A Service Dog Is My Eyes, Ears, Hands, and Best Friend Forever
What comes to your mind when you hear about “service dogs”? For me, the first thing is wishing I was able to do what those amazing dogs accomplish. Service dogs come in all shapes and sizes and are skilled in helping with your specific needs.
They are trained to help those with various disabilities such as sensory problems, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injuries, among chronic illnesses.
What do service dogs help with?
Service dogs are trained to help with a wide range of tasks for those with disabilities. The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) defines service dogs as “trained to help, work or perform tasks for those disabled".1
They’re trained specifically to assist with the associated disability you have. As an example, for those of us with MS, your service dog could help with picking items up, supporting your balance, opening doors, turning light switches on/off, and getting help if needed.
According to the ADA, service dogs are allowed to be with you in various places such as airplanes, buses, railways, and various public areas. However, there are areas such as hospital intensive care units, grocery stores, construction sites, and athletic venue stadiums, which restrict access due to safety reasons.1
What is the cost of a service dog?
In general, the minimal cost for a service dog is around $17,000 and can run upwards of $40,000 including training. Professional trainers charge $150-200 per hour. Training timelines and costs depend on the type of disability support that you need.
Several organizations help with obtaining funds through grants and loans, and some provide service dogs for free. The Assistance Dog United Champagne will help with funding. Paws With a Cause, 4 Paws for Ability, and The Service Dogs for America provide service dogs for free.
Unfortunately, I hate to say it, scams are claiming to provide delivery at a low, no-cost, charge a minimal service fee, but are selling companion pets and emotional support dogs as service dogs. Be sure to research the company you plan to work with or contact your local MS Society.
10 dog breeds to consider
So, which breeds might you consider training you ask? Researching the best breeds, I’ll say there are several that are recommended. However, it really depends on your needs.
- Standard poodle - they're very intelligent, loveable, they don’t shed, and are very trainable. They are also smaller, adapt well to smaller areas, and love the outdoors.
- Toy Maltese - they will not impact one’s allergies and are easy to train. They make for great indoor pets as they are affectionate and docile.
- French bulldog - they adapt well to apartment dwelling, need little exercise, are affectionate, are friendly to strangers, and are easy to pick up.
- Boston terriers - they adapt quickly to their owners, have a high tolerance toward strangers, are suited to living in small places, are smart, and are efficient at fetching medications.
- Maltipose - they are very intelligent, learn quickly, have good personalities, have little shedding, are small in size, and are very affectionate with their owners.
- Chinese crested - they are small in stature, are fiercely loyal, and have little shedding. The downside is they are sensitive to the sun and require sunscreen to avoid sunburns.
- Pharaoh hounds - they are a very good breed if you’re looking for a companion animal, low energy (not hyper), medium-size dog, very intelligent, and easy to train.
- Golden retrievers - they are very even-tempered, gentle with owners as well as with small kids. They are very smart a great at retrieving and carrying items. They are larger and need to get outside and run about.
- German shepherds - they are very loyal to their owners, obedient to your commands, easy to train, and very protective.
- Great Danes - they are very gentle, strong, and sturdy. They are very large dogs that are great for helping with balance and those with mobility issues.
Let’s end with a smile and laugh!
You have all seen that look before of “what are you doing parking there it is a handicap spot”. Yep, we have all been there and yep it is irritating all the time. For a lot of us living with MS, our illness is hidden. Other than a cane and walking like I’m drunk, I look healthy.
I have learned to enjoy those looks - people slowing down walking by you with that ‘what the h#%$ look”. Just remember to get out, look at them, smile, and say “hey preferred parking for me no matter where I go”. Oh my, the irritated, annoyed look on their face is priceless!
Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my article. I hope this has helped you or someone in your life considering a service dog in the future. Until the next time, pass on a little goodness to all and make a difference in someone’s life.
How well do people around you understand MS?