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Program Of Human Services

U. S. Steel and Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD), a program of Keystone Human Services, are pleased to announce a partnership to fully fund an assistance dog who will be paired with an individual in the Pittsburgh area. This partnership covers the cost of breeding, raising, training, and placing an assistance dog to assist someone with a disability to live more independently in their community.

Each dog Susquehanna Service Dogs places is individually trained to mitigate their partner’s disability and enhance their life. Dogs can assist people with physical disabilities that impact mobility or balance, as well as people with psychiatric disabilities, autism, PTSD, and seizure disorders. SSD also trains hearing dogs to assist people with hearing impairments, as well as facility dogs.

‘We are pleased to help an individual in our hometown of Pittsburgh become more independent with the placement of an assistance dog. We look forward to watching this talented animal grow from a puppy to a fully-trained dog,’ said John Ambler, Vice President of Corporate Communications and Brand Management at U. S. Steel. ‘These remarkable assistance dogs can transform lives and we look forward to seeing what this special puppy will contribute.’

Training starts from the moment a dog is born to set them up for future success. When a puppy is 9 weeks old, they join their puppy raiser, who spends the next 15-18 months teaching them good house manners, self-control, and over 20 different foundational cues. The dog then enters Advanced Training, where SSD’s professional trainers match the dog with their partner and individually train the dog in specific tasks specially designed for their partner’s unique needs. U. S. Steel will be posting frequent updates on its Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages, following the progress of the dogs in training.

‘We’re very happy to partner with U. S. Steel,’ says Pam Foreman, SSD’s Director. ‘People partnered with our assistance dogs report they are better spouses, parents, friends, students, employees, and community members. This partnership with U. S. Steel is helping to change lives.’

Susquehanna Service Dogs is a program of Keystone Human Services and has been breeding, raising, training, and placing assistance dogs in Pennsylvania and the surrounding states since 1993. SSD is an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International.

Service Puppies

It appears that even service puppies can’t escape the changes of the pandemic. Bill Thornton, the CEO of BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, says the new recruits are far behind on their transit training schedule because of COVID-19.

The puppies are usually introduced to buses in the field and gradually trained, however that method has been suspended during the pandemic.

TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s transit operator, opened its doors at the Vancouver Training Centre on Wednesday, allowing the dogs-in-training to get repeatedly familiar with several buses.

As part of the dog’s graduation process, trainers need to know if they will behave on several styles of buses and that they can get on and off easily.

Thornton says they’re happy to be able to speed up the training with its partnership with TransLink.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2020.

Service Dogs-In-Training

TransLink opens its doors at the Vancouver Transit Centre Wednesday morning hosting dozens of guide and service dogs-in-training.

The new recruits from Delta-based BC & Alberta Guide Dogs will be familiarized with several buses repeatedly, in order to accelerate their training. This is important given their training schedule has fallen behind due to COVID-19. “COVID-19 has been a real challenge for everyone and I’m pleased to support the training of service and guide dogs in any way we can,” said Coast Mountain Bus Company president Michael McDaniel. “I hope this training can help get trained guide and service dogs to the people who need them as quickly as possible.”

As part of a guide or service dog-in-training’s graduation process, trainers must be able to determine they are well-behaved on buses, and that they are able to board and disem-bark. The puppies from BC & Alberta Guide Dogs are usually introduced to buses in the field and gradually trained, however this method has been suspended during the pandemic.

“Because of unforeseen difficulties from the COVID-19 pandemic, guide and service dog training is far behind where we’d like it to be,” added BC & Alberta Guide Dogs CEO Bill Thornton. “We are excited to seek out unique partnerships and opportunities to try and speed up training wherever we can, and we thank TransLink for this opportunity to socialize guide and service dogs-in-training to their buses.”

While only one day of training is currently scheduled, BC & Alberta Guide Dogs and TransLink are in discussions about how this training could be replicated to assist with training in the future.

According to Translink, Certified Guide and Service Dogs enable some of its customers to safely and confidently travel on all modes of their accessible public transit system and are welcome at all times of service.

K9s For Warriors

A Ponte Vedra Army veteran who recently graduated from the K9s For Warriors training program with his new service dog, Chris, is looking forward to taking his son to a theme park.

Gabriel P., who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his military service, said he hasn’t been able to go to a theme park since moving to Florida because of his fear of crowds and public places.

He said that’s why he applied to K9s For Warriors.

“I believe having a service dog would calm my fears of going out in public, and instead of thinking about what could go wrong, I would be thinking about my service dog,” Gabriel said. “With my service dog by my side, it is my goal to take my son to a theme park someday.”

K9s For Warrior paired Gabriel with Chris, who had already completed formal service canine training.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the nonprofit’s training program has been amended to comply with CDC guidelines, implementing new sanitizing and PPE protocols for all staff and warriors.

Along with the other members of their class, Gabriel and Chris trained in public every day wearing PPE, received instruction on matters of service dog access, dog health care and more, and established a bond that would facilitate Gabriel’s healing from military-related trauma, the charity explained.

