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Rescue Dog Elton

Elton is an 8-and-a-half-month-old Newfoundland pup weighing in at 100 pounds. He loves his daily trips to the water with mom and dad.

But what he does in the water is what makes him stand out.

“We’re practicing water rescue,” said Ralph Holzhauer, Elton’s “dad.”

Elton will be the fourth certified water rescue dog that the Holzhauers have had.

“It was our third Newf that we found had a love for the water, had that instinct and we just kind of fell into it. No pun intended,” Ralph said.

Elton started his training earlier than the rest– at 10 weeks old. Now, he’s getting ready for his first big test.

“He’s going to be 9 months old when he tries these things, which is very early for a Newfoundland,” said Anne Marie Holzhauer, Elton’s “mom.”

“If he didn’t like it, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Ralph said.

There are three different levels Elton can test at for water rescue training.

“Each gets progressively more difficult generally building on each of the lower preceding levels and difficulty,” Ralph said.

“What we are trying to do is get him to pass the first level and then attempt the second,” Anne Marie said.

Each level comes with six tasks surrounding obedience, retrieval and life rescue.

Elton knows the signs of someone in distress. He follows the splashing of the waves and hears his cue “help me” or “save me.”

There are challenges when it comes to training.

“Weather makes a big difference, oddly enough,” Ralph said.

Wednesday’s weather was windy and the waves were rolling in.

“For a young dog, a puppy, it’s going to be a challenge and confidence is certainly a big issue,” Ralph said.

The Holzhauers say they haven’t been called in for help in the past and likely wouldn’t because rescue dogs are not something commonly used in water rescue in this area. Elton’s abilities likely would be used personally for the family.

They say the biggest plus is the bond made between man and man’s best friend.

And that’s not all– this pup could soon be on the silver screen!

Wednesday, Jon Dorflinger, a filmmaker from Saratoga Springs, was in Westport to meet Elton, who is also an aspiring actor.

Elton is set to play his late older brother, Rowdy. Rowdy is famous in the community. He was a therapy dog, certified water rescue dog and worked every day in classrooms in the Elizabethtown Lewis Central School District.

Rowdy has many books written about him and now a movie or TV series is in the works.

Dorflinger says stories from teachers will help him write Rowdy’s story.

“To hear other perspectives and other sides of it really kind of rounds out the experience and gives me, helps me get more immersed to that time and the real impact that Rowdy the dog had on the school and community at large,” Dorflinger said.

The filmmaker says they are still in the very beginning phases and working on a script.

Assistance Dogs

CHAMP Assistance Dogs, a nonprofit that places skilled service dogs with individuals with disabilities and much more, is showings it’s paw-ssible to make a difference even amid a pandemic.

“We have a team of therapy dogs that usually visit anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 people a year,” says Pam Budke, the organization’s executive director. “Of course, this year is a total different ballgame. We have not been able to get out, but we are doing visits through the windows.”

Budke says one such recent visit was to Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital in Maryland Heights and was a howling success.

“Ranken Jordan had these little walkie-talkies that the kids could come to the windows … and the kids could ask questions about the dog, and the dogs did tricks for them,” Budke says. “When we went around to the other windows and came back, the kids had drawn pictures of the dogs and gave them to us. It was just so cool.” Although therapy dogs are a large part of this nonprofit – normally visiting more than 100 facilities in the metro area each month – its main mission since 1998 has been to provide pups to individuals with physical disabilities or cognitive issues.

“For physical [disabilities], we have dogs that can pick up dropped items,” Budke says. “They can open up doors. They can help with laundry. They can turn light switches on and off. They can actually get a phone; if someone says 911 if they fall and need a phone, the dog knows where it is, and the dog will go run and get that phone and bring it to them.

“Then we have people with cognitive issues or depression or anxiety,” Budke continues. “The dogs are great for calming them down. Sometimes, they can just tell when someone needs that companionship or when someone is anxious. The dogs make a huge difference.”

Each CHAMP assistance dog typically goes through eight weeks of training at the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Vandalia, Missouri – a program temporarily on pause due to COVID-19 cases at the prison – and then spends an additional eight weeks at a puppy-raiser’s home in St. Louis, where they become socialized.

“Ultimately, we train our dogs for about two years before they are actually placed,” Budke says. “When we are getting close to placement after a dog has a set of skills, and they are doing well on their skills, then we will start training that dog specifically for a person.”

Although CHAMP Assistance Dogs may not be placing new canines at this time, Budke guarantees the nonprofit is keeping busy with clients.

“It’s crazy, but I feel like we are staying more in touch with people than we were before,” Budke says. “We are doing all sorts of videos and sharing those through Facebook and Zoom, sharing skills they can work on with their dog through Zoom. We are keeping our mission alive and active.”

Dogs Detect COVID-19

The Army is exploring whether dogs can detect signs of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) thanks to a new research agreement with the University of Pennsylvania.

Researchers from the Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Chemical Biological Center have entered into a cooperative research and development agreement with the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) Working Dog Center, which has trained dogs to detect cancer and diabetes in the past, according to an announcement from the service.

The project, first conceived in March and formally established in mid-May, is working to train dogs to detect biomarkers of COVID-19, the proteins that the human immune system produced in response to the presence of the virus.

The goal “is to train dogs to detect the disease state before a person starts showing signs of disease such as fever, coughing, and shortness of breath,” researcher Michele Maughan said in an Army statement.

To do this, Penn Vet researchers use what’s called a Training Aid Delivery Device (TADD), a laboratory device first developed by the Chemical Biological Center back in 2013 for handling hazardous substances that, thanks to a special membrane, allows dogs to train with substances like drugs and explosives without direct contact.

“We knew the TADD would be perfect for containing COVID-19 patient samples of saliva or urine because we knew this odor profile would be quite nuanced and require the dogs to key in on some really low [volatile organic compound] molecules,” Maughan said. “It’s important that the containment system, the TADD, doesn’t compete with the target odor.”

According to the Army, the Chemical Biological Center and Penn Vet started training as recently as May 26 with the help of Patrick Nolan, the owner of a Maryland-based working dog business who spent more than a decade training military working dogs for Army Special Forces personnel.

“Pat provided ten working dogs and, using human saliva and urine samples provided by the University of Pennsylvania, got the dogs working with the TADDs right away,” Maughan said “Training dogs to do this kind of work, detecting a substance down to the parts per trillion level is an art, and I could think of no one better than him to do it.”

Using TADDS and a specialized training wheel, Nolan works to train dogs not just to detect a certain scent, but “to stay engaged in the hunt for it for hours at a time,” as the Army put it.

Here’s how the training system works, per the Army : The training wheel is central to that training process. It has multiple arms, each one has a TADD attached at the end of it. Some contain saliva or urine from a symptomatic COVID-19 patient, some contain an asymptomatic person’s sample, and some are from a person who does not have the virus. But the choices do not end there. Some contain an inert substance as a control, some have a distraction element inside such as an open magic marker or food item or a tennis ball, and some are empty. The dog is, in effect, paid to become increasingly selective, honing its attention down to just the COVID-19 immune response odor. For these Labrador retrievers, payment is a food treat or a favorite toy. As the training progresses, Nolan stacks the wheels making for even more sources of stimulation for the dogs and demanding that they become more and more selective.

Each dog takes six to nine weeks to train, according to the Army, and the Chemical Biological Center and Penn Vet are working on establishing a proof of concept for a dog-based detection system. But should the team manage to effectively train and operationalize working dogs, they could plausibly supplement existing detection methods in crowded public places like airports or sports stadiums — not just now, but in the future.

“This is even bigger than the pandemic we are dealing with now,” Biochemistry branch chief Patricia Buckley  said in a statement. “We will face future pandemics from other viruses and having a capability like this will keep the nation ready for whatever happens next.

Shelter Dogs And Military Veterans

“Train a Dog Save a Warrior” (TADSAW) is a program to help military veterans dealing with mental and physical issues after missions. The non-profit matches veterans with shelter dogs who can then be trained as service dogs.

“22 soldiers or veterans commit suicide daily,” said Jerry Eastman, a dog trainer for TADSAW.

