As the manager of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s animal-assisted therapy program, people often ask me what makes our service dogs so good at what they do. How do they know to lay down just long enough? How are they always so calm and patient with our kids? How are some able to sense when a diabetic’s sugar levels are out of whack? Part of it is because they’re born with innate talent, but the thorough education they receive at Canine Assistants really makes their talents shine.
And now, thanks to two special puppies, we have a front-row seat to see what it takes to become a dedicated service dog.
For the past few years, visitors from hospitals across the country have come to Atlanta to see our seven-dog team in action. As a result, children’s hospitals in other states are now building programs similar to ours.
To honor Children’s for pioneering animal-assisted therapy for pediatric patients, Canine Assistants recently named two puppies after our hospital mascots, Hope and Will. Not only are they the sweetest things you’ve ever seen, they also give us a unique opportunity to see what it takes to become a service dog.
I’ll be keeping an eye on these two for the next 18 months and look forward to sharing updates as they learn new behaviors on cue, such as how to open and close doors, turn lights on and off, and pick up dropped items.
Only time will tell their service destiny. They could specialize in helping people with disabilities fulfill physical needs or providing emotional support. Or they might have what it takes to be seizure or diabetic response dogs.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to find out.