The Power of a Service Dog to Change a Family’s Life

Iyal Winokur and his service dog, Chancer.

photo by Michele Asselin for The New York Times

Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine featured a fascinating article about how the love of a service dog, a golden retriever named Chancer, changed the lives of a family dealing with their adopted child’s disabilities. Not only has the dog helped manage the effects of Iyal Winokur’s fetal alcohol syndrome, but Chancer’s presence has actually led to “cognitive leaps” in the boy’s thinking, suggesting that the human-animal bond can actually affect how the brain functions:

The hypothesis is that the sudden drop in Iyal’s anxiety level — the sudden decrease in his hypervigilance, the lowering of his cortisol level and the disarming of the fight-flight physiology — frees up cognitive energy that he can use for thought and speech. “A child with a disability feels freer not to suppress his ideas and behaviors when he’s with his dog,” Beck says. “There’s a level of trust and confidentiality he has with no one else. And it’s a good choice: the dog is his true confidant and friend.”

Click here to read the entire article. It’s well worth your time, and there’s also a great video about service dogs.

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