Thursday, August 16, 2012

Let Our Game Begin

This is my 10 year old granddaughter's dog for all of us. The ear is for the autistic community, the eye is the same color as hers, the tongue looks like our Mikey dog, and the rest is just to make us happy. For the past 2 years my daughter Liz (Dr. Elisabeth Gruskin) and I have been working on our service dog project. We’ve been telling Sarah about everything the dogs can do and she’s been our biggest fan. Now she has to decide, will she be a veterinarian, an artist, or a beautician? Isn’t it nice to be 10?
We started this journey when Liz, who had been doing medical research on some very intense topics, met someone with a major facility to train service dogs. She had just started to work on service dogs for MS patients and Liz was fascinated. I was really excited because, after working with Liz on her grant proposals and papers for the past 20 years with very little interest in the content, I finally found a topic I could read for meaning, not just for sentence structure and punctuation.
The more we traveled  the country from service dog provider to meetings with the medical community to Multiple Sclerosis organizations, the more we realized how much these remarkable dogs could change the quality of life for so many. Service dogs can help people with way more than MS, ranging from PTSD to autism, from cancer to diabetes, from visual to physical handicaps, but awareness is sorely lacking.
Rather than pursue our original path, that of structured research, we concluded that we could make a more immediate difference with education. So we’ve been all over the place. Our websites and Facebook pages have opened eyes and started people talking. When someone called me to tell me that because of our website, he was about to get a service dog for his debilitating MS, I realized that we could accomplish something.
We have just completed Service Dogs 101, an Internet seminar to educate the medical community. We’ll go on to focus on spreading the word to the military community and medical insurers.  Hopefully, next time you see a service dog, you’ll understand what went into the training of the dog, how hard the dog and the human have had to work to form a team, and how much the dog has been helping its human partner.

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