GUEST COMMENTARY: Service dogs can improve quality of life

2014-06-18T00:00:00Z 2014-06-18T18:14:30Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Service dogs can improve quality of lifeBy Samantha Keane nwitimes.com
June 18, 2014 12:00 am  • 

I remember when I was 6, leaving a Denny’s restaurant one evening near my hometown. Several strides behind my family and me I noticed a black Labrador retriever. Why would a dog be in a restaurant?

The situation seemed so odd and interesting and exciting. Wearing a harness in addition to a leash, I noticed, the dog appeared to be guiding his owner as she walked towards the register. Upon the employee telling the woman’s total payment owed, the woman subsequently dropped a change purse-like item on the floor. Immediately, the dog picked up the bag for the woman. The woman took back the bag and praised the dog with a pat on his head.

I was astounded as we walked out of the restaurant, wondering what I had just witnessed.

I later learned I had seen a service dog.

The use of service dogs in society, whether for the assistance of those with physical disabilities or impairments or the assistance of those with mental disorders, is a common means of bettering a person's quality of life.

A notable number of recent findings suggest, though, the true degree of service dog impact, as many show service dogs work great positivity into an individual’s life.

In 2011, the University of New Mexico and Dogwood Therapy Service studied various scholarly works regarding the subject of service dogs. Their findings showed evident general positivity in the lives of impaired individuals who used dogs as guides or assistants with common tasks.

In-home observation and personal interviews issued for a study done by a graduate occupational therapist provided hard evidence of a service dog’s subsequent alleviation for the service dog’s owner.

A comparative study initiated by the University of California revealed disabled children who had service dogs tended to receive more social engagements and acknowledgements.

Positivity is seen in the lives of individuals afflicted by mental disorders or psychological issues, in the lives of wheelchair users, hearing impaired individuals, vision impaired individuals, and in one’s general amount of human interaction.

The knowledge that service dogs work to increase quality of life should lead to better training methods and, in turn, dogs that could assist humans in even more beneficial ways.

The current state of the service dog’s capability and the foreseeable future of the service dog’s capability are promising.

Understand this will help others, especially if a service dog could help improve life for someone they know who might be living with a disability, impairment or disorder.

Samantha Keane, of Cedar Lake, is a student at Ball State University. The opinions are the writer's.

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