Well, not long ago, a news story appeared of a pig that really did try to fly — that is, on an airplane. The passenger claimed the pig was a support animal. But no sooner did the pig get on the aircraft, when it began squealing and running up and down the aisle. So, was it a real service animal? Well, according to the Air Carrier Access Act, a service animal is any animal that is trained to assist someone with a disability; that is, any animal except those that disrupt other passengers. The ACCA goes on to say that, “Airlines are never required to accept snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders, or spiders.” (What’s a sugar glider? I’m not sure, but oh, come on, spiders? No way that’s a service animal, although, in another recent news story, a lady tried to bring on board her support peacock). Oh, people, get real. You are giving those of us with actual disabilities such a bad name!
So! It’s why when it comes to service animals many people often rely on dogs. Take my friend Judy Redlich. We work together at Joni and Friends. She is blind and has for years worked with her seeing eye dog to walk to work every day, run errands around town, or travel cross-country. And after her previous service dog passed away, Judy sought the help of a reputable seeing eye dog school to find a new, four-legged companion. And I tell you, little did I know how much goes into training an assistance dog. Recently, Judy wrote to me and said:
“Joni, I spent 18 days training at the Seeing Eye School with my new dog. When I arrived, my instructor took me for a walk, pretending that she was the dog. She took the other end of my leash and the harness. And then she walked on my left, alongside me — just like a dog would. The instructor varied the pull and pace to get a better feel for which dog would be best for me. Over the next day and a half, I did 4 ‘Juno’ walks in all and finally they found my best match; I received my new dog.”
Judy goes on to say, “Her name is Thelma, and she’s a fun-loving dog who loves to serve. After Thelma and I got to know each other a bit, our instructor continued the training. We walked the route with dog and instructor during the next few days, concentrating on traffic flow, learning which streets had controlled lights, identifying curbs, watching out for puddles, pedestrians, and cyclists. It’s been a lot of work training Thelma, and I make sure to give her lots of praise. And boy am I looking forward to all the adventures I’ll have with my new, four-footed friend!” And she signed it, ‘Love, Judy, and also Thelma’ So be sure to go to joniradio.org today and see a photo I posted of Judy and her wonder dog, Thelma.
You know what? My friend reminds me of Proverbs 12 verse 10 where it says, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals.” Isn’t that beautiful? I mean the Bible really does make much ado about animals, and God instructs people to care for them like Judy does Thelma. Hey, this week is National Assistance Dog Week, and if you know someone who uses a service dog, I would love you to post a photo of that precious pup on Twitter or on the Joni and Friends Facebook page. And don’t forget to share the name of that adorable dog that makes life so pleasant for your friend who is blind or disabled. Just think of it as your way of celebrating National Assistance Dog Week.