Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

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This photo shows crisis dog Tikva, a Keeshond, with responders at Ground Zero.

Service dogs for first responders

In light of Wednesday’s post, here’s a video about service dogs for first responders. 

Thank goodness, leadership in some areas has begun to cut through the “tough-guy” culture in many agencies. It’s high time we recognize the huge impact of stress on first responders. When more than twice as many police officers die by suicide than in the line of duty, something is seriously wrong!

Anyone who’s followed this blog for a while knows I’ve posted about service dogs many times before. I’ve featured dogs who help calm child witnesses in courtrooms, and others who aid deaf people, or help with mobility.

Some comfort hospice patients, or support recovery from PTSD. Especially as they’ve become more widely used to treat PTSD in military veterans, it’s logical to expand the idea to include service dogs for first responders.

Dogs’ roles have evolved

This kind of caregiving role for our canine friends isn’t a universal centuries-old tradition. Over the millennia they’ve been our co-hunters, herding dogs, and guard dogs. But in isolated instances people have used animals as helps in therapy or guides throughout history

L-R in a wonderful composite photo created by Tori Holmes for Bark-Post: A mural from Herculaneum shows an ancient Roman dog used to guide a bind person.  Morris Frank and his guide dog Buddy walk down a city street (she is popularly considered to be the first guide dog in the US). The third photo portrays a contemporary guide dog with her person.
L-R in a wonderful composite photo created by Tori Holmes for Bark-Post: A mural from Herculaneum shows an ancient Roman dog used to guide a bind person.  Morris Frank and his guide dog Buddy walk down a city street (she is popularly considered to be the first guide dog in the US). The third photo portrays a contemporary guide dog with her person.

Our contemporary understanding of what a service dog can do began in Germany after World War I. Former ambulance dogs found new roles as guide dogs for blinded veterans. The idea spread to the United States, where trainers established several schools.

Developing the concept

From there, a whole new chapter in the relationship between dogs and humans has unfolded. Service dogs now help people deal with all kinds of medical and mental health issues

But the first time I became aware of therapy dogs helping first responders cope was through stories about therapy dogs at the site of the 9/11 wreckage

This photo shows crisis dog Tikva, a Keeshond, with responders at Ground Zero.
Crisis dog Tikva, a Keeshond, helped responders cope at Ground Zero. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

Individual agencies have begun bringing in therapy dogs occasionally. In the 911 Call Center for Sheboygan County, WI, a team of therapy dogs visits on a regular schedule. 

Back in Fairfax County, home of the police in our opening video, they also have a Goldendoodle therapy dog named Wally in Fire Station 32. Therapy dogs have been brought in to help firefighters battling wildfires in Californina (I hope in Australia, too!).

I think this trend of providing service dogs for first responders is positive. What do you think? Should more agencies should explore it as a way to offer our first responders some relief?

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to VOA for the video about therapy dogs in the Fairfax VA Police Department. I deeply appreciate the three-photo composite of guide dogs through the centuries from Tori Holmes and Bark-Post. Finally, I want to thank the New York Daily News for the photo of Tikva the Keeshond, and the accompanying article about therapy dogs at Ground Zero.

Service

Please accept my apologies. This was scheduled to go live Wednesday, 12/5/18. It failed to publish for reasons I don’t understand.

Like many people around the world, I was touched by this photo of President George H. W. Bush’s service dog Sully by his casket this weekend.

The late President George H.W. Bush’s service dog Sully helped him with “a list that’s two pages long” of tasks, after his wife Barbara passed away earlier this year. Photo by Evan Sisley.

I’ve written about service animals repeatedly on this blog, including in a series of Images of Interest in January 2017, the first of which is here. Several species can be taught to perform a variety of helpful tasks, including monkeys and miniature horses, but the vast majority of service animals (as opposed to emotional support animals or ESAs), and the ones most clearly identified as such in the ADA language, are dogs.

Regulatory language established under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, says “service animals must be individually trained to do work or carry out tasks” on behalf of the disabled person. The original language did not specify acceptable species, but currently only dogs are recognized as service animals under Title II and Title III, but an exception is made for miniature horses in some cases.

What are they “individually trained” to do? Here’s a video that offers a sampling of three major kinds of service training, as guide dogshearing dogs, and mobility dogs:



However, those three specialty areas are only the beginning. They can be trained to do all sorts of things.

There has, of course, been controversy recently about emotional support animals traveling and having access to facilities from which pets are banned, particularly in the wake of an incident when a woman attempted to bring a “comfort peacock” on a United flightIn October 2018, Southwest Airlines limited acceptable species to dogs, cats, and miniature horses

Miniature horses mostly appear to be used as guide animals for the blindHere’s an overview with several good pictures, including a situation that occurred in a devout Muslim family. Their culture considers dogs to be unclean animals, and therefore not acceptable in the home–but horses are okay. I also found a rather fuzzy 2009 video from The Rachael Ray Show (they’re worrying about ADA regulations that ultimately did include guide horses) but Ann Edie and Panda, the guide horse Rachael Ray featured, are also featured in a much clearer video from 2017.

No, cats can’t be service animals under ADA regulations (after all cats have staff. They aren’t servants themselves! That would be a perversion of nature. Right?). But apparently they can be ESAs, according to Southwest. Currently banned are all other animals, including ferrets, pigs, parrotsmonkeys, and, yes, peacocks.

If you’re wondering what will become of Sully, who was trained by America’s VetDogsthe family and American VetDogs has announced that “Sully will be joining the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Facility Dog Program.” As Kathleen Curthoys put it in her Military Times article, “Sully will work with other dogs assisting with physical and occupational therapy to wounded soldiers and active-duty personnel during their recovery at Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland.” 

