If you are wondering who to vote for for “prettiest hair” or “best sniffer,” look no further, because Tosha the service dog has got what it takes.
The beloved chocolate lab earned her spot in Gravette Upper Elementary School’s yearbook early this November after she saved a fifth grade boy that was having a seizure.
Tosha attends school each day to accompany and protect fifth-grader, Treyton Hudson who has a rare form of epilepsy. When Hudson started seizing a few weeks ago, Tosha was by his side and ready to take action. She began barking to alert school staff who immediately acquired medical personnel to save the boy. The Arkansas school recognized Tosha’s courageous and life-saving acts with a place next to her boy in the school yearbook.
With hundreds of service dogs saving the lives of young people daily, Tosha is not the first to pose for a school photo. Andrew “A.J.” Schalk’s service dog, Alpha, enjoyed his time in front of the camera after doing a job well done.
Alpha assists A.J., who suffers from Type 1 diabetes and can alert the teenager up to 40 minutes before his blood sugar becomes dangerously low or high. For providing much needed assistance to the 16-year old each day, Alpha was not only featured in the Stafford High School yearbook but also got his own student I.D.
Service dogs are trained to help a variety of people and perform various tasks. Some are used to help visually impaired or disabled people, others assist organizations and use their skills to help teach and bring joy to others. Two-year old golden retriever, Shetland is a clinical instructor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences where military health professionals are trained. As a clinical instructor, or “helper during clinical practice training,” Shetland has been taught to hug on command, pick up small fallen objects, and carry around a basket full of candy for medical and graduate students who are in need of a study break.
Shetland and the other helper dogs on campus visit and interact with patients and help bring a smile to them and their family members. For all of Shetland’s hard work, the young pup was promoted to lieutenant commander for the navy where he will continue to teach the health professionals-in-training “the value of animal-assisted therapy.”
Tosha, Alpha, Shetland and all the other service dogs around the world are required to undergo a strict training process before they are allowed a human companion to help out.
To become a certified service dog, each “good boy” must undergo a minimum of 120 hours of training from an organization such as Assistance Dogs International or the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners. This training process typically lasts about a year and a half to two years. Throughout these 24 months, the service dogs-in-training learn how to stay focused and follow commands.
They are trained to concentrate on their owner and nothing else. When food is nearby and available, service dogs know to ignore it instead of attempting to grab it which may result in harm to their owner. If bystanders try to pet a service dog or offer them food or there are dogs playing nearby, a service dog is taught to disregard the commotion and stay centered on helping their owner.
With all the work service dogs do and lives they save, their photo in the yearbook of the school they attend every day and the promotions they have been waiting for are well deserved. The intense training of each service dog is clearly paying off but there is one thing they may need more training in: posing for photos!