Actor Dick Van Patten was the driving force behind the establishment of a special month to honor guide dogs and their unique contributions to the community of people with disabilities, their caregivers, and society at large. Also known as service dogs, assistance dogs, or working dogs, these well-trained animals provide invaluable help to individuals with disabilities through tasks as varied as leading a blind person on a walk… to turning out the lights at night for a paraplegic… to alerting the need for medical help… to soothing the effects of PTSD. Their efforts are tireless and endlessly patient and their contributions simply too numerous to list.
Mr. Van Patten experienced first-hand the critical support provided by these specially-trained dogs during a 2008 visit to a training center for guide dogs in southern California. He learned that it can take $40,000 and up to 2 years to train a single guide dog. He galvanized support and the result was a special month dedicated to honoring these heroic creatures, raising awareness, and conducting fundraising campaigns to support the work of non-profit, accredited guide dog training schools.
Join benotable this month in honoring guide dogs everywhere by making a commitment to help. Ways that you can honor these special animals:
- BECOME a foster home for guide dog puppies, also known as a “puppy raiser.” (To learn how, inquire with your local guide dog school or see: http://www.guidedogs.com/site/PageServer?pagename=programs_dog_puppy, http://www.guidedogsofamerica.org/1/programs/puppy-raising/, http://www.cci.org/site/c.cdKGIRNqEmG/b.4011029/k.6CF1/Puppy_Raising_Program.htm)
- ADVOCATE for the expanded use of service dogs by contacting your elected officials to enact legislation to support the needs of guide dogs, their owners, and all those involved in their training and provision. (For ideas, see: http://guidedogusersinc.org/resources/advocacy-resources/)
- DONATE generously to any organization working to train and get guide dogs into the hands of those needing them. (accredited non-profit organizations include: Petco Foundation, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Guide Dogs of Texas, Guide Dogs of the Desert, Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, Southeastern Guide Dogs, Leader Dogs for the Blind, The Seeing Eye, Inc., Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc., Guiding Eyes for the Blind)
- TRAIN guide dogs yourself by becoming a certified guide dog trainer! (For more information, start with: http://www.wikihow.com/Become-a-Guide-Dog-Trainer)
- SUGGEST a guide dog to an individual facing challenges that you feel might benefit from this special type of assistance. Talk it through and help the individual to find an organization and complete the application process. You could change a life!
Please remember that when you see a service dog, he is working! Try to resist the urge to interrupt his concentration. That generous pat you long to give a guide dog is generally discouraged. It may interfere with the dog’s duties. Always ask first!
Guide dogs have inspired such devotion and provided such critical help that their efforts and the special connection they share with those they serve or those that help them along the way often cannot be adequately described in everyday language. For this reason, we provide this month a special section devoted to poetry celebrating these extraordinary creatures. Enjoy!
(***Though we well know that there are many other types of support animals, September has been officially designated by Congress to honor guide dogs. Hence we limit our discussion to them. Please do not think that we are not concerned or connected to the many issues and efforts to expand the use of other service animals to individuals with disabilities!***)