Archive for the ‘Service Animals’ Category

Good news for Iraq war vet’s service dog: Biopsy shows tumor is benign

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

SANTA CRUZ — An Iraq War veteran has received a slew of good fortune during the past few days — learning late Monday morning that the tumor removed from her four-legged, steadfast companion last week is benign.

Devon, a 7-year-old golden retriever, underwent surgery early Friday morning to have the mass removed from his left front paw. It was shipped to a lab for further testing, and if the results showed a malignancy, chemotherapy or radiation treatments likely would have been needed.

Dr. David Shuman, who operates the Santa Cruz Westside Animal Hospital, donated his services to remove the growth, and when the lab learned of Santa Cruz resident Tori Stitt’s story, “they donated their services and put ‘STAT’ all over it,” he said Monday.

Meanwhile, when the community learned the invaluable services Devon provides to help Stitt cope with post-traumatic stress disorder — including licking her awake to interrupt persistent nightmares — they eagerly opened their wallets, donating about $8,000.

Shuman and Stitt both expressed their appreciation for the outpouring of support.

“It’s amazing to see how the community will come together to support someone like me,” Stitt said. “The cards, the checks — it’s like, wow.”

Devon entered Stitt’s life in 2009, not long after the former Navy lieutenant returned from a yearlong deployment to northern Iraq. During her time there, she trained staff members how to defuse improvised explosive devices and witnessed many of her trainees injured and killed while working in the field.

Plagued by recurring nightmares, and increasingly isolating herself from society, she sought help from the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center, a nonprofit that provides service dogs to disabled veterans.

Ever since, Stitt has become more outgoing and involved in the community, befriending such staunch supporters as Santa Cruz resident Rachel Boyd, who cares for Devon while his owner works. He was back in Shuman’s care Monday, getting his sutures removed and paw rebandaged.

“As soon as the skin heals and we make sure everything’s covered over, it’s a done deal,” Shuman said.

Meanwhile, the funds donated over the weekend have been set aside in a client account.

“He should be a very well cared for dog for the rest of his life,” Shuman said.

By Kimberly White

Santa Cruz Sentinel

Posted:   02/04/2013 01:51:09 PM PST

Feds to provide veterinary medical insurance for veterans’ service dogs

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Some 2,500 service dogs that aid disabled veterans may soon be insured for routine veterinary medical care including annual vaccinations, exams and certain lab tests. The Department of Veterans Affairs is seeking veterinary medical insurance for the dogs. The coverage will only apply to those that are actively engaged as working dogs. blog

Depending on which vet you talk to, health  care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs is either the cat’s  meow…or going to the dogs.

We mean that literally: the VA is seeking to keep its growing pack of service  dogs provided to wounded veterans in tip-top shape by buying “veterinary health  insurance and wellness coverage” for 301, and as many as many as 2,500, dogs now  helping veterans around the nation.

It’s another example of the hidden costs of war that you might not think  about unless you stumbled across a contract solicitation for it. Vets get dogs from the VA to help them  with physical disabilities; there is also discussion about expanding such programs to aid vets with  PTSD or other mental ills.

“Coverage will encompass Service Dogs owned by Veterans suffering from  visual, hearing and/or substantial mobility impairments and may be expanded to  include any other future disabilities approved by VA,” the solicitation says. “The Contractor shall provide VA with full comprehensive, quality veterinary  health care insurance coverage for all Service Dogs approved by VA for receipt  of insurance coverage regardless of age, breed, geographic location or  pre-existing condition as long as the Service Dog is determined capable of  performing as a Service Dog.”

The breeds to be covered include boxers, collies, Dobermans, German  shepherds, golden retrievers, great Danes, black, golden and yellow Labs,  Labradoodles, poodles, pugs, and Rottweilers. They range in age from 1 to 12  years.

