By Edward Crane
Each year my canine partner, Alepo and I look forward to the first Sunday in August, which is always the beginning of International Assistance Dog Week. This is a very special time each year, when I plan on honoring my assistance dog, an eight-year-old cream Labrador retriever named Alepo, who has positively changed my life for the better. At the same time, I look to honor all the puppy raisers and trainers, whether they be individual trainers or organizations that do this truly wonderful work for us who are disabled.
Alepo helps me daily cope with a common neurological condition, also known as a seizure disorder called epilepsy. He provides me an advanced warning of each oncoming seizure, plus he provides me balance and support with a special harness that he wears to prevent me from falling and injuring myself. I am truly grateful for the wonderful work that he does for me, each and every day.
In preparation for International Assistance Dog Week each year, I write a letter to my local Mayors (Fresno and Clovis, California), seeking a Proclamation to show their support for this important week, and I plan sharing information and spreading the word to the public.
In the spring of this year, during my initial planning for International Assistance Dog Week, after much thought, I decided that each of the fifty (50) states in these United States should issue a formal Proclamation for this important week, honoring our special dogs. I then sat down and put together these request letters, individually writing to each Governor, and placed them in the mail. I also wrote letters to the following: the President of the United States, the Pope in Vatican City, and finally the U.S. Joint Chief’s of Staff.
The following is a list of all of the Proclamations from the Governor’s of twenty-seven (27) States, in the order that we received them:
8.) West Virginia
10.) New Jersey
11.) South Carolina
16.) California (Letter from the Governor)
18.) North Carolina
24.) New Mexico
26.) New Hampshire
We also received a formal letter from: Robert B. Neller, General U.S. Marine Corps., showing their support.
Shortly after all the letters were sent, I received responses from several of the Governors, advising that requests for the Proclamations needed to come from either a resident or business within their state. As a result, I reached out for help and placed messages on both the internet and Facebook, requesting residents of each of these states to send an email request for the Proclamation in order to help us honor our special dogs. So many people responded and all I can say is we are truly grateful for the tremendous support we received that helped us receive so many of these important Proclamations, honoring our partners, their trainers and organizations responsible for our assistance dogs.
We learned a lot this year, and next year we expect to receive “Proclamations” from all fifty (50) States, but we will need help from residents in each state. Our goal is to both honor our special assistance dogs and to share their magic and our joy with the public.
Both Alepo and I say: Thanks !!!!!
Lovey, Franz and I enjoyed an amazing time visiting with the Southern New Mexico Correctional Facility’s (SNMCF) Prisoners and Animals Working for Success (PAWS) program. These determined inmates are taking unwanted dogs from the Mesilla Valley Animal Services Center in Las Cruces, NM, and giving the dogs basic obedience training and hope for adoption and a second chance at life.
This successful training program has grown in less than a year from 5 to 15 dogs per class and has 15 adopted dogs to date. The inmates have demonstrated discipline and patience working with the dogs and preparing them for their forever homes. Although it is difficult to say goodbye to the dogs, the inmates remain optimistic and explain that the sadness is easier to bear because they know that their dogs will be going to good homes and they will be receiving a new dog to train.
The inmates discussed their desire to increase their dog handling skills to eventually identify and train potential shelter dogs to become future service dogs. SNMCF staff is working with a service dog agency in California that is interested in accepting a select group of PAWS dog graduates to assess for potential assistance dog careers.
It was awe-inspiring to spend some time with the PAWS members and to witness their interaction with these dogs. It was also fun for them to meet Lovey, my service dog. They had lots of great questions about Lovey, how she was trained, how she and I work together and what she does to help me have a more independent life.
I am a strong supporter of the PAWS program and other prison dog training programs. My retired service dog, Whistle, participated in a prison puppy-training program so I know first hand the impact these programs can have not only on the dogs, but also on the inmates who work tirelessly to train them.
The inmates of the PAWS program have to work hard to get and keep the privilege of working with the dogs. If they receive just one security violation, they can no longer participate in the program.
It’s a win-win for everyone involved. Lovey and I are sending a big shout out to our new friends at the SNMCF PAWS program including volunteer trainer, Doug Baker, and SNMCF education staff Jessica Walley and Renee Waskiewicz. Thank you for all the work you doing to support the trainers and the dogs!
With all the talk lately about the benefits of meditation and other ancient Ayurvedic practices, have you ever thought about how your dog might benefit from such alternative practices?
I was curious about meditation and decided to visit the Deepak Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California, a few years ago. I thought Dr. Deepak Chopra (author of Perfect Health and other educational books) could help me learn to meditate and introduce me to a more natural approach to health.
Of course, my service dog, Whistle, accompanied me to the Chopra Center. On the first day, Whistle and I were actually meditating with 400+ workshop participants. I was amazed at how he and I sat so quietly as this large group of people meditated together. It was powerful. We both felt it. Whistle didn’t make a sound. He seemed to connect to the meditative practice and enjoy it as much as I did.
