Animals are heroes; they impact people’s lives. Last week the Hero Dog Awards were presented by the American Humane Association and broadcast on the Hallmark Channel. These seven dogs all impact people, whether through their law enforcement or military service, bringing smiles to people in hospitals and nursing homes, or simply through their tenacious spirit after a time of abuse – dogs inspire us, if we let them.
I recently wrote post about Animal Heroes. This week, I’m pleased to present a guest blogger who will showcase some types of hero dogs, particularly service dogs who help people with various afflictions. For years, I’ve admired organizations who help people in need of service dogs, groups like Canine Companions for Independence, located in Santa Rosa, California, a community devastated by recent wildfires (thankfully, CCI’s facilities and dogs survived that inferno). I hope you enjoy Paige’s article regarding service dogs and the assistance they provide people – these types of dogs are truly heroes!
Guest Post by Paige Johnson
There are vast types of service dogs, including severe allergy alert dogs, autism assistance dogs, mobility support dogs, diabetic alert dogs, medical assistance dogs, emotional support dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and more. These distinctions can be broken down into three major categories: mental illnesses, permanent mental disabilities, and physical conditions that require assistance. The Great Danes from Service Dog Project, Inc., for example, are for mobility. You would be amazed by what this can do for someone who might become stuck behind a 6-inch curb.
This article will touch on each of the above-mentioned major categories, and how having a service dog can significantly improve day-to-day life for people with such conditions.
Perhaps the most complex of the three categories are service dogs that aid physical conditions such as mobility support, allergy alert, medical assistance, and seizure response. These dogs require a substantial amount of training, as outlined by Paws Training Centers. It can take years to fully prepare a dog for the complexities of physical support. Each situation is different. For this reason, training regimens vary greatly.
Common skills include the ability to notice people approaching, to respond to a name, recognize specific sounds or smells (such as detecting low blood sugar levels), seek help from others, press a medical button, wake up an owner or retrieve personal items. Physical support dogs should be able to apply pressure, cuddle on cue, respond to anxiety or panic attacks, and interrupt nightmares or night terrors caused by PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). As you can probably tell, physical support dogs accept a great deal of responsibility for the health and well-being of their owners. They are, quite literally, life-saving animals. Therefore, when you notice a support dog in public, you should never approach without asking first. These dogs are trained to detect danger and could perceive you as a threat, and they are working, caring for their special person. Physical support dogs are far from pets. They are considered companions and dogs with a job.
People with issues such as panic disorder, general anxiety disorder, and depression are aided by emotional support dogs. These dogs require little or no training. They can live in all rented spaces, much like other support dogs. However, they are not always allowed in public places. This is because any pet can be considered an emotional support animal. You can register guinea pigs, cats, dogs, rabbits, or ferrets. If you feel comforted in the presence of your pet, you can register him or her as a support animal. Most non-pet apartment complexes will ask for a record of your counseling or mental diagnosis to ensure that you aren’t taking advantage of the system.
If you choose to get a service dog for your mental illness, understand the difference between a physical and emotional support dog. Should you decide to bring your dog to public spaces as though he or she is a physical support animal, it is your responsibility to provide training. Learn more about access and legal issues through Nolo.
It’s also worth noting that many people who are in recovery from substance abuse addiction find that companion animals are great options for support when managing sobriety and navigating through the difficult aspects of recovery. Animals used in this aspect, while offering emotional support, are not eligible for registration as a support animal, but they still provide ample comfort at home.
Not sure if you need an emotional support dog for your anxiety or mental illness? Anxiety Guru can help you make an informed decision.
Permanent Mental Disabilities
Our final category involves permanent mental disabilities such as autism. Called Autism Support Dogs, these animals are somewhere between physical and emotional service dogs. They do, in fact, require training. They are also respected in public areas as a physical support dog. Their job is to calm and ground an individual through deep pressure or tactile stimulation. They may also help teach important life skills. There is special bond between children and dogs, and those youngsters (as well as teens and adults) paired with such service dogs can see improvements in their lives and therefore, also in their loved ones.