“The rate of veteran suicide in our country is unacceptable,” said Rory Diamond, K9s For Warriors CEO. “These are the people who volunteered their lives so that Americans can enjoy their everyday independence. But PTSD steals their independence, and worst of all, suicide steals their lives. K9s For Warriors is here to give both back to them through a new, loyal battle buddy – a service dog.”

K9s For Warriors is a national nonprofit that procures eligible shelter dogs and trains them to be service dogs to mitigate symptoms of PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and/or Military Sexual Trauma for service members and veterans. It operates from two facilities in North Florida that procure and train the canines, pair them with an incoming veteran, then train the veteran and canine pair together. After three weeks with his or her new service dog, the veteran has learned how to reintegrate into society and, most importantly, reduce the potential for suicide.

PTSD Service Dog

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.”

The study surveyed 216 veterans from K9s For Warriors, including 134 with a service dog and 82 on the waitlist. 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 hyperaware 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 waitlist 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 waitlist 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. More information about O’Haire’s research is featured online.

K9s For Warriors’ mission is to end veteran suicide. Based in Florida, we are the nation’s largest provider of Service Dogs to military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury and/or Military Sexual Trauma. Our program is unique, comprehensive, and proven, thanks to groundbreaking research conducted in partnership with Purdue University’s OHAIRE Lab. The majority of our Service Dogs come from high-kill shelters, which means that with each warrior-K9 pairing, two lives are saved.

Defining the PTSD Service Dog Intervention: Perceived Importance, Usage, and Symptom Specificity of Psychiatric Service Dogs for Military Veterans

Police Service Dog

The Peterborough Police Service announced on Monday (July 20) that retired police service dog (PSD) Wolfe has passed away.

PSD Wolfe was donated by the Knights of Columbus and spent seven years working the streets of Peterborough with his friend and partner police constable (PC) Tim Fish.

“He was crazy tough, but was always great with kids,” PC Fish says in a police media release.

“We did so many school presentations, at all levels, including college and university,” PC Fish recalls. “We would never turn down anyone who wanted a picture or ask questions. He was the best. We always did Kids and Cops and Take Your Kid To Work Day. Every chance I had to show him off I did.”

PSD Wolfe retired from active duty in 2018 but remained a part of PC Fish’s life until his passing.

“Retirement was tough for Wolfe but he ended up loving it.” PC Fish says. “He was so amazing.”

PSD Wolfe received numerous accolades, including a Commanders Commendation in 2015 for Outstanding Police Work while arresting an armed suspect.

He was responsible for countless successful tracks and located approximately $10,000 cash, and over $20,000 in drugs during a search in Brookdale Plaza. He was also available as an invaluable support to all units, specifically front-line patrol officers and the Peterborough Police Service’s Emergency Response Team.

“PSD Wolfe will be missed,” states the police media release.

Service Dog Heals

When the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. earlier this year, Sydnee Geril stopped bringing her service dog, Tulsa, to her chemotherapy treatments. The 25-year-old made the decision out of an abundance of caution; while the chance of spreading COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, through pet fur is unlikely, the American Veterinary Medical Association still recommends taking precautions.

But in late May, Geril discovered a onesie for dogs called the Shed Defender — which helps control shedding — and her German shepherd has been able to stay clean and get back to work by her side.

“I’m so happy to have her back,” Geril told TODAY. “I honestly did not realize how big of an impact she had until I didn’t have her.”

The Shed Defender, or the “super suit,” as Geril calls it, has been on the market for nearly four years — so it wasn’t designed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. But Tulsa wears it with a set of booties to cover most of her fur. Now, instead of needing a full bath after every hospital visit, all Geril has to do is wipe down Tulsa’s face and wash her suit. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends laundering clothes worn by an ill person on the “warmest appropriate water setting for the items.”)

Geril lives in Ocala, Florida, and was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that typically affects children and young adults, in October 2017. After nine months of treatment, she went into remission and decided to adopt Tulsa and train her to become a therapy dog. Therapy Dogs visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other health care centers to cheer people up, and Geril said these visits were one of the only things that made her feel better during her hospital stays — and something that inspired her to get Tulsa.

Unfortunately, after eight months of remission, Geril’s cancer returned, so the 2-year-old pup is now training to be her personal service dog, which requires a greater time commitment than what is needed for therapy dogs. Service dog training typically takes around two years to complete, and the dogs learn to cater to the personal needs of their owners.

Geril gets treated at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. According to the center’s website, service dogs, guide dogs and therapy dogs are welcome in the building’s public spaces as long as they are well-behaved and remain under the control of their handlers.

Geril decided to start documenting her journey with Tulsa on Instagram after she discovered the service dog community on the platform. She said a lot of misinformation and misconceptions exist about service dogs, so she wanted to do her part to help educate others.

“There’s no handbook on service dogs; there is no right or wrong,” she said. “I just really wanted to share, educate, get (the) word out, because I didn’t know anything about it before I started with this.”

