The Edmond Sun

Opinion

May 9, 2012

Dog breeding program helps the disabled

SPOKANE — We humans go to some trouble so that we can choose which among our domestic animals gets to breed the next generation, thereby over time shaping various lines of animals ranging from types of sheep to varieties of chickens.

Perhaps nowhere is the impact of selective breeding more clear to many of us than with the domestic dog. From ancient breeds like the greyhound and the Dalmatian to more recently derived types like the cocker spaniel, the diversity of dog breeds is tribute to the power that selecting animals gives us to shape descendants of mated pairs.

If you didn’t know it, you might not think that a Great Dane and a miniature dog that can fit in your purse belong to the same species, but of course they do — it’s just that breeding has shaped them over time to radically different sizes.

The science of breeding dogs is serious business, and nowhere more so than with the dogs destined to become service animals. I had a chance recently to learn something of that world from a colleague named Linda Hardesty who, along with her husband Dan, volunteers to home-raise puppies for Canine Companions for Independence.

What Linda and others like her put into the program is impressive, and the results of the work they do are as heartwarming as a wet puppy kiss on the nose.

CCI does the original work of breeding dogs — Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Lab-Golden mixes — that form the basic dog-stock for the program. Some behaviors (like being calm in busy places) are traits that CCI and similar institutions can breed for in service dogs.

One particular male dog named “Bobby” in the CCI program has sired literally hundreds of puppies because he — and his descendants — have proven so amenable to the training that all types of service dogs undergo.

Linda is a volunteer puppy-raiser in the CCI program. She takes up where the science of breeding ends and the art of training begins. By working every day with a young pup, including taking the dog to work and on errands, Linda socializes and trains the young animal.

“My mother went deaf as an adult,” Linda said. “When I saw what a hearing dog did for her, really transforming her life, I started to think about the possibility of contributing to a program like CCI.”

Linda and her husband are now raising Sierra, their 10th puppy in the CCI program.

“She goes where I go, including in the cabin of an airplane or out in public,” Linda said.

Sierra came to the Hardesty household when she was about 8 weeks old. She’ll stay until she’s 18 months. By the time she’s ready to leave she will know 30 commands. She’ll also have been trained to not eat food on the floor and to eliminate on command.

“We train by positive reinforcement only,” Linda told me.

Sierra is a sleek, all black dog who is a cross of a Golden Retriever and a Labrador.

“If a puppy doesn’t make it to being placed with a disabled person, the issue is usually the genetics, not in the environment in which the puppy is raised. Even with very careful breeding like CCI does, the majority of the puppies won’t be successfully placed with a disabled person,” she said.

Dogs that turn out not to be suited for CCI work are sometimes trained for search and rescue, drug detection or therapy dog work. Other such dogs are simply placed in good homes — where they become remarkably well-behaved pets.

Sierra wears a vest when she is in training mode for being “on the job.” When the vest comes off, she behaves like the normal, high energy Lab-cross that she is.

“I can’t predict if Sierra will become successfully placed with a disabled person. But several of our previous puppies have gone on to help people with a variety of disabilities, and at no cost to them, and that’s what keeps us committed to the work,” Linda said.

Here’s to all those who help create the dogs that go to the disabled. Theirs is a true calling, blending the art of training with the science of breeding, all for the best of reasons.

E. KIRSTEN PETERS was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.

 

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at www.edmondsun.com show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

Poll

The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
Undecided
     View Results