Jerry Eastman served 30 years in the U.S. military. Last October he was paired with his dog, Jack, through the “Train a Dog, Save a Warrior” program.

“It takes a veteran who has had a mental or medical issue and puts them with a rescue dog to help them both come back into society,” explained Eastman.

The program was started by Bart Sherwood in San Antonio, TX.

Eastman became a dog trainer for TADSAW after finding out the nearest trainers were in Brownwood and Abilene. He helps area veterans find a “battle buddy” and mentors them through training to make them a service dog.

The service is free of charge for military veterans. The non-profit provides the service dog, which comes from Concho Valley PAWS. Eastman gets to know the veteran, then finds a dog that would suit that veteran’s needs.

After the dogs learn basic commands like ‘sit,’ ‘down,’ and ‘stay,’ Eastman helps the veterans train the dogs to be out in public, go to stores, interact with other dogs, and serve the veterans’ needs.

“This way, the veteran decides ‘this is part of me.’ I’m not just training the dog and giving it to them,” continued Eastman.

According to Eastman, the dogs can help veterans cope after returning from missions.

“Take my dog, for example. He’ll jump onto my lap and start licking me, telling me ‘come back, come back to where you belong.’ It takes me from where I’ve been and brings me back to reality,” added Eastman.

So far Eastman has helped 5 veterans find their companions… and he’s hoping to help more.

“We’ve rescued both the veteran and dog when we pair them up,” said Eastman

Service Dogs

The five Islanders who have been waiting for their service dogs will have to wait even longer, since the Lions Foundation of Canada has had to suspend its dog training program due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across Canada, there are 80 people waiting for service dogs trained to assist people living with a number of conditions.

Sam Sanderson, provincial director of the foundation, said the program has been halted, as well as the 30-day in-person training in Oakville, Ont., because there’s no safe way to conduct it given current restrictions and health safety concerns.

“It makes it pretty near impossible to conduct the live training sessions when there’s so much person-to-person and hand-to-hand training. Number one is the protection of the client, the staff and everybody associated with the training regime, so it creates some major challenges,” he said.

“With travel and stuff, it creates challenges as well, with the self-isolation part of it — and all the other factors involved with inter-provincial travel.”

Clients with some of the conditions that service dogs would assist with are also at a heightened risk for COVID-19, Sanderson said.

“Our seven programs with vision, hearing, autism assistance, service, seizure response, diabetic alert, and facility support — there’s challenges all the way around with every aspect of the service dog training,” he said.

Sanderson said staff are doing what they can to continue training dogs who are currently with foster families, until the standard training courses are able to continue.

But he acknowledges that, for the 80 Canadians waiting for service dogs, it’s a difficult time.

“It’s certainly having an impact for sure, because every day they’re waiting affects their mobility, potentially could affect their safety when you look at diabetic alert, seizure response and autism dogs, for sure,” Sanderson said.

“It’s having a big impact all the way around.” There’s no firm date set for when the training programs will be able to resume, Sanderson said, adding that it could be as early as next week — but he can’t make assumptions given the ever-changing pandemic situation.

“Definitely it’s going to take some time for catch up because, like I said, it is at a 100-per-cent standstill. We’re working every hour to try and meet the provincial requirements and get back up in operation,” he said.

“It certainly defers everybody down the line, no matter where they are positioned within the waiting list. So it just prolongs the process for absolutely everybody.”

Dog Robot Fluffy


Like any other well-trained dog, Ford Motor Co.’s four-legged dog-like robots can sit, shake hands and roll over. However, they also can perform 360-degree camera scans, handle 30-degree grades and climb stairs for hours at a time.

These are truly service dogs unlike any other. That’s because they are actually 70-pound quadruped robots with distinctly dog-like mobility. Nicknamed Fluffy and Spot, these dogs are quadruped mobile robots leased from Boston Dynamics. According to Ford, the use case for Fluffy and Spot have been developed by the teams at Ford’s Advanced Manufacturing Center and the Research and Engineering team. Ford’s Advanced Manufacturing and Research and Engineering teams have also developed the autonomous program that is used for the autonomous mobile robot, Scouter, who helps Fluffy scans facilities.

