Service Dogs – Companions and Guides

Service Dogs – Companions and Guides

Posted under Living With Low Vision, Low Vision Info

This week we are celebrating International Assistance Dog Week honoring “all the devoted, loving, and hardworking assistance dogs.” More than half of US households have a dog as a pet that is a friendly companion, cozy cuddler, and walking partner. However, around 5% of people who are blind have a dog with a job. Service dogs provide more than companionship and cuteness to their owners, they are a vital part of their everyday life and helping them to successfully navigate the world around them.

What is a Service Dog?

A service dog is raised by a volunteer puppy raiser and once old enough goes through extensive training to perform specific tasks. Service dogs trained for people who are blind or vision impaired will help their owners avoid obstacles, find doorways and street crossings, alert them to possible dangers such as traffic, and provide companionship while traveling or in unfamiliar places.

Service dogs wear identifying vests or harnesses to let people know that they are working and not to interrupt them. Though service dogs are extremely friendly and very well behaved, they need to stay focused, and it is strongly advised not to approach a service dog to pet them or talk to them. It is considered polite to ask the dog’s owner for permission before petting their service dog. Always respect the owners wishes if the answer is “No.”

What Impact do Service Dogs have on their Owners?

Jeff Bazer and Guide DogJeff Bazer, Regional Sales Manager at Vispero, shared his experience over the years with service dogs and what they mean to him. “I’m now in my 30th year of having a guide dog. Two weeks after I graduated high school, I was on a plane to the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ for my first dog, and have never looked back. The independence and self-confidence a dog affords is still so unbelievable. Given the fact that I travel for a living, the ability to navigate the airport, hotel or schools and other offices is something I can’t imagine doing without a trained companion by my side. Not to mention all of the wonderful conversations that can be started by discussing dogs and how much we all love them. Finally, the comfort my dog provides while laying on my feet on the plane as we travel across the country is second to none. I plan to be back in the next couple of years for my fourth guide, and hopefully many more to follow.”