Bob Vogel ‘s beloved Schatzie enhanced his life in many ways.

Bob Vogel ‘s beloved Schatzie enhanced his life in many ways.

Service dogs greatly enrich the lives of their handlers by performing a myriad of tasks that mitigate a person’s disability. And they provide so much more — unconditional love and acceptance, a feeling of safety, increased positive social interaction. Trite comments like “no speeding” and “you are such an inspiration” are replaced by compliments about your beautiful dog and its stellar obedience. Not only do they enhance mood, they even provide relief from physical pain, a phenomenon supported by research showing that interacting with dogs produces an increase in mood-enhancing brain chemicals. And of course, they forge a bond in your heart.

The trade-off for this amazing support is having to say goodbye all too soon. Service dogs generally start work between 18 months and 2-and-a-half years of age, and their average working life is about eight years, sometimes as long as 10. Sadly, usually at 10-14 years of age, your best friend and soulmate will pass away. Any dog lover who has gone through this knows how devastating the loss can be. Unfortunately, the passing of a service dog is much more difficult because it means loss of physical independence and psychological loss of a 24/7 companion — something to consider when deciding whether a service dog is right for you.

Schatzie
In 2005 Schatzie, a 2-and-a-half-year-old female German shepherd service dog came into my life. We formed a bond the moment I held her leash. Her main task was to help tow my wheelchair, which provided relief