“Dog helps the owner” is the translation from Russian of a video of just that: a YouTube video uploaded in early June shows a man in a wheelchair which a dog is pushing through flood waters — one example (albeit a rather unusual one) of the ways in which animals, and dogs in particular, can support and assist individuals with disabilities.
The “Dog helps the owner” video was taken by someone in a car. The man in the wheelchair appears to signal to the driver to avoid the flood water, after which he and his chair keep moving through the water, thanks to the dog.
“Dear Lord, he is being pulled by his dog!” a woman who is unseen says in Russian in the background.
While parts of Germany and central Europe were hit by heavy flooding after higher-than-average rainfall in June — with thousands of people being forced to evacuate and at least 22 killed – Russia has not experienced such floods, the International Business Times notes. Could it be that the driver who filmed the man and the dog is Russian, but in an affected region such as Croatia or the Czech Republic?
Commenters have asked why in the world the driver did not stop and help the man in the wheelchair. While the flooding in the video looks extensive and not safe for any one, or any animal, to be walking in, the man in the wheelchair does not appear at all agitated about the situation (despite the shock expressed by the woman in the video).
While it might seem unlikely for a dog to be able to push a wheelchair, some other dogs (such as these Australian cattle dogs pushing strollers carrying smaller dogs) are quite adept at walking for some distance on their hind legs while pushing an object. The video of the dog pushing the man in the wheelchair through floodwaters is a striking reminder of the many ways in which dogs assist individuals with disabilities, with visual impairments, psychiatric disabilities and other conditions.
Researchers are figuring out other ways to teach dogs to use wearable devices to assist people in even more ways. No one less than the inventor of Google Glass has teamed up with scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology to design a wearable computer for dogs to help individuals with disabilities. Their project, FIDO (Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations), is meant to make communication between a dog and her or his handler easier. A dog could be outfitted with the system via a vest or collar; by biting, tugging or even just placing their mouth near a sensor, the dog could activate it. A handler would be at the other end and could then could give the dog further instructions.
An individual with disabilities could, for instance, receive advance notice about where a building’s accessible entrance was. As Technology Review notes, a bomb-sniffing dog could also be trained to use FIDO and “communicate with handlers remotely about what specific type of bomb they’ve encountered, and rescue dogs could remotely alert a human team that they’ve found an injured person.”
The actual design of such a wearable device for dogs is still very much in development. Issues such as durability as well as battery life also need to be addressed. From a practical standpoint, a device’s uses would be quite limited if it required recharging as much as many of the latest gadgets.
Like a hero dog in Thailand who recently saved the life of a baby girl left in a rubbish dump in Bangkok – the dog, Pui, picked up the bag in his mouth and brought the baby to his owner — the dog pushing the wheelchair in the video was using the basics (his physical strength) to help someone out.
Wouldn’t the world be a better place if humans routinely showed such kindness towards animals (and each other)?
Photo from Thinkstock