Hard-Working Assistance Animals

Pets are great for cuddling on a cold night, greeting you enthusiastically at the door, and loving you unconditionally. But some animals are trained to do much more than that.

Assistance animals are specially trained to help individuals who are blind or deaf, or have any other type of physical, sensory, psychiatric, or intellectual disability. They are divided into three distinct categories. Guide animals help the blind, hearing animals help the deaf, and service animals help people with other types of disabilities.

Most assistance animals are dogs, but other types of animals can be trained, as well. Monkeys, for example, often help people with spinal cord injuries or limited mobility. They can wash faces, open bottles, and even microwave food. They also live much longer than dogs so the person with the disability can keep the same helper animal for a long period of time. Miniature horses do many of the things that an assistance dog can do, but they also live much longer than dogs. And NPR did a story about a parrot that helped her owner who suffered from bipolar disorder. She rode in a cage on his back, and whenever she sensed a psychotic episode coming on, she’d literally talk him down by saying, “It’s okay. Calm down. I’m here.”

Whatever your reason for living with an animal, its health should always be top of mind. Make sure you don’t miss check-ups and alert your vet if problems arise.

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