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Assisting Aussies

A Service dog is any dog which is specifically trained to perform tasks for a disabled person (adult or child) that would otherwise have difficulty completing on their own. Service dogs provide an extensive and overwhelmingly impressive variety of services. Some of the services these dogs can provide include:
  • Hearing Assistance Dogs: To alert their deaf handler to specifically trained environmental sounds, which include,alarms, doorbells, knocking, phones, cars or their even their name.
  • Medical Assistance Dog: To assist their handler with a medical disability in completing their specific required tasks.
  • Psychiatric Service Dog : To assist their handler with a psychiatric disability such as anxiety, depression or PTSD via specific, trained tasks.
  • Seizure Response Dogs: To respond to their handler’s seizures by performing trained tasks. The dog may retrieve medication, utilize deep pressure stimulation to end a seizure early and locate some to help or call 911.
  • Visual Assistance Dogs: (Also known as guide dogs )To guide their visually impaired or blind handler.
  • Wheelchair Assistance Dogs: To assist their handler by retrieving dropped objects, opening doors, retrieving the phone, helping with transfers, or anything elsetheir partner may need.

Testimonial - By Thé Korriek

There are so many kinds of service dogs and each is different and unique. From allergy alert to guide dog to mobility and PTSD. Each one has its own specific story and the reason people have service dogs is not always visible. My Service Dog Del is for mobility, anxiety and seizure alerts. I get asked who I am training this service dog for, well he is mine. I always get funny looks, I look very young and I don't appear to have anything wrong with me but without my dog I fear leaving the house alone and can't always do the things I need to do in order to get where I am going, like stairs for instance are very horrible things for me but with him we can do it. Del picks things up
when I drop them and helps when my Vertigo gets too bad and keeps me from walking into stuff. He does a variety of things at home for me too that are just amazing. He takes my shoes and socks off and will go get my keys (I lose them a lot) He alerts me when my phone is ringing or an alarm is going off, but mostly he keeps me safe and knows if I'm getting too worked up. He is trained to make me sit and relax before I have a blackout or mini seizure. I have only had two seizures since I got him! Before Del it was two seizures a month! Del is little over 3 and a half now. He is still learning new stuff too. He gave me my life back.
  • Medical Alert Dogs: To alert their handler of dangerous physiological changes which could include blood pressure, hormone levels or another life threatening bodily symptoms.
  • Severe Allergy Alert dogs: Alert handler of life threatening allergens
  • Autism Assistance dogs: To assist in calming the individual with tactile or deep pressure stimulation.
  • Brace/Mobility Support Dogs: Provide bracing or counterbalancing to a partner who has balance issues due to a disability and assist with day to day tasks.
  • Diabetic Alert Dogs: To alert their handler to life threatening blood sugar highs and lows. Many dogs are trained to call 911 on a special K-9 Alert Phone if their partner cannot be roused.
A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide love and comfort to people in in a variety ofsettings such as hospice, hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, sites of catastrophe, the learning disabled and schools.
Therapy dogs are not any specific breed or type. The most essential attribute of a therapy dog is the personality, character and disposition. The ideal therapy dog must be sociable, patient, confident, calm, and comfortable in any situation. They must like human interaction and be content when being touched, petted and handled.
The most important function of a therapy dog is to allow strangers of all ages to pet and handle them. They might need to sit on someone's lap, on a hospital bed, the floor or other situations. Some dogs are trained in performing small tricks to entertain. Therapy dogs can be instrumental in providing a smooth and calming experience reducing the anxiety of death to terminally ill patients.

    Testimonial - By Pat  Rodriguez

I decided to enroll Ruby into therapy dog training after I visited an information booth at a dog event a couple of years ago. Some of the requirements are allowing strangers to touch them all over, does not startle with loud noises, is comfortable around wheelchairs and walkers. I thought she would be perfect for the job! She loves people and has a good temperament. Once certified, therapy dogs can visit various facilities such as hospitals, assisted living, mental health, rehabilitation and library programs.
We began to visit a local assisted living facility. Ruby visits with the elderly and gives them comfort
by sitting with them. Most of the residents like to stroke her long soft fur which she enjoys
tremendously! It gives the residents comfort and they enjoy her visits as most of them have had
dogs of their own. Bringing her to visit them remind them of their pets.
We have also visited a library to help children read with confidence. It really makes a difference
for them to be able to sit alongside a dog and read to them without any judgment. Some kids are
shy or embarrassed to read in front of their peers but are really comfortable reading to a dog!
It is a rewarding experience to visit with both the elderly and children. It can
bring a smile to their face and joy in their heart, even for a few minutes!