Under the deal, VA service dogs will be entitled to these vaccinations:

– Distemper Parvo

– Leptospirosis

– Hepatitis

– Rabies

– Lyme Disease

– Bordetella (2 per year)

…and these annual exams:

– Otoscopic Exam

– Opthalmic Exam

– Rectal Exam

– Dental Exam

– Neurologic Exam

– Cardiovascular Evaluation

– Weight/Nutritional Counseling

– Coat & Skin Evaluation

– Abdominal Palpation

– Urogenital Evaluation

– Musculoskeletal Evaluation

– Pulmonary/Lung Evaluation

– Tonometry/Ocular Pressure

– Intestinal Parasite Fecal Exam

– Roundworm and Hookworm Dewormings

– Blood Sample Collect/Prep

– Blood Cell Count

– Differential Exam of Blood Cells

– Internal Organ Function Screens (liver, kidney, calcium/phosphorus,  cholesterol and diabetes)

– Canine Dental Prophylaxis Protocol (utilizes one blood screening and one  internal function screen, listed above)

– Urine Sample Collect/Prep – Free Catch

– Urinalysis – Individual Tests

– Urine Specific Gravity

– Urine Sediment Exam

– Chest X-Rays (3 views)

– Electrocardiograms

– Ear Swab and Microscopic Exam

Weight/Nutritional Counseling?

As well as:

– Dental Cleaning (sedation/general anesthesia is required for all  cleanings)

– Grooming (Blind Veteran-owned Service Dogs only)

– Heartworm/Lyme/Ehrlichia Test – Rocky Mountain Tick Fever

– Free Interstate Health Certificates (when needed)

Of course, such care won’t continue forever, according to the VA:

Upon successful completion of the annual comprehensive exam, VA will certify  or non-certify each Service Dog as fit/unfit for further duty. Those Service  Dogs determined by VA as non-certifiable will no longer be eligible for  insurance coverage and the Contracting Officer via contract modification in  accordance with Section 5.4.2 will terminate the insurance coverage for the  non-certifiable Service Dog.

We’ve asked the VA for an estimate of the annual per-dog cost, but it’s bound  to be more than you might think, given the VA’s response to a potential bidder  who asked if his employees would need security clearances if their company won  the contract:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires that all contractor  personnel with access to VA sensitive data have a fingerprint check adjudicated  favorably and a security investigation, which includes submission of various  security documents, be favorably evaluated before access may be granted to VA  information. In addition, all contractor personnel must successfully complete  the following training each year:  VA Cyber Security Awareness and Rules of  Behavior training, VA privacy training,  and any additional cyber security  or privacy training deemed necessary by the Contracting Officer and/or  Contracting Officer Representative.

Wonder if the dogs have to be so, ahem, vetted, as well?

Read more:

Abused children find comfort in furry friend

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

At the Snohomish County Courthouse, child interview specialist Gina Coslett of Dawson Place shows off Harper Lea, a 2-year-old lab trained to comfort children who are being asked to talk about crimes, or testify in a trial. Harper is a new addition to Dawson Place, which is the county's child advocacy center.

