Sunday, December 24, 2006

"All I Want For Christmas"

...was the title of the article in today's Pioneer Press covering the celebratory return of Mark Grewing with his new service dog, Bailey. Last spring, Mr. Grewing's service dog was removed from his home by Hearing and Service Dogs of Minnesota, prompting a series of articles by the Watchdog (a Pioneer Press feature) regarding the reasons for the removal and subsequent attempts to obtain another dog.

We may never know the real reasons why Hearing and Service Dogs removed Mr. Grewing's original dog. They declined to discuss their decision publicly (other than stating their concerns regarding the health and weight of the dog) . But today's article hints at some potential problems that I've often wondered about - primarily, how difficult is it for a person with disabilities to provide for the physical care every dog needs? It also underscored the ignorance of the general public in the difference between the types of service dogs - the link for the video that accompanied the story was titled "".

I confess I shared this ignorance before I began my quest to become a volunteer for Helping Paws. Bev F. provided a really clear distinction between the different types of assistance dogs at a recent volunteer event. Bev described Hearing and Seeing Eye dogs as "dog-directed", trained to make decisions to safely assist their humans as they go about their day. Our service dogs are "human-directed" and are trained to assist upon command.

All the training in the world, however, cannot teach the dog to take a bath, trim their nails, comb out their coat, or pick up after themselves when they eliminate. Those skills must usually be performed by a human caregiver. When I asked a recent graduate how he handled his dog's daily care, he responded that most of the more difficult jobs such as bathing and grooming were done by family members. The good news that I took from the story is that it sounds as if Mr. Grewing will have much more support from friends, family and others this time around with caring for and working with his new service dog.

No comments: