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Reprinted from PN June 2007

Obtaining a service dog can be the start of a wonderful new journey to independence.

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When Marcie Davis needs to retrieve countertop items, she calls on her service dog, Morgan.
Assistance dogs are of many different breeds that have been individually selected and trained to aid individuals with disabilities. [They] are task-trained and may include service, guide, hearing-alert, and seizure alert/response dogs.

Most assistance dog tasks fall into three basic categories: basic obedience, service tasks, and public access. These specially trained dogs assist [with] tasks such as answering the phone or doorbell, retrieving items, alerting to physical problems, carrying items in a pack, assisting their owners while crossing streets, negotiating stairways and elevators, and a host of other daily tasks.

I, Marcie, am paraplegic, which means I am paralyzed from the waist down. As a result, I use a power wheelchair for 100% of my mobility. Therefore, I need a service dog to assist me with physical mobility tasks such as picking up things I drop or can't reach, helping me get into bed and covering me up, opening and closing doors, getting the telephone, turning light switches on and off, and pushing elevator buttons.

[After training,] it was time to go home. I was petrified. It was easy when I knew my trainer was a few feet away, but the thought of being back in Florida all alone with Ramona was overwhelming. I felt so sad as we drove away and put more and more miles between us and the training center. But, there was no turning back now. We were graduates; she was mine—and life continued.

Read more about the close bond between Marcie and her service dog (Ramona), and how the loss of Ramona was instrumental in Marcie and Melissa forming Working Like Dogs, an organization dedicated to honoring and celebrating working dogs around the world.


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