Sunday, November 30, 2008

Optimism, Turns to Sadness

Everyone loves to hear happy news. But, sometimes, the news is not so good.
Our new service dog in training, Miriam, who became so sick on Thanksgiving, lost her battle tonight. Miriam is the newest angel at the Rainbow Bridge.

We know that we, along with the team of veterinarians and technicians, did all we could to give her the fighting chance she deserved. Whatever infection she had went systemically and she could not fight the battle any longer.

With dignity, compassion and respect, we say farewell to a sweet tempered Labrador girl that we barely had the chance to know and who never reached her full potential.

Be free precious Miriam; know peace and that you were loved.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Dealing with the Unexpected, Optimistically

Carolina Canines for Veterans is a unique program providing an opportunity for prisoners at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune to learn news skills while giving back to their wounded comrades by train service dogs for our wounded warriors.

While this is a program about people helping people, the link between the two is a dog. These dogs learn over 70 skills to assist a person with a mobility disability, making the person’s life easier.

Where do the dogs come from for the Carolina Canines for Veterans program? The dogs come to us from rescues and shelters. They are anywhere from 9 months to 2 years old. The dogs are selected by first determining if they are heartworm negative, then doing a 20 point temperament assessment to determine if they have the interest, desire and drive to be a working dog. If this assessment is successful, then the dogs are sent to a veterinarian for hip evaluation by radiograph, updated on vaccinations and if the hips are good, spayed/neutered if necessary. Then, placed in the program and named. These dogs are given a second chance to help someone in need instead who being euthanized.

What happens if the dogs get sick? Recently, a newly found service dog in training named Miriam, an 11 month old yellow labrador, became severely ill within 5 days of entering the service dog program. Miriam had intestinal distress that progressively worsened. On Thanksgiving evening she ended up in the emergency veterinary clinic in Wilmington. Taking aggressive therapeutic steps to help manage Miriam through an unknown crisis, she survived the night to be transferred back to our program veterinarian, Dr. Pandolfi. Dr. P. continued the aggressive therapeutic treatment and again on Friday night, Miriam was transferred back to the emergency clinic. Hanging on for another night and back to Dr. Pandolfi Saturday morning, there now seems to be slow and cautious improvement. Miriam will spend yet another overnight at the emergency clinic for therapeutic support in the hopes that she will continue to improve.

The veterinary care is nearing well over the $1,200 mark with at least another 36 hours in the emergency clinic. All of these costs are the responsibility of Carolina Canines for Service. Many may ask why we are going to such efforts and such expense when the financial times are so challenging. For one thing, she was given into our charge and our care, therefore, if sick, it is up to us to provide for the best possible outcome for Miriam. And, she is a living, breathing creature of God. So, we wait, cautiously optimistic for a glorious outcome for Miriam.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Foster Puppy Parents

Puppies/dogs entering training with Carolina Canines for Service, Inc. are placed in volunteer foster homes to begin socialization and basic training. Foster puppy parents are individuals or families who volunteer to raise a service dog puppy in their home up to 24 months.

It is acceptable for a foster family to have children and/or other family pets as long as the service dog puppy is the youngest dog in the household. Socialization and tolerance of children and other animals (dogs, cats, birds, etc.) is an important aspect of a service dog puppy’s training. If you are interested in becoming a foster puppy parent and live in the vicinity of Wilmington, NC or Myrtle Beach, SC.

Foster puppy parents must commit to the following:
*Provide indoor shelter, food, water, grooming, care and humane treatment to meet the basic needs of the puppy
*Attend training classes and socialization outing with the puppy as scheduled and following CCFS training guidelines and protocol
*Promote the mission of CCFS by providing community education regarding disability awareness and service dog information as the opportunities arise when out in public with their service dog puppy
*Financial responsibility for any and all food, supplies and veterinary care the puppy requires while in their care

Understand that the puppy belongs to CCFS and the requirement to relinquish the puppy and any equipment/supplies belonging to the program immediately upon notice.

Foster puppy parents are provided a training manual explicitly outlining the program’s training protocol and standards of care for CCFS puppies. CCFS trainers provide group and individual training sessions at weekly classes and are available to offer advice and guidance 24 hours a day.
Giving up a puppy after it has been a part of a foster family for 24 months is not easy - but it can be done. Foster families have the opportunity to meet individuals who have service dogs and learn what a difference a service dog makes in their lives. A loving, committed foster family is the key to a puppy’s success in becoming a life-long partner and helpmate for a person with a disability who might otherwise never experience the level of mobility and independence a service dog offers.

Carolina Canines for Service, Inc. accepts applications for Foster families on an on-going basis with the desire to have a number of approved foster homes ready and waiting for a puppy. In the past the program has had to turn down the offer of many quality puppies and dogs due to having no foster home readily available.

The Matching Process

The matching process begins after the dog's service category type has been determined. Applicants' needs, personality and lifestyle are reviewed and a preliminary match is made. Each dog receives the same basic skills training for its service category, but it can be trained to meet specific needs its partner may have.

For example, a dog may be trained to work on either the right side or left side, depending upon its partner's needs. One dog was trained to bring a cold cloth out of the refrigerator to his partner to assist his partner with recovery from seizures.

Once the dog completes advanced training, an individualized team training schedule is developed which includes intense training for 1-2 weeks to teach the partner how to utilize the dog's skills and to initiate the life-long bond between human partner and service dog.

This training may take place at the training facility and/or in the community. Some training may take place in the recipients home if the recipient lives in the greater Wilmington, NC communities.

The recipient generally will have an opportunity to meet the service dog's foster family during training.

The joy of meeting their former foster puppy's service dog new partner makes the months of training and heart wrenching "giving-up" process all worth it!

What is a Service Dog?

A service dog is a dog individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. Service dogs perform a wide variety of tasks which enable individuals to experience increased independence and enhanced quality of life. Carolina Canines trains service dogs for people with funtional limitations of mobility.

Service dogs trained through Carolina Canines for Service, Inc. are able to perform the following tasks for their partners:
•Retrieving dropped/distant objects
•Pulling wheelchairs and loading wheelchairs into vehicles
•Opening doors
•Carrying items/packages
•Rising to high counters
•Physical support for mobility and transfers to/from wheelchairs
•Physical assistance to recover from a fall
•Dressing or undressing
•Assisting with household tasks such as bed making and laundry

Carolina Canines for Service, Inc. acquires dogs for the program from a variety of sources including donations from reputable breeders, rescue organizations, and local animal shelters. Purebred and mixed breed dogs are both utilized, with an emphasis on using rescued and shelter dogs.

All dogs are spayed/neutered prior to entering service. Male and female dogs are equally suited to service work.

Dogs best suited for service work are from the "working class" category which include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Border Collies, as well as mixes of these breeds.

Carolina Canines accepts puppies into training between 7 to 10 weeks of age. Older dogs are rarely accepted.

Each dog is individually temperament tested to determine its innate characteristics and strengths. Upon passing the temperament test and a health screening the puppy officially becomes a Service Dog in Training.

Throughout the course of training, service dog puppies are closely monitored for good health and temperament. Hips and elbows are x-rayed to rule out hip dysplasia and elbow dysplastia. Chronic health problems or aggressive/unpredictable behavior result in disqualification from the program. Carolina Canines For Service, Inc. commits to placing only healthy, temperamentally sound dogs into service.