People are often surprised and confused when I explain the kind of work that Phoebe does for me.
"So... You're not blind?"
"No, I have leg problems. Phoebe helps me with my balance and muscle strength issues."
"Oh, so like a seeing eye dog?"
"Nope. Still not blind."
Most people don't know about the many different types of services animals that do amazing work for people with all kinds of disabilities, many of which are hidden. There are medical alert dogs that are trained to signal when their owner is about to have a seizure or a diabetic crisis. There are hearing dogs to help alert deaf people to unheard dangers, mobility assist dogs to pull wheelchairs and retrieve dropped items, psychiatric service dogs to help people suffering from mental disabilities go out into the world with a greater sense of security or to help people with post-traumatic stress syndrome get through their debilitating flashbacks and night terrors. And, of course, there are seeing eye dogs to help the blind. There are also service ponies and service monkeys. For real. Quite possibly the greatest thing ever.
Am I wrong?
Sometimes people look at me like, "... Really? A Saint Bernard?" The reason Saint Bernards and other extra large breed animals are used for stability and balance work (and for other types of service work) is because of their intelligence, patience and their size. The amount of tugging and bracing I do in a day requires that Phoebe be giant. Although most people usually associate golden retrievers, Labradors and German Shepherds with service work, all kinds of breeds are used in the world of service doggery. To name just a few, we have Great Danes, Great Pyrenees, King Charles Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Standard and Teacup Poodles, Huskies and Newfoundlands. Pretty much every breed has been used for service dog work at some point. So, the next time you see a lab or a golden retriever, tell him how boring and unoriginal he is.
In closing, I'd like to say thank you to all of you seeing eye dawgs out there, keeping it real and reppin' the old school. You've lead the way.
That's it for now. More SD 411 to come. Sorry about that last sentence.