Another Type of Valentine Love

It started at a traffic light.

Naw….not “true love”. Nope, Prince Charming hasn’t found me yet, so I doubt he’d find his way to a cross walk 😀

I’m talking about the idea for this post. I watched a young, visually impaired young lady traverse the busy street with her guide dog. Sure, I’ve seen lots and lots of animals helping out those with difficulties (heck, even saw a GREAT DANE a few days later) but it reminded me not only of the love so many of us hold for animals, but the special bond…the love and devotion these guardians have with their helpers.dogs

So the seeing eye dog has been around a long time. Dogs trained to guide their peeps around daily life. All with commands and the help of a working harness. I know the rule is not to pet or talk to the dog like…um…a dog while they are on duty but man I just want to ruff their little faces and say “good job!”

Service animals have expanded SO much. There are now dogs trained to alert deaf people to sounds such as smoke alarms, doorbells etc. Therapy animals who help with detection of illness crisis i.e. imminent seizures or sugar drops. The role of animals has blossomed in the treatment and healing of thousands of veterans suffering from PTSD and children with autism. Autism results for some have provided increased focus, socialization and general increase in contentment.

Common dog breeds according to the Google are Golden Retrievers, Collie, Labrador, German Shepherd though most sites emphasized it was more temperament than breed that led to a helper dog. A main key is training from a young age.

cat autism

And it’s not only dogs, thankyouverymuch, but many cats have proved to be there for us when we need them. While there is some debate about the trainability of cats for specific efforts (Grayson! Did you just snicker at the word “training”? Hmmm?) there is no doubt that they are attuned to their guardians and their needs. Numerous instances are cited of behavior change when somebody is about to have a seizure etc. Their purring is known to lower blood pressure, decrease cortisol levels, anxiety.

The kittehs. They know. Last August I took a spill at work, slammed my head on concrete, gashed my forehead. I was allright…even drove myself home but I didn’t need to feel alone. Once I settled in my chair I immediately had Grayson on my CHEST staring over his shoulder at me and Cricket about an inch from my face. I’m still working on teaching them to call 911 if I ever need it (they keep licking the tuna off the numbers) but it was very soothing for me and mitigated the effects of the concussion I convinced the doctors I didn’t have 😀

So dogs and cats and also miniature horses who fall under the same ADA guidelines as service dogs (they pull wheelchairs) are geared to give us a hand. Oh! And monkeys! Capuchin monkeys are being trained to help quadriplegics. pony

So this Valentine’s Day love the one you’re with and love the one who is there for you–kibble and all.

What about you? Do you have a service animal that helps you out? Know somebody who does? How does your pet help you in life? (Anybody got a Husky helping them out in the snow?)

valentine kitty

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  • Jane says:

    Hello Joanie,
    I don’t have a service animal or personally know someone who does, but I was watching the Westminster Dog Show on Tuesday and was impressed by the working and sporting groups. They do everything from guarding, hunting and therapy.

    • Not sure if the rooster qualifies as a service animal but he’s all yours for the day, Jane 🙂

      Hope you put him to work.

    • Joan Kayse says:

      Hi Jane!

      I’ve been watching WKC in bits and pieces (Grayson has been so torn…ice dancing/dog show…ice dancing/dog show. Silly kitty that’s what DVR is for)but is was interesting how many different breeds were lauded for their therapy roles.

  • Helen says:


    They really are the best aren’t they and I am with you I so want to give them a hug when I see them but I am good and don’t 🙂

    I don’t have one and I don’t now anyone close that does but we do have a blind lady that comes to our club often with her dog and while she plays gaming machines he sits at her feet and just watches everyone around him he is so cute and they are so well behaved.

    Have Fun

  • p226 says:

    I’m just popping in to ask a quick question. I wrote a book. At least I think it qualifies as a book. It’s like, 86,000+ words. It is NOT a romance, and it does NOT have a HEA. What the hell do I do now?

  • p226 says:

    Oh, and I forgot to check the little box that says “email me for follow ups,” so I’m tagging that now.

  • Shannon says:

    One of my friends who is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan has a service dog who helps her when her PSTD is at its worst. Trip gives her companionship when she finds it hard to be out and about. People aren’t very good about not petting Trip, such a darling.

  • Patty L. says:

    No service animals for me, but when my dad recently passed unexpectedly all three of our dogs tried to comfort us. My kids actually had to make them leave because they said the dogs were hounding them. Lol

    • Shannon says:

      After my Dad’s funeral, we were gathered around the dining room table, telling stories. I knew I was going to burst into tears, spoiling the mood of happy memories. So I took a walk up the hill, and Sophie, my brother’s dog wanted to come along. Babe, my mom and dad’s dog, was huddling close to mom. I got about 1/3 way of the hill, sat down, and started to cry. Sophie nudged me, and I pushed her away. She came back and licked away the tears on my cheeks. I pushed her away again, wanting a good cry. I laughed at her next foray, and petted her. We talked for a few minutes about dad and dogs and grief. I went back down the hill to the table and the telling of tale tales.

    • Joan Kayse says:

      My Mom had a friend whose little dog would go curl up on the bed where he’d sleep with her husband.

      And there is a dog in Italy who has continued to attend daily Mass despite his owners death several years ago.


  • Becke Turner says:

    I love this topic. Service dogs are amazing. I would love to volunteer with a group as soon as I can leave the day job.

    My Newsletter from Cummings Vet school at Tufts just reviewed a book “How Dogs Love Us” that explores the changes in the dogs brain that make them such reliable helpers.

