5 Assistance Dogs Who Are True Heroes

It takes a certain personality to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, never complain and never get paid. We call this type a hero, and there are lots of dogs who fit the bill. Assistance dogs help individuals with physical and mental disabilities, and their tireless efforts greatly improve the quality of life for their humans. This week, these special canines, along with their puppy raisers and trainers, are getting well-deserved recognition through International Assistance Dog Week (IADW).

In honor of IADW, here are five assistance dogs who have made a huge difference in their owners’ lives and deserve the highest recognition for all their hard work.

Honoring 5 Truly Heroic Assistance Dogs

Evan Moss

Courtesy of Lisa Moss

Evan Moss's Seizure Alert Dog, Mindy

Last September we featured an enterprising young boy named Evan Moss who wrote, illustrated and self-published a book to finance the seizure alert dog he desperately needed. Seizure alert dogs come with a price tag of $22,000, and the Moss family had to raise $13,000 to get his service pup. After sell-out book signings, topping the Amazon best-seller list and an appearance on The Early Show, Evan collected enough money to cover the costs of his own dog, plus an additional $41,000 to pair other families with seizure alert dogs. 

This summer, Evan finally got to bring home a service dog, a Goldendoodle named Mindy. Since the Moss family has had Mindy, Evan hasn't had any big seizures, and she's even alerted the family when he has smaller seizures that previously would have gone unnoticed. Good dog, Mindy — and good work, Evan.

Learn more about Evan's story.

Lucas and Juno

Courtesy of the Hembree family

The Special Bond Between Lucas and His Service Dog, Juno

When the Hembree family adopted a Belgian Malinois named Juno, they didn't just save the dog — they saved their son.

Four-year-old Lucas Humbree suffers from Sanfilippo syndrome, an inherited metabolic disease that causes children to lose the ability to speak, walk and eat. The Hembree family looked into getting a service dog to help their son, and came across an emaciated and unwanted Belgian Malinois on a rescue group's website. Lucas' father, Chester Hembree, had a gut feeling that this pup would make a perfect service dog for his son — and he was right.  

Now Juno alerts the Hembree family when Lucas has seizures or if his oxygen levels drop too low. He also provides a shoulder for the young boy to lean on when he's walking.

Learn more about Lucas and Juno's story.

The Truth About Emotional Support Dogs

Emotional support animals (ESA) help people cope with emotional disabilities, but their lack of required training and regulation has drawn plenty of criticism from service dog groups. While ESA's might not be service dogs, the comfort they provide has helped people like Kay Valente, who suffers from a seizure disorder. “Boots is so sweet,” says Valente. “I could be having the worst day, and Boots will come over and lean into me, and I become relaxed.”

Learn more about emotional support animals.

Gracie the comfort school dog

Trinity Lutheran School / Facebook

Meet Gracie, a Grade School Comfort Dog

Gracie the Golden Retriever is a certified therapy dog at Trinity Lutheran School in Davenport, Iowa. Gracie, who lives with one of the school's preschool teachers, helps students with everything from reading (she listens patiently as kids read aloud) to coping with emotions (she responds immediately when she hears a child crying). School isn't all about academics though; Gracie spends part of her day running and playing with the upper-school students. “She goes out with upper-grade students to run and play along with the kids," says headmaster Bill Myer. "She still has that puppy-ness in her.”

Learn more about Gracie's story.

Scooter with foster mom Merissa Micochero

Courtesy Born Again Pit Bull Rescue

A Pit Bull Who Went From Thug to Therapy Dog in Training

Thanks to Born Again Pit Bull Rescue, a dog once used as muscle for a pair of muggers is now a therapy dog in training. One of the workers at the rescue recognized that the dog, named Scooter, was actually a big softie and was determined to help Scooter shed her crime-ridden past and find a forever home. The Pit Bull's owner is now Kris Beattie, a 70-year-old retired nurse who adopted Scooter because of her sweet personality and ability to learn quickly. Beattie hopes Scooter will get her therapy dog certification in September.

Learn more about Scooter's story.

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