I read an interesting article in today’s Times, titled “Wonder Dog,” about the amazing ways service dogs can affect the lives of their families. The opening anecdote focused on a family in Georgia whose son has behavioral and cognitive issues stemming from prenatal exposure to alcohol. After trying all kinds of interventions, the mom was encouraged to consider a dog who was specifically trained to intervene in her son’s frequent tantrums. Over time, the family has seen the tantrums decrease, and they have also seen some striking developments in their son’s cognitive development.
The article also talks about the training process these dogs go through, which is rigorous and highly specific. They can be trained to perform physical tasks in a home environment–everything from opening doors and turning on light switches to getting items out of the refrigerator and helping someone undress–as well as to recognize physical symptoms, such as impending seizures. Here is a video showing the training process in action.
Around our house, we don’t have dogs trained for service. At times, one of the 14-yr-old “seniors”–Buddy–forgets that he’s housetrained. But, as this photo attests, we’re a thoroughly integrated family. The dogs let us know when the atmospheric pressure drops and a front is moving in, Digory–the other “old man”–makes frequent rounds of the house to make sure everyone is accounted for, and the beagles . . . well, the beagles make sure that any crumbs get licked up, whether they’re on the floor, on a low table, or in an open pantry closet.