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Service dogs help with day-to-day living

   
 
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Michelle Munro serves as president of the board of Summit Assistance Dogs, and owning a service dog has changed her life.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. Service dogs have legal access to most public places such as stores, work places, restaurants and public transportation when with their partners.

Munro donates hours of her time telling the public and potential recipients about the benefits and joys of owning a service dog.

Munro said, “I am involved with informing the public about service dogs because I am a recipient. Having a service dog has changed my life. I cannot give enough back to Summit Assistance Dogs, who trained my dog.”

After becoming seriously ill, Munro applied for and received her service dog, Hayden, an American labradoodle, who is a cross between a labrador retriever and poodle.

“He is my bucket of joy,” Munro said.

A service dog can help someone who is impaired or unable to walk by retrieving items, opening and closing doors and turning on lights. Many people living with MS have service dogs.

“Hayden stands and walks beside me, and I can hold on to his harness handle, like a guide dog. This helps me with my balance,” Munro said. Hayden also helps Munro by retrieving her telephone, her pain pack and other items at her residence. The service dog accompanies Munro when she is outside of the home.

“Some people say that often a service dog looks sad. However, they are focused on their work,” Munro commented.

Munro commented that although having a service dog can be extremely helpful, it is another responsibility.

“No matter what my health situation is on any day or how I am feeling, I have to make sure my dog is taken care of,” Munro added.

Other trained dogs are skilled home companion dogs, which are trained to perform the same skills as service dogs but are used only in the home environment. Therapeutic home companion dogs provide emotional support and companionship to individuals or families with special needs.

Professional therapy dogs provide therapeutic support in schools, mental health practices, nursing homes, occupational and physical therapy clinics. These dogs help promote a sense of calmness under stress or motivate clients to achieving therapeutic goals.

Summit Assistance Dogs, which is located in Anacortes, WA, is a non-profit organization founded in 2000. More than 55 million Americans live with various disabilities, and the national average waiting time to receive a service dog is two to five years.

Contact Summit Assistance Dogs by telephone at 360-293-5609 or e-mail info@summitdogs.org. Their website is www.summitdogs.org.

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