The pandemic has affected many industries. The most obvious ones that we think of are restaurants, theatre, concerts, but there have been other industries that have been completely knocked off course due to the pandemic. Service dogs and the organizations that train them, are one of them.
Interruption of Training
Due to the shutdown of businesses, organizations like Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Canine Companions for Independence, and the Mira Foundation had their training services grind to a complete halt. This left a lot of people who rely on service dogs in the lurch and put their independence at risk.
Training for these dogs can be as long as a couple of years, and with each day of the pandemic during which these organizations couldn’t do their work, the expected date of when the next group of dogs would be ready to work was pushed off.1
This has caused waitlists for dogs to get even longer. It also puts people who need a guide dog in a position where they won’t know when they’ll be able to get their next dog.1 During the worst of the pandemic, most of the dogs that would normally be in training had to stay at the homes of staff, without the proper tools to be trained at home. Many people don’t have a wheelchair stored for training, those are usually at the facility.1
Interference With Skills
Waitlists aren’t just the problem. Guide dogs have had issues with understanding the new rules of our pandemic society. They don’t understand social distancing and don’t know to look for the arrows on the grocery store floor to understand which direction they’re supposed to go in.2
The pandemic has also interfered with the skills of already-working guide dogs. These dogs need to work consistently in order to maintain the high quality of service they provide to their owners. Without the daily routines they’re used to due to quarantine, they’ve become rusty. While it might be possible to train some dogs over again, the longer the pandemic lasts, the harder it will be. Some have had to retire their guide dogs early because they are so out of practice, they can’t work for their owners anymore.3
This puts a strain on guide dog users, whose independence is now at risk. They’re stuck in a position where they need to retire their guide dog early and then not know exactly when they’ll be able to get a new one. Other tools are available, but they might not be as comfortable for them to use if they prefer using guide dogs to get around.3
The pandemic has affected so many – a lot of companies, people, and whole industries have slipped under the radar. They’ve been affected in ways we might not have thought about before.
Interested in learning more about service dogs? Check out our blog post here.
All the best,
Chris & the WERC Team
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