Dogs can be trained to perform various tasks, like
looking after the disabled or the sick. For the
mobility-impaired, highly-trained canines can pick up
dropped items, open and close doors, help the person in
and out of a bathtub, and pull off gloves, shoes and
socks. These dogs, known as 'service dogs', can also be
trained to push and pull wheelchairs and do other duties
like alerting their owners to sounds of doorbells,
phones, alarm clocks and even dial 911 on large-keyed
phones. Besides, these dogs provide companionship and
unconditional love for the people they assist. Indeed
they are man's best friend.
For Mike, 30, who has been
paralyzed since he snapped his neck while falling from a
rock ten years ago, his trained dog, Max, has become his
constant companion and assistant. "I used to feel
helpless and frustrated for having to depend on people
all the time. I felt I was a big burden and nuisance to
them. After Max came along, I felt much better. He is
always with me and does his duties without the slightest
fuss or annoyance. He is my trusted companion. With him
around, I certainly do not fell lonely. In fact I now
feel much better about myself. I would say Max has
minimized my disability and improved my general outlook.
Three years after the accident, Mike had enrolled
himself as an undergraduate in a university. he lived in
an apartment and had an automated wheelchair and a
live-in attendant to look after his needs. "The set-up
seemed good in the beginning. However, my human
assistant could not always be there to anticipate my
need. Once I dropped the key to my van. I could not bend
down to pick it up. On another occasion, while doing my
assignment, I dropped my pen. I had to wait for quite a
long while before my attendant came and picked up the
pen for me to resume work. With Max around, I have
avoided unnecessary loss of time. The uncomplaining
canine provides 24-hour assistance. It gets excited or
rather happy to be of help to me. It appears to be
rather bored when it has nothing to do."
Max has been Mike's full time companion throughout
his university days. He went to the grocery store with
Mike, staying with him in the apartment and attending
classes with him. "Max is fully specialized. He performs
tasks to fulfill my specific needs any time of the day.
However, training the dog is a continuous process. Of
late, I've been trying to teach him to bark on command.
I sometimes have bad muscle spasms that knock me forward
into my lap, and I can't get back up. My plan is that
Max could bark when this happens to get attention and
help. It is by no means easy, for Max has been taught
not to bark. Now I've been barking at him to show him
Dogs can also be trained to provide some form of
'therapy' to the patients in hospital or nursing homes.
There, people with physical or mental illness can share
the joy, comfort and liberating moments the canines can
provide. "The same can be said of Max," said Mike. "I
find comfort in having him close to me. He understands
my moments of joy or sadness."