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Laundry and Service Dogs

Lending a Paw

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Laundry and Service Dogs

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

With the correct training, service or assistance dogs can take dirty clothes to the laundry room, open the washer door, put the clothes in and close the door. When the washing is complete, the dog can take the clothes from the washer, open the dryer door, put the clothes in and close the door.

For those with mobility or balance issues as a part of a variety of ailments, including Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS or Parkinson’s Disease, this assistance is invaluable. The help is also welcome if a person is in chronic pain from fibromyalgia or for someone who has chronic fatigue syndrome. The laundry can be done without a great deal of effort by the disabled person except for adding products, setting the machines and turning them on.

Assistance Dogs International defines Assistance Dogs as Guide Dogs for the vision impaired, Hearing Dogs for the deaf and hard of hearing and Service Dogs for individuals that have disabilities other than sight and hearing. These dogs enable people to be more independent and provide a feeling of self-worth and dignity.

In March 2011, a new regulation was enacted to clearly define a Service Animal and entered into the Federal Register: "Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler´s disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal´s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition."

Many Service Dogs are rescued from animal shelters before entering formal training programs. Due to their size and gentle nature, most Service Dogs are Golden Retrievers or Labrador Retrievers. Service Dogs and their owners are afforded the same legal rights as Guide and Hearing Dogs and can be identified by either a backpack or harness. There are hundreds of success stories of dogs trained by inmates, professional trainers and volunteers.

The dogs are trained for two years to do things most people take for granted. There are three stages to the training - manners, obedience and task training. The training is intense and must be done by a professional so that the dog can be trusted at all times to fulfill their duty. The dogs can turn on light switches, open and close doors, hit door buttons and pay cashiers.

If you or someone you know would like more information on service dogs, the Delta Society is an excellent resource. The aid of a service dog and a laundry room designed for those with disabilities and limited mobility can make laundry a much easier chore. http://laundry.about.com/od/removefoodstains/qt/How-To-Remove-Saffron-Stains-From-Clothes-Saffron-Stain-Removal-From-Clothes.htm

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