Testimonial - By Jeanette Wood

I have been doing work as a therapy dog team for nearly 8 years in many different facilities and many different situations. When I first started, hardly anyone understood what a therapy dog was and what it did. More and more, people now recognize what we do and the value a therapy dog can provide. I would like to give you some background on therapy dogs in general and the work we do.
The term “therapy dog” means a dog that provides some kind of therapeutic service to humans. It is a broad definition, as therapy work can take place in many different ways and many different places. You will see therapy dogs in hospitals, hospices, shelters, schools, etc. and you will see more highly trained “crisis-response therapy dogs” after a community disaster, such as floods, fires, train wrecks, terrorist acts and more. But regardless of who they are working with and where they are working, the goal is to enrich the lives of those they serve. Therapy work generally falls into two categories: 1) Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) and 2) Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). Animal-Assisted Activities refers to work in which the dog is involved in activities that foster interaction between the canine and client without a specific measured outcome.
For instance, a dog that works visiting patients in a hospital will meet and greet with patients and provide warmth, loving attention, and distraction to patients as a part of his work. Another dog visiting a hospital might only go to the physical therapy department and, working in tandem with a professional, have one client with a specific goal in mind. That goal might be for the client to raise his or her hand above the waist. The dog encourages this by fetching balls the client is throwing. Therefore, the interaction with the dog promotes the goal of the physical therapist with the client.
Therapy dogs can be almost any breed as the most important aspects for a great therapy dog are:
  1. they understand and respond to basic commands and are under the handler’s control
  2. they have an easy going and tolerant temperament and enjoy interacting with people, and
  3. their handler also has the right personality for therapy work and can appropriately support the canine.
To determine whether a canine and his handler are appropriate for therapy work, they will undergo some training and testing, usually through organizations like Pet Partners ( or through Therapy Dogs International ( ).
Once a dog passes these programs, they are registered and carry insurance so that facilities can feel comfortable welcoming the dogs for service, knowing they have the right level of training and carry liability insurance. My Australian Shepherd, Callie, first became a therapy dog in 2005 through Pet Partners (then known as the Delta Society). We worked in schools with autistic and disabled children and in a crisis shelter for children. Later, we began to do AAT work with children at high risk in residential treatment facilities, working with the child’s therapist to help the child reach specific goals. Many of the high-risk children we have worked with have witnessed, or even participated in, animal abuse. By developing an emotional relationship with a loving dog, we hope to break this cycle of violence. Research shows us that domestic abuse often has its roots in animal abuse.
I remember one young child we worked with who had a history of animal abuse. After a number of weeks working with Callie, the boy brought her a bowl of water after declaring that she must be thirsty. As she drank, he looked up proudly and said “ I used to hurt animals, but NOW I am an animal helper!”
In 2010, we underwent additional training to become a crisis-response therapy team through HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response ( Several times per year, we are deployed to areas where disasters have occurred. So far in 2013, we served at the memorial for a victim of a shooting in Phoenix, at Santa Monica College after the campus shooting, and in the communities of Prescott and Yarnell, Arizona after the devastating fire that resulted in 19 firefighter deaths. These past 8 years have been such a blessing as I watch my dog bring comfort and pleasure to so many people. She has an instinct as to who needs her most and I mostly follow her lead. In a roomful of children in a children’s crisis shelter, she seems to find the one that needs her most. Even when she is not “on duty” she seeks out interactions with people. She loves children and is so tolerant of curious, and sometimes rough, little hands. This is Callie’s “work” and Aussies need work to do. When her working vest is pulled out of the drawer, she does her “happy wiggle-butt dance”! And once it is on, she runs out to the car and waits by the door to be let in. She knows she is going to work and she can’t wait! Therapy work is not for every dog…and not for every person. But if you and your canine have the “right stuff”, you can make a difference in many lives while enriching your own.
Here are some personal stories.... In October 2010 Callie and I had just finished 3 days of intensive training and testing for crisis response work in California and we had just been handed our HOPE certification, when we were asked to deploy to Carlsbad, California to Kelly Elementary School. The day before, a gunman had climbed the fence and began shooting indiscriminately into the children on the playground. Several children were wounded before the gunman was taken down by construction workers nearby. While school resumed the next day, the children were now afraid to go out onto their playground. Callie and I, along with several other HOPE teams, went to the school and positioned ourselves outside the playground doors. The kids were eager to see and pet the dogs. We came for every recess and for lunchtime for two weeks. Each time we arrived, we slowly moved ourselves farther onto the playground and ultimately to the shooting site. As the days passed, the kids began to laugh and play again and when they began to flit in and out of our HOPE teams and resume their normal play, we knew our work had been done. They had reclaimed their playground and developed new positive associations with their space.