Geril’s chemotherapy treatments and her fear of needles cause her to pass out frequently, so one of Tulsa’s main jobs is to alert her before that happens. Geril said the human body undergoes a chemical change before a fainting episode, and dogs can recognize that change through smell. If Tulsa detects this scent, she puts a paw on Geril’s leg to let her know that she has between 10 to 30 minutes before she will start to feel dizzy.

“It’s huge; it’s given me my freedom back greatly,” she said. “I can go out by myself now.”

Geril said she didn’t truly understand how much Tulsa helped until she had to pull her from work during the pandemic, as she noticed her health and quality of life declined drastically.

“I went into a wheelchair full time because I was afraid to be up and walking around because the hospital’s rules are you can’t have any visitors,” Geril said. “I didn’t want to risk passing out with nobody around.”

However, since Tulsa has started using the Shed Defender and returned to work, she said she feels more confident and can worry less.

Geril said that although Tulsa was initially a little unsure about her new attire, after a lot of playing and positive reinforcement training, she has adjusted very well.

“It’s a new world now and we’re finding new ways to cope with it, and I’m just so happy that we can find new uses for products like that,” she said.

Retired Police Dog

Retired Peterborough police service dog Wolfe recently died, the service announced late Monday afternoon.

The canine served the Peterborough Police Service for seven years with his partner, Const. Tim Fish, and officially retired from the service in 2018.

The service says Wolfe received numerous accolades including in a Commanders Commendation in 2015 for Outstanding Police Work while arresting an armed suspect.

The service credits the dog with “countless successful tracks” and once located approximately $20,000 in drugs and $10,000 in cash during a search in the Brookdale Plaze.

“He was also available as an invaluable support to all units, specifically frontline Patrol officers and the Emergency Response Team,” police stated.

Fish, in a statement, said he was proud of Wolfe’s contributions to the service.

“He was crazy tough, but was always great with kids,” stated Fish. “We did so many school presentations, at all levels, including college and university. We would never turn down anyone who wanted a picture or ask questions. He was the best. We always did Kids and Cops, and Take Your Kid To Work Day.

“Every chance I had to show him off I did. Retirement was tough for Wolfe but he ended up loving it. He was so amazing.”

Service Dogs Special Program

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.”

Essential Worker

In early March, Everett Gray’s transplanted heart began to fail. A couple months shy of the five-year anniversary of receiving his “miracle heart,” the 8-year-old was admitted to the cardiac I.C.U. at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, as his immune system battled with the heart that saved his life as a toddler.

It wasn’t Everett’s first time in the hospital: Born with a rare heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, he’s been a regular patient from birth. No child enjoys a hospital stay, but Everett, a second-grader who loves dinosaur fossils and Legos, finds his own silver linings in hospital visits, from musicians and bingo games with other kids.

“It’s kind of a coping thing for him,” said his mother, Kelley Gray. “He’ll say, ‘well, at least the kid’s hospital is better than an adult hospital.’” Most grown-up hospitals don’t have clowns roaming the halls.

But when the little boy woke up in recovery in March, there weren’t any clowns. Instead, the whole world had changed, seemingly overnight.

By mid-March, Covid-19 had grown from a threat to a full-blown health care crisis. In response, the hospital enacted strict visitor limitations (one parent per child, no siblings or friends) and suspended nearly all the activities that had once helped make Everett’s hospital stays a little more bearable. No more art cart, no more bingo.

“Things were just being taken away,” said his mother. “But Izzy was still there.”

Izzy is a 70-pound, 10-year-old golden retriever with a blonde coat and ears as soft as velvet. She is one of 15 full-time facility dogs employed by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Canines For Kids program. And from the beginning of the pandemic, she and six of her canine colleagues have reported for hospital duty as essential workers. For families like the Grays, navigating their own crisis alongside the stress of a deadly pandemic, Izzy and her fellow canines took on hero status in recent months. So called “child life” programs aim to normalize the hospital environment and help kids feel like kids. Covid-19 obliterated most of those activities, but many of the dogs still dutifully clock in to brighten their days.

“Their very presence has normalized things — for everybody, but particularly for young patients,” said Jennifer Arnold, founder and director of Canine Assistants.

The Georgia-based organization has trained and supplied over 80 facility dogs to children’s hospitals around the country. During the pandemic, physical touch is limited, and friendly faces are hidden beneath masks. Hugs are out of the question. “It’s very hard on the kids. But getting to love on the dogs, and even being able to see their faces, is a bigger deal than you might realize,” she said.

As the coronavirus caseload grew to alarming levels, most hospitals suspended programs run by volunteers, including volunteer therapy dog programs. But other institutions, such as Mount Sinai in New York and Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, have in-house dog teams and have kept their pups in service, with measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Izzy’s handler, Vandie Enloe, now removes the dog’s vest before visiting a patient and disinfects her coat, paws and new silicone leash more frequently. She also bathes the dog twice a week, instead of just Sundays.

For both parents and their kids, a lengthy hospitalization is tough. “It’s not only the fear of hospitalization, or the illness,” said Diane Rode, director of child life at Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital. “It’s the isolation, it’s the uncertainty.”