Harper is there as young victims of abuse talk about what happened

By Diana Hefley, Herald Writer
Harper is a dainty blonde with a heart for service — and chew toys.
Last month, the 2-year-old Labrador retriever started working at Dawson Place, the county’s child advocacy center that serves more than 1,000 abused children a year.
Harper is a special pooch whose job is to offer kids comfort at times when they may be scared, confused and uncomfortable.
She snuggles with children who are asked to recount horrific crimes committed against them. Her coat often soaks up their tears. Harper senses when kids need to be nuzzled or when a good dog trick will chase away the hurt.
Children often leave her side, saying, “I think she loves me. I think she’s going to miss me.”
Since she was a puppy, Harper has been raised to be a service dog. She received extensive training through the California-based Canine Companions for Independence.
Her handler, child interview specialist Gina Coslett had been waiting almost a year to be paired with Harper. Coslett was convinced that she wanted a canine partner after working with another service dog named Stilson.
Stilson, a stocky black Labrador, works in the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office and has helped out at Dawson Place.
When he came to the office in 2006, Stilson was only the second service dog in the nation used by prosecutors.
He was so good at his job that people were convinced that Dawson Place also should use a service dog to help child victims.
The center offers centralized assistance for physically and sexually abused children. Medical personnel, counselors, advocates, state caseworkers, prosecutors and police are available in the same building to help streamline assistance to children and their families.
Children and teens receive free medical exams, mental health assessments and counseling. The center also houses detectives and prosecutors who investigate crimes against children.
Now through a partnership, the county’s law enforcement agencies all pay for Coslett’s salary and Harper’s expenses, said Mary Wahl, the executive director at Dawson Place.
Harper lives with Coslett and has become a part of the family. She’s even teaching Coslett’s other dog, Duca, a miniature Pinscher and rat terrier mix, some much-needed manners.
“They really are best friends,” Coslett said.
Harper loves to play, chase balls and buddy around with other dogs, but when her work vest is on she’s all business.
As a forensic interview specialist, it’s Coslett’s job to ask children about alleged crimes, either committed against them or witnessed by them. She must remain neutral and disconnected from the emotions that often fill the room during these interviews. She can’t hug the child or offer them any comforting words. There is no parent with the child and Coslett isn’t a therapist. That’s not her role.
“It’s so hard not to reach out, whether I believe them or not,” said Coslett, a mom and grandmother.
That’s where Harper comes in.
The friendly pooch greets the children and sits next to them while Coslett asks questions. She lays her head in their laps. Small hands pet her shiny coat. Sometimes it is easier for children to talk to her about their hurt than to the adult in the room. Harper won’t leave their side until Coslett gives the command.
Coslett said it is remarkable to see the dog follow a child’s cues. She senses when to get closer without being told. Harper can smell stress and fear.
“She knows she’s there to comfort,” Coslett said. “She takes over and knows what to do.”
The kids also like her tricks. She can turn off lights, give a high-five and carry her own leash. It’s heartening to hear a child’s laugh or see him smile after hearing about his pain in such detail, Coslett said. Harper provides some of that healing.
The Labrador was named after Harper Lee, the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The book reflects on justice, doing the right thing and love, Coslett said. Harper seemed like a fitting name for a dog with so much heart.

Boy with epilepsy opens up about his life with service dog

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Obtaining a service dog has been life-changing for 9-year-old Evan Moss, who has epilepsy and wrote about his condition and his dog to educate people. Evan’s dog Mindy alerts his parents when he has a seizure, allowing them to treat him. Evan and his family raised money to purchase Mindy by selling a book Evan wrote about needing her, and the proceeds allowed them to help other children obtain dogs as well. CNN


My name is Evan Moss and I’m a 9-year-old boy who likes Pokemon! A lot!

When I was 1 month old I started having seizures, and when I was 4 years old I went to Dr. Weiner and he gave me brain surgery to stop my seizures. It stopped my seizures for two years but not my appetite, it just kept on growing! It is still growing.

After two years my seizures came back and now they are longer. When was little I had like 15 small seizures a day. Now I have 10-minute seizures but I only have one every 14 days or so.

I have two dogs. One is Dinky and the other is Mindy. Dinky is our family dog and he really belongs to my sister, Aria. Mindy is my seizure dog.

Getting Mindy took a long time. We had to raise a lot of money and wait almost a year to meet her and then we had to drive from Virginia to Ohio to get Mindy.

Having Mindy is very fun! When I first got Mindy it was pretty hard because she didn’t listen to me, but now she does and she knows a lot of commands. I’ve even taught her some new things, like climbing up into the fort section of my swing set. The best thing about having Mindy is playing with her and I love racing with her. If she is on her leash she runs right next to me but I know she can run really fast.