Months later, when the shooter went to trial, which was highly publicized, the school district asked us to return to help the kids who were showing sign of traumatic stress. This time, the dogs visited in small groups with the children and their counselors so that they had a safe place and a “familiar friend’ to help they open up to their counselors. On January 8, 2011 Gabriel Giffords and 18 others were shot and six were killed at a public meeting in Tucson, AZ. Among the dead were a federal judge and a young girl. Callie and I attended the memorial of Christina Taylor-Green, age 9, and Chief Judge Roll. We were welcomed by the sheriff’s office, the FBI and the US Marshals. At Christina’s memorial, Callie sat with two children for a big part of the event. Both were classmates and good friends of Christina’s.
At Judge Roll’s memorial, the US Marshals insisted that we be admitted to the highly secured area so that we could have better access to the mourners who wanted to visit with us. An FBI officer and his wife, who were close friends of Judge Roll also spent a significant amount of time with Callie after his service. Later, they sent honorary FBI badges for Callie’s vest as they saw the US Marshals had already “adopted” her with their honorary badge.
In August of 2011, Callie and I served at Camp Operation Purple in California, a camp for the children of active duty deployed military. When children were in distress, we got a radio call for “the dog lady” and we would go to that child and let them walk Callie through the forest paths while they talked or sit on a bench with them while they cried. Usually within 30 minutes or so they had calmed down enough to rejoin their fellow campers. We attended evening meetings in the cabins along with counselors as kids discussed their anxieties and fears for their deployed parents. We were the first HOPE team to do this and each year HOPE teams are now being asked to come to camp again.
February 2013: Local attorney and respected community leader, Mark Hummels, was shot January 30th in a mediation dispute. His law firm, Osborn Maledon, requested support at the Memorial Reception, which was to be held at Phoenix City Hall, directly following the services at the Orpheum Theatre Callie and I arrived at City Hall one hour before the guests to tour the venue and determine a suitable place to provide services. I was told to expect 500-1,000 mourners. A flood of mourners arrived all at once. The caterer, whom I spoke to earlier, soon brought me a young boy in tears. He was the 8-year-old son of the attorney. He sat with me and Callie on the floor, and his teen-aged cousins, who were keeping a very watchful eye on him and his sister, filled the benches around us. Soon, he was smiling, petting and brushing Callie and telling me stories of his own dogs and his Dad. His cousins joined in periodically and his older sister kept flitting in and out of our circle with her friend. Dozens of adults kept a distance, but were watching all the interaction very carefully. I showed him my book on Callie and he read it to me. His sister came back with her friend and a camera and wanted to take a photo of Callie and Henry. Her friend told her to get in the photo too. Just as her friend clicked the shutter of the two smiling faces nestled against Callie, Callie gave him a big lick on his ear. The “Awww” from the crowd resonated through the cavernous City Hall.
The boy’s sister proudly began showing the photo around. While children and adults came and went throughout the evening, he stayed by Callie’s side all night long. As we prepared to leave, I gave all the kids a stamp on their hand that says “Callie Loves Me”, which they enjoyed and I gave the him the book on Callie to keep. He and the kids all gave her a hug goodbye. As we left the venue, several adults approached and asked for a hug and said thank you so much for being there for him and the other kids. Another man stepped up in the parking garage and insisted on paying for my parking and thanked us for our service.
It was a traumatic night for Mark Hummels’ family, friends and co-workers and I think they took some comfort in seeing that his son, daughter, nieces and nephews had a safe place to mourn and share feelings, while the adults could focus on their own needs. For this young boy, I think his visit with Callie was the only thing that held him together.
And an “off the clock” personal story…… I was leaving the vet’s office with Callie and as I walked through the parking lot, an older man came toward us pushing a wheelbarrow. Callie froze in her tracks and at first I thought she was scared of the wheelbarrow, but then saw she was staring at him, but there wasn’t anything unusual in his appearance. Yet, she cemented her feet in place and looked right at him, refusing to go. So I just stopped and allowed her to stare at him. As he passed by us he said, “Puppy, you interested in my wheelbarrow, are you?” as he kept walking. I replied, “I actually think she’s really interested in you.” He came to a sudden stop and looked into her eyes as she looked back, then dropped his wheelbarrow and walked over to her and dropped to his knees. Callie turned and backed herself snugly right between his legs, while he wrapped his arms around her and buried his face into the thick fur on her back. While he was doing this, she was looking up at me with a most pleased look on her face. When he lifted his face, I saw tears in his eyes. He stood up and said, “What a wonderful dog. I needed that hug. Thank you.” Then both of them went off in their own directions….
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