For the tenth book in the Heartwarming Animal Stories 2012 Reading Challenge, I chose Every Dog has a Gift: True Stories of Dogs who Bring Hope and Healing into our Lives by Rachel McPherson.
McPherson draws on her experience as the founder and executive director of The Good Dog Foundation, the largest animal-assisted therapy organization on the East Coast, to share the amazing stories of dogs that bring hope and healing into people's lives.
One story in Every Dog has a Gift focused on a boy who has autism. After receiving a therapy dog, his teacher noticed that he paid closer attention in class, could read better, and felt better about himself. He had more self-confidence and initiative. "This...has given him a chance to succeed."
Later in the book, another story also focused on using dogs with children who have autism. It said that "the dogs help to prevent and ultimately decrease...meltdowns by being a constant in the child's life....Many kids with autism also need deep pressure to alleviate anxiety and the dogs are trained to supply this deep pressure to the child's back or body."
Another moving story was about a man who was in an induced eight-day coma due to an accident at work. During that time, his leg had to be removed, his mother passed away, and his beloved Rottweiler became very ill and had to be euthanized.
The gentleman said, "I needed something to fill the void in my life and I knew that 'something' was another Rottweiler." The rest of the story talks about how he adjusted to his new life and how his dog went through a training program to become a service dog.
Other stories looked at the benefit of dogs with those who are homeless, veterans, rejected by their families, and who have been abused (physically, mentally, and emotionally).
I learned some interesting things while reading this book:
=> In the United States, 60-70 percent of all working guide dogs for the blind are Labrador retrievers. Golden retrievers and German shepherds are next in popularity.
=> Approximately 10 million dogs and cats are euthanized annually in the United States. More than half of all dogs that enter animal shelters are put down. (This tied into a story about the importance of spaying and neutering of dogs and cats to cut down on overpopulation and unnecessary deaths of animals.)
The author provided many resources for readers - books, activities, websites, and organizations. A couple organizations that were mentioned that sound like they are doing good work are:
=> Puppies Behind Bars - an organization that trains inmates to raise puppies to become service dogs for the disabled and explosive detection canines for law enforcement.
=> Animal Hospice Compassionate Crossings - a philosophy that promotes healing through shared understanding. AHCC offers services to anyone anticipating or coping with the loss of an animal companion. Volunteers visit by mail, by e-mail, by telephone, or in person.
Every Dog has a Gift is an inspiring book about about the power that dogs have on improving the lives of people of all ages. The stories within the book are short and easy to read. The many resources provided by the author will give any dog-lover more ways to enjoy their pets as well as ideas for volunteering or supporting organizations throughout the country.