But dogs fill in some of those gaps as a much-needed friendly face, calming presence and cuddle buddy. And as the pandemic abruptly changed the hospital experience, a dog like Izzy is an anchor for a kid.

Dogs can also normalize the pandemic. Professor, a goldendoodle and the most senior member of Mount Sinai’s Paws and Play program, donned a face shield to make the equipment a little less frightening. Moby, another goldendoodle in the crew, conducted a live tour of Mount Sinai’s Central Park field hospital, to alleviate the fears of kids who could see it from their rooms.

For medically fragile patients who couldn’t leave their rooms or meet the dogs in person, virtual doggie visits came by way of digital tablets connected to robots on wheels. During these sessions, patients are just happy to watch Professor chase a tennis ball, according to Morgan Stojanowski, assistant director of the child life department at Kravis Children’s. “Kids just wanted to be reminded that their relationship was still there.”

In Atlanta, that relationship became a crucial part of Everett’s clinical recovery, which looked dramatically different without art therapy and game nights. “But we were so lucky that Izzy was considered essential,” Kelley Gray said. “Because to Everett, Izzy is essential.”

In the hospital’s family library, Everett would lay on the floor with Izzy, stroke her fur, talk to her and even read to her. The curly-haired second-grader especially liked Izzy’s gentle, insistent pawing whenever he stopped petting her. “He feels like Izzy is his best friend at the hospital, and that she loves him the most, he must be her favorite boy,” his mother said. And it’s not just kids. Klein said that the hospital’s dogs have played an important role for parents too. “A parent in the hospital, they don’t have anyone to go to,” she said, adding that dogs are just as happy to comfort adults.

“We had people say, ‘We didn’t know if you’d be here or not,’ because so many things didn’t get to continue,” Enloe said over Zoom with Izzy’s head on her lap. She stopped stroking Izzy’s shoulders for a moment, and the dog issued a lazy reprimand with her paw. “So to be able to do that, and to be here for our families, has been amazing. It’s our honor, and Izzy’s calling.”

After 40 days, Everett left the hospital in April to a different world. His school was closed. His family wasn’t able to celebrate his homecoming as they had before, with a welcome home party or a visit to the dinosaur bones at the natural history museum. And he couldn’t see his friends.

Now, three months after being discharged, Everett is “getting a little stronger every day,” his mother said. Earlier this summer, he even got to play with a few friends in the backyard, wearing masks and staying six feet apart. But in Georgia, Covid-19 has spiked in recent weeks, and the Gray family has become more cautious.

“We’re really nervous,” said Kelley Gray. While the state hasn’t yet decided whether schools will reopen this fall, Everett won’t return to a classroom until a vaccine is available. “We’ve talked about it a little bit, and he didn’t melt down,” she said. “But when it gets to the actual first day of school, if other kids are going back and he’s not, that will be challenging. It’s just the unfairness of it all, which is a theme in his life.”

Everett regularly returns to the hospital for lab work and appointments with specialists and, naturally, visits with Izzy. For Everett, these reunions are a rare bright spot, especially when it seems like everything else — play dates, beach trips, the promise of another first day at school this fall — has been taken away.

In June, one of Everett’s appointments fell on Izzy’s 10th birthday, which the hospital would normally celebrate with a birthday party. Instead, it was a party for two. Everett made a birthday card for her, and Izzy wore a pink chiffon wreath around her neck. And he gave her a big hug when he arrived.

Service Dogs Heal

Chronic conditions and disabilities can be challenging.

People who have a mental/physical disability or a chronic condition that results in functional impairment or limitations to their daily activities and social participation may need assistance with a variety of daily tasks.

One way such assistance might be provided is through the use of service dogs.

Service dogs used in the current investigation were purebred or crosses between Standard Poodles, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers. These dogs functioned as either mobility assistance dogs, seizure response dogs, or diabetic alert dogs:

Mobility service dogs assist people with chronic conditions and physical disabilities by performing behaviors such as opening/closing the door, turning on the light, and retrieving out-of-reach or dropped items.

Seizure response service dogs help individuals with epilepsy and seizure conditions. When a seizure occurs, these dogs stay with the individual and provide comfort—or, in case of an emergency, call for help.

Diabetic alert dogs are trained to help those with type 1 diabetes. These dogs can alert their handlers to dangerous changes in the person’s blood sugar, obtain medications for them, and call for help. For the present study, participants were recruited from the database of a national provider of service dogs. The main inclusion criteria included being accepted by the program (i.e., no fear of dogs, no dog allergies, and no family member with a criminal history of animal abuse or other violent crime), and having received service dogs or being on the wait-list.

The results of the analysis did not show a statistical association between having a service dog and improvement of anger, social companionship, or sleep quality. However, compared to those on the wait-list, people with a service dog had better psychosocial health. Even after statistically controlling for demographics, pet dog ownership, and disability variables, a significant association remained between owning a service dog and “higher overall psychosocial health including higher emotional, social, and work/school functioning.” The biggest impact of a service dog in the lives of people with physical disabilities and chronic conditions was in school and/or work—where it improved engagement, interactions, and overall functioning. These benefits are important because physical disabilities and other conditions cause impairment and dysfunction that affect people’s quality of life in multiple ways. These conditions often limit individuals’ lives and restrict their opportunities, especially in social and work domains. The present study suggests service dogs might help in all these domains. As the authors note, “Health care providers should recognize that in addition to the functional benefits service dogs are trained to provide, they can also provide their handlers with psychosocial benefits from their assistance and companionship.”

Charger’s New Service Dog


The Chargers aren’t scheduled to start training camp until later this month, but the newest member of the team was an early report to Costa Mesa last week.

In partnership with Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar, the Chargers have teamed up with Canine Companions for Independence to follow a puppy on its journey to becoming an assistance dog. The aptly named Bolt – a yellow Lab-Golden Retriever cross – touched down in Southern California last Wednesday.

According to volunteer puppy raiser Angela Jackson-Brunning, Bolt will spend the next 18 months or so getting socialized, while learning approximately 30 different commands. He’ll also make appearances at various Chargers events, including practices and games.

“These dogs do amazing things,” team owner Alexis Spanos Ruhl told CBS Los Angeles. “They pick up dropped items. They open doors. They can pull a manual wheelchair. They can open up a refrigerator and retrieve medicines for you. … And they’re also very comforting. The thing that I like most is that they’re always there so that these people never feel alone.”

Since 1975, Canine Companions for Independence has provided over 6,000 assistance dogs at no charge to children, adults and veterans with disabilities, according to CCI public relations coordinator Stacy Haynes.

Haynes said that CCI has expanded their programs, including providing service dogs to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I think any time you can help a disabled veteran, just knowing what they’ve done; risking their life to go overseas and fight for us, for our freedoms and liberties, it makes the effort all the more worth it,” Spanos Ruhl said.

Heather Birdsall, the Chargers’ director of community partnerships, said that Bolt’s arrival coincides with the team’s newly launched animal welfare platform. Earlier this offseason, the Chargers worked with LA Animal Services to conduct a virtual dog draft, helping “undrafted free agents” find a new home.

Bolt’s time with the Chargers, though, is about laying a foundation for the future, Birdsall explained. She said his most important work begins when he gets paired with his new family.

“And that’s life-changing,” Birdsall said. “And that’s why it’s so important for us, really, is that we can actually help change a life and that’s so meaningful to us.”

Heroic Police Dogs

From finding missing people and criminals to sniffing out drugs, cash, firearms and explosives, the canines play a valuable role for the force.

Police dog handler PC Carrie-Ann McNab started a fundraiser to ensure the Scottish police dogs of the past, present and future receive a well-deserved tribute.

Not only would the memorial provide a place for handlers and the public to remember the heroic service of some of the pups, but it would also serve as a testament to their contribution to local communities.

The policewoman hopes to have the memorial built in Pollok Park, which has served as a training centre for the police canines since 1974.

Carrie-Ann has worked as a police officer for 15 years, taking up the role of dog handler for the past six years.

Her partners in service are a four-year-old German Shepherd named Bodie and six-year-old Billy, a Cocker Spaniel who is trained to sniff out drugs.

The policewoman told the Glasgow Times: “I think it is important that there is a memorial for the public to see and understand how much these dogs help out in their local communities.

“Police dogs are about more than just fighting crime, a big part of their job is to find missing people.

“There isn’t a single Police Dog in Scotland that hasn’t returned a missing person to their loved ones.”

She added: “It would be nice for the public to have somewhere to go to reflect on what the dogs have contributed to society during their service.”

The memorial would be modelled on heroic police dog Ziggy, a Belgian Malinois who will be retiring from the force this year.

Similarly to a memorial recently erected in Essex, the UK K9 Memorial, she hopes to have it cast in bronze by famous sculptor John Doubleday.

A total of £2660 has been raised of the £35,000 target since the fundraiser was launched on July 1.

Working Dogs

The Marine Corps is undertaking a force-wide restructuring to ensure it has the right composition to take on future conflicts. And its military working dog community, used for everything from patrols and bomb detection to security for high-profile officials, is no exception.

The Marine Corps Military Working Dog Program is undergoing a large-scale review that aims to standardize equipment and improve training — and as part of that, the working dog population is expected to shrink significantly, program director Bill Childress told

Under the leadership of Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger, the Corps is undergoing restructuring. Berger has indicated his intent to cut all tank units and law enforcement battalions and reduce infantry units in a move to draw the force down from its current strength of 184,000 to about 170,000 by 2030. Already, some units are deactivating in that restructuring. Childress said the service’s working dog force will be reduced from its current strength of about 210 to 150 over the next two years, the same time period in which Marine Corps law enforcement battalions are set to disband. The program’s human staff will also be downsized, he said, from 260 to about 210. This “right-sizing” is designed to find efficiencies and acquire more dogs trained for multiple skill sets, he added.

“We’re trying to get more out of a dog,” Childress said. “We have what we call single-purpose dogs and dual-purpose dogs. We’re trying to get more dual-purpose dogs, because we feel like we get more bang for the buck.”

