YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – September is a month to recognize the animals to help their humans on a daily basis.
September is National Service Dog Month. It’s a time to honor the expertly trained service animals who help people with disabilities.
Megan Koester is the executive director of Canine Companions. They train service dogs to help people with over 65 disabilities.
“Watching the individuals that apply for these dogs realize what the dogs will do for them in their day-to-day lives is amazing,” Koester said.
Michael Allen recently graduated from the program out of the company’s North Central Training Center just outside of Columbus.
The spinal cord injury patient broke his back in 2003 and is now paraplegic with little use below his waist. He now has his service dog Sarek to help him with everyday tasks.
“One thing he’s been a lifesaver on is when my wallet falls out and goes underneath my car. He goes underneath the car and grabs my wallet for me,” Allen said.
Allen says he has always had to ask people for help when in public, but now that he has Sarek, he doesn’t have to.
“When we place a dog with someone, we hope that they’ll work for eight to 10 years with that individual, helping them day in and day out with their lives and their daily tasks,” Koester said.
She says they’ve been very successful and have over 5,000 active graduate pairs across the country, but she says one of the biggest challenges they face is encountering fake service dogs.
“We’ve had over 88% of our graduates across the country having encountered some kind trouble with another dog that is out and about that is not a service dog, whether it’s growling or a bite or a challenge,” Koester.
Koester urges dog owners to think twice before buying fraudulent service vests as it interferes with the safety of actual service dogs and their owners.