A friend in need is a friend indeed and it aptly applies to our canine friends. You would be amazed to know what they can do for the disabled. They can retrieve a snack or medicine from the refrigerator and even pull a wheel chair for short distances. Dogs trained for such activities are help dogs, who help the less privileged humans in leading a normal life. One wonders what our canines can do for a person who is disabled. Well, a service dog can do many tasks, depending on the person’s disability. Service dogs enhance independence for people with disabilities. They do this by reducing reliance on other people to perform tasks that they have difficulty performing themselves. A dog guide is the eye for his blind handler, taking the handler around obstacles. A hearing dog alerts the handler to sounds, a seizure alert/response dog responds when the handler has a seizure, and a Mobility assist dog (also called a service dog), is the arms and legs for a disabled person. A psychiatric service dog keeps a person with a psychiatric disorder calm.
Hyderabad based Help & Assistance Dogs India (HADI) is an organisation which provides such help dogs in India. This non-profit organisation is a unit of Commando Kennels, involved in training dogs in various aspects since 1986. In 2004, HADI donated two service dogs to mentally challenged children in Hyderabad. HADI is also involved in creating awareness about the use of help dogs. HADI trains and certifies trainers in diverse aspects of dog training. They conduct short-term 6-week capsule courses to facilitate this. HADI is planning to donate 6 service dogs to the challenged in 2005.They also plan to dedicate 6 earthquake search and rescue dogs to the nation, with ‘mission ready’ teams available for call-out on a 24-hour basis.
Who is a help dog?
A help dog is any guide dog trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. They not only provide a specific service to their handlers, but also greatly enhance their lives with a new sense of freedom and independence. The various types of help dogs are assistance dogs and search and rescue dogs.
Assistance dogs: These help dogs not only provide a specific service to their handlers, but also greatly enhance their lives with a new sense of freedom and independence. Assistance dogs can further be divided into the following types, though newer and more varied skills and combinations of skills are being developed depending on the disabilities of the person:
- Guide dogs for the blind and the visually impaired.
- Hearing dogs for the deaf and hard of hearing.
- Service dogs for the people with physical disabilities other than those related to vision or hearing.
- Seizure response/alert dogs are placed to work with an individual who has epilepsy or other seizure disorders. The dog is trained to perform a task that benefits the recipient by alerting him/her to or by responding appropriately to seizure episodes.
- Social/therapy dogs are permanently placed in a home or care giving facility to provide therapeutic benefits.
Search and rescue dogs: The use of canines for search and rescue is not new. Specially trained dogs have been used across the world for decades. These dogs have been successful in searching for victims trapped in rubble created by earthquakes or explosions, Alzheimer patients who have wandered away, children who have become lost, victims of boating accidents, or evidence in criminal cases. A search & rescue team performs the following functions:
- Earthquakes – Dog/handler teams are specially trained to locate victims of earthquake.
- Wilderness – Dog/handler teams are specially trained to locate victims who are lost such as hunters, hikers, children, campers, the elderly, or mentally disabled.
- Water Searching – Water search dogs can work from the shore or from a boat and will alert to scent rising from a submerged body.
- Tracking/trailing – These specially trained dogs are particularly useful when a last known location has been established for the victim.
- Evidence?-?These dog/handler teams assist law enforcement in locating evidence such as shell casing, guns, knives, etc.
- Cadaver – Cadaver dogs are specially trained to locate and indicate buried bodies or body parts.
- Disaster Training – Disaster trained dogs bark and dig at the location of the victim hidden beneath rubble from earthquakes, explosions, tornadoes, mudslides, floods, etc.
- Avalanche?- They are specially trained to help locate individuals who have been buried under snow during an avalanche.
What can a help dog do?
HADI tailor-trains each of their dogs to meet the specific needs of their future partner. Regardless of the physical assistance tasks a help dog may perform for their partner, perhaps the most important benefit of all is simply the love and companionship the dogs provide their partners.
These dogs can also provide physical assistance tasks such as:
- Retrieving dropped items from the floor.
- Standing and bracing to assist an individual who has fallen to the floor.
- Turning light switches on and off.
- Retrieving the telephone, remote control, and other items by name.
- Providing counterbalance support as a person walks or climbs stairs.
- Helping a person to dress and undress.
- Assisting individuals in rolling over in bed.
- Opening and closing doors, cabinets, and drawers.
- Retrieving a snack and/or medication from a refrigerator.
- Helping pull a wheelchair for short distances.
How are they trained and placed: