While International Assistance Dog Week pays tribute to the growing number of assistance dogs for their hard work, it also serves to raise awareness and educate the general public on how these specially trained dogs aid and make a difference in the lives of so many people.
The celebration of International Assistance Dog Week takes place on the first Sunday of August. This year, the week fell on August 5 to 11. It was established through the efforts of Marcie Davis, a person with paraplegia for over 35-years and CEO of Davis Innovations, a consulting firm based in Santa Fe, NM. Davis also wrote the assistance dog guide book called ‘Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook.’ She also hosts an Internet radio program, Working Like Dogs, at petliferadio.com. Davis founded Working Like Dogs, honouring assistance dogs all over the world and sponsors International Assistance Dog Week.
Much like everyday people, assistance dogs have different jobs too. They take on many duties throughout the day, and they are trained to do so. Each dog is hand-picked and receives extensive training to help people with a range of disabilities. Assistance dogs allow these individuals to enjoy some freedom they may not have had before. They also provide companionship.
These dogs are trained and ready so anyone who lives with a condition and struggles with the tasks of day to day life can get hooked up with an assistance dog. For example, someone with diabetes can have an assistance dog to bring medication or let them know when something is wrong; someone struggling with depression, the assistance dog can provide companionship, bring medicine, or help them push through the day; and even someone diagnosed with PTSD, when suffering a flashback or panic attack, the animal can provide relief and help them through the struggle.
The dog raisers, trainers, and programs form a sort of assembly line in the raising of a hard-working service dog to eventually benefit those in need. While this week also pays tribute and honour to these hard-working people, it’s also a week to educate the general public that seems to be almost non-existent. It’s important to know, acknowledge, and respect the service dog and their partner. Whatever you do, do not touch any service animal. Just like you and I, they are working! I don’t like to be touched when I’m working either.
Don’t worry though, just like us they get to have fun after a hard day’s work too. It’s not all work all the time, and that’s part of what this week is about. Letting these animals, and the people behind the animals, know they are appreciated for all of their hard work.