Monday, March 16, 2009

Carolina Canines service dog leaves lasting legacy

WILMINGTON, N.C.- Saint, the first service dog trained and placed by Carolina Canines for Service (CCFS), passed away last week, but will leave behind a legacy of friendship and service that is not soon to be forgotten, said CCFS President & CEO Rick Hairston.

Saint was rescued by SOAR from abusive owners and placed in the service dog training program in January 1997. The friendly mixed breed was trained as a mobility service dog who could pick up things as small as the back to an earring and open doors.

In December 1999, Saint was partnered with David Mickler and made his television debut on the University of North Carolina Wilmington program “Let’s Talk” where he was given as a Christmas surprise to Mickler. Unable to find a parking space for his handicap accessible van, Mickler nearly gave up on attending the show. However, once inside he received a gift that changed his life, Saint.

Mickler said that one unexpected advantage of owning Saint was the way that Saint helped him to connect with other people. For example, when Saint accompanied Mickler to his son’s soccer games, people would talk to Mickler about him which helped Mickler meet new people that might not have approached him otherwise. “Saint could break down barriers,” said Mickler, “People would see the dog and not the wheelchair and feel more comfortable approaching me.”
Throughout his career Saint did many presentations in the community to educate the public about service dogs. After faithfully serving Mickler for nearly a decade and withstanding a spleen removal and cancer, Saint retired in 2007. During retirement he remained living with Mickler.

Saint’s legacy consists not only of faithful service to Mickler but also of the education of the Wilmington community about the Carolina Canines For Service organization, service animals, friendship and compassion. “We couldn’t have trained a more loyal companion for David and we couldn’t have asked for a more noble spokesdog for our organization,” said Hairston. “Saint touched the lives of everyone he met. He will be dearly missed.”

For those who have been touched by Saint’s story and would like to memory him, contributions can be made in Saint’s name by visiting These contributions can help someone have the love and assistance that service dogs provide, which they may not be able to afford otherwise.

Carolina Canines for Service is a non-profit corporation dedicated to empowering people with disabilities to achieve greater independence. The group trains certified service dogs with the help of volunteer foster families, matches the dog to an eligible recipient and provides the dog free of charge. Since its inception in 1996, Carolina Canines has placed 31 service dogs, valued at more than $1.2 million. For more information, call (866) 910-3647 or visit

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