• Pet Gazette

Service dog doubles as therapy dog

Service dogs and therapy dogs are usually two different animals. A service dog is “trained to do work or perform tasks to help an individual with a disability.” People are generally asked not to engage with a service dog and distract it from its duties. A therapy dog, on the other hand, wants to meet new people and be petted by them. That’s their job!

But Midnight performs both jobs brilliantly.

Former Marine Fred Blaess adopted her in 2007. He wasn’t looking for a therapy dog, or a service dog. He simply sought a four-footed hiking companion. He bonded immediately with Midnight, a pure black German shepherd. She had been turned in to the shelter by her former owners, who said she had gotten “too big.” (What did they expect a German Shepherd puppy to grow into? A toy poodle?)

In 2008, Fred and Midnight moved to a mountain home near Hendersonville. Just on instinct, Midnight became a sentry, warning Blaess about the invasions of deer and turkeys on their property. Oh, she also warned him about the paroled felon hiding under their porch. Midnight sniffed him out, barked, and he ran off down the mountain. He evidently didn’t know Blaess had never even seen Midnight curl her lip or heard her growl.

As time went on, Blaess’ hearing problem became a hearing loss. But Midnight knows how to get his attention anyway. She simply goes to him and makes it plain by whatever means necessary that there is something that needs attending to. Sometimes, that means someone has stopped by. When Blaess then lets that someone in, Midnight acts as hostess, offering to share one or more of her toys with the visitor.

When Blaess’ had a knee replacement, a therapist came to his home to help his recovery. When the therapist saw Midnight alerting Blaess to his arrival, he said: “She’s a service dog.”  Although she wasn’t professionally trained as a service dog, Midnight certainly “does work” and “performs tasks” for Blaess.

In 2014, Blaess decided he wanted to take Midnight to visit patients at the Asheville VA hospital. He and Midnight passed the necessary tests and background checks and became a registered therapy dog team. They then started visiting the hospital once a week. Usually, they just sit in the lounge of the mental health section and chat with patients while they pet Midnight.

Blaess and Midnight also visit three Hendersonville assisted living facilities weekly, instead of every six months as some facilities ask for. On their visits, Blaess and Midnight have to be accompanied by a staff member, since Blaess can’t hear the response when he knocks on a client’s door and asks “May I come in?” But once in the room, Midnight pretty much takes over, greeting the person and letting him or her pet away.  A good time is had by all.

Midnight accompanies Blaess everywhere he goes. And everywhere he goes, people want to say hello and pet her. “She stops traffic,” Blaess says. You can read more about the difference between service dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support dogs by clicking here.

Caption: Midnight – therapy dog, service dog, hostess.

#servicedogs #therapydogs

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