I have epilepsy but I can do some extraordinary things like ride a zip line! Epilepsy can also be bad, though, and I’ve heard about some seizures that can kill you! Sometimes I worry that will happen to me but I don’t think about that too much, plus I have Mindy to help me.

Mindy barks when I have a seizure so my parents will know. When I have a seizure, my mom and dad give me medicine to help stop the seizure. People ask me a lot what it feels like but it’s hard to describe and sometimes I don’t remember having a seizure.

If I met someone who just found out they have epilepsy I’d say, “Don’t worry, you’re not in this alone!”

Trained comfort dogs help Sandy Hook survivors cope

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

In the wake of the tragic shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., seven therapy dogs from the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry, part of Lutheran Church Charities, have been on hand at funerals and other gatherings to help people cope. “The dogs have become the bridge,” said Lynn Buhrke, a handler for one of the dogs. “People just sit down and talk to you.” The group was established after five people were killed by a gunman at Northern Illinois University in 2008. Discovery

The dogs all come from the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry at Lutheran Church Charities, based near Chicago. The dogs were present yesterday at Newtown High School when President Obama spoke about the recent massacre.

“Dogs are non-judgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of  anyone,” Tim Hetzner, president of the organization, told the Chicago Tribune. “It creates the atmosphere for people to share.”

People and kids often pet the dogs while they talk or pray with the handlers. Sometimes those who are grieving prefer just to spend quiet time with the dogs, receiving comfort from their assuring presence.

The dogs are deployed during national disasters. But they also handle daily matters where their soothing help is needed, such as at hospitals and nursing homes. Each dog carries a business card listing its name, Facebook page, twitter account and e-mail address so that those who connect can stay in touch.

At present, the following K-9 Comfort Dogs are in Connecticut: Abbi, Barnabas, Chewie, Hannah, Luther, Prince and Ruthie.

“The dogs have become the bridge,” Lynn Buhrke, 66, who is a dog handler for a female golden retriever named Chewie, told the Chicago Tribune. “People just sit  down and talk to you.”

Yesterday the dogs went to Christ the King Lutheran Church, where funerals are being held this week for two of the slain children.

Of kids grappling with the tragedy, Hetzner said, “You could tell which ones …were really struggling with their grief  because they were quiet. They would pet the dog, and  they would just be quiet.”

Adults and seniors are also approaching the dogs, many with tears streaming down their faces. One man said the massacre brought back to life other deaths in his family. He shared that “the entire town is suffering.”

The comfort dog project has been in place for four years. It began in 2008, after a gunman killed five students at Northern Illinois University. Now 60 dogs in six states are prepared to help out when tragedy strikes.

Today, the six dogs sent to Connecticut are with surviving Sandy Hook students.

“There are a lot of people that are hurting,” Hetzner said. It’s “good for the children to have something that is not the shooting.”

Image: Lutheran Church Charities

The FBI’s first therapy dog

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Dolce is an 8-year-old German Shepherd/Siberian Husky mix who works for the FBI. He’s not your typical K9 officer. He doesn’t sniff out drugs or bombs, or work on crime scenes in the traditional role. Instead he calms people with his lovable nature and listens as they speak. Dolce is the Bureau’s one and only therapy dog.

His handler and owner Rachel Pierce, is a child psychologist. She joined the FBI five years ago, having previously worked for the Department of Defense and law enforcement. She got Dolce in 2004 from a local shelter because she was looking for a puppy she could train to be a service dog, as she suffers from rheumatoid arthritis.

“I thought it would be nice to have a dog that did some things around the house for me when my symptoms flared up,” she said. “There are days I can’t move or even lift a sheet,” says Pierce.

Dolce easily passed his service-dog training. When it became clear to Pierce how much Dolce loved people she thought he could be an excellent therapy dog as well. She spent several years training him, and he graduated with flying colors. “He’s a good service dog, but he’s an amazing therapy dog,” says Pierce.

