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Assistance dogs improve the quality of life for countless people who live with disability or illness, and a special day celebrates these four-legged friends every year. Assistance Dog Day offers tons of opportunities to learn more about and celebrate the amazing help that assistance dogs can be to persons with disabilities and special needs. 

History of Assistance Dog Day

The first guide dog team in the United States arrived in New York in 1928, led by Buddy, the seeing eye dog, and his owner Morris Frank. Since that time, the acceptance of helper dogs for people with disabilities, including vision, hearing and various other impairments, has continued to grow and develop. But it wasn’t until 1990 that the job of a dog who functions in a service capacity was defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), setting forth a more official role for assistance dogs of many kinds.

Today, there are many different kinds of assistance dogs, from the well-known guide dogs and hearing alert dogs that help people with vision and hearing loss, to lesser-known helpers like seizure alert and medical alert dogs that can recognize the signs of heart attacks, strokes and epilepsy. These animals play an important role in providing independence, assistance and companionship for folks with a wide range of disabilities. 

Assistance Dog Day recognizes and honors assistance dogs and their trainers, and aims to raise funds and increase awareness of the work they do. This day is an important part of International Assistance Dog Week (IADW), a yearly event started by long-time paraplegic, Marcie Davis.

A range of events are held to celebrate Assistance Dog Day, including dog shows, sponsored dog walks, talks and dog graduation ceremonies. Many assistance dog training facilities hold open days and tours on this day to show the work that they do.

How to Celebrate Assistance Dog Day

Join in on this important undertaking by observing Assistance Dog Day in a variety of ways, including some of these:

Learn to Be an Assistance Dog Trainer

Those people who are animal lovers and enjoy training them might want to consider taking on a job or volunteer role as a trainer for assistance dogs. In addition to simply spending time with dogs and assistance dogs, the steps toward becoming an official assistance dog trainer might include taking a specialized course, becoming an apprentice and getting a certification.

Make a Donation for Assistance Dogs

Most assistance dog training facilities are charitable organizations that offer the dogs to individuals in need for little or no cost. A wide array of charities exist that help to prepare dogs to enter into the service industry, including some of these:

  • Paws With a Cause. This national group custom trains their assistance dogs to enhance the independence and quality of life of the people who need them. 
  • Pups 4 Patriots. This organization is specifically targeted toward helping those who have been in the military and are in need of assistance dogs.
  • Canine Companions. The folks at this non-profit organization offer highly trained dogs to act as helpers to those who need assistance, with the tagline: from puppies to heroes. 
  • Assistance Dogs International. This is a coalition of organizations that seeks to improve the training, staff, utilization and treatment of assistance dogs throughout the world.

Get Educated About Assistance Dogs

One important activity in observing Assistance Dog Day would be to take some time to learn about and improve the understanding of assistance dogs. Teachers and parents might use this time to encourage kids in their knowledge of the purpose and activities of assistance dogs.

Adults might want to use this opportunity to read a book about the topic. Marcie Davis, the 35-year paraplegic and founder of International Assistance Dog Week, wrote the book, Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook, which can be purchased at a local book store or checked out from a library.

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