Ford is piloting use of the bright yellow robots at its Van Dyke Transmission Plant. Equipped with five cameras, the robots can travel up to 3 mph on a battery lasting nearly two hours and will be used to scan the plant floor and assist engineers in updating the original Computer Aided Design which is utilized when we’re getting ready to retool our plants.

Ford tells IndustryWeek, these scans are usually done on an as-needed basis, but on average, facilities go through the scanning process every two to three years. “The scans typically coincide with any number of updates to Ford facilities. Engineers design plants and over time, things change. Think about navigating a bedroom in the dark. You know where things are but if someone were to move, say, a rocking chair, you’d likely run into it in the night. Same goes for our plants. Engineers need to be aware of where things are when they are planning updates to the plant. These updates can range from something as simple as installing a new tool at a worksite to a complete retooling of the plant.”

Without Fluffy, the update would be far more tedious. “We used to use a tripod, and we would walk around the facility stopping at different locations, each time standing around for five minutes waiting for the laser to scan,” says Mark Goderis, Ford’s digital engineering manager. “Scanning one plant could take two weeks. With Fluffy’s help, we are able to do it in half the time.”

The old way also was expensive – it cost nearly $300,000 to scan one facility. If this pilot works, Ford’s manufacturing team could scan all its plants for a fraction of the cost. These cutting-edge technologies help save the company money and retool facilities faster, ultimately helping bring new vehicles to market sooner.

In time, Goderis says, the intent is to be able to operate the robots remotely, programming them for plant missions and receiving reports immediately from anywhere in the country. For now, the robots can be programmed to follow a specific path and can be operated from up to 50 meters away with the out-of-the-box tablet application.

The key to Fluffy and Spot’s success is their agility, says Paula Wiebelhaus, who controls her robot through a gaming-like device that allows her to remotely see the camera view. Should an issue occur, Wiebelhaus’ control device features a safe stop that stops it from colliding with anything.

The robots have three operational gaits – a walk for stable ground, an amble for uneven terrain and a special speed for stairs. They can change positions from a crouch to a stretch, which allows them to be deployed to difficult-to-reach areas within the plant. They can handle tough terrain, from grates to steps to 30-degree inclines. If they fall, they can right themselves. They maintain a safe, set distance from objects to prevent collisions.

At times, Fluffy sits on its robotic haunches and rides on the back of a small, round Autonomous Mobile Robot, known informally as Scouter. Scouter glides smoothly up and down the aisles of the plant, allowing Fluffy to conserve battery power until it’s time to get to work. Scouter can autonomously navigate facilities while scanning and capturing 3-D point clouds to generate a CAD of the facility. If an area is too tight for Scouter, Fluffy comes to the rescue.

“There are areas in the plant that you might not want to walk into because they might be tough to maneuver,” says Wiebelhaus. “It’s easier and safer to send Fluffy back there.”

Service Dog Needed

The Roy family of a 5-year-old boy with a rare condition is trying to raise enough money to help get him a service animal, a dog who could help save his life.

While pregnant, Jace Ross’ mom contracted a virus called the cytomegalovirus (CMV). The doctors did not know there was anything wrong Jace until he was born, but CMV was attacking Jace’s brain.

Jace was born profoundly deaf, and tests showed calcifications on his brain and hydrocephalus. Jace now has cochlear implants and can hear great with those, but he was recently diagnosed with autism, which is causing many difficulties for him and his family.

Jace loves playing with cars and trains and enjoys being outside and playing with water.

Jace’s autism and a high level of sensory needs cause him to bolt at times so family applied to get a service dog who can track him if he runs off. The dog is necessary to help save his life and will be trained in tethering and behavior disruption as well as be a furry friend to Jace since many children aren’t sure how to interact with him.

The family has chosen 4 Paws for Ability, the first agency, and still the largest, to train search and rescue dogs for children with autism. It costs 4 Paws between $40,000-$60,000 to raise and place a task-trained service dog and the family is working on raising $17,000 to assist with the cost.

