Labradors are medium-large sized dogs with a sturdy, muscular build. Labs are known for their intelligence, fine character and good temperament. They are excellent with children, loyal and playful. As they were bred to be working dogs originally, they do require a reasonable amount of exercise to keep them happy.
Fourteen-year-old Patrick Maresh’s life has changed for the better when his service dog, Mary Lou stepped into it. Patrick and the 2-year-old Labrador/golden retriever mix have been constant companions since he received her as a canine assistant in July.
Patrick is nonverbal, has sensory issues and low muscle tone which meant he struggled to get around safely. Before Mary Lou’s arrival, Patrick was so afraid of being bumped into and knocked over, his mother, Jan Maresh, said. He would flatten himself against the lockers and not move out of fear. A specialist informed Jan Maresh that Patrick seemed to have an affinity with dogs and would benefit from having a service dog.
It took over four years of being on the waiting list before Patrick was able to have a service dog. Service dogs require a lot of training and, depending on their specialisation, are worth in excess of $25,000. After filling out a questionnaire, writing essays, gathering letters of recommendation and producing a DVD of Patrick’s developmental history, the Maresh family submitted an application to Canine Assistants, a Georgi0based organization that provides service dogs, in 2006. Soon after, they were notified that Patrick was on the list to become a recipient.
Whilst on the waiting list, the Maresh family took it upon themselves to dog-sit as many dogs as possible when friends and neighbours went on vacation. As they had never had a pet before, this was their opportunity to learn about dog care and to prepare themselves for the long-term commitment of having a dog. Service dogs in particular need a lot of attention paid to them for Canine Assistants to be satisfied the dog is being looked after well.
“They (Canine Assistants) take it very seriously. These dogs are a huge investment on their part,” Maresh said. Maresh said recipients enter a contract with the organization spelling out their responsibilities. For instance, recipients must weigh the dogs four times a year and submit the information to Canine Assistants. If they allow the dogs to become obese and fail to take action to solve the problem, the organization reserves the right to take the dogs back.
“Technically, this dog is on permanent loan,” Maresh said. “It’s a full commitment and it’s not something to take lightly.”
How Mary Lou chose Patrick
Finally, in July 2010 the Maresh family headed for the two-week training camp in Georgia, where Patrick would meet his canine companion. During the first two days, recipients are introduced to dogs that trainers have selected as potential matches for the individuals.
“The dogs really pick the recipients,” Maresh said. “The dogs can sense by your energy what your need is.” The dogs typically make their selection by putting their paws on a recipient’s lap and seemingly looking into their eyes, she said.
It took five dogs before one that seemed a perfect match was found. Once the selection is made, recipients work with the dogs and their trainers in the afternoons while attending lectures on dog management in the mornings. By the second week, they go on public outings with the dogs. The family are then required to take a final written exam before they graduate. The Maresh family passed successfully and Mary Lou came home with them.
Man’s best friend
The dog accompanies him to his special needs classroom at Herrick Middle School in Downers Grove, where she lies by him as he works and walks with him as he passes through the halls. Now he is able to walk down the halls confidently with Mary Lou by his side.
Patrick now goes with his family to watch his sisters participate in high school sporting events and cheerleading competitions. Previously, he wouldn’t enter the gym because of the sensory overload. “He’s able to tolerate a lot more,” his mother said. “Now he walks right. She’s at his side. We sit in the bleachers with everybody else.”
Maresh can’t explain it, but Mary Lou makes Patrick calmer. “He’ll pet her. He’ll interact with her. Then he can focus back on wherever we are,” she said.
Mary Lou has brought Patrick positive attention, his mother said, “He walks the dog and people say hello to him. It’s like his parade.” Maresh said Patrick enjoys the attention. Although Patrick always has been sociable, sometimes people would avert their eyes and not reciprocate, she said. “It’s almost like she brought people to him,” she said. “If you have a dog, everybody says hello. It’s just amazing.”
Maresh said Mary Lou will remain Patrick’s canine assistant during her working life of nine to 10 years. When a dog ages, the recipient has the option of applying for another service dog and keeping the older dog as a pet.
For information on Canine Assistants, visit its website at canineassistants.org.
