Living With and Training Assistance Dogs

NEADS Graduation celebration

Graduation at NEADS!

I don’t need to tell you that dogs and humans share a special bond. Many species work alongside us, and many species live with us, but dogs occupy both of those roles like no other animal on earth.

Assistance dogs take that role to an entirely new level though. These dogs help people with a wide range of disabilities while quite naturally becoming their companions too.

In Another Language, Portraits of Assistance Dogs and Their People author Jeanne Braham, along with photographer Robert Floyd, present twelve oral histories from people that work with or are partners with assistance dogs. These deeply personal stories provide you with a unique window into the bonds that form between the dogs and the people working and living with them.

Bob Swain and Waldo

Bob Swain and Waldo

The combination of Mr. Floyd’s photos with first person stories bring you right "into the room" with the book’s subjects as they tell you their story. I was initially (as in before I started actually reading) a little put-off at the idea of oral histories since I have read books in the past where that format didn’t really work for me, but in this book it really is perfect. I have read plenty of descriptions of the work that assistance dogs but these individual stories, told in the first person, convey the impact these dogs have on the storyteller’s lives in a uniquely personal way.

The book centers around National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS). NEADS trains assistance dogs for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, people with balance and stability issues, people with a physical disabilities, combat veterans in need of assistance dogs, teachers, ministers and therapists, and children on the autism spectrum and or with physical disabilities. The majority of their dogs are also initially trained by inmates in New England prisons. (How cool is that?)

Puppies from NEADS

Suzanne Goodwin with her puppies.

Most of the interviews are with people who have dogs from NEADS, but several of the people in the book are also employees and volunteers, including a great chapter from a breeder of Labradoodles who is donating a dog (the first of her line) to NEADS at the time of the interview. As well as interviews with trainers and program administrators.

Beth Lewis, a psychologist who both teaches and also still does therapy, works with Grace. Grace was bred for assistance, but orthopedic issues made her unsuitable for service. However, NEADS staff was able to find her a very productive role in help Beth in her work. Grace’s story of how she has undergone multiple surgeries while still helping Beth in her practice is both fascinating and truly inspirational.

Jake Liptak is an inmate handler and has raised three puppies as of his interview. He explains how inmates are able to enter the program and then provides us with an interesting rundown of what behaviors the puppies are trained for.

NEADS program has had to change the past few years with the very large number of veterans returning to the U.S with serious injuries. Sheila O’Brien, who joined NEADS in 1978, worked her way to CEO in 2009, and then left that role to work as a director with America’s VetDogs explains some of the history of NEADS’ assistance program for combat veterans and how their program had to adjust to the veteran’s different needs. In that same chapter there is also an interview with veteran Kevin Lambert.

Another Language, Portraits of Assistance Dogs and Their People is more than just a book about assistance dogs. It's book of stories about the dogs, the people, and the programs that make up NEADS. Together these stories come together to reveal a larger story of how these dogs bring different people together to help each other, whether they came to NEADS for a dog or to work with a dog.

This is a book that belongs on the shelf of any dog enthusiast. Go get it!

Living With and Training Assistance Dogs is a post written by . You can see the actual post at Dog Training in Bergen County New Jersey


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Liver Disease in Dogs

There are some man-made chemicals that are toxic and can cause liver disease in dogs as well as humans. The list of these chemicals includes phosphorus, selenium, carbon tetrachloride, insecticides, and toxic amounts of arsenic, lead and iron.

Most people are not aware that liver disease in dogs can also be caused by some over-the-counter medicines and also prescription medications. Antibiotics, antifungals, anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, dewormers and diuretics can all cause adverse reactions in a dog and possibly lead to liver disease if an excessive dosage is given or there is prolonged use of the medication.

Another cause of liver disease in dogs can be traced to a dog consuming certain plants and herbs. These include some mushrooms, blue-green algae, and the mold aflatoxin that grows on corn. If aflatoxin accidentally manages to enter the dog food manufacturing process it can contaminate any canned or dry dog food it comes into contact with and can result in severe liver damage. The damage comes from gallstones, tumors, and liver flukes that form and block the dog’s bile ducts.

