September is National Service Dog Month
AKA: National Guide Dog Month
Originally founded in 2009 by Dick Van Patten, the actor known for playing the dad on the television series Eight is Enough, National Service (Guide) Dog Month was created to celebrate the work of guide dogs in the United States. This was Mr. Van Patten’s attempt to raise awareness, appreciation and support for guide dog schools in the United States.
Mr. Van Patten visited a guide dog training school in California in 2008 and volunteered to be blindfolded to see the intelligence and skills of the guide dogs in the school. After learning the cost to completely train such a dog (roughly $40,000), he decided to hold a fundraising campaign with the help of the Petco Foundation.
National Guide Dog Month was originally established during the month of May, but was changed to September because of other national fundraising drives also held during the month of May. One of the organizations helped by these fundraising efforts is Guide Dogs of Texas.
If you or someone you know is in need of a Guide Dog/Service Dog, you can find out more information about this program from the Guide Dogs of Texas website. Guide Dogs of Texas is a 501(c)(3) non-for-profit organization, housed out of San Antonio, that is supported strictly by donations from foundations, corporations and individuals. If you’d like to donate to this organization, you can do so directly through their website. There is a satellite location in Houston as well.
Please remember if you come into contact with someone who has a service dog, don’t reach out to pet him or her. If he/she is wearing a harness, he/she is working and shouldn’t be touched. Always ask the owner of the service dog if you are allowed to pet him/her.
Also located in San Antonio, you’ll find the Working Dog Teams National Monument, the United States’ first national monument to a soldier’s best friend. Dedicated in October, 2013, it recognizes the sacrifices of dogs in combat. The nine-foot tall bronze statue is inscribed with “Guardians of America’s Freedom” and is located at Lackland Air Force Base and features four dogs and a handler. Lackland Air Force Base was chosen as the site of the national monument because the U.S. Armed Forces center has trained dogs for all branches of the military here since 1958.