Jeff Blazer’s seeing-eye dog was found over the weekend after fleeing their accommodation in Kissimmee. Just before the storms last week, the seeing-eye dog, Devon, became distressed and ran from the rental home Blazer and Devon were staying in whilst Blazer attending a convention for work in Kissimmee.
Due to the amount of time and care put into training seeing-eye dogs, all seeing-eye dogs are estimated to be worth around $40,000 each, claims Kelli Parker of Division of Blind Services.
Jeff Blazer was born blind, and for the last 8 years, his constant companion has been Devon. ”He goes everywhere with me. He travels on airplanes, and trains, and cabs. Wherever I am, he is,” he said. It would appear that, due to being in unfamiliar territory, Devon spooked, ran and could not find his way home.
Found safe and well, Devon and Blazer have thankfully been reunited.
This week, the American Kennel Club announced their annual most popular breeds of dogs for 2010. Unsurprisingly, the Labrador Retriever reigns supreme for the 20th year running. In this post, we will show the top 10 including pictures and a short description of the breed.
Number 1 – the Labrador Retriever
Number 2 – the German Shepherd
German Shepherds are renown for being the best military and police service dog, yet they also make great pets. Strong, athletic and intelligent, with the correct training they make good guard dogs as well as family pets, if introduced to children from a young age. The German Shepherd is a large dog that requires a lot of exercise, mental stimulation and regular grooming.
Number 3 – the Yorkshire Terrier
Yorkshire Terriers are the most popular of the Toy Breed category. They are adaptable little dogs, making them suitable for in the city or country. They travel well and make suitable pets for many homes. Due to their small size, they aren’t recommended for homes with small children as they are delicate little breeds who know how to defend themselves. They require limited exercise, but being a lap-dog means they require daily interaction with humans and regular brushing to keep their hair in good condition.
Number 4 – the Beagle
The Beagle is a short and sturdy medium sized dog with relatively easy care requirements. The coat requires little brushing, they need an average amount of physical exercise but as they have been bred to be a hunting dog, they do require mental stimulation before following their nose gets them into trouble! Great with kids, can be quite independent but always the happy-go-lucky comedian.
Number 5 – the Golden Retriever
With an eager to please, enthusiastic attitude; these dogs are energetic, playful and require a moderately active home. Their water-repellent long coat sheds each season so they require regular grooming for comfort. Great with children and other animals.
Number 6 – the Bulldog
An easily distinguishable breed, the Bulldog could be seen as an acquired taste but proving to be very popular in America in recent years. Bulldogs make great family pets, they are gentle and tend to form strong bonds with children. The medium sized stocky breed requires minimal grooming and exercise.
Number 7 – the Boxer dog
This medium to large sized dog with a strong, muscular body was originally bred for fighting, though in recent decades it is now suitable for anything but! One of the breed’s characteristics is its desire human affection and praise. They are patient and seem to have an affinity with children. They can be quite boisterous as puppies but mellow as they age. The Boxer requires little grooming, but needs daily exercise.
Number 8 – the Dachshund
The Dachshund, meaning ‘Badger Dog’ in German, is a solid-built small dog with a lively, friendly personality. They are versatile, smart and require moderate exercise. The short haired variety require minimal grooming, however the long haired variety does require care to keep the dog tangle-free a comfortable.
Number 9 – the Poodle
It is a common misconception that these dogs are the ‘beauty without the brain’, the Poodle is an exceptionally smart dog and rated one of the top three most intelligent dogs along with the Labrador and Border Collie. These dogs have a hypo-allergenic coat that may make them more suitable for those who suffer with allergies to dog hair but still want a pooch. They require an active home and regular professional grooming.
Number 10 – the Shih Tzu
Congratulations to Cathy Goolsby who won our $100 prize question of the month in December.
“Is there a safe product to give dogs to calm them when it is storming? Lady is terrified – she walks every step with me, jumps on the bed if it is night, and shivers. Thank you for your help.”
Our In-House Vet answered
“Your dog suffers from noise phobia which means she expresses an intense response to loud noises like the ones from storms. To treat this kind of problems you have to be very patient. There are several groups of medicines which can help…”
Question of the Month Prize
As the winner of our monthly competition, Cathy wins a $100 prize. If you have a question that you would like our veterinary surgeon to answer, get in touch and ask your pet-related question today.