All three categories of service dogs can improve your daily life by making you smile, helping you accomplish otherwise impossible physical feats, or comforting you when you need it most. Remember though there are laws against “faking” a service dog, and those people who really need a service animal can be affected by others who decide to try to by-pass the rules about housing or traveling with a dog. True service dogs are vital companions and often life-saving ones for people with various mental and physical issues.
Whether in need of a service dog or not, consider adopting from breed-specific rescues or animal welfare shelters and getting involved in the Canine Good Citizen Program, which is considered the “gold standard” for dog behavior.
Paige Johnson is a fitness nerd and animal lover. She shares her insights on LearnFit. She loves offering advice on a variety of topics. As a personal trainer, she has a passion for fitness training and enjoys sharing her knowledge with those seeking to live a healthier lifestyle. She's also mom to three dogs, all rescues, and volunteers at her local animal shelter. Through her time with her own pups and working at the shelter, she's picked up some great tips on pet care and training.
Photos from Pixabay.com
October is drawing to a close, and that means Halloween is on the horizon. While most kids, and many adults, enjoy this time of year, our pets can become agitated, frightened, even lost.
Here are a few safety tips to help your pets during the next few weeks:
If you decide to dress up your pet for Halloween and have the time to create a costume, here’s a link to a cute DIY strawberry costume, complete with instructions: https://www.berries.com/blog/strawberry-costume-diy#dog.
I once dressed Cody, my cocker spaniel, as a fireman – I thought he looked cute, but he didn’t seem very impressed with the idea!
For additional Halloween pet safety tips, visit http://www.petmd.com/dog/seasonal/evr_multi_halloween_safety_tips.
May you, your children, and your pets enjoy a safe, stress-free Halloween!
They conduct search and rescue. They serve in the military. They lead the blind and alert the hard-of-hearing. They comfort people in crisis, visit the hospitalized and those in hospice care; they even provide a soothing balm for us, their guardians. They survive abuse and neglect to become someone’s beloved pets. They are animal heroes!
Images of the dogs searching for the trapped and injured on 9/11 and during last week’s earthquake in Mexico resonate in our hearts and souls. From fires in homes and cresting ocean waves to hospital rooms and school bullying problems, dogs, cats, horses, guinea pigs and other animals provide rescue, comfort, security, and therapy to many humans, their own as well as strangers. From the military veteran suffering from PTSD or physical disability to the child lost in the woods or the trapped earthquake victim, animals respond to the needs of people as they fulfill their roles of service, comfort or search and rescue. They are K-9 officers protecting communities and military service dogs sniffing out bombs and bad guys.
Every fall, the American Humane Association partners with the Hallmark Channel to present The Hero Dog Awards. From a service dog named Roselle who guided her blind owner and others out of a building during 911 to an abused pit bull named Hooch, canines have been celebrated for their heroic story for more than five years – and their stories tug at the heartstrings!
This year’s Hero Dog Award winner’s story is no different. American Humane recently announced the 2017 winner: a one-eared pit bull named Abigail. A dog-fighting survivor who was rescued after nearly being euthanized, Abigail is a “spokesdog” for dog-fighting rescues and for forgiveness and second chances. She’s also a fashionista, thanks to her human-mom who dresses her in scarves and headbands to help cover some of her scars. Many nominated Hero Dogs have overcome the odds of abuse or neglect.
Cats are also known to be heroes. Last year the BBC reported on several cat heroes, including one that detected cancer in her special human and another who came to the rescue of the young boys he lives with.
Hero animals – whether they do incredible feats of bravery or are simply the companions of the household, they all deserve to be called the Heroes of Our Hearts!
Just like human medicine, the cost of medical care for our beloved pets can be high. For example, my dog Mary suffers from allergies; her injections cost nearly $300 a year plus she takes daily medication that costs nearly $70 per month. Vaccinations can run $20 to $30 and annual exams nearly $50. Health care for a person’s pet is oftentimes a reason someone will give up that pet (i.e., medication costs) or will ask a vet to euthanize the animal. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Yet, what is a pet owner, who lives on minimum wage or is working two or more jobs and caring for a family, to do, especially with unplanned, emergency veterinary bills? There are several options.
