On the semi-complicated field of pet wars, it seems you are either a dog person, a cat person, or – like me – a lover of all animals big and small. You may love some animals less than others – mice, for instance, when they are crawling around in your attic (gross!) or bears when you are camping in the north woods (yikes!). But when it comes to helping those with limited mobility, hearing or sight impairments, diabetes, prone to seizures, and many other disabilities, it’s time to give the dog camp two thumbs… err… paws up!
Since its inception in 1989, Can Do Canines has been creating partnerships that improve and sustain quality of life for people and their canine partners. Over the past two decades, Can Do Canines (of New Hope, Minnesota) has placed more than 300 assistance dogs in the arms of disabled clients within Minnesota and the four surrounding states. Their organization’s mission is, “dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people who are disabled by creating mutually beneficial partnerships with specially trained dogs.”
Note that these partnerships are mutually beneficial. While Can Do Canines can train pet dogs, most of the animals they train are donated by breeders and area animal shelters. According to Can Do Canines, 14% of all Minnesotans live with an impairment (physical or emotional) that leads to a decreased quality of life and increased medical expenses. While there is a definite need for increased mobility and independence among those with physical and emotional impairments, those needs must be balanced with safety. Consequently, limited insurance plans and limited finances may make owning a trained dog a cost-effective solution. As an alternative to high-priced medical treatments, not only can trained dogs be lighter on the pocket book, and provide safety and independence, but they can be emotionally uplifting to people with disabilities as well.
These dogs, however, do more than heal emotional scars, and help people with sight impairments navigate streets, sidewalks, and shopping malls. Can Do Canines can train dogs for just about any quality of life challenge. They can train “Hearing Assist Dogs” to assist people that are deaf or hard of hearing; they can train “Mobility Assist Dogs” to do a wide array of tasks from alerting family members to a person’s need for help to retrieving dropped items and serving as a brace to assist with standing or walking; they can train “Diabetic Assist Dogs” that alert their partners when their blood sugar is getting low; they can train “Seizure Assist Dogs” that can retrieve phones or find help for people afflicted with seizures; they can train “Autism Assist Dogs” that prevent children with autism from dashing into dangerous terrain or situations, as well as provide tactile stimulation for the child; and they can train “ Facility Based Assist Dogs” that provide physical, verbal, and emotional therapy.
The obvious financial and emotional benefits would make Can Do Canines a booming business, but they offer their trained animals to clients free of charge. Through donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and community organizations, Can Do Canines helps dogs from animal shelters find homes, people with disabilities find mobility and independence, and both find friends. This is one mutually beneficial relationship that even a cat lover could give two paws up!
You can help Can Do Canine’s mission by donating money or in-kind donations. Learn more about making a donation and view their current wish list on their website. You can also purchase a children’s book about service dog Ally. You can also review their website for current volunteer opportunities.
This post was written by Brent Pearson….Blogunteer supporter and husband.