Meet Kia: The Service dog

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O'Neil and his service dog kia (photo credit: Scott Robinson)

Anna Love

It’s an average day, waiting in line for a smoothie and you hear the jingling of a collar behind you. You turn around and see a large German Shepherd with the well-recognized, almost common, vest strapped to it.

 

“Service dog-do not pet”

 

The service dog’s name is Kia, a 75 pound German Shepherd. He is well-trained and certified, and belongs to August O’Niell, U.S Air Force veteran.

 

“Kia has helped in so many ways with my recovery. He has kept me mentally strong by providing a companion in some of my loneliest hours,” O’Niell said. O’Niell is an above-the-knee amputee, having lost his leg in military service. Kia is trained as a blocking dog to keep other people out of O’Niell’s personal space. He’s also trained to brace O’Niell when he isn’t wearing his prosthetic.

 

Kia is also trained to retrieve things for O’Niell, but it isn’t his task of choice.

 

“He helps me to retrieve objects like my phone, wallet, and keys. Although he does not enjoy getting things for me. He’s not a retriever and lets me know by looking back at me like I’m crazy every time I ask him to get something,” O’Niell said.

 

After O’Niell lost his leg, he decided that he was in need of support. He added himself to a waiting list for support dogs that would have taken two years. There was little chance to get a service dog sooner than that, until k9soldiers.org reached out to him.

 

They reviewed his needs and trained Kia before bringing O’Niell up to meet Kia. A service dog and its owner need to be a well-matched pair to work well together. Kia and O’Niell did just that.

 

“Owners and their service animals create a second-to-none bond! It’s a mutual love and need for one another. We need our animals for many reasons emotionally and physically,” O’Niell said. “They need us because we are the leader of their pack. They don’t like being left at home like other animals. They often get depressed if their person isn’t around.”

 

O’Niell was asked about his opinion on other service and therapy animals, and gave a level answer.

 

“There is a large difference between a service animal and a therapy animal. Sadly, a lot of people don’t realize this. A service animal is able, trained, and certified to perform specific tasks for their owners,” O’Niell said. “A therapy animal only needs to pass a basic obedience course. Sadly with all the easy certification stuff people can get, a lot of “therapy/emotional support animals are not trained or well disciplined. It’s because of this that some people are skeptical about real service animals.”

 

Whatever the reason for a service animal, they are an important part of people’s emotional, physical, and mental health. They serve as a companion and aid, giving love and service, with their owners returning it with gusto!