06 Aug International Assistance Dog Week
The human partners of Smart Pups are predominately children, whose lives are often severely restricted and lonely. Smart Pups don’t just transform the lives of their human partner, they transform the lives of a whole family. While our literature will tell you that Smart Pups assist children with autism, mobility, seizures and diabetes I thought I would use this week to highlight a little of what that actually involves.
So, this week, let’s honour the Smart Pup who knows which person in their family needs help, who gently persists with nuzzles, nudges, tricks and licks to make a connection and becomes a friend, perhaps the first friend. Let’s honour the bravery of the Smart Pup who stays close for a seizure or a meltdown, despite the noise and commotion. The dedication of a medical alert Smart Pup who is always on duty, scent checking and watching, ignoring all the other sights and smells around them. The intelligence of the Smart Pup who breaks a trained command to alert a parent to danger. The focus of the Smart Pup who tracks the scent of their child across a maze of other smells to find them when lost.
These are only a few of the tasks our dogs perform, day and often night, sleeping with one eye open to safeguard their special person.
We cannot recognise the devotion of our Smart Pups without also recognising the devotion of the people responsible for their education. Work that requires, kindness, patience, perseverance and skill. The journey from new pup to graduate Smart Pup takes over a year and involves countless hours of obedience training, exposure to new environments and specialist assistance task training. Each of our Smart Pups is carefully nurtured and encouraged by the people in his or her life.
To those people we would like to say a heartfelt thank you. Thank you to our Smart Pup fosters who give their time so generously. Thank you to our prison inmates who contribute in such a positive way. Thank you to our kennel staff and our training staff who care for and train these future heroes.
And finally THANK YOU our supporters who help spread the message about the role of assistance dogs in the community and enable our work to continue by way of your vital donations.