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Paws to Consider

By Barbara Bronson Gray, RN, MN

Service DogsIf you’ve ever thought you could use a little extra help from a full-time friend with a great sense of humor and a lot of energy, a service dog may be a good option.

Service dogs are specifically trained to help people who have physical disabilities and other impairments. These canines can provide physical assistance and security, and even help pick-up dropped items, open and close doors, and turn lights on and off. But most of all they provide constant love and companionship.

Before deciding to get a service dog, talk with your physician about whether the prospect makes sense for your situation. Also discuss the concept with your family and caregivers to get their support and buy-in about the idea.

Know that the rate of progression of your disease may make it more difficult for you to obtain a service dog. It can sometimes take up to two years after you request a service dog for one to become available.

So if you’re newly-diagnosed with ALS, you may want to consider applying for a service dog sooner rather than later, experts say.

It takes some time and energy to build a relationship with the dog. And every change you experience with ALS will also be something to which the service dog will have to adapt. For example, if you move from a walker to a wheel chair, the dog will have to understand and adjust.

Service dogs have full public access rights as granted by federal law; they can go everywhere you go.

Some agencies provide service dogs to qualified applicants at no cost, while others charge on a sliding scale based on your economic resources, from $1,000 to $3,000 or more, due to the training and care involved in preparing the animal for the role.

Several service dog organizations will place trained and capable canines with people who have ALS:




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