First, explore low-cost vaccination clinics and spay/neuter clinics. Oftentimes various animal welfare organizations will team up with veterinarians to offer such services. For example, my community’s Humane Society pairs with a local vet to offer monthly low-cost vaccination clinics, and occasionally the local city/county animal shelter teams up with a vet to provide low-cost microchip clinics. Learn what’s available in your community for such services.
Second, talk with your veterinarian about a payment plans. Some vets will take monthly or twice-a-month payments; however, many do not. It does not hurt to ask. If your vet is one of those who doesn’t accept payment plans, here are a few other choices for you to consider to help with the financial aspects of your pet’s health care:
We all want to keep our furry friends as healthy as possible, but sometimes the expense can be challenging. Investigate these options and see if one if right for you. Additionally, here is a website that gives more information on how people can find help to pay their veterinary bills: https://www.paws.org/cats-and-dogs/other-services/help-with-veterinary-bills/.
Last week a friend of mine lost her dog. The black pug escaped out of a backyard gate that hadn’t been latched correctly. Her case is not unusual. Dogs frequently escape. Some dig. Some jump. Some look for those unlatched gates. And some dogs are just prone to wander. For example, the working breeds, from hunters like retrievers to herders like heelers, these types of dogs are bred for different jobs… and they may go looking for that work.
Cats also are known to roam. Many people don’t like to keep their cat “cooped up,” recognizing a feline’s instinct for hunting. However, whether cat or dog, a loose pet can be a dead pet. Every day, dogs and cats are hit by cars. Sometimes they’re caught in traps. Maybe shot, stolen, or fall prey to predators like owls, hawks, foxes, and coyotes. Therefore, the best idea is keep your pet at home. Cats can easily become indoor pets. Between carpeted towers, windows to look out of, toys that engage their stalking and hunting instincts, and healthy food, a cat will find contentment inside her home.
However, should your pet escape the house or yard, there are ways to increase its chances of returning home. A collar with id tags is very helpful. For those concerned that a collar will hang up on a fence, or for some other reason not a collar on your pet, then please consider a microchip. It's an easy procedure done by your vet; and sometimes shelters offer microchip clinics for reduced fees. iThat way, no matter what happens to the collar (perhaps someone takes it off or the pet slips out of it), you have another way for someone to help your pet get home. Many animal shelters have a microchip scanner and will check stray animals for a chip. Both id tags and microchips need to have up-to-date information – people can’t return your pet if the address and phone number are no longer valid.
To help find your lost pet, here are a few other ideas to consider:
Before you find yourself in my friend’s situation with a lost pet, take proactive steps, such as collar and id tags, microchip, and regularly checking your gates and fences for closure and holes. Also, be vigilant when opening the doors of your home as well as the gates in your yard. And, if your pet does go missing, do everything you can, employ all types of actions, to get your furry friend back home.
One of the reasons people give for leaving their pets at animal shelters or surrendering them to rescue groups is “I’m moving” or “My landlord won’t let me have a pet.” Being separated from one’s animal is heartbreaking, both pet and owner grieve. I’ve volunteered and worked with enough animal rescue and shelter organizations to know how such separation impacts people and animals.
I was recently approached by a fellow pet-lover and writer about contributing to my blog regarding this subject. She’s written a piece about pet-friendly housing, and I agreed to link to her article.
As March dawns and spring draws ever closer, many people consider moving. Therefore, this is a good time to remind those who rent that it’s important to find out as much in advance as possible if the landlord allows pets. If the new place you’re considering is NOT pet-friendly and you have pets, re-consider moving there; search for pet-friendly accommodations. In some areas, you may find buying your own small place a wiser move, both financially and pet-wise. If purchasing your own place is not an option, consider your renting options.
Read this article written by Rebekah May regarding pet-friendly housing and options you may have as a pet parent. The article begins with these thoughts:
Not only is moving a stressful situation, owning pets only serves to compound the hassle. Pet friendly rentals are increasingly harder to come by for pet owners.