    The neuroscientist actually obtains “consent” from the dog for the MRI. We know that dogs can scent human diseases, identify low blood sugar, and etc. How much can they tell us, if we could communicate our needs in better ways?

    The point of the article was that dogs chose people over 15,000 years ago. The do what they do because they study us!

    Sorry to babble on, but I love dogs and the science.

    • Joan Kayse says:

      Since becoming Mom to my kittehs, I can say I’ve opened up to the canine world. We have a local rescue group here called The Shamrock Foundation who take in horribly abused and neglected animals from all over KY and give them a chance. The one thing they note is despite the horrible experiences of these animals, they open their hearts and accept the love

  • Kaelee says:

    The only service animal I knew by name belonged to a deaf lady. When she lost her hearing she learnt how to lip read and had a phone she typed messages on. However her dog alerted her to the doorbell , the timer on the oven and many other sounds we all take for granted.

    They do a wonderful job.

    Just a side note, studies have found that pets of any kind provide health benefits to the owners. I know my cats comfort me and relieve my stress.

    • Joan Kayse says:

      I agree Kaelee. I believe Cricket “visited” me the night of surgery when I had my knee replaced. A astral energy (Ok, MAYBE the Percocet) but in either case I was comforted by the thought

  • I don’t know of anyone who uses a service dog but it amazes me when I see them work. My kids aren’t so well behaved 🙂

    I know what you mean about the animals knowing when comfort is needed. Whenever I was sick, my Oreo (dog – not the cookie) would jump up on the bed and snuggle next to me. My cat CoCo does her bit. She makes sure I exercise by wrapping her paws around my ankles when I’m going up the stairs to make me go faster – and of course – exercise my arms by tossing her toys. 🙂

  • Susan Sey says:

    Hey, Joanie–

    I’ve never known a service dog personally but I grew up one town over from Rochester Hill, Michigan, where the Lion’s Club has their campus for training leader dogs for the blind. We were always seeing trainers out, testing their dogs. It was super cool. My father-in-law is huge into his Lion’s Club, & when we found out where I was from he was over the moon. Every time our families get together at my folks’ house he goes over to the leader dog campus for a visit.

    • Joan Kayse says:


      The Animal Planet show Too Cute has highlighted several litters of pups destined from birth to be trained for service. Baby German Shepherds with little life vests on Awwww

  • Becke says:

    I read an article about a service miniature horse. Because of the iron shoes, horses slide on asphalt and concrete. They fitted the service horse with special tennis shoes. It looked like he was wearing red Converse basketball shoes. Too cute.

    My dh worked with a blind programmer. His service dog, a golden retriever, would curl beneath his chair at work. Not even the dog’s tail was out. Golden’s are very large so this in itself was amazing. The dog didn’t bark, wag his tail, nothing until Steve asked him to come out. They are amazing.

    Some rescues specialize in service dogs because if they become injured or can’t assist the human, they lose their job. I was stunned by this and would think the human would want to keep them. However, it’s not the way it works. I’d think there would be folks standing in line to rescue a service dog.

    Always Faithful is an amazing book about the military dogs used in WWII. There’s also a memorial for them in Guam …? Internet search.

    • Joan Kayse says:

      REally? The devoted animal partners need to be rescued after service? That seems a shame. I guess on one hand, I can see there would be confusion but man…on the other…harsh.

  • catslady says:

    Wonderful blog 🙂 I’ve only known one person with a dog for her disability – she was hearing impaired. Unfortunately, she wasn’t an animal person and gave him up. I don’t know if they weren’t a good match or not but I’m guessing it was more her and not the dog. Maybe because she was too set in her ways by then too.

    I just recently read about the study and purring cats and since I have from 1 to 3 that sleep near or on me most nights, I am going to attribute all that purring to my low blood pressure lol. I hear it is healing in other ways too – how nice! I know cats have woken their owners when there have been fires but I have to give dogs credit for being able to learn many things.

    • Joan Kayse says:

      There was a story on Animal Planet about a cat who saved the NEIGHBOR’s from a fire by changing its routine and alerting HIS guardian to look out the door!

  • Joan,

    Glad you’re restraining your urge to pet and compliment the working dogs. (Thought I was going to have to physically do that last conference!)

    A late friend of mine used to raise minature horses and she’s the one who told me about them being used as Assistance animals. I thought that was very cool.

    I’m just trying to get the Rusty puppy to quit digging in my flowerbeds and dragging mud into the house!

  • JT, what a lovely piece! I agree with you about animals being such heroes when it comes to helping humans. I think it’s been medically proven that stroking a cat lowers your blood pressure. I know I always feel happier when there’s a four legged friend nearby.

  • Deb says:

    Joan, this is such a great post about devotion of animals and their love and service to people. (I am not much of a pet lover, but like your post today.)

    Our local library has reading therapy dogs for kids to practice their oral reading or to just sit by a furry friend while reading. A little hospital, not too far away, has therapy dogs that roam freely on the wards to visit patients. NOW, that is cool! I have also heard of dogs being used in nursing homes and in Alzheimers assisted living homes. I love that idea because these people, bless their hearts, may not remember spouses or children, but always know a dog is a friend.

  • Joan, great post! I don’t know anyone who has a service animal, but I always see several at Dragon*Con every year.

    I grew up with dogs, and the dh and I have had at least one at any given time for most of our marriage. To us, they just make the house homier.