Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook
In Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook, two fans of service dogs explain what they are and what it's like to have a dog that's trained to help a disabled person.
Different sources use the terms "service dog", "assistance dog", "service animal", and "assistance animal".
In the book Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook, by Marcie Davis and Melissa Bunnell (Alpine Publications, Crawford CO, 2007, ISBN 1-57779-083-3), the "service dog" is one kind of "assistance dog".
Author, Marcie Davis, who is paralysed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair, has a service dog to perform tasks that are difficult or impossible for her to do alone.
The authors point out that a service dog performs tasks - tasks for which the particular dog has been trained and which the dog and its disabled owner have learned to do together.
Service Dog Training is Extensive and Customized
While service dogs start out learning basic social skills as puppies, the service dog training becomes more complex and specific as the dog advances in its career. As Working Like Dogs explains, the agencies that provide service dogs operate differently, according to the needs they are meeting. Service dogs can be trained to assist persons who are blind or have limited vision - the familiar seeing-eye dog. However, there are service dogs doing many other jobs, including hearing ear dogs to help persons who are deaf or have impaired hearing, and those with limited mobility. Many service dogs help people whose needs are invisible.
Working With the Right Service Dog Offers Freedom and Independence
One of the best parts of Working Like Dogs is author Marcie Davis's description of the freedom she felt upon becoming comfortable working with her first service dog, Ramona. A 20-something woman, married and reliant upon her husband to help her get around town, Marcie suddenly had the confidence to switch from a manual to a power wheelchair, and to drive an accessible vehicle. With the dog's help, much of the fear of "what could happen" went away.
A Dog is a Commitment
Owning any animal, pet or service animal, is a big commitment. The freedom a service dog gives comes with a price, and that is a commitment to care for the animal, and to be committed to the relationship with it. For pet owners, this seems like a natural and easy thing to do. But, for new dog owners like Marcie Davis, it is a major step. One of the reasons she and Melissa Bunnell wrote Working Like Dogs was to de-mystify service dogs.
Anyone who is curious about what service dogs do, what it's like to have one, how service and guide dogs are trained, and what the law is on travelling with an assistance dog - whether it's around the corner or across the country - will find some clear answers in this book.