My name is Casper and I am a Great Dane. Being a Great Dane is pretty cool, but you know what’s cooler? I am also a Service Dog. Yep, I have a job helping my human get around.
I was born and raised at Service Dog Project. They raise only Great Danes to train to help people with mobility and balance issues. Carlene White has been doing this for a long time and before that she trained animals of all kinds to do movies and commercials. She is pretty much awesome. (Please consider purchasing a Chicken Brick to help support this wonderful organization.)
My daddy’s name is Dan. He has something called cerebral palsy (CP) and that is why he needs me to help him. Most people do not know much about CP so I will explain a little bit. Usually this is caused when someone doesn’t get oxygen to their brain at birth or later because of a head injury. Dad ws born very, very early and had his umbilical cord around his neck so he didn’t get air at first. With CP the part of the brain that is damaged is the part that tells your muscles how to move. In Dad’s case it mostly affects his legs. I’m sure when you walk you don’t even have to think about putting one foot in front of the other, but for Dad the part of his brain that tells his legs what to do was damaged when it didn’t get any oxygen when he was born. That means he has had to figure out how to use other parts of his brain to tell his legs what to do. Dad’s muscles just aren’t as easily controlled as most people’s so sometimes he has to really concentrate on his movements. Even with concentration, though, he falls a lot so I am there to help him. CP can also send the wrong messages to muscles and make them move without your control, causing spasms. CP can affect just half the body, like both legs or both arms, or your left or right side, or it can affect the entire body. It can also impair speech, or even effect muscles that help control your internal organs. I want to point out that even though CP is caused by damage to the brain, it is a physical disability. People with CP, even very severe forms, are capable of learning just like other people. When Dad acts stupid it has nothing to do with the CP. He is just a dork.
People always ask Dad why he has a great dane for a service dog. Well, that is easy. First of all, we are really smart. You know that big bump on the top of a great dane’s head? That’ there because our brains are SO BIG! We also really really really LOVE people so we naturally want to help. For disabilities like CP and other conditions that affect balance and stability a person needs a very large dog. For one thing, we are tall enough for them to hold on to when they walk. For another thing, if (when) they do fall they need a service dog that is large enough to take their weight without being hurt. People make jokes about us being horses, but no dog is built to take a lot of weight on their back so unless they are big enough and specially trained, a dog could get hurt by a person putting weight on them. More about that later.
My mommy’s name is Lauri. I really love her. I am not supposed to listen to her when we are out with Dad, but at home she is the boss. I wouldn’t know Dad if it wasn’t for her! She convinced him he would do better with a helper and she was right! She is also the reason we moved to Oklahoma in 2014. Dad and I are Yankees, but she is an Okie.
We also have 2 human puppies. Mom and Dad said they are called “kids.” Whatever. My puppies are Lily and Alyssa. Lily is the older one. I like to cuddle her. She has a lot of anxiety and when I am not working for Dad I usually spend time making sure she is feeling ok. Alyssa is a little wild. I don’t spend as much time with her because I don’t have that much energy (and her cat that is always in her room DOES NOT like me), but I always check on her. If we go somewhere and I can’t see her I get worried. She is very small for her age so I want to make sure she is safe!
I came home with Dad in June 2013 when I was only about 9 months old as a service dog in training. I had almost all of my training down like a pro by then, but there were a few kinks that Dad had to work out. Because Dad’s mobility is pretty good and he is very strong SDP trusted that he could finish my training well. We all think he did a really good job. I get compliments everywhere we go. It is mostly due to SDP, but if Dad had been lazy I could have forgotten everything I learned and just been a mess!