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My mom and I have been talking about some of the different ways a dog can help their partner. These conversations started after I met some hearing dogs. They came to visit me while we were on vacation. I was curious about their job. And what they did differently than me.

Here I am with my hearing dog friends!

As an overall description, the term assistance dogs is often used to group together the various types of dogs that are trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. And then under this term, there are individual types.

A few of these are service dogs, guide dogs, hearing dogs, and medical alert dogs. I will share some info about the ones my mom and I are most familiar with.

As you know, I am a service dog. And before she retired, Buffy was my mom’s service dog. Our training taught us ways to help my mom with physical tasks. Things that she has difficulty performing herself because of her disability. 

But some dogs are trained to perform tasks in other ways to help their partners. I thought it might be fun to share with you some of these other ways that dogs can help give independence to a person with a disability.

As I said earlier, a service dog performs physical tasks to help their partner. These tasks might be like the things I do. Such as picking up dropped items, opening/closing doors, pushing automatic door buttons, flushing the toilet, and tying shoes. Or they could be other types of physical tasks.

My mom uses a power wheelchair for her mobility. But some people with physical disabilities might use a manual wheelchair, a walker, or a cane. The tasks for each person are individualized to mitigate their disability.

Sometimes I just need to take a nap!

A guide dog is trained for a person who is blind or visually impaired. They safely guide their partner around objects and people, keep them safe when crossing a street, and avoid dangerous situations like the edge of a subway or train platform.

A hearing dog alerts a deaf or hard-of-hearing person to sounds in the environment. Among many, these could include a doorbell, a cell phone, or someone calling out the person’s name. 

Another important sound that these dogs alert to are a smoke alarm. This often brings comfort to the person while they are asleep knowing that the dog will awaken them if there is danger present.

There are a few other types of assistance dogs. Although my mom is less familiar with these. Some examples are diabetic or seizure alert dogs and dogs who help with psychiatric disabilities. But what they do share in common with other assistance dogs is their ability to help their partners live more independently.

Have you ever encountered an assistance dog while you have been out in a public place? My mom told me a story from when she was a young girl. An encounter that later led to her dream job.

In the town where she lived there was a man who used a guide dog. She would watch him navigate the crowded sidewalks. And cross the busy streets. All the while thinking how much she would love to train dogs that could perform such a special job.

She had the opportunity to meet him. And he shared with her where his dog was from. He told her some of the differences between working with a guide dog and using a cane. Especially focusing on how much independence a dog provided.

After talking with him, she did research to find out how she could become a guide dog trainer. And contacted the school where his dog was from. She applied and was hired!

My mom training a guide dog while wearing a blindfold.

My mom moved to New York and worked at Guiding Eyes for the Blind. She loved training the dogs. And then matching them with their partner. She gave the gift of independence to many!

My mom’s job as a guide dog trainer/instructor was long before she became disabled. Little did she know back then that years later she would be the one to receive that gift of independence!

My mom has had a lifelong love of training dogs. And helping others learn about the many ways a dog can give a person greater independence. 

Her love of training started when she competed in obedience, with her dog, at a very young age. And continued as a young adult with being a guide dog trainer and instructor. 

Which later led to being actively involved with service dogs after she became disabled. And eventually to the training and showing dogs from her wheelchair.

I think I am a perfect match for my mom. I love training, too. And through my blog, I am sharing information about the ways I give my mom greater independence. Along with helping people learn more about service dogs.