My two special dogs both come from shelters, one from Montana, the other from my community's Humane Society. Both dogs have brought great joy into my life and have taught me many valuable life lessons, such as loyalty, courage, perseverance, and love.
Dogs and people have held a special bond for thousands of years. Dogs have served humankind in many capacities, from protector to bearer of burdens. Native Americans, for example, used dogs to transport loads prior to obtaining the horse. Still today, dogs serve people in a variety of ways: herding and protecting flocks; finding fowl in the field; guiding the blind; assisting deaf and wheel-chair bound individuals; rescuing lost children; and bringing smiles to those in hospital beds.
Here are some special ways dogs help people:
- Assistance dogs are specially trained to help people manage physical or emotional disabilities. Guide dogs assist the blind, deaf assistance dogs alert people to the telephone or doorbell, and assistance dogs open refrigerators and building doors for people in wheelchairs. Some even detect cancer and epileptic seizures.
- Search and rescue dogs look for the lost. From hikers and skiers to victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, these hero dogs put their health and life in the balance in the line of duty.
- Military and police dogs also put their lives on the line. From sniffing for drugs or bombs to patrol duties, these dogs serve our country in the United States and abroad.
- Visiting hospitals and nursing homes, therapy dogs bring smiles to the faces of ill children and lonely senior citizens.
- Read-to-the-dog programs are popular in many libraries across the country and help children become better readers.
- Sporting dogs, including spaniels, retrievers and pointers, help bring home dinner in the form of ducks, pheasants, and grouse.
- Herding dogs, like the Australian Shepherd and the collie, have the genetic instinct to drive and gather livestock. Some of these dogs, such as Israel’s Canaan dog, have been used for several centuries.
- A variety of dogs, including the Siberian husky and German shepherd, are part of the working breed, transporting and protecting people.
Dogs help us in many ways, including the simple acts of helping us exercise, lowering our blood pressure, and getting us to laugh and smile more often. So, honor your special pooch for his loyalty and love with an extra ounce of kibble, a special hug, or a play-day outdoors in the field. And, if you’re thinking about adding a dog to your household, October is a great time to do so.
If you can’t have a dog right now, there are still things you can do to celebrate dogs, including showing kindness and compassion to animals in need and supporting your local pet rescue and shelter organizations with donations – there is always need not just for money, but also for supplies and volunteers.