On the line: What dogs do for people

As we struggle with the impact of COVID-19 and Memorial Day is upon us, think about how dogs have served in every crisis from epidemics to war.

We are in awe of average people coming together to help each other during the Corona Virus epidemic. But what about the hero dog at your feet? Don’t wait until May 25th to think about how therapy dogs make life livable for veterans. Military men and women sacrifice emotions and even body parts on the front line. Many suffered even more when coming home to an empty or repossessed home. Thank them this Memorial Day.

Then think about the millions of dogs who comforted and protected the families of those veterans. Dogs kept the kids busy, comforted a lonely wife or an elderly in-law. Think about the millions of family dogs who gave healthy people the strength and the will to endure quarantine.

Shouldn’t we have a National Service Dog Day to honor all Service and Therapy dogs? I looked it up. There are lots of private groups and websites all promoting the concept—and asking for your donations. But there isn’t one single day much less a week or a month that is a nationally recognized tribute to man’s best friend. What does that say about us?

Let me ask you one simple question—do you have a friend who would suffer starvation, sickness, physical and emotional abuse and still be by your side? Think about that.

It is relatively easy to love someone when you don’t live with them. Your spouse, friend or relative can “get away” from abuse. At the very least, they can turn to other people for help and support.

Now think about this—dogs could leave, but they stay with abusive, even cruel owners. Any dog has the opportunity to climb the fence, slip the lead, dart out the door, but no, the dog stays…are you thinking? Dogs can think ahead. They can anticipate. That’s why a correction works in Obedience. Got it?

Okay, now let this sink in. An abused dog knows there will be more beatings or another kick in the ribs. He remembers going hungry—a lot—because someone was mad at him. But the dog is faithful. He doesn’t stay because he’s stupid, he stays because it is his duty. Who do you know that would do that? Many experts say “animals can’t think ahead”, but of course they never trained a dog nor watched them avoid a previous mistake.

No other creature on the face of the earth would willingly suffer such neglect or abuse. According to the Smithsonian, dogs have assisted mankind for at least 14,000 years. Stop reading. Think about this. Dogs love us, they provide incalculable stress support, especially in the unnatural urban environment mankind now inhabits. The dog lives in that polluted mess because he loves you.

Okay then, let’s talk about people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and/or Bipolar Disorder. You know about service dogs for the hearing impaired and guide dogs for the visually impaired, but how often do you hear about assistance dogs, i.e. a multi-talented dog that provides assistance to a mentally or emotionally
disabled person?

More to the point… how difficult (and expensive) is it for retired police, secret service, FBI and military veterans suffering from PTSD to get an Assistance Dog? Those dogs are a lifeline for people who have put their life on the line…and what about ordinary people with emotional or mental problems who live in the shadows of society? You call them street people. Many of them share their meager meals with a scruffy, little dog.

Searching the net for Service Dogs I found National Service Dog Month (September) designated by dogtime.com. We applaud them, but I am “in” dogs and I didn’t know about it and neither did most of you.

I found a lot of websites offering trained assistance dogs, but nothing no-cost or low-cost for people suffering from mental or emotional distress who desperately need help! What’s wrong with this picture? Protecting society from the ever-increasing violence, school shootings, and random “flip outs” is part of what our tax dollars should pay for and prevention is cheaper than fixing a problem.

We need solutions, but I couldn’t find any government or private organization providing free or low-cost Assistance Dogs for the people who need them most. So how can we dog lovers unite and work together to help people who are not mentally or emotionally able to help themselves?

I’m pretty good online. Google loves me. Lots of “fisher” sites offer help, but when you read far enough, they all wanted money—lots of it! I saw this and was hopeful, “The VA already helps many qualified veterans work with outside agencies to help obtain service dogs.” It didn’t mention the cost,
of course.

It gets worse. The Washington Post reported: “For more than 15 years, VA has covered veterinary care for service dogs that assist veterans with physical disabilities. It has declined to do that for PTSD service dogs, however, citing a lack of empirical evidence for their therapeutic value.”

That same day I watched a news segment on street people. It shamed me that this is America. It looked like a third-world country. Some of them had a dog… probably their only true friend. How sad, but how meaningful! We know what dogs do for veterans and for us. If you are a training facility or willing to help dogs help people, contact me through this publication or email media@TheDogPress.com.

*ref 1 https://addictionresource.com/guides/pets-and-substance-abuse-prevention/.

  • Barbara “BJ” Andrews is the breeder of over 300 AKC Champions including over a dozen All-Time record holders. She is the author of 8 breed books and founder of 3 AKC Breed Clubs. In 1998 she launched the world’s first public website (TheDogPlace.org) followed by TheDogPress.com and TheJudgesPlace.com which, as part of the NetPlaces Network, serves all facets of dog ownership and exhibition. She and husband Bill pioneered the Akita, Miniature Bull Terrier, and Toy Fox Terrier to AKC recognition and BJ served on the board of each Parent Club. She has judged in England and AKC Specialty Sweeps. She was awarded UKC All Breeds approval but has never applied for an AKC judges license because it could interfere with objective reporting on the sport.

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