Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.19 (February 19, 2009)
"An encounter with service dogs"
My biggest responsibility is to forge ahead and without a moment's delay pass the budgets and related bills in the Diet in order to defend people's daily lives. The whole government will make its utmost efforts to accomplish this.
"An encounter with service dogs"
"I was afraid of bumping into people because I have a physical disability, so I tended to just stay at home all the time. When I met [my service dog] Sherry, though, I became far more cheerful. I am no longer scared of going outside, as Sherry is there to help me. My day-to-day living has become more positive."
These were the words of a woman who uses a service dog -- a dog trained to help people who do not have full use of their limbs. The Prime Minister's Office usually has only human visitors, but last week I received a visit from service dogs accompanied by their users, including this woman.
Service dogs are a type of assistance dog, just like guide dogs for visually disabled people and hearing dogs for people with hearing disabilities. The role of service dogs is to help their physically challenged users with tasks such as opening doors or getting changed.
I heard that Sherry is able to open the refrigerator downstairs, take out a plastic drink bottle, close the refrigerator door, and then bring the bottle upstairs. Also, I saw for myself how a service dog called Elmo was able to pick up a business card holder dropped on the floor when his wheelchair-bound user gave the command, "Take!"
The amazing thing about service dogs is not just that they can assist the activities of their users, but that dogs like Sherry are constant companions, giving their users tremendous moral support while communicating with them.
I myself have lived with dogs for as long as I can remember. Shiro and Lucky were the names of my two mongrel dogs -- one had been picked up by the local healthcare center and the other was about to be used for animal experiments.
When I was a child, it was my daily job to feed them and take them out for walks. When Shiro died, I could not stop crying as I recalled how he was when he was healthy, and the way he would always come rushing out happily to greet me each time I returned home. This was the time when the importance and preciousness of life were instilled in my young mind.
Given my own experience, I believe that coming into contact with animals is highly beneficial in many ways for the development of children.
Service dogs need to undergo thorough, year-long training, and there are only 44 such dogs in Japan. Moreover, they are sometimes refused entry to places such as restaurants.
Assistance dogs are partners for physically challenged people, acting as extensions of their bodies. The government will step up its efforts to make assistance dogs more common, through measures such as putting its weight behind assistance dog training.
At the same time, I would like as many people as possible, including readers of this e-mail magazine, to know about assistance dogs. That is my sincere wish.
* Profile of the Prime Minister
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- The Prime Minister Visits Sakhalin (February 18, 2009) and others
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