Over the centuries, humankind has been reaping the benefits of our relationship with the canine species. When discussing how dogs help people, it's important to note that dogs were the first animal to be domesticated, well before cats and even livestock.
It’s hard to say exactly what prompted this union, but it was most likely out of a need for protection and companionship.
Since then, dogs have been keeping us company at home, at work, at play, on the farm, and even in prisons. On occasion, we have the opportunity to see remarkable examples of dogs who have performed exemplary service to their human companions and their communities. Here are just a few such notable canines and their stories.
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5 Amazing Stories Proving How Dogs Help People
Maya the Pit Bull
First on the list of how dogs help people and the doggy award winners is Maya, who rescued her human companion, Angela Marcelino, from a male assailant. She won the Animal Miracle Network’s National Dog Day Hero of 2008 award.
When a man forced his way into Angela’s California home and began to choke her, Maya attacked him and Angela was able to get away. When the attacker ran off, Maya helped out again by providing a sample of the man’s blood that had gotten on her fur.
Authorities were able to use the blood to make a DNA match and eventually catch the criminal. Maya’s story serves to give the breed some good PR too, helping to dispel the rumor that Pit Bulls make bad pets.
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Belle the Beagle
In 2006, Belle became the first dog recipient of the VITA Wireless Samaritan Award. The company’s annual award is given in recognition of those who have used wireless tech to alert emergency personnel and save lives.
But, how does a dog use a cell phone?
Belle is a specially trained diabetic alert dog who came to the rescue of her owner, Kevin Weaver, when he suffered a seizure in his home.
Acting fast, the dog bit down on Kevin’s cell phone, dialing 911 and barking into the phone. Paramedics responded and were able to save the man’s life.
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Dexter the German Shepherd
In 2009, another heroic canine was honored, this one becoming the first dog inducted into the American Legion. Dexter whose full name is Military Working Dog Dexter CO67 saved over 1,000 civilians and military personnel during his time in Iraq.
Very sadly, when Dexter developed hip issues, he was scheduled to be euthanized.
That wasn’t something his handler, Kathleen Ellison was going to let happen. She contacted a rescue agency in the United States called SaveAVet who arranged for Dexter to be transported back home from his base in Italy.
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Leo the Dachshund
A canine hero in Pancevo, Serbia was honored in June of 2015 with a bronze monument.
Leo saved the life of a 10-year-old girl, Nikolina Vucetic, when she was attacked by a much larger dog. Normally not one to engage other dogs, Leo threw himself at the Bull Mastiff who was biting the child.
The much larger dog was distracted long enough for Nikolina to get to safety. Sadly, Leo was not so lucky and died of injuries he sustained during the attack.
The lifesize likeness of Leo was erected next to a playground in recognition of the dog’s sacrifice. It also serves to encourage an elevated status for dogs in the area, which suffer from poor animal welfare standards.
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Shana the Half Wolf
In the fall of 2006, in New York, an elderly couple were tending to the animals housed at their wildlife sanctuary when they were caught in a freak snow storm.
Eve and Norman Fertig were trapped by fallen trees that blocked the path to their house and they hadn’t been wearing winter coats.
Facing frostbite and hypothermia, the couple were rescued by their adopted wolf/German Shepherd mix, who dug a tunnel under the storm’s debris.
When the couple were reluctant to follow Shana into the hole, she took Eve on her back through the tunnel. Once inside their home, Shana used her body heat to keep Eve and Norman warm until emergency assistance arrived.
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Dog Organizations We Should be Thankful For
Belle, Dexter, Maya, Leo, and Shana are all dogs who showed amazing bravery, courage, and loyalty in the face of danger, but there are everyday canine heroes who deserve celebration as well.
The following are just a few dog-related organizations whose efforts serve to enrich the daily lives of those they serve.
1. New Mexico Department of Corrections
This organization has come up with an innovative way to ease crowding in the state’s animal shelters by pairing them with human inmates. In several of the state’s correctional facilities, women and men who are incarcerated have been given the chance to help train shelter dogs for adoption.
The inmates must go through a screening process to weed out those with animal abuse charges and reward those with good behavior. Each dog learns basic obedience skills designed to make him or her more adoptable. New Mexico is one of many states to implement dog-inmate partnerships in their correctional facilities.
The human participants in these programs have reported gaining a greater sense of purpose, responsibility, and selfworth. The dogs involved in the programs are either adopted out or graduated to further training, most often as service animals. Dogs can provide emotional benefit to the inmates as well, being companions who won’t judge them based on their past experiences.
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2. Freedom Service Dogs of America
FSDA is a charity based in Englewood, Colorado that provides specially trained service dogs to people who face a wide range of challenges from PTSD to Cerebral Palsy.
They source their dogs from shelters rather than breeders, giving them a better chance at finding secure homes.
Therapy dogs who are trained to help with PTSD can be especially helpful to military veterans, who often experience severe depression as part of this disorder. The service dogs can help by refocusing their owner’s attention during flashbacks and panic attacks, as well as aid them with physical disabilities they may have as a result of combat injuries.
3. Medical Detection Dogs
A charity in the UK is looking into how dogs can help sniff out cancer. Medical Detection Dogs has been conducting research that might someday help detect early signs of prostate and breast cancer using the exceptional sensitivity of dog noses.
If they are successful, specially trained canines will be able to detect organic compounds released in a person’s breath. This could help to catch certain types of cancers during early stages of development, when treatment might be more successful.
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