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Pups With a Purpose

Posted on Mar 7, 2017 by in Animal Care, Education

Here’s How Fur and Fins Come Together at the Aquarium

Canine Companions for Independence provides highly trained assistance dogs to enhance the lives of people with disabilities. Yesterday the Northern Ohio Chapter visited the Greater Cleveland Aquarium with 8 dogs in training.

The organization, founded in 1975 and based in California, breeds, raises and trains dogs that, according to its website, are matched with adults, children or veterans with a disabilities, or professionals assisting clients with special needs. As you can see in these photos, must pups are a Labrador/Golden Retriever crossbreed.

During their visit, volunteers started by working on basic commands. After 24 months of training, these dogs will be able to respond to 30-40 commands ranging from “sit” to “vertical” (used eventually to turn wall light switches on or off).

The volunteer group, consisting of 10-15 active members in Northeast Ohio, meets twice a month and expose the future service dogs to being in active, populated spaces. The canines in training try out different modes of transportation and explore attractions from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to the Great Lakes Science Center.

“Any place you can think of, they go,” Staicey Scholtz, Volunteer Chapter President. “The [West Side] Market is a great chance for training not only because of the crowd, but because of the smell. In service these dogs will visit various market settings and the odors can be a lot for them.”

The process doesn’t end after their training in Cleveland. Service dogs receive another 6-8 months of professional training, where more specific commands are taught geared toward the need of those on the 1-3-year waitlist. After a 2-week team training where those in need of a service dog meet their partner, a graduation ceremony marks the official “handing over of the leash.”

Canine Companions for Independence is the longest and oldest service dog organization, placing approximately 400 dogs a year, free of charge.

“It’s so great to know you’re making such a difference for someone,” added Scholtz. “That’s the goal and it’s the best part of the whole process.”