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Dave Thomas cuddles with service dog Hackett

Dave Thomas is an assistive technology specialist in DU’s Disability Services Program, and his guide dog, Hackett, is a specialist in reading Dave’s mind. “Often, he doesn’t need commands. He can anticipate things,” says Dave, 39, who is blind. “There’s no question that he’s a working dog, but it’s more than that,” he adds. “He’s a member of the family.” Photo: Marc Piscotty

You don’t know trust until you toe up to a stair, unable to see anything, and step off with only a dog to guide you.

Trust is when you believe, when you know, that if it’s within her power, the dog won’t let you fall. She’ll be your eyes. She’ll be your friend. She’ll even refrain from snatching the sandwich you just dropped because every fiber of her being is about you.

Service dogs become an extension of their human companions — their eyes, their hands, their mobility, their security, their freedom. They do everything from guiding those with visual impairments, to opening doors, to picking up a dropped notebook or warning their humans of an imminent seizure. Even the retrieval of everyday objects can be a crucial help: Imagine dropping your house keys when it’s 5 below and not being able to pick them up.

Like their owners, each service dog has a unique personality and set of skills. And for five members of the DU family, pictured on the pages that follow, there’s also a unique human-animal bond — one that runs deeper than love.

Read more about service dogs and the humans training them.

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