Since my first visit to the Chopra Center, I have explored meditation, yoga, aromatherapy, massage, nutrition and other forms of Ayurvedic practices. I, in no way, claim to be an expert. However, it does provide me with additional ways to manage my health and wellness.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Ringnalda on the Working Like Dogs radio show. Amanda is a Master Educator with the Chopra Center and the founder of Soul Play Mates, an organization that focuses on education, dog rescue and advocacy. Amanda has studied Ayurveda closely under Dr. Chopra and Dr. David Simon. After discovering her passion for the practices of Ayurveda, she began exploring ways in which these practices could support vibrant health, balance, and well-being for dogs.
Amanda has developed classes on “Doshas for Dogs”. If you don’t know what a dosha is, tune in to the show to hear Amanda talk about it. She’s even developed a Dog Dosha Quiz through the Chopra Center which you can download as a .pdf file. This free quiz will help you determine your dog’s dosha by completing a short mind-body questionnaire about your dog’s characteristics and basic nature.
Mind-body health is a new concept for me but I am intrigued by the impact some of these practices have made in my life. And, because Whistle does so much to selflessly assist me, why wouldn’t I explore some of these alternative treatments to improve his quality of life and longevity?
I would love to hear about any alternative practices you may be learning about and practicing with your assistance dog!
For more information about Ayurveda for Dogs, you can listen to Amanda Ringnalda’s interview with Marcie and Whistle at www.petliferadio.com/workingdogsep107.html and visit the Chopra Center’s website www.chopra.com. You can also join the SoulPlayMates Facebook community at www.facebook.com/SoulPlayMates. Download the Dog Dosha quiz at www.workinglikedogs.com/wp-content/uploads/Amanda-DoshaQuiz-Dog-FINAL.pdf.
I’ll never forget the first day of service dog team training. One of the first things the trainers told us was, “Your new dog is not a robot.” And, here we are 20 years later talking about robots as assistance dogs.
Intel’s technology, as it relates to assistance dogs, was recently discussed in an article by Scott Jung, iQ Contributor & Senior Editor at MedGadget. During International Assistance Dog Week, Intel suggested technologies that honor not only the dogs that faithfully guide the visually impaired to greater independence, but also the work they inspire.
The report explains that because guide dogs can’t go everywhere, and can’t live with everyone, doctors, engineers, and scientists are developing technology that can help people with visual impairment.
In Japan an electronics company and a university have teamed up to work on guide robots. The project, which has been underway since 2009, now has refined their earlier models, which look less like R2-D2 and operate more like a dog now, with four robotic legs that can climb stairs, and the ability to respond to verbal instructions.
Other companies around the world are working on wearable technology, like the Eyeronman, a vest which uses LIDAR, a sort of laser radar, to detect obstacles. Smart glasses that use technology to enhance vision are another strategy being explored. And there’s the BrainPort, which converts images seen by a video camera into an “image” the user feels on his tongue.
As the article concludes, “While robots and wearable devices don’t look, bark or snuggle like dogs, the guide dogs we salute this week and the assistive technology they’ve inspired have something very important in common: both help the visually impaired lead more independent lives.”
You can read the full article at http://iq.intel.com/the-future-of-fetching-robotic-dogs-guide-the-blind/
In the International Assistance Dog Week newsletter, we’ve been asking people to share their stories of their dogs in the workplace.
Although she describes herself as semi-retired, Kate Bales has found a new career as a writer. Here’s the story submitted by Kate Bales about her retirement career of writing, and how Bonnie has been a help and inspiration.
Bonnie and I are both semi-retired now, but she is heavily involved in my new retirement career as a novelist. Her somewhat unorthodox manner of performing her tasks is typical of a pit bull. Her greatest joy in life is to cause people to laugh. That gave me the incentive to write her life story, which was accepted for publication in an anthology.
From there, we branched out to fiction. We are currently working on a four book series about a group of internet list pit bull owners who charter various means of transportation and go on tours with their dogs. The first book in the series, “Crazy Ladies on a Bus”, was published last winter, and the second, “Crazy Ladies on a Train”, is nearly complete and is scheduled for release in late October. The combined antics of the dogs keeps the reader laughing hysterically throughout the stories, and an element of crime and just a smattering of romance are the glue that holds them together.
Bonnie, as my service dog, plays a leading role, as does my deaf pit bull, Fionna. Fionna has only one manner, and it is bad. If there is any way to get into trouble, she will find it. All proceeds from the series are being donated to pit bull rescues around the country.
We are also working on a serious novel about a mystery writer and Homeland Security. Internet research on the many ways to kill a person and cause nationwide panic has attracted their attention, and our writer is being held for investigation. His escape and the ensuing pursuit by various law enforcement agencies should captivate the reader. He was badly injured during one encounter and, while hiding in a remote area, comes across an abused, abandoned dog who helps him in his recovery, ultimately becoming a working service dog. Bonnie, working under a pseudonym, will be the dog who saves our writer.
Kate Bales & Bonnie
International Assistance Dog Week 2014 is August 3-9. Learn more about IADW and subscribe to the newsletter at http://www.assistancedogweek.org/about/.
Tell us how your assistance dog helped you to get and/or keep your job. Send in photos of you and your assistance dog at work. You can send your stories and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.