We've all seen the adorable pictures of service puppies: toddling around in their junior service vests, being profiled in television stories, and countless magazine articles and websites - just like the one running in The Dodo's "21 Very Snuggly Service Pupplies in Training." Here in the Washington DC area, one of our local papers recently published an article about how a bred puppy from Canine Companions for Independence had been trained as a therapy dog for a young woman struggling to overcome sexual abuse. ("Raising Puppies for Lives of Service," Jan. 29, Washington Post, Local Living/Fairfax).
I can't imagine anyone not supporting the idea of dogs assisting victims of sexual abuse, as reported in this article. However, I couldn't help but wonder if breeding puppies to address one serious issue isn't contributing to another equally serious - pet overpopulation.
Through my work with The Shiloh Project, I have worked with rescued dogs as therapy dogs with juvenile abuse victims and offenders and other at-risk youth for over 20 years, and I can say from experience that there is nothing inherently unique a purebred puppy can offer to abuse victims that a thoroughly temperament-tested adult rescue dog can't. In fact, my experience strongly suggests the opposite - abandoned, hurting and abused individuals identify in a special way with dogs that have also been abandoned, mistreated and/or neglected.
Ralphie awaiting rescue in an animal shelter in Georgia.