Ever since early dog helped early man hunt and gather food, canines have been one of our best assistants. Today the proliferation of modern working dogs is nearly mindboggling. Dogs are now trained to sniff out everything from improvised explosive devices to high and low blood sugar levels in human diabetics. Watch dogs, guide dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs — take a look at some canines and the work they do for this Labor Day.
Jany, a Belgian Shepherd, has set a new standard of accomplishment among military dogs by recently adding “parachuting” to her skill set. Jany is a four-legged member of the anti-terrorism squad of the Colombian Group of Air Special Commands. She was featured on the Huffington Post practicing jumping out of a plane and parachuting on to land potentially rigged with mines.
Lily, a yellow Lab mix, is a conservation dog who lives and works with her trainer in Cameroon. Her job is to find invasive Chinese bush clover and noxious emerald ash borers that attack healthy trees. She also hunts down black bear and gorilla scat to monitor certain wildlife populations. Her workmates are also trained to detect scat, carcasses, wildlife, plants, and weeds. A conservation dog’s work is never done.
O’Neil, a Golden Retriever, is an example of what it takes to be a future guide dog for the blind. Fast on his paws, quick thinking, and naturally protective, O’Neil was heralded as a good learner and a canine hero in 2013 when he hurried his two trainers (one blindfolded) to safety after a driver jumped the curb and accidentally hit the gas pedal. O’Neil trains at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, Calif., which, since 1947, has successfully trained 10,000 dogs to work with as many people.
Brutas is a rescue dog who works with the New York City Police Emergency Service K9 Unit searching for and rescuing people. In 2003, the pooch went to Staten Island amid boats and debris washed ashore by Hurricane Sandy to look for survivors and victims. All humans, dead or alive, constantly emit microscopic particles bearing their scent. Because of a dog’s heightened sense of smell, you can train Brutas to find just about anything. Dogs are particularly adept at picking up airborne scents associated with humans, which is why most police forces and fire stations use dogs for their search-and-rescue teams.
Many people believe the positive connection between man and therapy dog promotes the healing process and today they are ubiquitous. You can find them in nursing homes, hospitals, and other health-related institutions. You see them in schools, during a crisis or a disaster. Anywhere you might find a human therapist, therapy dogs are likely to follow. Certified therapy dogs have been screened for such traits as friendliness, gentleness, confidence, and even temperament before they start a training program (which can take a year or more) begins.
But beware: A therapy dog vest purchased off the Internet does not a make a therapy dog. Just as you would want to see a licensed therapist, you need to check the therapy dog’s credentials.