The pair now work in the Bureau’s K9-Assisted Victim Assistance Program together. They work in the field with victims of a wide range of crimes such as child pornography, kidnapping cases, violent robberies, and white-collar crime cases as well as death notifications. With his lovable personality, Dolce excels at comforting crime victims and their families.

Dolce works for Victim Services at the FBIDolce also goes to scenes of violent crime, to de-escalate the chaos and stress of the situation. Just the presence of a dog can produce a calming effect. “It can lower blood pressure and make you feel more relaxed,” explains Pierce. A calm witness can better help investigators with information about the crime.

Having seen the positive influence Dolce has had on victims and their families, she suggested a therapy-dog program to leadership, who embraced the idea. Pierce then set about to create and implement a therapy dog program. It became the first of its kind for the Bureau.

Last year, Rachel Pierce and Dolce received the FBI Director’s Award for Excellence for “distinguished service for assisting victims of crime.” Dolce is not retiring just yet, but Pierce is training her new puppy, Kevlar, to take over Dolce’s important work. Pierce also hopes to see the therapy dog program expanded to other FBI offices. “I know a lot of other victim specialists around the country who would be interested in training and working with a therapy dog. I would love to see that happen.”

Dementia service dog improves life of Alzheimer’s patient

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Rick Phelps, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, says his 14-month-old, specially trained dementia service dog, Sam, is “opening up doors I couldn’t open up” by helping draw attention to the illness while easing everyday tasks for him. Sam, a German shepherd, helps Phelps locate his car in parking lots, reminds him to apply his medication patch and notifies him when he leaves the stove on or the car running. But Phelps says the best thing Sam provides is unconditional love and a confidence boost. Coshocton Tribune (Ohio)


WEST LAFAYETTE — Rick Phelps said in three weeks, Sam the dementia service dog has done for him what more than two years of medication and doctors haven’t: help with his disease.

In June 2010, Phelps, 59, of West Lafayette, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Since then, he’s become an advocate of awareness for all forms of dementia.

The 14-month-old German Shepherd has led Phelps to his latest crusade as he thinks such a canine companion is essential for anyone with early- to mid-stage dementia.

“This dog has changed everything,” he said. “It’s a psychological thing, I know it is. He hasn’t cured me of this disease, but it just works.”

Before Sam, going to Walmart was the scariest thing in the world to Phelps and something he rarely ever did. Now he’ll go without really needing anything, because he’s confident with Sam by his side.

Being able to enjoy a trip to Fort Rapids Indoor Waterpark and Resort in Columbus with his grandchildren, which he did Labor Day weekend, was out of the question in the past. Now, fun replaces the fear everywhere Phelps goes.

“I had stress and anxiety and was afraid of everything. On a scale of one to 10, I was probably a 12. Now, I would say I’m a two or maybe a three because of this dog. It’s a miracle and I can’t believe it yet,” he said. “We’re bonding more everyday and he’s trained to do that. He knows when I’m stressed out.”

As Phelps has always done, he’s using his experiences to bring awareness to the masses. Phelps said he’s been contacted by Us Against Alzheimer’s, ABC’s “Nightline” and Animal Planet to film segments about Sam.

He’s also taking speaking engagements to share his story with local organizations and those across the country. Phelps is due to speak at an Alzheimer’s symposium coming up in Tampa Bay, Fla.

“I didn’t know this was going to happen, but I hoped this was going to happen, because this is what needs to be,” he said. “It’s opening up doors I couldn’t open up, because nobody has heard of (a dementia service dog).”

As Phelps would say, he’s doing all this “while I still can,” which has become his motto through all his trials and tribulations. “While I Still Can” has served as the title of a book and a song Phelps co-wrote that came out last spring.

He’s also the founder of the Facebook page Memory People with more than 2,500 members worldwide for family members, caregivers, advocates and Alzheimer patients.

