Service dogs play an important role in helping those who have physical or mental difficulties in their lives. There are many types of service dogs, from mobility assistance, to guide dogs who help those with vision limitations navigate their surroundings, to seizure alert and response dogs and more. The level of assistance depends on the needs of each individual and often times, part of the assistance dogs’ training is tailored to the individual.
By working with a specialized non-profit organization, you can find a service dog that fits your exact need or the needs of a family member. Typical cost for training an assistance dog is $27,000-$30,000. Thus, people who can really benefit from these wonderful service dogs often cannot afford it. Many of the amazing non-profit organizations aim to provide assistance dogs for free; therefore, improving the quality of lives for more people than otherwise possible. Here are a few of our favorites.
K9 for Warriors
K9 for Warriors is a non-profit organization that strives to rescue dogs and soldiers who face challenges after their time in a war zone. They assist warriors who have challenges with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries or military sexual trauma that may impact a soldier's mental health. The non-profit organization brings soldiers and a service dog together by requiring the soldier to take a 3 week course. During the course, the soldier learns to train a service dog with the help of a professional trainer.
The power of K9 for Warriors is the focus on building a bond between a service dog and a soldier. The bond helps a soldier recognize that he or she is not alone after going through a traumatic experience. The soldiers and the dogs are all rescued by the program and they have a chance to start fresh with the help they need to move forward with their lives. The program takes place on a 17,000 square foot compound and houses 57 dogs at a time. It is 100% free for soldiers and is funded by donations for individuals and corporations.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind
Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a non-profit organization that focuses on connecting service dogs and those who have visual impairments. The dogs are trained to guide individuals and help them become independent when they have a visual impairment.
The services are free for those who need guide dogs. They raise funds through events like the virtual marathon, their annual Wag-a-Thon where they challenge people to walk or run a cumulative marathon of 26.2 miles. The organization recognizes that the challenge with visual impairment is that people are not able to do everything they want. They may feel isolated by the experience and a guide dog helps them navigate their surroundings so they are actively participating without risking injuries.
Little Angels Service Dogs
Little Angels Service Dogs are highly trained to help with a variety of different concerns. This San Diego-based non-profit organization is particularly known for their training to recognize a seizure before it happens. When Natalie, a young woman with epilepsy, requested a service dog from Little Angels, they trained Dexter to help with her needs. After a seizure, Natalie's parents swabbed the inside of her mouth and her palms before sending the sample to Little Angels. The trainer used the scent to train Dexter to alert when he noticed the smell.
The benefit of training from Little Angels in the case of epilepsy is the dog's ability to alert the individual about the seizure before it happens. It allows the individual to take medication to prevent the seizure or to get to a safe location before it occurs. The non-profit organization provides comprehensive training to the dogs to ensure they are able to handle a variety of tasks associated with the needs of their owners.
Merlin's Kids is a non-profit organization focused on the needs of children with specific disabilities. The program helps connect children to dogs rescued from a shelter and trained to provide the services a child needs. The dogs have training for specific needs based on the child's behaviors and situation. The program focuses on helping children without placing a financial burden on the family. It prioritizes the safety of the children as they grow and manage the challenges of a disability.
In the case of Harry, a young boy with autism, Emmy provided the protection and safety he needed as well as sensory input to help with the tendency to wander away, tantrums, and other challenges associated with his autism. It not only changed Harry’s life but his mom’s as well by giving her the peace of mind and “freedom” as she described it.
Service dogs play an essential role in the lives of men, women and children with disabilities. The dogs give unconditional love and companionship while also helping with the specific needs of the individual. The non-profit organizations do not charge the families for a service dog; instead, they use donations and fundraisers to provide the right training for the dogs. The result is a long-term bond that helps the dogs and the families.