Historically, dogs first served men with disabilities as early as during the time of the Ancient Romans. In the city of Herculaneum (1st Century A.D.) there hung a fresco depicting a blind man being led by his dog.
In the 1700s, guide dogs for the blind were trained for service in a Paris hospital.
In 1819, a manual for guide dog training was published by the Institute for the Training of the Blind in Vienna, Austria. Poodles and shepherds were used during that time period.
During World War I, thousands of soldiers were adversely affected by mustard gas, leaving them blind. The needs of these men were noticed by a German doctor. He asked that collies previously trained to track down wounded soldiers and carry messages to the front lines be retrained to guide veterans.
The German program caught the attention of an American woman, Dorothy Eustis, who bred and trained police dogs for the Swiss army. Her published account of their work intrigued a young blind man in the United States named Morris Frank. He went to Switzerland for a year and returned with a “Seeing Eye Dog.” Together he and Eustis opened the first guide dog school in the United States. (History.com)
Service dogs no longer assist just the blind, but also can be trained to help many types of people with disabilities.
Jason and Laura Devito of Palm City, Florida are the founders of Canines 4 Hope.
Their dogs are trained in a variety of capabilities to help with a varying disabilities: hypo alert (diabetes), epilepsy (seizures), schizophrenia, major depression, turrets, addiction issues, wheel chair assistance, bipolar disorder, down syndrome, panic attacks, ADHD, anxiety, social phobia, fragile X syndrome, PTSD, autism.
For example, the hypo alert dog of a child with type 1 diabetes can and will:
· recognize the scent changes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
· recognize breath scent changes of high blood sugar
· alert diabetic to take medicine
· retrieve glucose
· retrieve medication
· retrieve phone or dial 911
A child with low blood sugar could have a grand mal seizure or fall into a diabetic coma. The service dog will sleep in the child’s bed and detect oncoming changes.
Many of the recipients of a Canine 4 Hope service dog are children with special needs. Unable to receive service dogs because of age, ability requirements, or remain on a waiting list for many years with a charity organization, parents turn to certified and qualified trainers like the Devitos.
Several years ago, Jason Devito was a professional golfer in New York. Out on the course one day, he saved the life of a child. In the process of doing so, he himself was injured, halting his golf career. A new vocation was born. Jason states that helping others, especially children, by providing service dogs is extremely rewarding.
Laura Devito holds a Master’s degree in education and is certified in Applied Behavior Analysis. It is her professional opinion that at risk children, such as those with autism, require early intervention. This includes acquiring a service animal.
PTSD service dogs help children who have been through traumatic experiences, women who have been sexually abused, and soldiers returning from war. The Semper Fi Fund regularly assumes the cost for veterans of the Navy and Marines.
Jason Devito states that, “Studies show that those with and psychiatric depression who have a service dog find their heart rate and blood pressure lowered, their serotonin improved, and cortisol levels maintained, which leads to a more stable mood.”
He adds, “The consistent unconditional love of a pet stimulates oxytocin. After six months, those with PTSD or depression are able to reduce their pharmacy intake.” (medicine)
Canines 4 Hope has been operational for 11 years and has provided over 100 service dogs to their owners. They are IACP certified and registered with the Service Animal Registry of America. Their dogs are purebred AKA Field Labs which have had irregularities bred out of their blood lines. Each dog placed with a family is expected to be serviceable for eight years.
The Devitos’ view Canines 4 Hope as a family undertaking. Their twin sons, age 11, are “being taught a humble way of life.” They see many children with disabilities and have learned to be kind and considerate to others.
Cost is a concern to people with disabilities who regularly spend a good deal of money on healthcare. To purchase a trained guide dog isn’t easy. Laura Devito recognizes this concern and has begun a non-profit fundraising branch of Canines 4 Hope which will assist their own clients in utilizing social media to raise the necessary funds.
Jason Devito states that the service dog industry is widely unregulated, but growing. “One out of 64 children is still being diagnosed with autism. Soldiers are still going to war.” The need for guide dogs is greater than ever. Standards for the industry are coming in the very near future.
Jason and Laura Devito are true hometown heroes, changing the lives of children across the United States.
Find the Devitos online at www.canines4hope.com
HAVE A HERO TIP? Hometown Heroes are in every town and city. They are regular people who have made a positive difference in their community, impacting others for the better. Send your Hometown Hero tip to Kelly Jadon firstname.lastname@example.org or find her online at kellyjadon.com.
© 2014 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon