Fridays with FAITH – Service Dogs 101
Ever wonder how a PUP becomes a Service Dog? There is more to it than just strapping on a vest. In fact, there is a lot more, even when it doesn’t look like we are working – we are!
So, for starters, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service dog as a “dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.” These tasks are critical for the well-being and safety of the person with the disability. Service dogs help to improve the quality of life, health, safety, and security of the person they are trained to work for.
First, there is training. In order to be classified as a Service Dog, we must be trained to perform specific tasks to aid a disability. Depending on the disability, service dogs can be trained to RETRIEVER items, including medications, for their HOO-MAN. They can SNIFF OUT blood sugar swings in someone with diabetes; provide stability for someone who may have issues with balance; help to calm anxiety and mood swings; awaken their HOO-MAN from nightmares or sleepwalking; warn of an impending seizure to give their HOO-MAN time to get to a safe place to avoid injury.
Second, is the certification. This comes when we service dogs successfully complete our PATs – Public Access Test. Once this is done, we are able to go in all public spaces where our HOO-MAN is, at any time. From here, our HOO-MANs may elect to register us with a specific organization for their disability; however, this is not required. The only requirement now is that we be well-mannered at all times while providing the appropriate service tasks to our HOO-MAN.
Third, we are always working, even if it doesn’t look like it. Please ask before petting us. We have a job to do, and we take it very seriously. It is what we have been trained to do. We are constantly on the lookout for potential dangers, sensing mood and physical changes in our HOO-MAN, and are ready at a moment’s notice to provide potentially life-saving support. If you walk up and start petting us, we may become distracted and that can have very dangerous consequences.
And finally, yes – we are dogs as well. We know when it is okay to let our guard down at home, or if our HOO-MAN says we can relax. We will run, and play, and chase tennis balls and frisbees (SQUIRREL!!). We will make a splash in the pool or run through the sprinkler. We enjoy belly rubs and being groomed so we can always look our best!
If you have any questions, or would like more information about service dogs, please contact us at weCare@maCares.org!
Wags and licks,