Service Dogs In Training

The COVID pandemic has been hard on everyone, including service dogs in training.

With no staff to train dogs with Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD) in Winsted, some volunteers — or home handlers — stepped in to help.

The home handlers took in 35 dogs that needed a place to stay.

“Usually, a home handler has an ECAD visitor for three days, a week at the most,” Dale Picard, co-founder and executive director of ECAD, explained. “But due to the lockdown and stay-at-home situation and the lack of kennel staff, these 35 volunteers kept the dogs for two months or more. They came, picked them up in March, knowing there would be no way to drop them off due to the stay-at-home order. This demonstrated an awe-inspiring commitment.”

He said the months away did pose a negative effect on the actual hours of training each service dog is required to log before being placed at 18-24 months of age. However, he said they should catch up in no time.

“I’m not too worried about those 35 coming up to speed in their training now that the dogs are on their regular schedule. Lu [Picard, who continued training the eight dogs that stayed with ECAD] will see to that they will be ready to be placed when the time comes.”

Watch the video above for his full interview.

Gold Award

Guide Dogs for the Blind based in San Rafael has been around since 1942. For more than 75 years the organization has lived by its mission statement: “Guide Dogs for the Blind empowers lives by creating exceptional partnerships between people, dogs and communities.”

Thousands of people have benefitted from these words. It is through volunteers and donors that GDB is able to offer trained service dogs free of charge to those with low vision or complete loss of sight.

Months of training go in to the making of each service dog, after which they graduate and are matched with a partner. This partnership offers freedom to individuals who may not otherwise have the opportunity to lead independent lives. Puppy raisers are a crucial piece to the success of the Guide Dog for the Blind program.

Lauren Jamieson of Girl Scout Troop 907 took on the responsibility of being a puppy raiser for her Girl Scout Gold Award. Her goal, she told Village Life, is to get the word out about service animals and to show the impact guide dogs have on people. “My Gold Award addressed how service animals can make a positive difference in people’s lives who have special needs,” she explained.

Jamieson’s dog Dipsea is on her way to becoming a Guide Dog for the Blind graduate. Dipsea, a black Labrador retriever, lived with the Jamieson family from the time she was just 8 weeks old. For nearly a year puppy raisers have the responsibility of socializing, teaching and taking care of the pups until they are ready for their next step of training and returning to the GDB headquarters.

For Jamieson, giving people knowledge about service dogs was her focus. She took Dipsea to local elementary schools to make the experience more meaningful for kids. Using PowerPoint, she created a presentation about service dogs and designed educational booklets filled with information for classrooms and libraries.

“I was proud that students gained knowledge of how service animals can make a positive difference for many people with different special needs,” she shared. “They also gained the skills to know what to do when they encounter a service animal and how they can make a difference through numerous volunteer options.”

Jamieson also handed out stickers,” (a) sustainable method to bring awareness, create conversation and continue to keep my issue sustainable for years to come.”

It was a learning experience for Jamieson.

“I was proud of myself that I could contact school administrators, communicate effectively through emails and phone and implement my Girl Scout Gold Award on a timely basis,” she said. “I realized that it was challenging to be organized, set goals and implement the tasks on schedule.

“I was most proud of my presentation skills. I did not realize that I was so comfortable and good at presenting in front of large groups. I enjoyed creating the presentation but preferred presenting it to see the positive reaction from the audience,” she added. “Through this process I have gained confidence in my presentation skills, organization skills and ability to lead and make decisions on my own.”

Dipsea in a couple months will leave the Jamiesons’ home and return to the GDB headquarters, where she will continue her formal training. If all goes according to plan, Dipsea will graduate and be matched with a partner who will benefit from all that Dipsea has learned over her first year-and-a-half of life.

Dunkin’ And Bark

Dunkin’ four-legged fans have something to celebrate—they can finally enjoy their own special Dunkin’ treats—in dog toy form. On Wednesday, the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation announced a collaboration with BARK, the dog company behind BarkBox, to create these new Dunkin’ themed dog toys, modeled after Dunkin’s iconic MUNCHKINS donut hole treats box and hot coffee cup. The dog toys will roll out beginning in August and will be available at participating Dunkin’ restaurants nationwide, while supplies last.

