Service dogs were once only used by those with vision problems to help them navigate the world. Today service dogs do much more, and special needs kids are enjoying their lives more thanks to the assistance and love of their canine companion. From alerting parents to an impending epileptic seizure to picking up dropped crayons and pencils to opening doors and turning on light switches, the dogs are helping their kids access the world in a new way and enjoy life, possibly for the first time.
Tonight at 8pm PBS is airing a documentary called Through the Eyes of a a Dog, which follows the training methods of Canine Assistants. The group was founded by Jennifer Arnold, whose father tried to get her a service dog when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a teenager. Unable to find an East Coast service dog agency, he wanted to start one. He died soon after that, and Jennifer continued his work. Now through corporate sponsorships her organization is able to train and place service dogs free of charge. Jennifer has also written a book with the same title as the documentary which is due out this fall. The show and the book also examine the human-animal bond.
While Canine Asisstance provides travel and lodging for free during the training process, there are service dog agencies based here in California. The closest one ot Los Angeles is:
Canine Support Teams, Inc. Contact: Carol Roquemore
PO Box 1329; Perris, CA 92572?1329
(909) 943?3972 , Fax: (909) 943?7653, TDD: (909) 943?3972
Disabilities Animals are Trained For:
Mobility, Seizure, Psychiatric.
Multiple disabilities, Own animal, Train handler, Take donations, Children (8 yrs, based on maturity of child).
Provide services nationally. Individual must be able to travel to Canine Support Teams for team training and once a year thereafter for re-certification.
There are others in Santa Rosa and Vista, California. There is a national list of agencies here, courtesy of Delta Society. Their website also has an excellent FAQ.
International Association of Assistance Dog Partners
Sam Simon Foundation for Hearing Dogs
Autism Service Dogs of America
For more info on service dogs, read the Los Angeles Special Education examiner’s article.