Canine Assistants Service Dogs Change People's Lives
Through a dog's eyes, the world is full of opportunities to bring happiness. Dogs see things very different from any other animal.
This is what Canine Assistants founder and executive director Jennifer Arnold discovered when she was a teenager with multiple sclerosis, spending two years in a wheelchair. At that time she felt isolated and alone, with a much diminished will to enjoy life, or even try to do anything. Her father had heard about trained service dogs who can help people in wheelchairs, but the existing organizations were few and far apart, so he decided to start their own program in Georgia. The non-profit organization Canine Assistants trains and provides service dogs for children and adults with physical disabilities and other special needs.I just watched the amazing story of Canine Assistants on PBS and want to share it with you:
After her father's passing and 10 years of hard work together with her mother, Jennifer opened her canine program in 1991. She is a living example how the unconditional love and trust from a dog can assist people in overcoming even the gravest obstacles in their lives. It helped her to overcome her disability and planted the seed for her amazing program, which helps people with muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, quadriplegic disability, and many other special needs, to not only get reliable assistance for necessary tasks, but also to gain lifelong love, trust, and the unbiased friendship that only an animal can offer so completely and selflessly.The service dogs in her program are trained to help with handling light switches, doors, pulling wheelchairs, retrieving objects, summoning help, and providing secure companionship.
Many dogs are trained specifically to provide seizure response for special needs patients. Some dogs have an ability to sense an upcoming seizure and alert for help, which can save lives where it may otherwise be too late.
The dogs trained at Canine Assistants have special abilities for people with special needs. They offer physical and emotional assistance, help their recipient to build self-confidence, and create a whole-hearted bond with their human. This bond
of trust between dog and recipient is absolute key for the successful pairing of the two.
Canine Assistants holds 2-week camps where a special needs person can meet all the dogs and spend time with them, so that instincts can take over and relationships can be created. It is always the dog who picks the person and creates a bond through instinct. Dogs are very emotional and sensitive, and they can help with problems that appear invisible to humans.
During the 2-week camp, the first week is used to "sniffing each other out" and building a bond between the new forever pair of human and dog. In the second week, a sleepover takes place, which usually confirms if the match is right or not. It's also the let-go time for the dog from their former trainer, changing their loyalty to their new guardian. Experienced dog trainers say "it matters who you sleep with"
, as these sleepovers are often the turning or breaking points that determine whether the dogs will stay with their recipients. The training of the dogs is loving and encouraging, using positive re-enforcements.
Canine Assistants trainers don't believe in the classic methodology that you have to dominate the dog to train him. They work with love instead, so that the dog wants to do the work and help the person, and not be threatened or tricked into doing it. Dogs don't need to be forced to do certain tasks. They enjoy making people happy if a bond is created that is based on trust and a loving relationship.
Canine Assistants is a non-profit with a mission to make matches in heaven - those that make the dogs happy and allow their special needs recipients to live life more fully, smile more often, have more self-confidence, and maybe even fight their disabilities more determinedly. But most importantly, these matches are trusting, loving companionships for life.Find more information about Canine Assistants on this website.
Here you can also find Jennifer Arnold's new book "Through a dog's eyes - understanding our dogs by understanding how they see the world".