National Service Dog Month
The dog days of summer have come to a close and September is almost here. While September is always linked with the beginning of fall, it is also the start of National Service Dog Month. Service dogs are many things to many people, they can be guides and friends, provide independence, freedom and peace of mind. They have a strong bond with the people who they call their owners, and they deserve all the recognition that this month can provide for serving people who have physical, mental and developmental disabilities.
Known as National Guide Dog Month in the online magazine DogTime before being changed to National Service Dog Month, it was established in 2008 by Dick Van Patten, the owner of Natural Balance Pet Foods. While visiting the Guide Dogs of the Desert Facility in Palm Springs, CA, he was inspired to set up a fundraising drive to benefit guide dogs and the training schools that trained them through the U.S. This single fundraiser has grown over the years to include a month of events to educate people about the importance of guide dogs.
Any dog can be a service dog, although Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds are most common. As long as a dog has a good temperament, is healthy and has the ability to do the job, they can prove they are up to the challenge of being a service dog. They have a variety of services to choose from, including: allergy alert, autism assistance, brace and mobility support, emergency medical response, diabetic alert, hearing, guide, medical alert and assistance, psychiatric service, seizure alert/assistance and visual and wheelchair assistance.
Tasks of service dogs that are trained in any of these fields can retrieve dropped items, open and close doors, turn lights on and off, pull wheelchairs up a slope, wake someone with PTSD from a nightmare, lick a person to help end their seizure, alert a diabetic when they have a dangerous drop in their blood sugar, and brace their handlers if they seem unsteady.
Just because a person doesn’t look like they have a disability, that doesn’t mean they don’t need a service dog. Someone who has a service dog also has the right to not explain why they have one, unless they welcome additional questions or information. Here in the U.S., service dogs are not required to wear vests, harnesses and jackets. Still, whether they do or don’t, their handlers still have the same rights, but by law, service dogs aren’t required to wear anything.
With all the assistance service dogs provide, it is important to give back to the dogs who spend their lives serving people. You can do that by donating time or money to a local service training and advocacy organization.
NAPPS recognized the tremendous need for service dogs among veterans of the United States military and has selected Paws and Stripes as its official charity.
Donating to Paws and Stripes is as simple as going to the website and visiting the donate page at www.pawsandstripes.org. Also, consider being a private sponsor for a veteran and dog.