3-year-old Elijah recently got to meet his service dog, a 6-week-old English golden retriever, who will be there to help him and make his life easier.
The little boy’s huge smile proved just how excited he was to meet his new companion!
A Little Help Needed
Elijah has a birth defect called Spina Bifida; his spinal cord did not develop properly and therefore he has problems with motor skills and cerebral function. Elijah will be in a wheelchair most of the time, and his service dog will help him to get around. These amazing dogs can do things like pushing buttons to open doors, removing things from counters Elijah shouldn’t play with or fetching his toys for him.
When a puppy reaches 7 weeks, their personality is usually fully developed and trainers can see which puppies would make the perfect service dogs. They are usually willing to learn, loving and warm, they want to please their handler and they should have a good attention span.
Tests & Training
Professional dog trainer, Jake Guell, does a series of tests on puppies to check which ones would make good service dogs. One of the tests is to pick a puppy up and then to lay them down on their backs, if the puppy allows this without fighting back, they would make the perfect service dog. Guell will be helping Elijah and his family to find the perfect puppy to suit their needs.
Training potential puppies starts at a very young age, sometimes even before their eyes open. Judy Essmann, breeder of these puppies says that the sooner you start training, the better. She gets very attached to the dogs that live with her, but in the end she knows they will go to good people who need their help.
New Best Friends
Training these dogs cost around $20, 000 but with sponsors the family can afford this. Elijah and his new service dog seem to be the perfect match as they cannot stop playing! The little boy decided to call the dog Digger, because he loves construction equipment. His parents are very excited and comforted by the idea that their son will always have help with him.