When we talk about dogs with jobs – specifically those who help humans – we’re really talking about three different roles.
And Morkies are ideal for at least one of those roles. Maybe YOUR Morkie is waiting to serve!
There are 3 kinds of dogs-with-jobs:
- The traditional Service Dog, often a German Shepherd or Lab
- Emotional Support Animals – not limited to dogs
- Therapy dogs – perfect role for a Morkie
Let’s look at each a little closer.
- this is a highly trained assistant animal, meeting the needs of someone whose disability is easy to prove, such as blindness or deafness – these dogs are trained for a specific owner
- some Service Dogs can detect medical conditions such as seizures
- medical OK is needed for “Service Dog” status
- the dog is intensively trained for at least 2 years
- typically Service Dogs are Labs, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds although any breed can be a service dog if trained well. In fact, there are a number of miniature horses trained as service animals!
- (only trained and certified Service Dogs are protected under anti-discrimination laws in most countries – Emotional Support Animals and Therapy Dogs are not)
Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
- companion to people who have a psychological disability such as panic attacks or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- this disability must be recognizable, and be identified by a medical professional, so it’s not just ‘cause I said so
- however, the support the animal provides to his owner, is the companionship
- an ESA doesn’t typically have intensive training to serve, and isn’t necessarily as highly trained as a Service Dog
- ESA dogs are not officially classified as Service Dogs (but under the lawy, they can go on airplanes with owners)
- can be used to provide comfort and affection to many different people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes and disaster areas
- the therapy dog can provide comfort to any number of people just by being there
- they are not assistance dogs or service dogs but some dogs can be both
- some organizations require that a dog pass the equivalent of the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test
- in Canada St. John Ambulance provides therapy dog certification
- in the UK Pets as Therapy (PAT) provides visiting dogs and cats to organizations where they aren’t otherwise allowed
See what the University of British Columbia is doing with therapy dogs: www.vanecovillage.com/ubc-welcomes-dogs
How to develop your Morkie into a Therapy Dog
If your Morkie has the personality, he’s needed!
Therapy Dogs must be confident, friendly, patient and gentle in all situations.
Besides a great personality, your dog must be:
- accepting of a friendly stranger
- be able to sit calmly to be petted
- walk on a loose leash
- walk through a crowd, including getting around wheelchairs and canes
- follow the sit, stay and come commands
- react well to another dog
- be able to handle distractions such as noise
Typically, you’ll need to pass a criminal check; take a course or two (at no cost) and register with an organization, often for a small fee to cover costs.
If you think you want to share your Morkie’s love, with people who really need it, please consider the Therapy Dog program. Google “local therapy dog groups”; most post very helpful information on what’s required, the possible postings for therapy dogs and what the handler must know or learn. They’re always looking for good volunteers.
The First Therapy Dog?
Many (including Animal Planet researchers) believe that Smoky, the war hero dog from WWII, was the first therapy dog.
Found wandering in the jungles of New Guinea by an American soldier, Smoky was a full grown 4 pound female Yorkshire Terrier. Not able to find the owner, eventually Smoky turned over as winnings in a card game, won by American Corporal William Wynne. (Value: about $6)
She served with Wynne for almost 2 years, living in primitive conditions, running on coral in equatorial heat and surviving on army rations. Smoky was so smart and easily trained, that she performed many valuable functions for the army.
Just one example came during the building of a crucial airfield in Luzon, an island in the south Pacific. Smoky carried a telegraph wire through a 70-foot-long pipe that was 8 inches in diameter. Soil had sifted through the corrugated sections at the pipe joints, filling as much as half of the pipe, giving Smoky only four inches of headway in some places. But she did it.
That one job alone saved 250 men from having to dig a trench out in the (dangerous) open, across the flightpath. It also saved them moving 40 airplanes off the tarmac.
During her service, Smoky even parachuted!
After the war, Smoky was so talented, that Corp. Wynne began taking her to see wounded veterans in hospital. One of her first visits was to the Mayo Clinic where she cheered up servicemen. She soon became a regular visitor, as doctors noted her positive effect on the patients.
Smoky also appeared on more than 42 live TV shows without ever once repeating a trick.
She worked as a therapy dog until her death at the age of 14. Wynne and his family put her to rest in a World War II .30 caliber ammo box in the Cleveland Metroparks, Rocky River Reservation in Lakewood, Ohio.