Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Service dog accompanies first-ever disabled Lego figure in new collection

Lego just made history with the addition of a Lego character in a wheelchair and a service dog.

Lego just changed the toy game in a major way.The Denmark-based company unveiled a disabled Lego figurine during the International Toy Fair earlier this week in Nuremberg, Germany, NPR reports. The character, who appears to be a young man or boy, is seen sitting in a wheelchair and is accompanied by a service dog.

The new figurines, which are part of Lego City’s upcoming “Fun in the Park” summer collection, have been celebrated as a victory by members of  Toy Like Me. The group has been urging toy brands to design characters with disabilities as a way to make their figurines more inclusive.

“Lego have just rocked our brick built world and made 150 million disabled kids, their mums, dads, pet dogs and hamsters very very happy,” Rebecca Atkinson, leader of Toy Like Me, said in a statement. "This groundbreaking move by Lego is just one small step toward recognizing the important place all people and animals have in our society. Thank you, Lego."

See the video at: 

Toys Like Me mission is to celebrating disability in toys and is calling on the toy industry and children's TV to better culturally represent 150 million disabled kids worldwide. 

Help Toys Like Me turn its viral social media campaign into a lasting online resource which will celebrate disability in toys, advise people looking for representative toys and continue consulting and calling on the global toy industry to include disabled children in the cultural mainstream. For more information go to:

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Smart Pups receive Newman’s Own grant

Smart Pups Assistance Dogs

Smart Pups Assistance Dogs is a dedicated not-for-profit organisation based on the Sunshine Coast, QLD Australia that focuses on improving the quality of life for young people with Autism and Seizure related syndromes, and their families through training their dogs in ‘task specific’ skills. a grant from Newman's Own Foundation will be used to purchase, raise and train two Medical Alert Assistance Dogs which will be certified for full public access.

Smart Pups Assistance Dogs - Nominated person - Patricia McAlister

Patricia is the Director of Smart Pups Assistance Dogs, which she founded after a friend asked her to train an assistance dog for her mobility-restricted child. Patricia began her Smart Pups journey with an internship at ‘4 Paws for Ability’ in America and on her return established Smart Pups as a not-for-profit venture in dog-assisted early intervention. 

She continually empowers those around her through trust and action and her willingness to get her hands dirty alongside them. Patricia also initiated and continues the push for legislative amendments to Queensland’s Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog Act 2009 to ensure existing barriers around access to public places do not disadvantage special needs children, their Smart Pup or their families.

Newman’s Own Foundation

The foundation, set up by renowned actor Paul Newman, said charities were invited to nominate individuals from within their organisations whose work had empowered others to overcome extraordinarily adverse circumstances, or provided equal access to human rights and contributed to the development of a civil society.

Newman’s Own Foundation turns all net profits and royalties from the sale of Paul Newman’s Own products into charitable donations. To-date, Newman’s Own Foundation have given nearly US$450mil to thousands of charities around the world including US$20mil to Australian charities.

In 2015, 23 Australians charity workers, in fields as diverse as children’s cancer, homelessness, disability and animal welfare, shared in grants worth over A$1mil from Newman's Own Foundation.

Bella the Medical Alert & Psychiatric Service Dog

When most people see this photo of Bella and her human, Valerie Parrott, they break out into a smile and utter an 'aaw!!'. But the meaning of this photo runs much deeper than Valerie & Bella sharing a sweet moment on Valerie’s wedding day.

Bella is a medical alert and psychiatric service dog. She’s performing an incredibly important task in this photo - a task that would help Valerie enjoy one of the most special days of her life. Valerie says:

“Right before the photo was taken she had alerted me to my increasing anxiety and was trying to calm me down and was performing a grounding task. Basically it helps me to take a moment away from whatever is causing the anxiety and keep me from having a panic attack.”

That stunning photo of a bride with her best friend captures the beauty of a service dog team - the beauty of what it’s like to put your life in the paws of a pup, knowing that your dog will do everything she can to keep you safe.

Bella played a crucial role in Valerie’s wedding to Andrew Parrott. Valerie and Andrew have been dating for two years, which is also the same amount of time that Bella has been in Valerie’s life. Consequently, Bella and her dad share an incredible bond. Valerie says:

"It’s actually a funny story because as we were driving to the Sioux Falls falls where we got engaged, Andrew was so nervous that Bella kept alerting me to his rising anxiety. She’d never alerted to him before so I thought she was alerting to me and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Ha!"

The 3 ½yr old Yellow Lab walked down the aisle with Valerie and her father, Kurt Menning. Valerie’s wedding photos have gone viral and landed the service dog team on the front page of Reddit. While this newfound fame is a bit overwhelming, Valerie says that it’s the perfect opportunity to educate people about service dogs.

There’s a lot of confusion about service dogs. People think they are only for the blind or visibly disabled. However, people with invisible disabilities, like anxiety and other psychiatric illnesses, sometimes need service dogs. There are also service dogs for dozens of other invisible illnesses. In fact, one of Bella’s tasks is alerting Valerie to severe migraines. Additionally, Valerie says that Bella:

"…Helps with side effects from medication (like passing out). she is also response trained for when these events happen. A response task can be anything like getting help, getting me to a safe place and sitting or lying down. Those are just a few tasks she does."