As the law enforcement battalions disband, he said, law enforcement dogs remaining in the program will be assigned under base provost marshal’s offices or Marine Corps police departments.

“We’ll still be able to perform our mission and execute everything we need to do,” he said.

Dogs that are trained for patrol and aggression can also be trained to search for explosives or drugs, although that does double the length of the training cycle from about three months to six, Childress said. “Maybe we can reduce the number of dogs that might be required, which would also reduce the number of personnel that we would have to still be able to do the same job, the mission,” he said.

Marine Corps military working dogs deploy alongside Marine dog handlers to combat zones and even aboard ships for patrols and drug and explosive detection missions. Stateside, they can be used for drug detection and other law enforcement purposes. They also at times provide security for officials as high-ranking as the president and vice president of the United States.

All the military’s working dogs are trained at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and supervised by the Air Force, Childress said.

In addition to reviewing and communicating with the Air Force about how the Marine Corps wants its dogs trained, the current assessment aims to ensure that training keeps up with the times — particularly in terms of what substances dogs are programmed to detect.

“There’s a big difference between what we were seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan and here,” Childress said, acknowledging that there are fewer military working dog deployments downrange now than there were during the height of the two conflicts. “So that’s something we always stay abreast of to make sure that we’re doing the right things as best as we can.”

He demurred, however, when asked about specific trends in substances for which the dogs need to train.

As another line of effort, the Marine Corps is working to ensure that all dog trainers and handlers are using the same kinds of equipment and training devices, whether they work on the East Coast or West Coast.

“A lot of times, it was up to the provost marshal’s offices to procure their own equipment,” Childress said. “So you would go from one place to another, and you go, ‘Wow, I’ve never used this before.'”

The review and corresponding changes are taking place ahead of Childress’ planned retirement after nearly 24 years as head of the working dog program and nearly 44 years working with the Marine Corps.

“I want to make sure that I’m leaving the program the way I would want it to be left in, you know, as best as I can do a good turnover,” he said. “And I just feel that we need to do that, you know, just to take a look and make sure everything is the best that we can do.”

As the working dog program thins its ranks, handlers and trainers will be given opportunities to move to other positions in the Marine Corps, Childress said. Some of the dogs, which have an average career length of just under 10 years, will retire naturally and not be replaced; others will be moved to other services to fill gaps they have, he said.

“We’re very tight among all the services,” Childress said.

Bailey The Service Dog

Yard sale today will raise funds for service dog for 11-year-old girl

Mark and Olwyn Wismer need $25,000 for a dog.

Crazy, you say? Hardly.

This service dog will have a dramatic impact on their special-needs daughter, Evie. It will change the 11-year-old’s life for the better.

“People have no idea how much chronic pain she is in,” Olwyn Wismer said Friday.

Evie Wismer has cerebral palsy, narcolepsy, and other developmental delays. She often uses a wheelchair and wears a helmet as she is prone to falling.

Bailey, an 11-month-old Newfoundland poodle mix called Newfypoo, is being trained by Dogology NW in Liberty Lake, Wash. The Wismers, of Coeur d’Alene, need to have $20,000 by the time his initial training is completed, expected to be in September. They’ll need another $5,000 after that for continued training.

They’ve raised about $12,000 and are holding a yard sale today, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 7920 N. Mt. Carrol St., Dalton Gardens.

Friends and family have donated hundreds of items, including furniture, exercise equipment, skis, tools, hardware, books, pictures, dental chairs and toys.

Whatever people buy will take the Wismers closer to their goal. It’s critical that they get there.

“Bailey will help in a lot of different ways,” Olwyn Wismer said.

The Wismers, who have adopted three other children, adopted Evie when she was 18 months old.

Olwyn Wismer said that sometimes, when people hear “service dog,” they think it’s a luxury. It’s anything but.

Evie is very vulnerable and can be easily frustrated in trying to just do some basic things.

With her narcolepsy, she can fall asleep anytime, anywhere, and has. With CP, her balance and mobility are extremely limited and she can fall, and she is often in pain.

She really needs a service dog with her at all times, Olwyn said, to both comfort and protect her.

Bailey will help Evie to focus and prevent Evie from harming herself through what is known as stimming, which is scratching at her skin and being unable to stop.

“She’s so excited about having a dog that will be her friend and not be afraid of her,” Olwyn Wismer said.

Having Bailey, she said, will improve quality of life for Evie and her family.

Bailey and Evie have spent time together and have already bonded.

“They are best friends,” Olwyn Wismer said.

New Obstacles For Service Dogs

While browsing through a Facebook group for guide, mobility and service dog recipients, a post by one of the members jumped out at me. “Did you dare to go out with your dog?” it asked. “Are you able to go out of your home?” Since the early days of the COVID-19 crisis in March, many have had their eyes glued to the news and are following government guidelines. But in all this turmoil, have we forgotten about citizens living with a disability?