Visit this site to read the remainder of her article:
February is Spay/Neuter Awareness Month and the last day of the month is considered World Spay Day. Every year millions of dogs and cats, puppies, and kittens go into animal shelters, and sadly, a lot of them die in those shelters. If more companion animals were spayed or neutered, the number of litters of puppies and kittens would decrease, and therefore, so, too, would the numbers of animals killed in shelters each year.
That is one reason to spay and neuter pets. There are several others.
Although a spay surgery can be expensive, especially for a large or extra-large female dog, there are opportunities to find low-cost spay-neuter clinics. The ASPCA provides a database of such low-cost clinics. Visit their webpage at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/low-cost-spayneuter-programs to find a clinic/program near you. The Humane Society of the United States can also assist you finding low-cost programs and clinics; visit that group’s website to learn more: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/tips/afford_spay_neuter.html?credit=web_id88387650.
If you live in Wyoming, as I do, you can visit the SpayWyoming page, a state-wide program of the Dog and Cat Shelter in Sheridan, Wyoming and an affiliate of SpayUSA. You might also visit the Care Credit website, a health-care credit card covering dental, chiropractic, veterinary, and other medical fields; the company often gives patients (or in this case the “pet parents” of patients) six to 12 months to pay off the account before charging interest (it’s a program my husband and I use for our veterinary bills).
The outlay for a spay or neuter might be spendy at first, especially if your area doesn’t have a low-cost spay/neuter program. However, the benefits of the surgery are many, including a healthier pet and not dealing with behavioral issues. But, a strong reason to spay and neuter is saving lives, not having to wonder how to find homes for litters of puppies and kittens and facing the reality that, if taken to an animal shelter, those animals may not get new homes, but instead, may die.
Please do your part as a responsible pet parent: spay/neuter your companion animal!
A little more than a year ago, my husband and I lost our nearly 18-year-old cocker spaniel named Cody. We had adopted him when he was almost 10 years of age. He had been used as a stud dog for a breeder and then basically tossed away like yesterday’s garbage. When we discovered him at our local humane society, his sad spaniel eyes ignited my heart. Even though he likely wouldn’t be with us but a few years, we determined to give him the best couple of years of his life. Two years turned into three, into five, into seven. At 17 ¾ years of age, Cody crossed the Rainbow Bridge, knowing he was loved, adored, and pampered to the very end.
Our hearts and home are more empty since his passing, but the nearly eight years we shared with Cody were filled with laughter, joy, and love.
We still have Mary, a springer-cocker mix we adopted four years ago this week. She was nearly seven when she came to live with us, and we credit Mary with helping keep Cody going as long as he did. They shared walks in the woods with us, trips to the dog park, and travels in the car, as well as cuddles on the couch and snuggles in bed. Their friendship was very special, especially considering they were not raised together.
Mary turns 11 next week. We’ve considered adopting another dog as she was raised with a smaller pup prior to her going into rescue at the death of her special person in 2012. She misses Cody; that was readily apparent in the early months after Cody’s passing. She is bonded to us, especially to my husband who often gets to work from home. When does a person know the right time to adopt a pet, whether one pet has passed or a person has never been the guardian of an animal before?
Just like with having kids, no time may be the actual “right time” to adopt, but one thing is for sure: a person must MAKE TIME to care for a pet properly. I would encourage anyone considering adopting a pet to make sure you have time to give, that your life is not so incredibly full that the animal will be left alone for countless hours and have little interaction with its human family. Too many animals are given up because of the excuse “I don’t have time for it.” Just as children need nurturing, attention, and care, so do our pets. They rely on us, they need us, and they want us to share time and activities with them.
So, if you’re thinking of adopting a pet, ensure you won’t change your mind in a month or so and say “I don’t have time.” First and foremost, make sure time is something you do have, or will make, before bringing a pet into your home.
And, if you think you can’t find the type of pet, the breed of dog or cat you want, think again: not all shelter pets are “mutts.” In fact, depending on where you live and what you’re looking for, 5 to 25 percent of shelter pets are purebred. Look on Petfinder.com for a specific breed, sex, and even whether they’re good with children or other animals. And, view this website for some of the types of dog breeds one is likely to find at shelters: https://mom.me/pets/19900-dog-breeds-commonly-found-animal-shelters/. Additionally, specific breed rescues can be found at this website: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rescue-network/contacts/.