Dunkin’ guests who make a donation to the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation at a participating Dunkin’ location will receive a Dunkin’-ized dog toy as a thank you, while supplies last. For a $12 donation, guests will receive the squeaky, crinkly, full-of-fluff hot coffee dog toy, and for $15, guests will receive a multipart box of MUNCHKINS donut hole treats dog toy, lined with felt and complete with three plush, squeaky MUNCHKINS donut hole treat toys inside. Like all BARK toys, these Dunkin’ toys are bright, durable, and perfect for dogs of all ages and sizes. Just like their ‘pawrents,’ now dogs can run on Dunkin’ throughout the day.

Funds raised will benefit the Foundation programs that provide joy to kids battling hunger or illness, including the Dogs for Joy program, introduced in 2018 to bring full-time service dogs to children’s hospitals. The dogs bring joy, ease anxiety, and reduce stress for kids battling illness and their families. To date, the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation has funded 15 service dogs across 12 hospitals, impacting hundreds of thousands of young patients.

Dunkin’s Joy In Childhood Foundation’s Chief Joy Officer and Dogs for Joy ambassador, Cooper Dunkin’, a lovable Black Lab and Golden Retriever mix, personally tested and approved the BARK Dunkin’ inspired dog toy designs.

“Through our Dogs for Joy program, amazing service dogs like Cooper Dunkin’, have the opportunity to spread joy to children who are battling illness,” says Kari McHugh, Executive Director of the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation. “These lovable toys will make dogs almost as happy as they make us, while also helping support Foundation programming to bring joy to children facing hunger and illness.”

Dog owners looking for more ways to give back and get their four-legged friends involved can join the Dunkin’ JOY Run, a virtual race challenge inviting Dunkin’ fans across the country to run or walk throughout August for a good cause. The first 1,000 race registrants will receive a virtual swag bag, including a BARK discount code, among other perks. All funds raised for the Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation through the Dunkin’ JOY Run will be directed to health and hunger organizations supporting children in underserved communities.

The Dunkin’ Joy in Childhood Foundation’s mission is to provide the simple joys of childhood to kids battling hunger or illness. It has granted more than $26 million since its inception in 2006 and will grant $5 million this year. Part of 2020’s giving was centered around COVID-19 relief for families affected by the crisis. Since March, the Foundation has provided $1.25 million in emergency grants to hunger relief and health organizations, given free coffee and breakfast treats to 20,000 healthcare workers, started a first-of-its-kind healthcare worker trauma relief program, Hero Recharge, with First Descents, and more.

Lab Puppies Have Big Future

Five yellow lab puppies have been given a mission. Starting this week they start the next step of their journey towards becoming service dogs for veterans.

The nonprofit organization Leashes of Valor trains and pairs service dogs with Veterans at no cost to them. The group typically rescues and trains shelter dogs for the role. but with the help of donations the five Labrador puppies were purchased from Hero Labradors to help the nonprofit meet heightened demand caused by COVID-19. Hero Labradors has worked with Leashes of Valor in the past and provides dogs to trainers under the condition that the recipients will never have to pay for their trained dog.

“Every day we take calls from veterans whose condition has been worsened during this pandemic, the quarantine and isolation,” said Navy veteran and Leashes of Valor President Danique Masingill. “Increasing the size of our program is just the right thing to do.”

The puppies will begin their training with foster families from as far away as Boston, Massachusetts. The fosters will house break, socialize and raise the dogs until they’re ready to be returned to Leashes of Valor and be paired with their veteran.

“I’m so incredibly grateful for the families who are helping us respond to this crisis,” Masingill said.

Once the puppies are old enough, they’re paired with veterans and trained to meet the veteran’s specific needs. The dogs will learn skills such as identifying physiological changes caused by post-traumatic stress disorder, retrieving medicine, waking veterans up from nightmares or performing roles specific to physical handicaps.

