Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

The Power Of Companion Dogs

28 Aug 2009As I’ve said before, I think dogs are a very important part of a person’s life, especially if that person has a disability.

Dogs are great as a companion and a helper, at Assistance Dogs Australia, they train Labrador and Golden Retriever pups to help people with disabilities.

Each puppy takes about 2 years to train and costs around $20,000, the organization is government funded and also relies on volunteers and sponsorship.

The assistance dogs can be trained to pick up dropped mobile phones, to open and close doors, get things out of the fridge, help someone to dress or undress and paying money to cashiers at high shop counters.

They allow people with disabilities to live alone and gain independence but still feel secure enough to know that if something happens to them, the dog can get help, I read that one dog was trained by his owner that if he fell out of his chair to ring a bell to alert the neighbours.

There are also dogs that are trained to alert people with hearing impairments about when danger is nearing, warn their owners about approaching seizures and the more recognized guide dogs to assist blind people. I think the power of dogs is amazing, they have even been said to have sensed tumors and cancer in patients.

Assistance dogs are given special coats so they are acknowledged by businesses to allow them into what would normally be dog un-friendly places.

In most cases, with domestic flights, Australian airlines will let passengers on an airplane with an assistance dog and they will be allowed to travel free of charge and be able to sit next to their owner. The passenger must carry an ID card for the dog stating that it has been trained and is recognized as an assistance dog.

To view the video that Assistance Dogs Australia has put together, click here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4jXOsKUAJg. It shows the great things they can train the dogs to do for disabled people. To get more information about getting an assistance dog, go to http://www.assistancedogs.org.au/. There is currently a long wait to receive a dog but they have a waiting list and they try to match up dogs with a specific person’s needs and personality.

Every disabled child should be given a dog for companionship, they make barriers like being isolated or misunderstood because of disability such a better experience, with their unconditional love.

My mum decided to get me a dog for companionship when I was 8 years old, she was a Miniature Foxy X Chihuahua, I named her Polly.

She was like my best friend as I grew up. She used to pull me along by her lead in my wheelchair as we walked to school with my mum. We were inseparable, she escaped out of our backyard one day and ran to my primary school to find me, the office staff had to get me out of class but she was so excited when she saw me.

Not long after I got her, she broke her arm, (which was strange as I was the one with brittle bones), she was then more like me, having to get around in a plaster cast for 4 weeks. She used to follow me everywhere, we were chasing each other around the house one day and she ran into my arm accidentally breaking it.

I was in hospital when I was about 11 for leg surgery, during one of my many stays while growing up. It had been 4 weeks since I’d seen Polly, which was probably the longest time we’d spent apart from each other. Mum used to take my clothes that I’d been wearing home for her to sniff so she knew I was still around. The manager of the ward I was staying in, gave mum permission to bring Polly in to see me for a few hours, because she was so small, mum snuck her in without anyone noticing. My legs were both broken and Polly was so excited to see me but she was so careful not to bump my legs, and laid with me for about 2 hours in my hospital bed, only laying near the top half, as if she knew I was sore.

If I was ever sad or just having an emotional day, Polly used to always cheer me up, she would lick my tears away and wrap her arms around me as if she was cuddling me.

Sadly, Polly had to be put down 4 years ago due to Cancer, I had her for 12 years and they were some of the most memorable 12 years of my life. I have included a picture of her below.


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