We’ve all heard a story or two (or three) about dogs doing heroic things. No surprise there. They’ve been companions to us humans for the past 30,000 years. We’ve got a history, and any relationship which has lasted that long has got to reward us with some amazing tales.
Every day is a dog day as far as we’re concerned. September pushes it over the top, when dogs get a whole month. But these are special dogs. Service dogs.
Service dogs are professionally trained to perform certain tasks for people with disabilities, as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. We might think of service dogs as those who help those with visual impairments, but these special canines do much more. They can assist with balance, or even inspire confidence to help veterans with PTS or traumatic brain injuries.
There just aren’t enough
Over 61 million Americans live with disabilities, but there are only about 500,000 service dogs helping them. There just aren’t enough to go around.
The highly specialized training can take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars. The exact time and cost will depend on the type of disability. Generally, though, the average wait time for a service dog at the present time is about three years.
Where you’ll find service dogs today
While service dogs have been trained to help a wide array of people with disabilities, they are most commonly found helping people with blindness and vision impairment, deafness, physical disabilities, and mental disabilities. You’ll also find hearing dogs who help people by alerting them to important sounds that they’d otherwise miss.
We think of service dogs helping the blind or visually impaired. However, it’s estimated that less than 3% of this population is paired with a service or guide dog.
Mobility dogs that help those with physical impairments are also common. They pull individuals in wheelchairs, assist those with balance problems, or help people using walking devices.
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, possessing up to 200 million olfactory receptors in their noses (compared with just six million for us humans). This scenting talent allows Medical alert dogs to do amazing things! They sense medical issues such as low blood sugar, alerting a diabetic that it’s time to medicate, and even alerting people with epilepsy before a seizure is about to occur.
A hard position to fill
The good news is that just about any breed can be trained to become a service dog. The not-so-good news is that up to 70% of dogs that undergo the training fail to successfully complete it. They require highly specialized training and have to pass rigorous tests. After all, it could mean a matter of life and death.
It’s why we salute these amazing canines. And there’s another reason. We’re the proud manufacturers of vinyl holders for Service Dog Handler certifications. They’re among the many types of badge holders we make. And speaking of variety, check out our Vinyl Art Pets!
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