Is it time for my husband and I to adopt another dog? Not yet, but likely by the end of the year. I do look, and I do consider. And perhaps we’ll change our minds mid-year and adopt again at that time. We’ll know when the time is right – I believe you will, too for you and your family.
People love their pets, but admittedly, they can cost pet parents a lot of money. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), people in the United States spent more than $60 billion dollars on their furry friends in 2015, up $2 billion from the previous year. About 80 million households have pets, with dogs making up the majority of furry friends: more than 54 million. The APPA estimates the average American family spends more than $1,600 on a dog’s vet bills and more than $1,100 on kitty health.
According to an article on TheSimpleDollar.com, which references the APPA report, “the costs of veterinary care have risen faster than inflation.” Between medical exams/wellness care, vaccinations, dental procedures, and operations (including spay/neuter), pet health care, like people health care, is a significant expense. Pet insurance may help.
There are several national pet insurance carriers, including the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Nationwide, Trupanion, PetFirst, HealthyPaws, and PetsBest. Deductibles vary, and some plans reimburse 70 to 90 percent of a veterinary bill. Plan costs vary, depending upon the deductible, coverage, type and age of pet.
But, how does one choose a plan and a company? Luckily for pet parents, some of the research has already been done. Consumer Advocate, for example, ranks companies based on reviews. A person can select their state to see if coverage is available.The Canine Journal has also reviewed and ranked pet insurance companies.
Additionally, The Simple Dollar recently released a guide on pet insurance companies. The author of the report used his own pets as examples in comparing companies and plans.
I’ve never carried health insurance on my pets, but I’ve often considered it. A friend of mine, however, does pay for pet insurance, and she believes having such coverage is a great benefit. She is an individual on a fixed income due to a disability. My friend had a cat who lived to be nearly 17 years of age; that cat became diabetic at about age 12. The added expense of insulin was covered on her pet insurance plan, and as the cat grew older and more health problems developed, she found having pet health insurance a wonderful asset. So, for those of us who don’t carry pet insurance, it may be something to consider. Having resources such as that provided by The Simple Dollar, The Canine Journal, and Consumer Advocate can help pet parents review plans and premiums and decide if pet insurance is something to expend money on.
To insure or not insure is a question to consider no matter what type or age of pet you have.
I’ve enjoyed the companionship of dogs throughout my life. Most have lived to at least ten, some to be twelve, and Cody, our cocker spaniel who passed in January, was more than seventeen. Cody was deaf and couldn’t see very well during those final months, but one thing he possessed, nearly to the end, was spirit. He was loyal to his people and to his animal friends. That’s a great lesson to learn from an old dog: loyalty.
Sage, the sweet, blind springer spaniel my husband and I adopted in 2001, shared our home and hearts for more than 11 years, living to be 12 ½ years of age. She endured several eye surgeries prior to becoming completely blind due to Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). Yet, through it all, she showcased courage and perseverance. Her entire life reflected those traits, as well as kindness, friendship, and compassion.
There’s a lot we can learn from an old dog. Here are a few things:
October is National Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, and November bring National Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month. Bring those two together and in October consider adding a senior dog to your household. Just as we can learn from the wisdom of older people, we can also learn from elderly animals – if only we’d open our hearts to what these wonderful creatures can teach us.
There is a wonderful story from last year about a man who adopted an eight-week-old puppy and kept the dog all of his life. Then, as the dog’s quality of life dwindled, the man didn’t abandon the old dog or stick it in a shelter, as many people do; instead, the man took his dog on a trip of a lifetime, like having “a bucket list,” visiting places he wanted to share with his dog. Read the wonderful, heart-warming story and see the moving photos at http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/york-man-takes-dying-dog-bucket-list-adventure/story?id=31338158
Another such heart-warming pet-human adventure story came this past summer: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/13/health/dog-last-trip-trnd/
These stories showcases devotion, love, compassion, and joy. May we find beauty in life around us, in nature, in people, in ourselves, and in our companion animals – no matter what their age.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.