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A Question Of Need

POSTED June 23, 2009 3:56 p.m.
I am writing in regard to the article appearing in the June 17 edition of The Oakdale Leader, “Pint-sized Pet Cares for Owner.”  I enjoyed the story about the Escalon family adopting the special little dog Melody from the Oakdale Animal Shelter. How remarkable is this untrained dog? The mother of Melody’s family, Michelle, is subject to seizures.  This little dog can actually sense before Michele has a seizure and guides her to a safe and comfortable seat, thus keeping her safe from potentially falling and hurting herself.  As noted in the article, Michelle also suffers from Parkinson’s disease and is on crutches.  She spends much of her time home alone as her husband travels for work, and she also has a son with special needs.
I did take issue with the fact that Michelle’s daughter, Kasi is taking this dog away with her as she leaves for college to Sacramento this summer.  She is leaving her mother to find a replacement dog, one with the same “amazing and hidden talents.”  Finding a dog like this is rare indeed as noted by the quote from a representative from the animal shelter, “This is the first time we’ve had one with quite as remarkable a story.  Basically it’s a service dog.”
My cousin is a Puppy Raiser for Guide Dogs of the Desert in Southern California.  She has been raising a black lab, Monty, for over a year now. It takes an immeasurable amount of training and selfless dedication to raise a dog from a puppy only weeks old, for a period of approximately 18 months and as a member of your family. It is truly a labor of love. After all the time and effort spent, there is no guarantee the puppy will even make it through the rest of the training process and testing required to become a working service dog that will eventually help a human with special needs. If the dog does pass all the requirements, often times the Puppy Raiser never sees the dog again.  Of course the first question people ask my cousin when she is out with her dog is, “How can you give up your puppy?” Her answer is, “A blind person will need Monty much more than I ever will.”
This brings me back to little Melody, the special dog in Escalon. She found her “assignment” in helping Michelle.  She watches over her human making sure she is safe, all the while providing needed companionship and comfort to someone who spends many hours home alone. Unlike a Guide Dog Puppy Raiser, Kasi will get to see Melody whenever she visits her mother.  Unlike a Guide Dog Puppy, Melody has already passed her test and is a working service dog even though she doesn’t have formal training and does not wear the vest and special harness that visually sets service dogs apart. It is unthinkable to me that someone would consider taking a service dog away from the human that needs him, just to be a pet.
So now I pose this question:  Who needs Melody the most?

Wendy Barcelona

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