Seeing-eye dogs are among the first pets trained to help a person with a disability or special need.

These dogs suddenly gave their blind human companions freedom and independence they didn’t know before.

Now, dogs are being trained to aid children and adults with many different special needs—from blindness to diabetes to epilepsy.

These dogs are trained to identify signs of problems—such as seizures—and to alert help if needed.

They are also trained to “remind” their companion when it’s time to take medication, in addition to being a trusted friend whose sole purpose is to protect their human companion.

These specially-trained dogs are called service dogs, but the families who have benefitted from receiving these pets will tell you their dog is so much more than the service they are trained for.

In 2013, I interviewed a local girl, around eight years old, who was trying to raise the money to officially adopt her service dog, who was being trained to help her with her diabetes.

The little girl, whose name is Lydia, had been on a long waiting list to receive a dog was now only separated from her new companion by the lack of money it cost to pay for such a dog.

And let me tell you, these pets don’t come cheap.

Some pet-lovers are willing to pay hundreds for a pure-bred of their choice—but these special dogs cost thousands.

The goal of my article on Lydia was to bring the attention of locals to her situation and hopefully inspire them to donate to her cause.

From what I understand, Lydia was eventually able to raise the money for her puppy, who was specially trained to Lydia’s scent and even how to recognize signs that Lydia’s blood sugar was out of whack.

I’ll be honest—before my interview with Lydia, I had no idea that service dogs existed for anyone other the blind.

But Lydia’s story sparked my interest in these special, special animals so I continued researching these pets even after my story with Lydia.

I learned that these dogs have saved a lot of lives—including the founder of one organization who trains these special pups called 4 Paw for Ability.

Karen Shirk, the founder, was home after open-heart surgery when she accidentally took a deadly mix of medication.

Her dog, Ben, recognized something was terribly wrong with his pet mom and “answered the telephone” for Shirk, who was able to alert the caller, her father, that she needed medical attention fast.

It’s stories like Karen’s that have me in awe of these service dogs and the people who work so hard to train them.

If you feel your child and family could benefit from the use of a service dog, I would love to help you with getting information on a training program in your area for these pets. 

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