service animals they can be.

“Whenever we get them out people are very interested,” said Graham. “It’s just getting them out more to let people know about the program we have.”

Service Dog Scrappy

A PTSD service dog named Scrappy who was reported missing last week in Memphis has been found safe.

Scrappy’s owner, Randy Holmes, said he was driving through construction traffic on U.S. 78 south of Shelby Drive in the afternoon of July 14 when his companion disappeared.

Police said the windows were rolled down, but Scrappy — who was wearing his service dog vest at the time — is so well trained that he wouldn’t have jumped out on his own.

Holmes expressed concern to police that someone may have reached into his SUV and snatched Scrappy while traffic was at a standstill, but there were no suspects at the time.

After the story aired on WREG last week, Holmes and his girlfriend received several sighting reports in the area of Jackson and Ayers. The pair had been searching the area for the dog when he was located Monday morning behind a Family Dollar store.

The little dog had lost some weight and had a scrape on his hip, but is expected to be okay. He even enjoyed a treat of Vienna sausages that were given to him by the woman who found him.

Holmes said he still doesn’t know how Scrappy ended up where he was found. He was just thankful his dog was discovered safe.