We’ve all seen videos or Facebook posts about animal heroes, courageous critters who save people’s lives, alert family members to fires or intruders, K9 and military dogs who sniff out drugs and bombs, and search and rescue canines who find lost children and elderly people with dementia. Each and every one of these creatures are brave and persevering. Their loyalty is beyond measure.
Many such dogs, military heroes, search and rescue champions, service stars, and others, are honored annually through American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards; the program is telecast each fall. Voting for Hero Dog of the Year continues through September 5.
Perhaps you know a courageous critter – a dog that rescued your child or a neighbor’s child from a situation, such as drowning. Maybe your grandmother’s cat alerted her to a fire. Or, you’ve read a story about such a brave pet.
I lived with one. No, she didn’t save the family from an intruder nor did she pull someone to safety. Her name was Sage, and she lived with blindness most of her life. Instead of rescuing people from danger, she courageously lived life, navigating stairs she couldn’t see, whether at home or in a strange building; she jumped up on furniture without having the security of knowing she’d land on the bed, couch, or chair – she couldn’t see and therefore, she bravely tackled the attempt. Sage inspired me, and she inspired others. Through classroom trips and library visits, Sage encouraged children who faced challenges, whether physical or emotional – her life as a blind dog epitomized courageous and perseverance. She lived both daily.
I wrote stories and books about Sage’s life and her impact upon others. One story was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? Titled “Seeing with the Heart,” I share the impact Sage had on some of the children we met during classroom visits. Her ability to sense when a child needed comfort touched many hearts, including my own, and her kindness and triumph over her disability impacted many kids.
My husband and I adopted Sage in 2001; we weren’t told, and we didn’t realize she was losing her sight. Although we were shocked when our veterinarian told us, “I’m sorry but your dog is going blind; she has an irreversible disease known as Progressive Retinal Atrophy,” we came to accept the outcome. We expected a depressed, dejected dog, but Sage’s courage and perseverance arose, and she tackled many obstacles, which inspired many. That special springer spaniel was the catalyst for me to become a strong advocate for pet adoption and to become an author. My first book, Sage’s Big Adventure: Living with Blindness, was created to encourage children to face their own obstacles with the tenacity Sage exhibited. Five years later, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog, was published; this devotional-style publication discusses the many lessons I and others learned from Sage.
We humans can learn great lessons from the pets in our lives as well as from those who don’t share our household. Animals can inspire us, if our hearts are open to the lessons and encouragement.
Want to read about my delightful dog named Sage? Pick up a copy of one of my books about her!
Learn more about and purchase Sage’s Big Adventure: Living with Blindness here.
Learn more about and purchase Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog here.
View a video about my brave springer spaniel Sage and the books about her below.
You’ve likely read about or heard about them, one may even live in your home. These are the heroes, superheroes, in fact, but only one that I know of made it onto the TV/Movie screen: UnderDog. What a name – not SuperDog, BatDog, or AvengerDog, the name was UnderDog – not much of a super hero name.
Yet, for those animals who save their humans’ lives, these pets are superheroes, such as the parrot who saved a child from choking and a cat who saved her family from carbon monoxide poisoning. Earlier this year, a German shepherd dog was badly beaten and shot several times protecting a teenager from home intruders; miraculously, the dog survived his injuries, and received a commendation.
From overseas military combat dogs like Layka to cats like Schnautzie from Montana, pets save lives, sniff out bombs and cancer, and find lost children. Hero pets lead the blind, bring smiles to hospital patients, help children read, and give people comfort during illness or grief. Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs travel the country during times of trauma, such as hurricanes and school shootings. Our own pets provide comfort when we’re sick or stressed. A cold nose or warm purr soothes us, making our own pets our own personal heroes.
Every year American Humane presents the Hero Dog Awards, honoring canines who come to the rescue. These superheroes may be police, fire, or military dogs, lead the blind and help the deaf, serve as therapy animals in hospitals, or inspire us with their persevering spirits as emerging heroes. This week, American Humane allows the public to vote for the hero dogs which, later this year, will be recognized for their endeavors and awarded for their heroism. Cast your vote for the Hero Dogs of the Year by visiting this website: http://herodogawards.org/vote/. Voting closes on Wednesday, April 25.
Your dog, cat, ferret, or parrot may not have an award on the wall or shelf, may not have saved yours or a family member’s physical life, but most of us with pets recognize the joy and wonder of having a pet share our lives. Who is your hero pet? Leave a comment about why you feel your pet “rescued” you or, in your eyes and heart, is your hero. And, don’t forget to vote for the American Humane Hero Dog Awards!
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
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.