September is National Guide Dog Month

TillyBy: Tracey Zysk – September, 2013

September is National Guide Dog Month which is an honorary way to celebrate the work of guide dogs in the United States. This includes a way to raise awareness, appreciation and support for guide dogs, the function they perform, and the training schools they attend across the United States. It was established in 2008 as a fundraising drive to benefit non-profit guide dog organizations accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation.

Guide Dogs, also referred to as Assistance Dogs, Service Dogs and Seeing Eye Dogs are dogs that are specifically trained to help people who have disabilities including visual and or hearing impairments, mental illness, seizures, diabetes, Autism, and many other diseases.

Their goal is to “assistant” a physically or emotionally disabled human to perform daily tasks that they may not be able to do otherwise. These dogs are also trained in preventive measures. For example, a dog may be able to alert for help when a diabetic may be starting to have a seizure.

In the past couple of year, the US military has started to utilize working dogs for more than combat. When a solider returns home with a disability, there are now options to pair the solider with a dog. Most recently, the military has invested in guide dogs that are trained to help detect Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These dogs are now being paired with soldiers returning home from combat that have been diagnosed with this disease.

These dogs are not family pets. In fact, they are called Guide, Assistance or Seeing Eye for a very specific reason. It is the tasks these dogs are trained to perform which allows them to become an extension of the human. These dogs are the added help to allow the person to live a normal everyday life.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA), a law passed in 1990, protects the disabled from being discriminated against added a specific clause protecting working dogs.

“Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.”

If you are a business owner and have concerns about letting dogs enter your facility, well, you just may want to review this law first:

Pictured is Tilly, she is a Seeing Eye Dog that assists local resident Sue Christensen. Sue is legally blind and works in downtown Boston. Many may recognize Tilly as she rides the local commuter rail to Boston everyday with Sue. If you see Tilly and would like to say Hello, please kindly ask Sue first, (or ask any handler before you approach his assistance dog) and Sue will put Tilly into her proper command, and well, be prepared Tilly will probably shower you with kisses!

Tracey Zysk, owner of Wiggles & Jiggles Pet Care in North Andover MA is a local pet care professional. She has been featured on local radio, tv and newspapers educating the general public on animal care and animal health & wellness. Tracey is a proud supporter of Police, Fire & Military K9 units. Tracey may be reached at Become a fan on facebook at Wiggles & Jiggles Pet Care.