As dog owners, we know dogs can often sense our emotions or needs – sometimes even before we do. It’s no wonder, then, that therapy dogs are popular for a wide variety of people who need assistance and companionship.
We have some stories about man’s best friend that will truly warm your heart.
When Canadian war veteran Chad Miron returned home from Iraq, he struggled with bouts of anger and anxiety linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He felt hopeless and didn’t even want to leave his flat.
When Norman, his PTSD service dog, came into his world, Chad’s life changed for the better. At the most basic level, he was forced outside and into his community of Hamilton, Ontario, as he had to take Norman for walks. Norman also creates a natural barrier between Chad and other people, allowing Chad some much-needed personal space.
"Norman is trained to help in many other ways. When he senses Chad is in distress, he will immediately nuzzle and kiss him to calm him down."
When Chad feels he needs some reassurance from Norman, he can also use the command ‘nudge’.
People with PTSD are often on high alert, so when Chad feels unsettled in his flat, he asks Norman to ‘search’. Norman will then have a look through the flat to reassure Chad that there aren’t any threats his safety.
When Rebecca, who has autism, is upset, she has trouble verbalising what’s upsetting her.
Like other autism assistance dogs, Charlie is there to help her manage her feelings.
Petting Charlie while she is upset and throwing a ball for him to fetch provides a sensory stimuli for Rebecca, gradually distracting her from crying, and allowing her to calm herself down.
Children on the autism spectrum often have difficulty with social stimuli others take for granted. Going to school or a birthday party can be unsettling. These children also have varying problems interacting with other children.
Service dogs like Charlie provide a calm, constant presence that reassures children with autism as they enter into what can otherwise be upsetting situations.
At Nose to Tail, we’re lucky to regularly meet up with some amazing mobility dogs.
Mobility assistance dogs are trained to help people with disabilities do things like retrieve dropped items, open doors, press lift buttons, turns lights on and off, load laundry or bark for help on command. They also help people with disabilities who live remotely feel less isolated and more in touch with the community.
Mobility assistance dogs help people with spinal injuries, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
"Modern assistance dogs lend an ever-widening range of services"
We’re all familiar with seeing-eye dogs, and then there are dogs trained to assist people who have seizures, as well as diabetic assist dogs, who can sense when their owner’s blood sugar levels are abnormal.
Therapy dogs are also trained to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as people in end-of-life care. Whether it’s giving someone a nuzzle to help them feel comforted, or helping people perform day-to-day activities, it truly is amazing what therapy dogs contribute to mankind.
So, when you next see a therapy dog out and about, you might be inspired to contribute to a worthy cause.
Here are some ways to help or donate locally:
- To learn more about mobility assistance dogs, or to make a donation, you can go to www.mobilitydogs.co.nz
- To learn more about Perfect Partners Assistance Dogs Trust or to make a donation, you can go to www.ppadt.org.nz
- To learn more about the Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust or to make a donation, go to www.assistancedogstrust.org.nz
If you have more questions about different types of therapy dogs, we’re happy to chat to you. Feel free to call us on: 09 448 2227.