By Dr. Becker
International Assistance Dog Week was August 5 – 11 this year.
In honor of every loyal assistance dog and the dedicated people who train them for a lifetime of service to people with disabilities, I want to highlight a few of the organizations doing this wonderful, life-changing work.
Assistance Dog Organizations
- Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD)
ECAD dogs retrieve things, open doors, turn lights on, pull wheelchairs, help people keep their balance and perform many other specialized tasks for folks with a variety of limitations in strength, balance, coordination or mobility.
ECAD provides service dogs for the physically disabled, children with autism, U.S. service men and women with war-related physical or psychiatric disabilities, and skilled companion dogs for those who are homebound. They also provide facility/therapy dogs who help trained professionals provide emotional or physical therapy in assisted living facilities, group homes, hospitals and schools.
- Autism Assistance Dogs Ireland
This organization is only a couple of years old and is based in County Cork in Ireland.
Autism assistance dogs from this organization have met the required standards of Assistance Dogs Europe. They are trained to increase the safety of autistic children through anchoring, provide independence and greater freedom for children out in public, and help with transitioning to reduce stress levels. The dogs act as constant companions and help to improve the children's social skills.
- OccuPaws Guide Dog Association
OccuPaws is located in Madison, Wisconsin. Its mission is to place fully trained guide dogs with visually impaired residents of Wisconsin and neighboring states at no charge.
OccuPaws provides Children's Visual Companion Dogs to blind youth and their families, Visual Assistant Dogs for older children or adults transitioning toward a full Guide Dog, and full Guide Dogs.
- Canine Companions for Independence (CCI)
This organization breeds Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and crosses of the two to become assistance dogs. The dogs are placed at no cost to people who successfully complete the application and training process.
CCI trains four types of assistance dogs:
- Service dogs for adults with physical disabilities. Service dogs help their owners with daily tasks and increase their independence. - Facility dogs who partner with a facilitator working in a health care, visitation or education setting. - Skilled companion dogs for adults or children with a disability. These dogs work and live under the guidance of a facilitator, typically a parent, spouse or caregiver who handles and cares for the dog. - Hearing dogs are specially bred retrievers who alert partners to key sounds by making physical contact such as nudging the leg or arm.
- Dogs for the Deaf
Dogs for the Deaf rescues dogs from animal shelters in the western U.S.
After being professionally trained at a facility in Oregon, the dogs are placed with individuals with disabilities including hearing loss and autism. Dogs are also placed with teachers, doctors, therapists, legal advocates and caregivers who work with people with disabilities.
Dogs for the Deaf places dogs through the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.