IMAGES: Many thanks to Military Times, for Evan Sisley‘s photo of Sully by his late master’s casket, to Omni Military Loans for the video about service dogs, and to All 4 for the video about Panda the guide horse.

So, I wrote this book . . . the saga continues.

Anyone who’s been reading this blog periodically may have stumbled onto a mention or three about the science fiction novel I’ve been working on.

To be fair, it’s a science fiction universe I’ve been creating, the physical setting and milieu for a whole series of novels. Any blog posts I’ve written about future trends, such as last year’s series on automation, the DIY Space Station seriesfirst responders, and/or police K-9sMWDs, or service animals, all have been directly inspired by research aimed at making my fictional world seem more real.

The book’s still not published, so, no: this is not a sales pitch. It’s more like an update. After the 2016 post that marked the end of an early draft, it went through a series of editorial reviews by professionals I trust, as well as a lot of beta-readers’ reviews (note: beta-readers are kind of like beta testers, only for books).

And it underwent lots and lots (and lots and lots) of revisions. As far as the comments from my various critique resources have been going, it apparently continues to improve. I recently sent it off for what I hope is a final round of critiques. Considering the sequel’s now almost finished, I’m hopeful I can offer more substantive updates here soon.

IMAGES: Many thanks to the ever-witty Tom Gauld, via Pinterest, for the “Jealous of my Jetpack” picture, to Roxanne Smolen’s Instagram Page for the illustrated Phyllis Whitney quote, and to Kathy R. Jeffords for the “2nd Draft Won’t Kill You” design and thought.

Yet more evidence that dogs are wonderful

The other day I came upon what I think is a wonderful story from the Denver, Colorado area. I’ve shared stories about a variety of service dogs on this blog, but this is the first “facility dog” I’ve encountered. 

This is one way that Pella helps comfort child witnesses, out of sight of the jury.

This program in Colorado was born of the persistent vision and efforts of criminal investigator Amber Urban, who got the idea from the Courthouse Dogs program in Seattle, WA. Over time, the Arapahoe County Courthouse has become one of several courthouses and child-services facilties where Pella and others like her are now accepted.

Pella helps children feel more empowered during what can be an extremely stressful interview or turn on the witness stand. The interviewers make a point of letting the child decide if Pella should be there or not (giving him or her a bit of control, in what is almost guaranteed to be a frightening, out-of-control experience).

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Denver Post’s excellent 8/18/2016 article about Pella and the “facility dogs” program in Colorado, by John Wenzel, from which some of the background material for this post was drawn, for the photo of Pella in “stealth mode” on the witness stand, and to YouTube, OakwoodNS, and KUSA for the 2012 video clip about Pella.

A dog who gives new hope (and sleep) to the whole family

The Artdog Image of Interest 
Dogs can be trained to do all kinds of things to help their deaf or hearing-impaired owners. Meet Klara and her Hearing Dog Jasper, who’s made a world of difference for the whole family.

VIDEO: Many thanks to NDCS (National Deaf Children’s Services) of the UK, and to YouTube for this video.

A dog who has this veteran’s back

The Artdog Image of Interest 
Here’s another service dog video. This one tells the story of a Canadian Afghanistan War vet whose PTSD was ruining his life. Now his service dog Norman “has my back.” Man and dog demonstrate some of the ways that Norman helps.

VIDEO: Many thanks to CBC News, and YouTube for this video.

A dog who gave a girl a more active life

The Artdog Image of interest

Here’s another service dog video. This time it’s George, a Great Dane who’s making an amazing difference in the life of a little girl named Bella.

VIDEO: Many thanks to The Doctors, and YouTube for this video.

A dog who made a difference

The Artdog Image of Interest 
This week’s image of interest is a video about a little boy with autism, and the dog who made all the difference in his world. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

VIDEO: Many thanks to Talent Hounds and YouTube for this video.

Kids reading to dogs benefits the DOGS, too!

A few weeks ago, I posted an article, Canine reading tutorsabout the growing popularity of using therapy dogs to boost children’s literacy.

Kids who read aloud to dogs never get corrected when they say a word wrong or spend time puzzling over it, and they never get hurried up if they read slowly. Instead, the dog lies next to them, warm and reassuring, and always seems to like being read to. It’s a great confidence-builder.

But could it also benefit the dogs? Perhaps surprisingly–yes! Last March, NBC News featured a story about a new idea in a St. Louis animal shelter. Kids read to dogs in the shelter, to help calm and socialize the dogs. I’m sure the extra practice didn’t hurt the kids any, either.

Here’s a video that tells a bit more about the program:

The human-canine bond is an old and mutually-beneficial one, as I’ve written before. I don’t know about you, but I loved seeing another way in which that connection is still going strong, after all these millennia. I’d also like to thank The Dodo, for its feature on this program. I happened upon this story there, first.

IMAGES: many thanks to the Huffington Post for the photo of the little girl reading to the dog, and to NBC News for the photo of the girl and the shelter dog, and YouTube, for the video about the program.

A role model for being alive

We sure could find worse models to emulate.

puppy with flowers and quote The old cliche about “everything I need to know” doesn’t hold water–there are many things our dogs can’t teach us (how to balance a checkbook or write a blog post, for example). But the basic attitude of a dog toward life, and toward humans, is another story altogether.

Would that we ALL treated each other as gently and with as much compassion as well-socialized dogs treat us.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Mactoons for this image and quote. 

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