Laurel and I are part of an article in the October 2010 edition of the NE Ohio Family magazines (Cleveland, Akron, Lake/Geauga editions) titled Lending a Helping Paw, written by Michelle Park. I tried to scan in the article but the quality wasn't good enough to read so I have included the photo of Laurel that was used for the title and one of us at the bookstore that was in the article. Below is the portion of the article about us:
Linda and Laurel
Linda Alberda and her yellow Labrador, Laurel, were at obedience training when the dog began its alert. Laurel stood and nudged Alberda's legs, making clear her concern, and Alberda immediately took the medication she carries for muscle spasms.
A half hour later, the spasms struck, but the early medication made all the difference. The spasms never are as bad, Alberda explains, when medicine is taken before their onset.
Alberda, 53, of Highland Heights suffers from progressive neuromuscular disease and rheumatoid arthritis and uses a power wheelchair.
Four years ago Alberda brought Laurel home. In the time since, Laurel has demonstrated an ability to warn Alberda of impending medical issues and has been trained as Alberda's service dog.
Friedman, a licensed, independent social worker, considers her service dog training an unconventional form of social work.
"Their dog and their ability to improve their ability - that makes me feel good," says Friedman, a single mother of three. "That's more important to me than money and things."
Friedman and Alberda, the founder and executive director of Lake Erie Assistance Dogs , a support and education club, say that training a service dog is akin to training a pet dog.
"The only difference between a service dog and a pet dog is the degree of accountability and specific, trained tasks," Friedman says.
"It isn't rocket science, it isn't hard," she says of training service dogs. "It requires commitment, it requires understanding, and it requires patience. It (the dog) is not a robot that's going to suddenly cater to your every whim."
The things that service dogs do, Alberda explains, are related to what pet dogs do. For example, training Laurel to pick up items was done much the same way people teach any dog to fetch.
As for Laurel's alerting Alberda to impending health conditions, Alberda says the dog trained the human. It took some time, but eventually Alberda realized that her dog would make noise or nudge her when it sensed an imminent attack.
Though Alberda emphasizes that she doesn't rest her entire life and health on the dog, she says Laurel enables her to live with less worry. Now, she lives a much more active life.
"The alerting has really changed my life in unbelievable ways," Alberda says, "I had no idea a dog could do (this)."