On her blog, Valerie talks about one of the things that she really wants people to understand about service dogs:

"So many people don’t know that service dogs can be used for so many invisible illnesses. The other thing is a lot of people look at a service dog team and forget that it is because of that partnership, that both dog and handler can not only survive life, they can thrive at it."

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Having a dog in bed with you may help you sleep better!

Mayo Clinic Sleep study discovered nearly half of pet owners reported they felt more rested with their animal in their bedroom than without!

Factors to Consider Regarding Where Companion Animals Should Sleep

Guiding principle: The sleep of the pet owner takes priority over loyalty to the pet:

  • How well does the pet owner sleep?
  • How well does the bed partner sleep?
  • Is the pet free of fleas, dirt, burrs, etc.?
  • Any pet allergies?
  • How large is the bedroom; the bed?
  • Does the pet sleep soundly?
  • Is the pet quiet?
  • How many pets?
  • Does the pet sleep on the bed and, if so, where on the bed?
  • Does excluding the pet from the bedroom work (or is the pet making noise for attention)?
  • Does the pet have any special needs (medications, voiding) requiring attention at night?

If none of the above are present:
  • Does the pet enhance a sense of security?
  • Does the presence of the pet aid relaxation?

Study Abstract:
Data was collected by questionnaire and interview from 150 consecutive patients seen at the Center for Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic in Arizona. 
  • 74 people (49%) reported having pets
  • 31 (41% of pet owners) having multiple pets. 
  • More than 50% pet owners (56%) allowed their pets to sleep in the bedroom. 
  • 15 pet owners (20%) described their pets as disruptive 
  • 31 pet owners (41%) perceived their pets as unobtrusive or even beneficial to sleep. 
  • Health care professionals working with patients with sleep concerns should inquire about the presence of companion animals in the sleep environment to help them find solutions and optimize their sleep.

Source: 2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education & Research 2015;90(12):1663-1665; Center for Sleep Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Homeless people and their pets share unbreakable love

Many homeless insist that "their animal companion is their best friend and oxygen without whom life wouldn't be worth living." What pets need most is human companionship, they don't need a house. They love, adore and protect their owners.

Pets offer a vital relationship to many homeless individuals. They provide unconditional love and friendship to people who face loneliness and alienation in life on the streets. 
Although homeless pet owners struggle to care for their pets, many choose to put their animal's needs first, choosing to go hungry themselves rather than see their companion go hungry.
There is an increasing recognition of the important role pets play in the lives of the homeless. 
It's therefore encouraging to see charitable organizations such as "Pets of the Homeless" that focus on providing food and veterinary care for pets of the homeless. 
A powerful bond that exists between many homeless people and their pets. It reinforces the message that pets don't care how much money a person has, all they care about is love.

Blind Service Dog’s Smile Brightens The Lives Of Others

Born without sight, Smiley serves up a smile and hope to those who need it most!
Bright and perky therapy dogs are a common sight at many nursing homes. They bring a smile to the faces of those no longer able to communicate and joy to the hearts of care-givers. But what if said therapy dog was himself afflicted with many of the same ailments suffered by his senior clientele? Enter Smiley, a therapy dog extraordinaire who not only relates to aging (84 in dog years) but vision loss, as he is completely blind.

In fact, this gentle Golden was born without eyes and suffering from dwarfism – a double death sentence when home is a puppy mill.
But fate was kind to this sweet boy as a rescue shortly after his second birthday brought him to his current home and to a career with St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog program who credit him with changing the lives of hundreds of men, women and children.

In addition to his retirement home duties, Smiley joins special needs kids at library reading programs demonstrating first-hand (or paw) that they shouldn’t dwell on their disability, where you come from or what happened to you as a child.  And at 12, Smiley shows little interest in slowing down.
Owner, Joanne George says, “his fur may be getting a little whiter and his steps may be getting a little bit slower, but his tail will never stop wagging.”

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Pets & Health: Family Physician Survey (USA)

The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation partnered with Cohen Research Group to conduct an online panel survey of 1,000 family doctors and general practitioners. This is the largest survey of its kind to explore doctors’ knowledge and attitudes towards the human health benefits of pets.

28-question survey was conducted in Aug 2014 with 3.1% margin of error (+/-). The physicians in the survey had a median of 18yrs of practice experience.

  • 69% have worked with them in a hospital, medical center, or medical practice to assist patient therapy or treatment. They report interactions with animals improve patients’ physical condition (88%), mental health condition (97%), mood or outlook (98%); relationships with staff (76%).

  • 97% reported that they believe there were health benefits that resulted from owning a pet.

  • 60% of doctors interviewed have recommended getting a pet to a patient. 43% recommended the pet to improve overall health and 17% made the recommendation for or a specific condition.

  • 75% of physicians said they saw one or more of their patients’ overall health improve, and 87% said their patients’ mood or outlook improved.

  • 74% of doctors said they would prescribe a pet to improve overall health if the medical evidence supported it; 8% said they would prescribe a pet for a specific condition.

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