For centuries dogs have occupied a special place in human society, helping people in countless ways. From herding livestock to hunting to protecting property, man’s best friend is really man’s best friend with benefits.
Today, dogs benefit their human masters by providing valuable assistance to police and by acting as seeing eyes for the blind.
Soldiers have always prized dogs for their speed, strength and fearlessness. As far back as the 5th Century B.C., dogs were used in battle by the Greeks, Persians, Babylonians and Assyrians. Later, the Romans, who never met a good idea they couldn’t steal, recognized the value of dogs for domestic security as well as for war.
More recently, prisons began using bloodhounds to track down escaped prisoners and militaries around the world took advantage of the keen canine sense of smell to find landmines. Once governments started using dogs for riot control, it was inevitable that local police would partner with pooches on the beat. Now dogs are used to help collar fleeing suspects, sniff out drugs and protect and serve their human partners. And dogs are always the top cops when police bring their K-9 partners on community outreach visits to local schools.
Yes, any kid knows that dogs have a softer side. And anyone who has seen a guide dog helping a blind person cross a busy intersection, has been impressed by how intelligent and devoted animals these fine furry friends are. Dogs have been assisting the blind for centuries but it wasn’t until the early 20th Century that formal guide dog training was introduced in Switzerland.
By 1929, the first guide dog training school in the United States, dubbed the Seeing Eye, was opened. Now, there are twelve guide dog schools in the U.S. that have earned accreditation from the International Federation of Guide Dog Schools and guide dogs are the very best of friends with about 10,000 vision impaired people in the U.S. and Canada alone.
Today, almost anywhere there is a need, there is a dog anxious to fill it. In the aftermath of natural disasters, dogs are rushed in to the worst affected areas for search and rescue operations, they serve as companions to the sick and elderly, they act as a critical line of defense by checking food for people who suffer from potentially fatal peanut allergies, and they are even being used to detect cancer in humans.
Truly, these canine companions have more than earned their place as Man’s Best Friend.
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