It was through Memory People that Phelps started on his path to getting Sam in March. Phelps said a woman on the site asked about a dementia service dog for her husband. Phelps did some research for her and discovered DogWish, a training facility in Colton, Calif. ran by Bob Taylor.

Phelps posted information about DogWish on Memory People only to answer the woman’s question. He was shocked to have received a call from Taylor the very next day saying an anonymous donor was footing the bill, more than $8,000, for Phelps to not only have a dog, but to fly to California to get him and receive training.

Phelps sent a T-shirt and blanket to Taylor so Sam would know his scent before ever meeting. When Phelps stepped out of the car the first time, he said Sam ran right to him knowing exactly who he was.

“Sure enough, he came right out of the house and right to me. He sat down and started licking me all over me. It’s like he knew me forever and I had just been away,” Phelps said.

Phelps is amazed by what Sam can do more and more each day. He alerts Phelps if he leaves the stove on or his jeep running in the garage. He can find the vehicle in a crowded parking lot by following the smell of Phelps having been in it. He’ll even lick Phelps shoulder at night if he forgets to put his medication patch on before going to bed.

If Phelps would get lost, Sam can track him up to 40 miles away and then bring him safely home. Sam isn’t an attack dog, but he can sense a dangerous situation and lead Phelps to safety or neutralize an aggressor if need be.

However, above all that, the number one element Sam provides that Phelps desperately needs is unconditional love. He has that from his family now, but with his wife of 28 years, Phyllis, still working, Sam is a friend that can be with Rick all the time. As Sam has alleviated Rick’s anxiety and tension, it’s done the same for her.

“If he had a 24/7 person with him all the time, the dog is the same thing. The dog is there and protects him,” Phyllis said.

Boy to receive Costa Rica’s first therapy dog for autism

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

In an effort to help people with disabilities better integrate into the community, Spain’s Association of Dog-Assisted Therapies provided and trained the first therapy dog for a child with autism in Costa Rica. “The project is very much a novelty in Costa Rica because up to now, no assistance dog of this kind has been trained for that country or delivered there,” said Miguel Angel Signes, who helped train the dog.

From FOX News Latino

Xena, a 4-month-old Labrador, will be the first assistance dog in Costa Rica  to help a 7-year-old autistic boy named Aaron adapt better to his surroundings,  thanks to a solidarity project undertaken by Spain’s Association of Dog-Assisted  Therapies, or AIAP.

Miguel Angel Signes is one of the instructors in charge of training the  canine, and since early this year he has been in Costa Rica with AIAP President  Nuria Luengo promoting this kind of treatment to aid the integration of people  with disabilities or special needs into society.

Such therapies can help with the education and general treatment of children  suffering some disability like cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism and more,  Signes told Efe.

Aaron is suffering an autistic disorder and thanks to Xena will be able to  lower his stress and anxiety levels, since “the simple act of hugging, brushing  or walking the dog is enough to reduce both symptoms,” Signes said.

“The dog will also teach him to walk down the street correctly and will  direct his steps in the right areas, as far away from the edge of the sidewalk  as possible,” Signes said.

The animals are used in such cases as motivational agents to reduce attention  disorder, boost self-esteem, memory, concentration and even improve emotional  relationships.

“The boy’s disruptive behavior will be calmed down by the dog’s presence,  since he’ll be bound to it at all times,” Signes said.

Training an assistance dog can cost as much as 16,500 euros ($20,300), but in  this case Xena’s training will be free thanks to an agreement between AIAP and  Aaron’s parents.

“The project is very much a novelty in Costa Rica because up to now no  assistance dog of this kind has been trained for that country or delivered  there. But best of all, the boy is already having therapy sessions with Xena,  which later on will help his adaptation,” Signes said.

Therapies with animals are based on sound science. According to Signes, it  has been proved that sessions with dogs and other animals are effective in  working on the patient’s behavior, communication and sociability.

