Dogs In Special Olympics: The Unsung Heroes We Don’t AppreciateBy Shivam B
The Special Olympics began as a backyard summer camp and evolved into a global movement for people with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. Millions of people volunteer at the event including the man’s best friend, dogs. Several dogs get associated with the event by assisting the athletes, friends, and families, offering exceptional services that even a human can fail to provide.
The manager of stakeholder engagement for the Special Olympics, Carolyn Phillips, said, “Dogs are the source of positivity among the athletes and help people with disabilities to get more involved and cheered up.” Phillips’ experience with this organization says that several athletes get comfortable around dogs rather than people.
“Dogs help and support the athletes throughout their sports events,” says Phillips. “Whatever may be the sports, whether win or lose, Dogs will never pass judgments and rather support the athletes for a lifetime.”
In the special Olympics, some highly trained service dogs assist the athletes. Not only in sports events, but these dogs help them in their daily lives too. These dogs are trained to perform specific tasks relevant to their owner’s disability.
Riley, a Shih Tzu breed, acts as a service dog for the famous athlete Stephanie Stein. She is a member of the Special Olympics Baltimore County Swimming Team and loves to compete in events including bowling, soccer, etc. “I can take Riley to any Special Olympics stuff,” she says.
Not all dogs involved in the special Olympics are canine heroes with special training. Some of them are simple family dogs whose company is enough to motivate and support the athletes.
Todd Polleyn, a Special Olympics Maryland athlete, speaks fondly of his rescue pup, Gizmo, over virtual chat sessions.
Moreover, therapy-certified dogs are the unsung heroes of the special Olympics too.