I am a doctoral student at the University of Ottawa and a resource teacher for suspended or expelled students. I specialize in the areas of inclusion and service dogs. My research project allowed me to have Toulouse, an assistance dog from the Mira Foundation trained specifically for my special needs students. Since March 2019, she has been accompanying me everywhere and has helped me discover a reality that I didn’t expect.

As a researcher in this field, I am fortunate to have access to networks of assistance dog beneficiaries. With this article, I would like to offer them a public voice in order to draw a portrait of their reality since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

What Service Dogs Offer

Visa, a custom-trained assistance dog, helps Liam Clark, 10, navigate life.

Looking around the post-golfing gathering at Park Hills Country Club, Liam’s mother, Tammy Clark of New Enterprise, said, “Liam would never have been able to come to this before Visa. She’s made a huge difference in his life.”

Diagnosed with severe childhood anxiety three years ago, Liam and Visa teamed up two years ago through the help of Service Paws of Central Pennsylvania, a nonprofit founded in 2011 by Leslie Kelly of Altoona, who is deaf, after she struggled to afford an assistance dog.

Before Visa, Liam suffered from severely broken sleep and panic attacks that would last several hours, his mother said.

“She often knows he’s getting anxious before he realizes it,” his mother said. “We didn’t want to put (Liam) on medication. We wanted him to learn how to cope and resolve issues himself and how to calm himself down. Visa has helped him tremendously.”

Liam, Tania DeLeo of Altoona and Combat Marine veteran Branden Hill of Hooversville, Somerset County, worked with Service Paws of Central Pennsylvania to obtain their canines through New Hope Assistance Dogs Inc. in Warren. Accompanied by their dogs, they spoke to the golfers who helped raise more than $10,000 for Service Paws of Central Pennsylvania with an all-day fundraiser Thurday.

Hill received his service dog, Zeke, in June with assistance provided by Service Paws. Hill suffered a traumatic brain injury during his yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in 2008.

After leaving the Marines in 2010 after four years of service, Hill began experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, including daytime flashbacks and night terrors, and he went for help through the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2014. Hill and Zeke are in the early stages of getting to know one another and will soon go for their training together at New Hope Assistance Dogs.

DeLeo spoke about how she is raising a New Hope service puppy for her son, whom she declined to name because of privacy concerns. An experienced dog handler and owner, DeLeo said COVID-19 has impacted the pace of their dog’s training as well as their business, so the financial help from Service Paws has helped because a service dog is “a huge financial commitment.” The DeLeo family welcomed the then- 8-week-old puppy the day before the state shut down due to COVID-19. She discovered Service Paws while researching how an assistance dog could benefit her son.

Service Paws helps residents obtain a service dog and/or helps defray veterinary costs for those currently using a service dog. The all-volunteer organization serves Blair, Bedford, Cambria, Centre, Clearfield, Huntingdon, Fulton, Clinton, Fayette, Indiana, Jefferson, Mifflin, Westmoreland and Somerset counties.

Joe Fagnani is a charter member of Service Paws. He understands how a service dog enhances quality of life as he is a person with blindness who uses a guide dog.

The annual golf fundraiser provides financial assistance for the purchase of a service dog or to cover veterinary costs for current service dog owners. SPCP sends funds directly to providers treating the dogs or to the school from which a service dog is purchased.

Golfer Tom Smith of Hollidaysburg said, “It’s a wonderful organization, and I’m happy to be on a team and help these people help out others.”

Another participant, Barbara Kooman, said she and her husband, Marty, know Fagnani through the Altoona Rotary Club and their church.

“We’ve seen how having a service dog has given him the opportunity to live independently and to more fully participate in the activities and events that make life interesting,” she said. “Joe is a good role model because he is very engaged in the community. I know folks always approach him to pet his dog. He uses that encounter to help others understand the protocols for people with a service dog.”

The Koomans have supported the golf tournament because “Joe is so passionate about helping others who could benefit from a service dog but may need some financial help to acquire a dog. It’s a great local organization helping adults and kids in our community to become more independent with the help of a service dog.”

K-9 Spartan

You may recall the story on Marshall County Sheriff Deputy Nate Klempa’s K-9 Spartan. Spartan was battling stage 4 cancer and unfortunately has passed away. Which is why the Benwood Fire Department held a flag-raising memorial Saturday to honor their friend Nate, and to pay a tribute to this special dog. God tells you to do the right thing. God tells you to do the right thing because there’s good people and like I said we love Nate, we love his dog, and that’s how it is. Those at the Benwood Fire Department say Spartan was more than a man’s best friend, he was a special service dog to the community.

Service Dog In-Training

The future of the NHL season is still up in the air, but that’s not stopping the Minnesota Wild from making some adorable roster moves.

The team recently adopted Hobey, a 5-month-old golden retriever from Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue on a one-year training contract.

Hobey will be raised and trained to be a service dog for a veteran through the team’s Adopt-A-Dog Program, whose mission is to give a local hero a hero of their own. “We’re excited to continue our Adopt-A-Dog Program and help another rescue dog become a service dog,” said Wayne Petersen, Minnesota Wild Director of Community Relations and Hockey Partnerships. Hobey is the second dog adopted by the team from Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue. The Wild adopted Breezer last August, and the Labrador Retriever is now training with Soldier’s 6, a nonprofit based in Minnesota that provides honorably discharged veterans, police officers, and firefighters with specially trained K-9s.