Read more:

Boy creates “bucket list” for his dying service dog

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Cole Hein, an 11-year-old boy who has a condition that randomly stops his breathing, created a “lick-it list” for his dog, Bingo, who developed canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Bingo, a 13-year-old Jack Russell terrier, sounds an alert when Cole stops breathing and needs CPR, and she has saved the boy’s life several times. The list, a canine “bucket list,” includes dog-friendly ideas such as sampling dog treats shared from around the world.

When eleven-year old Cole Hein found out that his Jack Russell Terrier had only weeks to live, he created the “Lick It List,” a canine bucket list to honor his pup Bingo. For five years, Bingo has been taking care of Cole, who has a medical condition that can stop his breathing. The thirteen-year old dog is trained to alert adults if the boy needs CPR.

In the first six months the two were together, Bingo saved Cole’s life three times, leading to her induction into the Purina Animal Hall of Fame in 2010. Now it’s Cole’s turn to help Bingo make the most of her time left as the pup battles Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

Here is Cole and Bingo’s Lick It List:

1) Let Bingo “taste” the world by getting him dog treats from around the globe

2) Take Bingo for one last “public” outing to Ruckers (a favorite game-and-pizza place)

3) Walk around the block twice with Bingo

4) Do a photo shoot with just Bingo and Cole (which has already been arranged)

To help Cole achieve Bingo’s Lick It List, he’s asking people around the world to send treats. No monetary donations will be accepted (Bingo’s medical care is taken care of). Any treats that Bingo can’t consume will be donated to the local animal shelter. Likewise, if you’re not able to send treats, Cole asks that you make a donation to your favorite animal rescue in Bingo’s name.

Dog treats can be sent to:

Cole Hein/Bingo Hein P.O. Box 413 Shilo, MB Canada R0K 2A0

If my dogs had a bucket list, treats would certainly be number one! What would be on your dog’s Lick It List?


More than just companions, trained dogs detect disease, save lives

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Serving as companions, protectors and aides, dogs improve quality of life for humans with medical issues such as diabetes, conditions that cause seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder, says Rebecca Johnson, director of the University of Missouri’s Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction. For example, dogs can be trained to identify breast, skin and lung cancers by smelling the afflicted person’s breath or licking the skin.

By SANETTE TANAKA for The Wall Street Journal

Many dogs can be trained to sit, fetch and roll over. Now, pups are being trained to detect disease and help patients in distress. Rebecca Johnson, director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri, explains how dogs can be useful in the medical field.


Dogs can be trained to detect low blood sugar levels in diabetics by picking up scents that go unnoticed by humans. Upon detection, the dog springs into action—”kind of like sounding an alarm,” Dr. Johnson says. Dogs may nudge the diabetic, fetch a blood-glucose monitoring kit or press a button on the phone to call 911.


Researchers don’t know what exactly enables a dog to detect seizures, but some dogs may notice a certain scent or subtle behavioral change that occurs right before an attack. Teaching a dog to pick up on these signs is difficult, Dr. Johnson says, and many seizure-response dogs simply have an innate ability to recognize when something is wrong. During the attack, dogs can seek help, move dangerous objects out of the way and lie next to the person.


A relatively new type of service dog can aid people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. These dogs typically serve as companions to war veterans. Dogs can help ease the anxiety and panic that often comes with the condition by leading the way around a corner or positioning themselves between people and their handler. In a stressful social situation, the handler can signal the dog, which then barks loudly and gives the handler a reason to make a graceful exit.


Dogs can also put their acute sense of smell to use by identifying certain cancer cells. Dr. Johnson notes that dogs have been trained to pick out bladder cancer cells by sniffing urine samples, while other researchers report that dogs have been able to identify lung and breast cancers by smelling patients’ breath, and melanoma by licking their owners’ skin.

—Sanette Tanaka, The Wall Street Journal