Service dogs are becoming vitally important for both adults and children with varying limitations. They are the eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf and a gentle presence for those whose minds are tired or nerves are frayed.
Therapy dogs are loyal and well-trained canines that are so much more than just a bff (best furry friend). For people with disabilities, these animals are paramount in helping them regain their independence.
Seph Ware, a grade seven student who attends the Good Hope Middle School in Louisiana, knows exactly how important his caring and devoted Golden Retriever named Presley is to him. Seph suffers from a congenital condition known as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which greatly limits his present and future mobility. This disease strikes 1 in every 3,600 boys and leads to degeneration of the muscles and a premature death.
Currently with Presley's help, Seph is able to navigate his way through the school halls and classrooms. His constant companion is well-received by students and faculty alike. So much so, that Presley has even been forever immortalized alongside her owner in the school yearbook.
This heartwarming side-by-side shot is not the first service dog/child owner combo to hit the pages of this keepsake, but for this one young boy and his family, it's a cherished reminder of a valued and beloved member of their lives.
What will Presley's role entail as Seph's disease progresses?
A close family member of mine also suffered from this terrible condition, and we watched as his young body soon became crippled. His every move was coupled with great pain and some days it was a struggle just for him to get out of bed or to feed himself.
Unfortunately, my nephew did not have the benefit of a Presley, but I'm sure Seph will have a wet nose and sloppy kiss to welcome in each new day until he puts his head down for his final rest. I can imagine Presley will be at his side as he reaches the point where he has no other choice but to embark on life from the confines of a wheelchair.
Like any good dog, Presley will be there to give Seph courage as he faces each and every new challenge this life-threatening disease brings into his young life. To all these wonderful dogs and the good folks who train them for this important duty, I say “well done!” Hats off to those service dogs that give up a life of a “normal” canine companion, to become a right-hand “man” to those people who are so desperately in need.
If you see a person with a therapy or service dog, know that these canines are making a huge difference in their quality of living. Know that they may only be out and about because this animal has given them the ability and courage to do so. It makes one pause and rethink the old adage of, “man's best friend”...doesn't it?