Focusses on the healing and curative powers of dogs.
Dogs share 99.8 per cent of their DNA with grey wolves. Despite being domesticated around 15,000 years ago, genetically canines are predisposed to loyally serve and protect their packs. A dog will naturally treat the individual that feeds and disciplines it as its parent. As human masters often fill this dominant role, our species has built up a strong bond with canines.
This human-canine connection is put to good use to herd other animals, as demonstrated by 15-year-old Amy and her border collie, Mist. Collies make ideal herders, and they have been bred to understand a wide array of human commands and whistled signals. The level of devotion that exists between owner and dog makes a vast difference to the effectiveness of such a partnership.
Having overcome the hurdles of being a young lady in what is predominantly an older man’s pursuit, Amy’s excellent junior amateur record means that she and Mist are now able to compete in the English National Sheepdog Trials – a stunning achievement for such a young pair. Amy has little doubt that this incredible success comes from the affectionate bond she shares with Mist. “She’s my best friend,” Amy says.
The MIRA foundation in Quebec is a guide dog training facility that specialises in breeding ‘Labernese’ dogs – a crossbreed between a Labrador and a Bernese mountain dog. Widely regarded as having the best characteristics of both dogs, the animals are bred and trained to work with autistic children. Sufferers of autism have impaired social interaction and are prone to lash out when confused or uncomfortable, but it has been proven that dogs can have a calming effect on their owners. By relying on the animal’s innate sense of loyalty, autistic owners can benefit from a tangible improvement in their social skills. Autistic teenager Marc-Antoine is noticeably calmed by his new dog, Tartin. By listening to Tartin’s heartbeat, Marc-Antoine also sleeps much more soundly than he did in the past. “It calms him almost instantly,” his mother Sylvie claims.
Ben Heinrichs and his Alsatian, Buddy, live in the remote Caswell Lake region of Alaska. One day, Ben was fixing his truck in the garage abutting his house when an errant spark ignited some petrol. After putting out his flaming clothes, Ben returned to the burning structure to rescue Buddy. As the neighbours called rescue services, Buddy was saved by his owner.
However, the local sheriff’s GPS system failed as he made his way to the scene. One wrong turn down a country lane could have meant getting lost for hours – but the lawman spotted Buddy at the side of the road, and was directed for a mile and a half to the fire by the heroic Alsatian. If Buddy had not been at the scene to help, the fire could easily have spread, causing considerable damage and risking lives. As a reward Buddy was given a silver dog bowl and a large juicy steak. “I don’t know what would have happened if it wasn’t for him,” Ben says. “We would have lost everything.”