The joy a dog brings into our lives is immeasurable, and even more so for people with disabilities. In addition to being a loving companion, a service dog enables people to walk, to see, to complete tasks such as shopping, and more.
Dan, a man born with Cerebral Palsy, was paired with a Great Dane from the Service Dog Project (SDP). Having a service dog made a huge difference in his life. “From a physical stand point there are changes that are apparent. I walk straighter, slower and easier. I trip less with the dog than when I allowed myself to be off balance with or without the cane. I have less stress on my elbows and shoulders now that I am not sending a shock from the ground through a cane, even with relatively light pressure. It was something I didn’t notice until I didn’t live with it.”
Carlene White began SDP after her Great Dane stud got loose and bred with three females in one day! One pup went to her father, who had Parkinson’s, and one went to her friend, who had Multiple Sclerosis. White was inspired by how quickly their quality of life improved from the help of the Great Danes, and the Service Dog Project was born.
Located on a 12-acre property in Ipswich, Massachusetts, SDP is a registered charity that places Great Danes with children, veterans, and people with disabilities. SDP has donated over 45 service dogs to people who have severe mobility limitations.
Great Danes are used because the breed provides excellent balance support. As well, Great Danes are easy to exercise and groom, and are exceptionally friendly and patient.
All of the dogs at SDP are kept on healthy diets, have lots of room to play and run, and are well cared for by volunteers. Typically, there are about 50 working dogs at any given time. When it comes time for the dogs to retire, they either return to the property or are adopted by volunteers.
Training starts at a young age. By the time they are six weeks old, the Great Danes begin food-motivated training programs. They are taught to sit and wait, which fosters patience and communication skills.
As more and more people expressed interest in SDP, White realized just how much her Great Danes had to share with the world. Through explore.org, SDP set up cameras to capture the precious moments of socialization, training, and of puppies being born. The explore cams proved to be quite popular and have over 4.3 million unique views.
Most of the time the explore cams are fun, but White says they do have their moments. White is 75 years old and has an emergency button in case she falls. One night she accidentally threw the button in the washing machine with her clothes, and got into the bathtub. A few minutes later, the alarm went off, and she had about 15 seconds to get to the machine and push the stop button. She jumped out of the tub and ran for the button, only to realize the explore camera was pointing directly at the button she had to push!
If anyone is interested in seeing what SDP has to offer, information and the explore cameras can be found at servicedogproject.org.