Researchers have determined that dogs and humans have co-evolved for thousands of years and although the subject of when is hotly debated, all agree that the domestication of dogs occurred much earlier in time than was previously thought to be the case. Whilst an ancient dog-like skull that was discovered in the Siberian Mountains has fostered a theory that the first domestication of dogs occurred about 33,000 years ago after a split from grey wolves, genetic analysis suggests that dogs in China were domesticated in the vicinity of only 10,000 years ago and in fact some researchers believe that Chinese indigenous dogs might represent the missing link in the domestication of man’s best friend.
Featured Image(above): Renee McCann and her daughter Dylan
As to why dogs and humans are able to co-exist together so well, there are many parallels between the behaviour of the two species and these include a territorial nature, the ability to emotionally bond and even to hunt cooperatively. Experiments have shown that dogs can be astute readers of human body language and have an enhanced ability to predict what their owners are going to do and it is for these reasons that our canine companions are able to take on various roles which can be of great benefit to humans. As well as a loyal companion, a dog can be trained to work with sheep or cattle or to be a valuable asset in law enforcement and, as well as these roles, there are many ways that a dog can be of assistance to people with a medical condition.
Following a rather long battle by Bribie Island mother Renee McCann to raise the funds which were necessary to provide a trained assistance dog for her young daughter Dylan, the target has now been met due to the wonderful generosity of the Wallum Action Group. Renee explained to me about her daughter’s medical condition and how little Dylan, who is not yet three years old, will be able to benefit from having a canine assistant. ‘Dylan was born with Fibular Hemimelia and PFFD (Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency) and she also has only partial Corpus Callosum.
She has shorter than normal legs with one being about six centimetres shorter than the other and there is no ACL in one of her knees. She will soon begin to undergo extensive rounds of surgery which will result in full reconstruction of her legs and the aim will be to create one good leg,’ said Renee. ‘It is hoped that she will eventually be able to walk at home with the use of a crutch but for any distance she will still need a wheelchair. An assistance dog will be trained to alert someone if she is having any difficulties, either falling over at home or perhaps if she falls out of her wheelchair at school,’ she added.
Ann Ward and Julie Rigg from the Wallum Action Group enjoying some time with little Dylan
Assistance dogs are specially trained for a variety of situations and this can be for autism assistance, seizure response, medical/diabetes alert or vision assistance and the dog which Dylan will receive will be trained for mobility assistance. There are a number of organisations which are involved in training these dogs but some of them do not prepare the dogs for working with young children and, with this in mind, Renee has chosen Sunshine Coast not-for-profit organisation Smart Pups for the task of training Dylan’s furry companion. ‘Smart Pups specialise in dogs for children and don’t train assistance dogs for adults,’ Renee told me.
‘They begin training the dogs while they are still a puppy and the process can take up to eighteen months and six weeks prior to handing the dog over, Smart Pups will introduce Dylan to her dog for the integration process to begin. They will also provide some training to teachers at the school and talk to the other students about how to behave around an assistance dog,’ she said. The payment (about $18,000) by the Wallum Action Group was made after Treasurer Ann Ward asked Renee to call in for a talk and upon hearing about the need for a dog, agreed to pay the remainder of the balance that was owed so that training could commence.
Renee pointed out that there have been small amounts raised in the past by very kind people and businesses and she recalled that one little girl who was having a birthday asked people to donate to Dylan’s cause instead of buying her a birthday present. As a way of showing her gratitude to the team at the Wallum Action Group Community Nursery, Renee brought Dylan for a visit and also provided the volunteers with a sumptuous array of goodies for morning tea.
The Wallum Action Group has provided assistance to many worthwhile causes within the community and does so by raising funds from their Community Nursery which is next door to the Orchid House on First Avenue and always has an incredibly large variety of plants for sale. The organisation is operated entirely by volunteers and anyone who would like to help out is always welcome to make contact by either paying a visit to the nursery which is open each weekday from 8 am until 11 am or by calling 0407 699 953.