Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Good Dog Story

Every so often I’ll read a story about dogs that reminds me why I’m a big fan. There is something remarkable and even a bit mysterious about the special bound a dog can form with a human. Even more remarkable is when that special bound helps a child with a disability cope with the world around them. In this story by Melissa Fay Greene in The New York Times Magazine I learned about an organization in Ohio called 4 Paws for Ability that trains dogs for children with autism or behavior disorders, seizure disorders or diabetes including a few dogs that have been able “to predict the medical incidents 6 to 24 hours in advance. (How they do this is something of a mystery.)”

The dogs also help the kids break out of the social isolation that their disability often creates.

“We place dogs with kids in wheelchairs, kids on ventilators, kids with autism, kids with dwarfism, kids with seizure disorder and cognitive impairments; but if your dog does tricks, other kids want to meet you. Kids will ignore your disability if you’ve got a cool dog.”

The organization works with prisoners in select facilities who assist in training the dogs.

"One prisoner with a sense of humor returned a dog who — upon hearing the command “Play dead” — lurched, as if shot, staggered across the floor, knelt, got up, buckled, whined piteously and then dramatically collapsed.

Cool dog. Lucky kid."
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