Who would have thought that in six weeks we could create a new web site (assistancedogweek.org), develop a tool box of free informational materials, AND get events planned in nine states which include three Governors signing proclamations declaring August 8-14, 2010 as National Assistance Dog Week? It just goes to show you what a few people can accomplish when they put their minds and energy into it!

I am so excited and humbled to be a part of National Assistance Dog Week! This is our chance to stop and reflect on all of the amazing animals that give so selflessly to individuals with disabilities each and every day. Another big part of this celebratory week is not only recognizing the animals, but also giving credit to the people who enable these dogs to do their life-changing work.

I’m referring to the service dog recipients, volunteer puppyraisers, professional trainers, veterinarians, groomers, prison program participants, funders, administrators, animal welfare researchers and advocates, and all of the other countless individuals who contribute to the training, maintenance, and well-being of these highly trained animals.

I would also like to acknowledge the family members, friends, and caregivers who live with, or spend time with individuals with disabilities who utilize an assistance dog. They know firsthand the impact these animals have on our lives. And, I want to thank them for the support and care they provide to both individuals with disabilities and their assistance dogs.

Who better than Betty White to help celebrate NADW? She took time out of her extremely busy schedule to stop by Working Like Dogs on Pet Life Radio this week in honor of NADW. This woman has truly dedicated her life and her resources to animal welfare. She really understands the unique bond between an individual and their assistance dog.

We are also grateful that Ali MacGraw visited with us on Working Like Dogs this week.  She told us about her animals, her support for Assistance Dogs of the West, and how she got involved in fundraising for animal organizations. Ali also performed a delightful reading of all three of Judith Newton’s children’s books about Nito the service dog.

NADW is an opportunity for us to join together to recognize the hard work and ongoing commitment that assistance dogs require and to educate the public about how assistance dogs impact the quality of life and independence for individuals with disabilities. As much as I am dedicated to honoring these dogs and the people that support them, I am just as committed to paving the way for future dogs and the individuals that they will serve.

We must be vigilant in our efforts to educate the public, preserve our public access rights, and protect our civil right to utilize a service animal in and outside of these United States. Thank you to everyone who have and who continue to support NADW and these amazing working animals! Together, we can ensure equal access and equal rights for all individuals with disabilities.

I can’t wait to hear how you are celebrating NADW in your communities, both this year and as we look forward to August 2011! Let’s spread the word about assistance dogs and all of their life-changing abilities!