To determine the best method of treating liver disease, a veterinarian will first order blood tests followed by ultrasound or CT scans. The scans can reveal damage to the liver but the only conclusive test is a biopsy of the dog’s liver. Whether or not a dog will recover from liver disease is dependent on how long the dog has been sick, the full extent of the liver damage, and whether surgery is necessary or if the disease can be controlled with medications. Surgical procedures are usually recommended to correct bile duct obstructions and some primary tumors of the liver.

Liver disease in dogs is a very serious condition and after treatment by a vet you will need to control and prevent any further complications such as bleeding. Your dog may also require a special diet low in protein to complete its recovery.

Liver disease in dogs is something that must be treated as quickly as possible to protect your pet and give it the ability to live a long and disease-free life.

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Car Sickness In Dogs

Many dogs will experience car sickness on short or long trips because they are unable to adapt themselves to the shifting movements and varying speeds of a car. Even a smooth ride on a fairly calm trip can upset the delicate digestive system of a dog.

Car sickness, also called motion sickness, is caused by the over-stimulation of a dog’s inner ear, resulting in a miserable car riding experience for a dog. Stress can also make a dog carsick if it associates the car ride with an unpleasant memory like going to the vet and getting vaccinations or some other unwelcome treatment. If a dog is frightened by noisy vehicles – garbage trucks, semi-trucks, etc., it can experience stress whenever it’s in the car and near the source of these kinds of noises. Separation anxiety also can occur as a result of being removed from familiar surroundings and can trigger a bout of car sickness.

When a dog vomits while riding in the car, the most obvious reason is car or motion sickness. A scared dog may also pant more rapidly than usual, will salivate heavily, or even pace back and forth by the car and resist getting into the vehicle. Sometimes a dog will whine and pull away from you when trying to put it into your car. When a dog acts this way before the car’s engine is even started, it’s a pretty good indication it’s not going to enjoy the ride and will get carsick.

Desensitizing your dog to car rides does not have to be a difficult process. A good first step is to make the car ride more inviting and fun by acclimating your dog to the car itself. Load your dog into your parked car and feed it while the car stays parked without the engine running. This will help your dog associate the car with something enjoyable.

After your dog becomes accustomed to the car and appears to be looking forward to going for a ride, you can start the car while your dog is eating inside it, but don’t drive anywhere. Just stay parked wherever you are. Once your dog feels comfortable eating in the car and appears to have no problem with the engine running, take your dog for a short ride around the block.

Be sure to lower your car windows to equalize the air pressure and allow your dog to breathe fresh air. Keep your car cooled down if the temperature or humidity is high, as heat can increase the chances of your dog feeling nauseous. You may also want to bring along one or two of your dog’s favorite toys or treats.

The best way to prepare your dog for a long trip by car is to not give it the usual amounts of food or water just before setting out. A dog will travel better and is less apt to experience car sickness if it eats just 1/2 or 1/4 of its usual serving of food before the lengthy car ride. If a dog begins exhibiting signs of car sickness on the trip, make a stop and take it on a short walk. A little longer walk may be necessary if your dog seems unusually stressed by the ride. Spending more time walking will give your dog an opportunity to release some, if not all, of its stress.

Luckily, the majority of dogs will outgrow car sickness, although some dogs will always have a tougher time adjusting to traveling in a car. If this is the case with your dog, before putting your dog in the car, give it the natural supplement Calming Soft Chews. These chews will help your dog relax when traveling by car, and also work great for handling stress when a dog is staying at home. Calming Soft Chews have been proven to help dogs suffering with separation anxiety and nervousness. The Calming Soft Chews are safer than over-the-counter products which often cause drowsiness in a pet.

Dogs with car sickness do not make for a pleasant and carefree trip or vacation. Using a dog seatbelt may help your pet feel more secure and will diminish feelings of instability. A carsick dog is less likely to have an unpleasant trip and feel safer if it’s wearing a car seatbelt or harness when riding in the front or back seat.

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