Wild CFO Jeff Pellegrom and his wife Mary will foster Hobey and work on his basic obedience training until next summer. Then, the Wild pup will join Soldier’s 6 for specialized training before being permanently placed with a veteran as a “Battle Buddy.”

Hobey was born in February of this year in Wisconsin. His favorite toys are sticks, especially hockey sticks. Hobey’s position is Forward, and of course, his favorite team is the Minnesota Wild.

New Obstacles For Service Dog Owners

While browsing through a Facebook group for guide, mobility and service dog recipients, a post by one of the members jumped out at me. ‘Did you dare to go out with your dog?’ it asked. ‘Are you able to go out of your home?’ Since the early days of the COVID-19 crisis in March, many have had their eyes glued to the news and are following government guidelines. But in all this turmoil, have we forgotten about citizens living with a disability?

I am a doctoral student at the University of Ottawa and a resource teacher for suspended or expelled students. I specialize in the areas of inclusion and service dogs. My research project allowed me to have Toulouse, an assistance dog from the Mira Foundation trained specifically for my special needs students. Since March 2019, she has been accompanying me everywhere and has helped me discover a reality that I didn’t expect.

As a researcher in this field, I am fortunate to have access to networks of assistance dog beneficiaries. With this article, I would like to offer them a public voice in order to draw a portrait of their reality since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

A lack of accessibility

Ableism is the word used to describe the extent of multi-dimensional discrimination against people living with disabilities. People with working dogs are victims of it on a daily basis. Indeed, our society is designed for citizens without disabilities and de facto obliges people with disabilities to fight for their essential rights, such as accessibility, despite the provisions included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act , which ‘guarantee equal rights and freedom from discrimination to persons with disabilities.’

Normally, working dogs accompany these individuals and facilitate their daily life. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the barriers to accessibility have never been so great.

The risks of exclusion are increasing

Anne-Marie Bourcier is visually impaired and received her third guide dog from the Mira Foundation. With her dog, Machine, she routinely takes the bus and subway to go shopping or have lunch with a friend. Autonomy is the watchword for this duo. However, since the pandemic, they no longer go out in public. She wrote me a long email to let me know about her new reality.

These questions remain unanswered for Bourcier and many others. The physical obstacles are major, especially for a dog that has not been trained to deal with the health crisis and prevention measures. Machine is a Bernese mountain dog. (Anne-Marie Bourcier)

While we might assume that people give priority to those living with disabilities, the opposite is true. For example, another guide dog recipient explains that he often has to avoid people who do not give way to him.

Dogs and social distancing

Added to this are situations where the disability is not visible and the public believes that the dog is in training. Awareness campaigns on social distancing have been conducted by the CNIB Foundation. CNIB Awareness Campaign on Social Distancing for Guide Dog Recipients. Two metres separates a client and his guide dog from a person doing grocery shopping. Guide dogs do not understand social distancing. Thank you for helping us keep a safe distance. (Canadian National Institute for the Blind), Author provided (No reuse)

In addition to the physical obstacles, there are also psychological obstacles. ‘At the hospital, I need my dog and my partner for my MRI. I had to negotiate for entry,’ says Geneviève, a traction dog recipient. The mask makes it hard for her to breathe and she has to constantly adjust her tone of voice to give instructions to her dog. ‘I feel badly about taking her in. With the distancing, there is a fear of people and sometimes small alleys. I’m scared to go out again.

Thus, the risk of social isolation is amplified for service dog users who have to stay at home and forget about their routine.

The other side of the coin

Despite the difficulties, there are some positive experiences. Several beneficiaries are happy that the implementation of social distancing rules means nobody tries to pet their dog, which usually happens several times per outing. This distraction may cause the animal to make a mistake, which could put the safety of the user at risk.

In fact, all of them are grateful to have a companion during this crisis. In spite of the isolation, the beneficiaries can count on the reassuring presence of their animal. Marie Eve Leduc is the mother of a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who has an assistance dog. She is relieved to have had Amhara for her boy.

After several months of confinement, the reopening of stores has also made going out again easier.

Arthur holds Amhara, a black Labrador service dog. (Marie Eve Leduc) Solutions exist
As the process of deconfinement continues in Canada, many recipients are concerned that they will be overlooked as the measures rarely take into consideration Canadians living with disabilities . A few solutions are therefore suggested for them, including priority entry at all times, reserved hours and a shopping assistance service.

Masks with a transparent screen or visors to allow deaf or hard of hearing people to read lips would be necessary in essential services, particularly at the reception desk. Finally, distancing could become permanent around recipients of working dogs.

In this wave of change, it is up to us to seize the opportunity to make our society a more accessible place.

The author thanks the beneficiaries of the Mira Foundation who have generously shared their photos and testimonials, as well as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind/Institut national canadien pour les aveugles for the illustration.