By: Susan S. Russo
I remember singing this little children’s song with my mother when I was very young. I always felt sad that someone had lost their much loved pet, and hoped that eventually the little dog would return home!
Fast forward to 2010 and I found myself working as one of the Producers for the cable show” Family Comes First” on TELECARE TV. The topic of the show was service dogs, in particular the Seeing Eye dog.
We literally spent an entire day touring the facility in Smithtown, New York, and learning about their puppy program and how the dogs are trained. It was a fascinating day for the entire crew as we stepped into a roomful of playful pups, and then learned about their transformation into working dogs.
Later that year, I was speaking with one of our TAPA parents about my experience and she told me that her family had recently acquired a companion dog for their oldest son, who has Down syndrome.
The dog opened up a new world socially for their son, as people would approach him and conversations would then center on the dog and not the disability of the child. Not only did the dog help refine their son’s social skills, but gave him a greater sense of self esteem, maturity and responsibility as he, alone was in charge of walking, feeding and grooming his dog.
Do you know that…
The term Companion Dog usually describes a dog that does not work, providing only companionship as a pet, rather than usefulness by doing specific tasks.
A Therapy Dog refers to a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, and mental institutions.
And a Service Dog is a type of assistance dog that is specially trained to help people who have disabilities other than visual or hearing impairment.
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