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Entries in Service Dogs (4)

Tuesday
May292012

Wounded Warriors Helping Dogs Help Vets

Wounded warriors train service dogs to help other injured servicemen and women. (ABC News)(WASHINGTON) -- A group of disabled Iraq and Afghanistan military veterans has taken on an important mission -- training service dogs to aid other wounded vets on their road to recovery and beyond as part of a program just begun by the Pentagon.

Dogs like four-month-old puppy Cadence are part of a three-year training course that will eventually match them up to help wounded troops coming home who've suffered debilitating injuries such as loss of limbs.

Training man's best friends to assist those with physical disabilities has been done in the past -- but what's different about this program is that injured military vets do the training. And that training has had a positive impact on the trainers themselves -- giving them their own kind of canine therapy, as well as giving the dogs more specified training.

Sgt. Brian Bradley, who is training six dogs, lost his right arm in Afghanistan in 2010. He credits the program with helping him readjust to everyday life. And in return, he uses his prosthetic limb to better train the dogs to better understand the disabled soliders they'll be assigned once their training is finished.

"When I first got to the program last year, some of the puppies -- they were like, 'What is that?' They see the hook moving around and stuff," Bradley said. "I got other prosthetics, but they see the hook and we introduce that to them because they know they are going to be seeing it later. Also, we introduced the wheelchairs to them too and the power chairs."

Bradley believes that with disabled vets doing the training, the dogs will better serve wounded soldiers when they are done.

"When a service member gets a service dog from another company, most of those people are able bodied, have no issues, so they aren't really working around anybody who is disabled," Bradley said. "So we train them completely how every disabled service member would be."

The dogs in the program are trained to help out with everyday tasks like picking up wallets, money and credit cards to turning on lights and pushing automatic door buttons.

"I can open the door for myself -- but if I have a lot of stuff, he can push the buttons for me," Bradley said. "He can flip lights as well. I'll say 'light' and he'll jump up on the wall and he'll flip it. Sometimes he uses his paw, sometimes he uses his nose."

But they are also trained to help heal another kind of injury that plagues so many soldiers when they return home from war -- post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Mine kicks in every time I put on a new prosthetic that looks identical to my other arm," Bradley said. "It's like an instant memory of me actually losing my arm that day. So PTSD is there."

Specialist Cory Doane, who lost a leg in Afghanistan in 2011 when his vehicle was hit by an IED, says the program helps him even more than it helps the dogs he's training.

"It helped me a lot more than it's helped the dog for sure," Doane said. "It's nice just to get out and about again. Because, you know, after I was wounded I was kind of stationary for a bit. So it's nice to get out and actually do something productive, instead of just healing. It's nice to contribute back."

Those contributions -- from the trainers and the dogs -- are being recognized by the military community.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praised the program and those who make it happen.

"To be able to have someone who can be close to you and be a part of you as you go through some very tough times, as you rehabilitate, as you come back and try to come back into society and have the company of a dog -- that is really a true friend because they don't question what you are doing, they're just your friend through thick and thin," Panetta told ABC News' Jake Tapper. "Having that kind of relationship I think is just great for the veterans who serve this country."

Panetta has his own canine friend, a golden retriever named Bravo, who has shown him the kind of difference a furry friend can make.

"We could not do our job of protecting this country without people like you who are willing to put their lives on the line," Panetta said to the wounded warrior trainers. "And I really appreciate your service and your sacrifice. I appreciate the effort to, you know, be able to have a dog help someone be able to lead a fuller life. In many ways that's what Bravo does for me in some very tough jobs that I've been in -- having the company of Bravo around and having him provide emotional support.

"Thanks for everything you're doing to help our veterans. We owe them an awful lot," he said. "I guess one of the ways we can repay it is to have them have the company of a dog."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb012012

Service Dog's Skills Saves Owner’s Life

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(GLENDALE, Ariz.) -- A lick of the face and a nudge of the hand from Danny, a miniature schnauzer, helped Bethe Bennett regain consciousness after she fell in her Glendale, Ariz., home.

Bennett fell on her tile floor Friday and broke her femur. She lay on the ground in excruciating pain, aware that no visitors were coming until Tuesday.

“I was scared. I really thought I was going to die,” Bennett told ABC News. “I knew I was going into shock because I’m a nurse.”

But Danny, a trained service dog who used to care for Bennett’s now-deceased mother, lent a helping paw that helped save his devoted owner’s life.

