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Space Coast Medicine October_November 2012 : Page 114

DOGS PROVIDE CRITICAL VETERINARIAN MEDICINE AUTISM DOG: Red, above with his owner, is a 100+-pound Cane Corso in Palm Bay that may appear awe-inspiring in strength, but with Dawn Tait’s guidance, the dog is a gentle giant who helps his autistic owner, above, get through the day. “Individuals suffering from autism usually don’t like human interaction, but working with the dog helps them to open up,” said Tait. “We also find that a lot of the time, the dog helps them remain calmer during situations they would otherwise find very stressful.”   41"$&$0"45.&%*$*/&"$5*7&-*7*/(t0$5
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Veterinary Medicine

Maria Sonnenberg

DOGS PROVIDE CRITICAL SERVICE FOR DISABLED

AUTISM DOG: Red, above with his owner, is a 100+-pound Cane Corso in Palm Bay that may appear awe-inspiring in strength, but with Dawn Tait’s guidance, the dog is a gentle giant who helps his autistic owner, above, get through the day. “Individuals suffering from autism usually don’t like human interaction, but working with the dog helps them to open up,” said Tait. “We also find that a lot of the time, the dog helps them remain calmer during situations they would otherwise find very stressful.”

Dawn Tait Trains Dogs To Help Owners With Special Medical Needs

At a whopping six pounds, Spencer the Maltese is definitely carry-on in size, but to his owner, the tiny dog is a giant, a super hero who comes to the rescue on a daily basis.

"The owner has Parkinson’s and her legs would freeze up and she wouldn’t be able to move, so Spencer was trained to sit on a call alert button to get help whenever that would happen,” said service dog trainer Dawn Tait, who trained Spencer.

If the owner received stimulation on her legs, she was sometimes able to reconnect nerve endings enough to allow her to move again. Spencer was also trained to scratch at her feet or legs to get the owner’s legs going. It works.

“It wasn’t that difficult to train him to do this, but it is amazing to watch,” said Tait.

Tait, owner of Melbourne’s Avatar K-9 dog training service, routinely trains dogs to help owners with special needs. Since the 1980s, Tait has been immersed in training dogs for duties that include everything from search and rescue to detection of narcotics and explosives. She specializes in preparing canines that, like Spencer, will become their disabled owner’s “right hand” dog.

For a Mims resident who suffers from disrhythmia (also known as arrhythmia and irregular heartbeat), Tait trained Bullet to get the phone so the owner can call for help. A 100+-pound Cane Corso in Palm Bay may appear awe-inspiring in strength, but with Tait’s guidance, the dog is a gentle giant who helps his autistic owner get Through the day.

“Individuals suffering from autism usually don’t like human interaction, but working with the dog helps them to open up,” said Tait.

“We also find that a lot of the time, the dog helps them remain calmer during situations they would otherwise find very stressful.”

PIECE OF MIND FOR DISABLED

Both a soldier and a victim of rape contacted Tait for help with their post-traumatic stress disorder. Tait trained their dogs to provide the level of comfort and companionship these individuals sorely needed.

“The dogs serve as security blankets for Them,” said Tait.

Tait has also trained several big dogs to help their owners with mobility issues. Unsteady on their feet, the owners were afraid to move much. Now, their dogs are by their side, ready to brace their owners so they can regain their balance.

“The owner may also put a special harness on the dog so that if they were to fall, the dog will be by their side and the owner can grab the harness and get back up.”

The tasks Tait has trained canines to do –from alerting owners of an impending seizure before the person has an inkling of it happening to helping their humans get dressed by getting and holding a sock or another piece of clothing – seem amazing, but Tait believes that there is always a right dog for any job.

“You can train dogs for a multitude of tasks, some of them very difficult, but you have to have the right dog,” said Tait.

Part of her job is recommending breeds that will best meet clients’ specialized needs. At times, she must gently but firmly dissuade clients from selecting a breed that will not work well for them. For example, the genial but often obstinate basset hound may not be the best type of dog for a client who needs an animal to retrieve a phone or sit on a call alert button, a job that might be better suited to breeds more eager to please.

Tait entered the dog-training world through a simple obedience class with Magnum, her black Labrador Retriever.

“I really enjoyed the class, and my instructor thought I had potential as a trainer, that I had a knack for it,” said Tait, who at the time was a firefighter/paramedic.

The teacher asked the student to come help, and Tait was hooked for life.

“I learned a lot during that time,” said Tait.

DOGS SAVING LIVES

From obedience, her interests led her to using dogs for search and rescue work.

“At the time, there was no structured search and rescue instruction,” said Tait.

Tait and three friends from the obedience club began reading books to soak up all they could find about the subject.

“We were also lucky enough to work with Bill Dotson, an original member of the U.S. Disaster Dog Team,” said Tait.

Tait attributes her success in service dog training to the lessons she learned during the search and rescue days. Part of search and rescue Includes air scenting, which teaches the dog to pick up the scents of humans in an area, go find the victim and then lead the rescuer to the person.

Sniffer, the bloodhound Tait trained for this task, had a great nose for the job, but her breed was not the usual go-to variety for off-lead work, since bloodhounds are utilized onlead for tracking and trailing.

“Bloodhounds are typically not used in off-lead work and everyone that I talked to in the search and rescue world told me I would never be able to get a bloodhound to do air scent, but Sniffer was one of only a handful of off-lead air scenting bloodhounds in the United States,” said Tait.

SEARCH DOG PIONEER

Tait was one of the founders of the Florida Disaster Dog Search Team, the first civilian search and rescue dog tem in the state. The team participated in searches for lost persons and cadavers and body recovery in Drowning cases.

“The team helped bring closure to many families,” said Tait.

From search and rescue, Tait trained, certified and worked dogs needed to sniff out narcotics and explosives.

“These experiences have helped me to assist people in training their service dogs,” said Tait.

“It is very rewarding to come up with a solution that will help a person be less vulnerable.”

For more on Avatar K-9 dog training, call 321-202-4360 or visit avatark9

Endangered Equine Breed Thrives At Crescent J Ranch

The Crescent J Ranch where Florida EyeAssociates founder Dr. Bill Broussard and his wife Margaret welcomed new Santa Cruz babies into the world to ensure the viability of and sustain the rare Spanish-heritage equine breed, which just a few years ago faced extinction.

Thirteen of the 25 existing horses in the Santa Cruz herd were purchased by the Broussards and transported from California to their ranch, which is part of the Allen Broussard Conservancy (ABC) at Forever Florida, in the summer of 2010. Their trip was chronicled in a feature in the 2010 September edition of Space Coast Medicine magazine.

Read the full article at http://trendmag2.trendoffset.com/article/Veterinary+Medicine/1206043/129923/article.html.

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