START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good

Where Medicine Fails, Man’s Best Friend Can Heal

A vigilant protector

It took a while for Phelps to acclimate to his companion’s constant attention to what he’s doing and where he’s going.

After only having Sam for a few days, Phelps forgot something out in his car and moved towards the door to go outside and get it. The dog calmly positioned himself in between Phelps and the door, blocking his exit. “It’s like he was a layer between me and the outside—he wouldn’t let me out the door without him,” Phelps says.

To Phelps, it’s as if the dog is paying 100 percent attention to him, and he’s not far off.  The training facility he got Sam from—DogWish, Inc.—coaches their service dogs to give 95 percent of their attention to their handler. The other five percent is devoted to making sure their surroundings are safe.

Alzheimer’s service dogs can be trained to assist their cognitively-impaired handlers with a variety of different daily tasks, from alerting them when a stove is left on or an appliance plugged in, to helping them identify their car in a crowded parking lot, or their house if they get lost on a walk. These protective pooches are also trained to home in on their owner’s scent (Phelps had to send a trainer some of his old clothes so Sam could get used to his scent), enabling them to track an Alzheimer’s wanderer for miles.

A powerful (and playful) puppy

Sam seems to truly enjoy his role as canine caregiver.

Phelps is constantly awed by the various ways Sam helps him with everyday tasks. “He’s so good, it almost makes me sick,” he says. For instance, if Phelps goes to bed without putting on his Exelon (a commonly-prescribed Alzheimer’s medication) patch, the dog will come over and lick the spot where the patch is supposed to go.

Sam is still a puppy at heart though.

When Phelps takes off the dog’s working vest, all he wants to do is play. The playful pooch is also a critical source of companionship during the day while Phelps’ wife, Phyllis is out working.

Sam has given Phelps the opportunity to lead an engaged and fulfilling life in spite of his disease, and he didn’t even know that service dogs for people with Alzheimer’s disease existed until he was contacted by a caregiver through social media.

That’s why, when Phelps travels around the country conducting seminars and advocating for Alzheimer’s awareness, he brings Sam with him whenever he can. He wants to spread the word about the powerful impact these dogs can have.

Phelps believes everything happens for a reason. He is well aware of the vital role that Sam has played in helping him cope with an ailment that devastates so many families. “He’s not going to cure my disease, but he has certainly changed how I live my day-to-day life,” he says.

The Healing Power of Pets
Do You Have Early-Stage Dementia?
9 Easy Ways to Boost Brain Power

Read more: Alzheimer's, Dogs, Health, Humor & Inspiration, Mental Wellness, Pets, Stress, , , , ,

By Anne-Marie Botek, Editor

have you shared this story yet?

go ahead, give it a little love connects family caregivers and provides support, resources, expert advice and senior housing options for people caring for their elderly parents. is a trusted resource that visitors rely on every day to find inspiration, make informed decisions, and ease the stress of caregiving.


+ add your own
12:58AM PDT on Jun 7, 2013


6:16AM PST on Feb 28, 2013

Thank you AgingCare, for Sharing this!

3:00AM PDT on Oct 8, 2012

Great post folk.

Electronic recycling companies, Computer hardware recycling, computer monitor recycling, Computer recycling disposal, Electronics disposal, Electronic Waste Management

9:34AM PDT on Oct 7, 2012

great article, thanks for sharing :)

6:48PM PDT on Oct 6, 2012

Thank you for sharing your story Rick

5:15AM PDT on Oct 6, 2012

Thank each and every one of you for the kind comments. Sam is a miracle and just gets better everyday he learns my routine. He is constantly picking up things, helping me in many ways.

Nine months ago I didn't know a thing about dementia service dogs, didn't even know they existed. Now, I think everyone who is in the early stages should at least check into these animals.

There are many placed in the United States which train them....

6:27PM PDT on Oct 5, 2012

Article is just more proof that "dog is man's best friend." This is a "win-win" relationship. Phelps is helped by Sam, and Sam has a good home and lots of love. Can't beat that, can we?

7:11PM PDT on Oct 4, 2012


5:46PM PDT on Oct 4, 2012

animals are amazing, they just know what to do!

3:56PM PDT on Oct 4, 2012

so inspiring, thanks

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

"When most people think of aging, they imagine depression, reduced cognitive function, physical ailm…

These days, there are far too many plastics in the world, a toxic brew, with no end in sight. Glad t…

Seems like a simple algorithm to me . Eating bacon = 44 percent increase risk of dying early Yea…

Interesting but not unusual,I have one that treats me like a Hotel ie.only appears at mealtimes.No w…

I feed birdies...must admit that it attracted a falcon couple...not such a bad thing..


Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.