“I started asking Danny to get me the phone,” Bennett said. “He ran back and forth a couple of times barking and finally jumped up and knocked the phone over and pushed it with his nose toward me.”

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But then Bennett realized the paramedics may not have been able to get into her locked house.

“Paper!” she asked Danny. He brought over five sheets, one of which had the phone numbers of Bennett’s neighbors.

Bennett called her neighbors, who unlocked her home with a hidden spare key just as paramedics arrived.

She is now recovering at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, with Danny by her side.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug222011

Surfing Dog, Ricochet, Helps Disabled Surf

Comstock/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- There are dogs who play ball, dogs who chase cats and dogs who catch Frisbees. But near San Diego there is Ricochet, a 3-year-old golden retriever who catches waves and captures hearts.

Ricochet helps teach disabled people how to surf by acting as a canine co-pilot.

"She stabilizes the board," said Sabine Becker, who was born with no arms. "Somehow, she does it so we're not off-balance. She is just standing there and just surfs with us."

Surfing isn't even Ricochet's first career. From birth, she was trained to be a service dog, a companion to someone who needed help with everyday tasks. But she is a little mischievous and likes to chase birds -- poor traits for a companion who needs to provide constant attention.

Owner Judy Fridono discovered Ricochet had other ways to help.

"I wanted her to make a difference in one life, and she's touched millions and millions now," Fridono told ABC News.

Ricochet started boogie boarding at 8 weeks old and is now a pro on the surfboard. Fridono swears she adjusts her balance and stance depending on the disability of the person she is surfing with.

Ricochet is just as valuable on land: She has raised more than $100,000 for different charities on her Facebook page and her videos have gone viral, garnering more than 3 million views.

She is also a finalist for the annual "Hero Dog Award" from the American Humane Association, where she is up against a guide dog and even a military dog -- all amazing animals. And while they all might rate a 10, only Ricochet can hang ten.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun082011

Need for Service Dog Trumps Allergies, According to Most State Laws

John Winston/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- A Colorado cab driver has been suspended from his job after forcing a blind woman to stow her seeing-eye dog in the trunk because of his pet allergies.

Denver resident Judie Brown was confused when the cabbie told her that the dog had to ride "in the back" of the cab because he was allergic. When she asked, "Where in the back?" the driver responded "In the trunk," Brown told ABC News affiliate in Denver KMGH 7.

Late for an appointment, Brown reluctantly agreed. The black lab, Alberto, who has been Brown's service dog for four years, whined during the entire ride in the trunk. "It was terribly wrong," Brown said of the situation, and the law is on her side: Colorado state law protects service dogs and their owners, allowing them to ride together in taxis and public transport.

The driver, whose name hasn't been provided by Union Taxi, has since been suspended and fined by the state for violating this law, according to KMGH 7. The cab company declined to comment to ABC News.

The situation embodies a common conflict between those with dog allergies and those requiring service dogs for a disability. Disability laws protect those with service dogs, but do not usually protect those with allergies. Taxi cabs and restaurants commonly pose a problem for those with service dogs, says Marion Gwizdala, president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users.

"Most states have criminal penalties for refusing access to service dogs, but one of the major issues is that generally there's ignorance of this law. The Department of Justice clearly states that allergies and fear of animals are not reasons to deny service animals -- unless the allergy rises to the level of disability," he says.

If a cab driver can prove that his/her allergy to dogs constitutes a disability, then there would be a conflict as to whose rights are superior, Gwindzala says. But how often is a dog allergy severe enough to qualify as a disability?

Someone with asthma could have a severe asthma attack triggered by having a dog in the car, which could be threatening to his/her health, according to James Sublett.,chair of the Indoor Environments Committee at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. While most dog allergy reactions trigger milder symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, and skin rashes, in severe cases, the eyes can swell shut with inflammation -- a reaction that would certainly affect one's ability to drive a cab, he says.

Even for those with merely annoying symptoms, one ride with a dog could leave dander in the car for several weeks unless cleaned thoroughly, Sublett says.

Given the laws that protect service dogs, what's an allergic cabbie to do?

"The driver has a reasonable right to avoid contamination of his cab with dog dander," says Miles Weinberger, director of the Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Division at the University of Iowa.

However, he adds, the driver also has an "obligation to ensure that an alternative taxi is promptly available. Putting the dog in the trunk is not an acceptable alternative."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio