Owning a trained service dog pays off--in more ways than one.

Owning a trained service dog pays off–in more ways than one.

Service dogs enhance the lives of their handlers–owners–on many levels. They can tow your chair, pick up objects, bring the phone when it rings, even help you dress and undress. They can redirect comments like, “What happened to you?” to “Wow, cool dog!” They are great conversation starters and even help with making acquaintances. Having a bad day, bad spasms, bowel or bladder problems? A dog’s unconditional love puts everything into perspective: “What’s the big deal?” they seem to say. “How about a hug and a walk?”

“Having Kasten has turned my disability into an asset,” says Ruthie Rudek, 22, of Palo Alto, Calif., who was diagnosed with MS at 16. Kasten is the female golden retriever service dog she has had for the past two years. “The treatments for MS suck–they’re painful, miserable, and it’s very frustrating. Kasten has helped me more than any drug or doctor. When I ask for help, she helps, no questions asked, and she makes me happy.”

Nancy Sawhney, 55, from Sacramento, Calif., has had a motor-neuron disease since