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By Anna Ercoli Schnitzer
Liaison/Disabilities Librarian
Taubman Health Sciences Library
University of Michigan

The University of Michigan School of Social Work offered a brand-new, first time ever, two-day, one-credit mini-workshop on the Human-Animal Bond. It was held on June 24-25th, 2010, in the School of Social Work Conference Room. There were 25 students, both graduates and undergraduates, who had eagerly enrolled (the maximum number permitted and there were many more on the waiting list.)

Photo of Paws with a Cause service dogsSince I have acquired several connections with trainers and owners of service dogs in my new position as Disabilities Librarian from the Taubman Health Sciences Library, the professor asked whether I would make a presentation on assistive dogs, which of course, I was delighted to do. Professor Kristine Siefert did an outstanding job pulling together excellent material (interesting videos, her own research, publications, etc.) on the importance of the human-animal bond.

When it was my turn, I gave little overview of my own introduction to service animals through our University of Michigan Investing in Ability Week, and then followed this with a PowerPoint presentation on the impact of service dogs. Finally, I showed a poignant documentary, a video purchased from PBS, called Through a Dog’s Eyes, which revealed how users with disabilities were matched with their Canine Assistants (name of the organization). Finally, we were visited by a team from Paws with a Cause: Diane, the Paws rep, a Paws client who uses a wheelchair, and her Paws service dog, Karson.

Both Diane and the client were outstanding in describing and demonstrating what dogs, specifically Karson, can do to help their owners. We were told that Karson had jumped up to hit the low-energy plate on the door to help his owner enter the building, since the plate was too high for her to reach from her wheelchair. She also led him through several exercises to demonstrate how he could pick up any object she dropped and gently return it to her. She told the class about her first service dog, Karl, and how devastated she was when she had to replace him after he became too old to work. (Karl is now happily ensconced in her parents’ home where he plays the role of “pet”.) She then described how she and Karson subsequently bonded. At the end of the day, lots of questions were asked by very enthusiastic and interested class members.

Editor’s note: MedlinePlus has an excellent page on Pet Health: Check it out and find more information on pets, service animals, emergencies and more by entering the term “service animals” in the MedlinePlus search box.

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