Today the value of dogs in helping people with disabilities is well established there are guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf, seizure alert dogs, therapy dogs for children and adults with autism, and mobility service dog for people with physical disabilities, to name a few. Dogs had been assisting people with visual impairments and other disabilities for centuries before the first formal Guide Dog Training schools where established after WWI. One famous woman with a disability who benefited from the companionship of dogs was Helen Keller.
Helen had lived with dogs in her parents home and had had a Cocker Spaniel as a young girl, but she became the guardian of her own dog in 1902 when she was given a Boston Bull Terrier, the proto-type of today's Boston Terrier breed.
The dog was a gift from Helen's friends at Radcliffe College. Sir Thomas was known to have a particularly sweet and calm temperament which probably made him an adept informal service dog. He regularly accompanied his mistress to lectures and would wait patiently until class was over and then accompany her back home.
As close as she was to Thomas, Helen Keller's real canine love came later in her life. In the 1930s when Keller was in her fifties she visited Japan on a speaking tour. Keller had great regard for Japanese culture and was very popular on her visit. While in Japan she heard the story of Hachiko, the famously loyal Akita. Keller expressed interest in getting an Akita of her own and before she left the country she was gifted a young Akita pup, named Kamikaze-Go. Sadly, the dog passed away at the age of 7 1/2 months from distemper. Keller was devastated. Hearing of her heart break the Japanese government arranged for her to receive another Akita pup, Kenzan-Go, the younger brother of Kamikaze. Go-Go as Keller called him was a loyal companion and a source of endless delight to her until the end of his days. Through the two dogs Keller introduced the Akita breed to the United States. She called her Akita companions "angels in fur."