Below are stories about the funny, sweet and amazing things service dogs do for their owners with mobility impairments, collected by freelance writer Jan Blaustone with help from the service dog training organization Canine Assistants.
For the main story, read Dogs Do the Darnedest Things, Quest May-June 2007.
But can he parallel park?
My assistance dog, Cannon, and I were with a group from church when everyone decided to head out to eat at a restaurant for lunch. I drove Cannon and me to the restaurant. Upon entering, I heard one of the older parishioners exclaim, "It's amazing what they can train animals to do! I can hardly believe that dog just drove that lady here from church!"
Lois Rose & Cannon
A year after I got Sadie, she and I were flying home to Virginia from Tennessee. Sadie sat perched in the seat next to me.
We communicate with each other through our eyes. The flight was dark and quiet so we sat paw in hand, “chatting.”
During college, Sadie knew my schedule of classes and where my seat was. If I stopped to talk to someone in the classroom, she'd proceed on and sit at our regular seat. I graduated from college with Sadie at my side. She got a degree, too.
Brandy Stivers Murphy & Sadie
Colonial Heights, Va.
I was in the grocery store doing a training outing (and some shopping) with one of my golden retrievers in training, Catty. As I removed items from the shelf, reading the back of the boxes and cans for ingredients, I noticed a sales clerk at the end of the aisle stocking shelves and watching me intently.
As I got close to her, she yelled at the top of her lungs, "ARE YOU DEAF?" I calmly and quietly replied, "No,” and explained that Catty was a service dog in training.
Then she said to me, "Sorry about the yelling but I saw you reading the labels so I figured you weren't blind and therefore must be deaf.”
Doris Dressler & Catty
Astro's service goes beyond helping me. Recently I let Astro and my pregnant Yorkie outside to potty. Unknown to me, my Yorkie delivered a pup while out there in the cold.
When I called for them to come in, being a first time inexperienced mom, she ran inside leaving her new pup. Astro knew exactly what to do. He scooped up the cold pup, brought him in and laid him at my feet. I was able to revive the pup and reunite him with his mom.
I was so proud of Astro.
Pam Townsend & Astro
In a restaurant, L.J. and I were seated at a table across from a little girl around 8 or 9 and her dad. She couldn’t take her eyes off L.J. and her dad kept trying to get her to eat her breakfast. He told her to stop staring at the blind man and his seeing-eye dog.
Having watched us park outside, she asked him, "How does that blind man drive his car? Does the dog help him drive by giving him directions like Mommy helps you drive?"
R.J. (Big Mack) McClellan & L.J.
Ain’t nothing but a hound dog
To my surprise and horror, Sophie, our adopted "wild caught" African grey parrot, was briefly and nicely "caught" in mid-flight in Dena’s mouth! A quick command of "leave it!" released Sophie.
Then the "duh factor" hit me… hmm, golden retriever... Without her service dog vest on, Dena is a dog!
Eric Hartley & Dena (Denahi)
While walking to the checkout in the grocery store I was carrying an item to purchase when all of a sudden my service dog reached up and grabbed it out of my hand as if to say, "Here, daddy, I'll carry it for you."
Dale Lockamy & Vixen
The best Christmas present
Last Christmas we delivered gifts to some children who needed them. I wasn't sure how the children would react to a large dog but I knew my service dog, Dylan, would love it.
They weren't afraid of her at all, in fact they couldn't wait to touch her! Dylan was all too happy to oblige their attentions, rolling on her back for easy tummy-rubbing access. One grandmother said her grandson couldn’t stop talking about Dylan, and the gifts were hardly mentioned. I think those children received one of the best gifts there is that Christmas — unconditional love.
Katie Smith & Dylan
Fairfield Glade, Tenn.
God doesn’t mind
Being accustomed to riding on the bench seat in the family van, Hampton thought it only normal to hop up onto the pew and sprawl out during church service.
Josh Hamby & Hampton
More dumb assumptions
Every day I drive myself and my service dog, Belle, to work. Every day we drive into the parking lot and past a woman whose job is the parking lot attendant.
One day she asked me, “How long have you been blind?
Angela Petty & Belle
Big dog on campus
I just graduated from college last June with two bachelor’s degrees. Having spent three years in town and on campus with my service dog, Barney, everyone got to know him and would shout, "Hi Barney!"
Only my friends would acknowledge me.
Kari Ginther & Barney
A steady presence
I fell while getting into the bed one day. I didn't get hurt but it obviously made an impression on my service dog, Dylan. Now every time I get in or out of the bed she’s right there by my wheelchair just making sure I do it right.
Katie Smith & Dylan
Fairfield Glade, Tenn.
Don’t confuse the dog
In the church bulletin, Minister Allen Mosiman wrote:
In most Presbyterian congregations, the receipt of the morning offering precedes the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It was not done that way here and so I changed it.
Then I watched, week after week, the wonderful two-step dance when the organist begins the doxology and Louise’s service dog, Warren, wakes up, stretches, shakes his head, and gets ready to go back to work. But when the offering comes before Communion, Warren gets confused. He hears the music, prepares to go, and has to lie back down for another while.
So, in the grand theological drama of worship, I have returned us to Communion prior to the offering so that Warren can keep to a predictable routine. I would like to think that Jesus would smile and nod in agreement.
Louise Wasson & Warren
Corpus Christi, Texas
|Bob LaFee and his service dog Zelda|
A beautiful companion
Zelda, so I’ve been told, is one of the most beautiful Golden retrievers around. I have no trouble going anywhere with her or meeting new people almost every day, especially girls. Zelda has made my life so comfortable I could never imagine doing without her.
Bob LaFee & Zelda
Eager to work
We have two Aussies [Australian shepherds] who are both service dogs. While I was working with Bailey during training, my husband, Chris, was training Chiron, the pup.
Chiron learned to retrieve at about four months old just as Chris’s hand strength was dwindling and he began to drop things. Chiron is already working a lot and task-trained but is still maturing at 13 months of age. Both Bailey and Chiron know when the vest and harness go on, it is time to work!
Shari and Chris Hanna, Bailey & Chiron