Dogs on Duty
by Ellen Lambeth
Dogs have been helping people throughout their history together. And why not? They're loyal and eager to please—especially when they get a meal and place to sleep in return.
Dogs help hunters hunt and herders herd. They round up rodents and bark out warnings. They help the police take down bad guys and help military in combat. And, with their incredible sense of smell and ability to go where people can't, they've saved many lives.
Ready and alert, Loki the German shepherd practices rushing to the rescue. The training may have started out as fun hide-and-seek games. But someday Loki might be called on to find someone lost in the wilderness. When that day comes, there will be no time to waste!
The nose knows! That should be the motto for detection dogs, which put their amazing sniffing abilities to work. They can help dog handlers locate wildlife—or things that harm wildlife. Meanwhile, other dogs protect wildlife in different ways.
Tracker dogs such as Bosco the bloodhound help rangers in Africa find poachers (people who illegally take or kill animals). Poaching is harmful to many species, such as endangered rhinos and elephants.
Airport detection dogs alert their handlers to things that people try to sneak into countries. Some dogs uncover smuggled plants or animals. Others detect bombs. This one, named Kathi, is trained to sniff out drugs.
Alli is a mixed-breed conservation canine. That's a dog trained to sniff out endangered species in the wild. Scientists can help those species once they know where they are. Right now, Alli's hot on the trail of an endangered frog.
These big Anatolian shepherds (top right photo) protect endangered cheetahs in Africa. Wait—what? Right, these guard dogs are really protecting a farmer's goats—but by keeping cheetahs away. That way, the farmer won't get mad at cheetahs and try to kill them.
What if you're in a wheelchair, can't see or hear, have a serious medical condition, or just need a little extra help in your daily life? Then a service dog may be your ticket to independence!
Muffin the Lhasa apso is a good listener. This therapy dog doesn't care if Keegan stumbles over words when he practices reading out loud. So he relaxes and becomes a better reader. Then Muffin gives him a lick that says, "Good job!"
So you're dressed in high-heeled boots and heading down some tricky stone steps. And, oh, by the way, you're blind! Not to worry, this border collie will do the watching out for you, giving cues about what's ahead. Guide dogs like this one have helped people with vision problems for more than 100 years.
Shopping isn't easy for everyone. That's why an assistance dog can come in handy at a store. This trained golden retriever can fetch items from shelves and put them in a basket. It can also help its owner with many other tasks, both out and about and back at home.
Dulce the poodle mix is a medical detection dog. He can tell when Noelle needs a shot of insulin. He also can tell when she just needs a hug! Sometimes it seems that a dog loves and understands you better than anyone. Isn't that the best therapy of all—no matter what your needs are?
"Dogs on Duty" originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Ranger Rick magazine. Click here for a close-up view of the photos.