Monday, July 22, 2013

Touching hearts, changing lives

It is an exciting time around Canines for Service when a person is partnered with their
service dog.  Team training, when the person learns to work with the service dog selected form them, is very intense.  No matter how much we try to prepare the person receiving the dog, their family, our volunteers and staff, it is an emotional and physically exhausting time. 

How does it all start?    It starts with the commitment of a volunteer to open their hearts and home to raise and train a puppy.  The volunteer, becomes a foster family, and the staff at Canines for Service is then charged with finding a 7-11 week old puppy.   Most often our puppies come from local shelters or rescues but there are times when a puppy is donated by someone whose dog had a litter.  

What does it take to be a Foster? Our foster families are individuals, couples, traditional or non-traditional families that have a willingness and desire to help someone else. The foster comes to regular classes that are held at our facility to train the puppy under our direction and guidance.  Fostering a service dog in training is a gift of patience and love.  The foster also makes a financial commitment for the costs of food and veterinary care for the pup.  The foster will have the puppy with them for at least one full year, sometimes longer, before the pup transfers to another trainer. 

What happens when the pup goes to another trainer? When the pup transfers up to another trainer it will begin training in intermediate and advanced skills.  The foundation skills the foster family worked on with the pup and the socialization are key to preparing a well rounded service dog.   When the dog is nearing completion of training, an assessment is done to determine readiness for placement and the category of service work the dog is best suited for. 

How is the client matched with the dog? Applications are received from people needing a service dog and a careful review is done to ensure the person's needs can be met with a service dog from Canines for Service.  If we can meet the persons needs, they are placed on a wait list.  As a dog is nearing completion of training we start to look at the dog for its size and skills and review our approved applicants to make a match.    Once a match is made team training is arranged.  

What happens during team training? During team training the client is brought into the community to spend 5 to 7 days to learn how to work with the service dog matched to them.  It is an intense week of training for the person to learn the dogs skills, how to command and control the dog and how to use the dog to help them with their disability.  Team training is also a chance for the donor of the pup and foster to meet the client, if possible, the trainer to say good-bye and the team to celebrate the new beginning. 

We need You to be a part of this special gift of independence on four paws. Donate, foster and volunteer to help us serve others.