Leashes of Valor has the veterans work with the dogs for 16 days on the farm before they go home together. In order to help veterans struggling with quarantine and isolation Leashes of Valor has worked to speed up their placement process. The non-profit will expand its 16-day program from one veteran at a time to four.

“We know how these dogs can help, especially in times like this,” said Leashes of Valor Founder and Marine veteran Jason Haag in a press release. “So, while we don’t want to sacrifice the quality of our program, because that’s what makes these partnerships successful, we need to step up.”

Office Police Dog

On July 20, at around 5 p.m, Ellis County Sheriff’s Office Police Dog Blade passed away due to cancer.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of an Ellis County Sheriff’s Office Police Service Dog (PSD) Blade,” according to a Facebook post shared through the Ellis County page.

PSD Blade and Corporal Klinton Valley served together for the past seven years. Together, Cpl. Valley and Blade tracked, apprehended and arrested various suspects for violent crimes and drug offenses.

Around 4:30 p.m., Valley and Blade set out on their final mission together before his passing.

“He passed peacefully and was surrounded by family, friends, and his K9 training partners from surrounding agencies,” the post continued.

Service Dog For Ava

Last year, Ava Reed and her parents welcomed a little puppy named Maggie into their home.

One day, they hoped, Maggie would be able to replace Ava’s mobility walker, helping her balance, walk up stairs and get up after a fall, since 8-year-old Ava has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a neurological disorder that makes it difficult to walk and maintain balance.

But after the trainer who partnered with the family to fundraise for and train Maggie threatened to take the dog away, the Reed family is suing for breach of contract, fraud and unjust enrichment (meaning that the trainer unfairly received money for services he didn’t provide).

Jeff Tawater, the trainer and executive director of K9 Direction, told The Commercial Appeal Friday that he has changed his mind and no longer plans to rehome Maggie. He also says if the Reeds are willing, he’d continue the dog’s training.

“We’re not in the business of taking dogs away from little children,” he said.

Tawater’s attorney, Jeff Ward, said Tuesday that they have reached a settlement, although he wouldn’t disclose the terms. The Reed family disputed the idea that they had reached an agreement, and the case had not yet been dismissed according to online court records.

Initially, all the Reed family wanted was Maggie’s paperwork for her registration with the American Kennel Club and a training schedule from Tawater after he didn’t meet expectations for training her as a service dog, the Reeds say. Now, the lawsuit means something more, the parents said.

“You’re not ever going to do that to another child again,” said Jimmy Reed, Ava’s father. “You’re raising funds in the name of children with disabilities — ” “And abusing them,” finished Karon Reed, Ava’s mother.

In early 2019, members of the Arlington community raised about $11,000 to purchase a service dog for Ava and to pay for her equipment and training, Tawater and the Reeds told The Commercial Appeal in an article published Feb.5 2019. Any extra money would be used for veterinarian bills, they said.

Maggie, the dog, would live with the Reeds and be trained by Tawater, they said. The Reeds say they were under the impression that the dog belonged to their family because she was purchased with funds raised for the purpose of getting Ava a service dog. They never signed a written agreement with Tawater.

Their agreement “was for the sole benefit and use of” Ava, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit maintains that Tawater broke that agreement when he failed to train Maggie to perform as a service dog for Ava.

Tawater says his organization maintained ownership of Maggie out of the dog’s best interest. This allows him to ensure that a dog isn’t trained with negative methods like a shock collar, he said. It also means someone can’t claim to want a service dog and then walk away with a donated pet that cost several thousand dollars, he said.

Over the past year and a half, the Reeds say they have asked Tawater for a training schedule and for Maggie’s registration — and that they were unhappy to see that Maggie was only receiving basic obedience training.

On July 7, Tawater told Jimmy, “FYI I’m dissolving K9 direction. I will continue training Maggie as we agreed.” The Reeds provided The Commercial Appeal with copies of their text correspondence with Tawater.

All $11,000 of the money raised for Maggie had gone through Tawater’s organization, as had Maggie’s purchase, Jimmy Reed said, so he texted Tawater on July 15 asking for “a breakdown of the funds received and a breakdown of what you have used them for (purchase price of Maggie etc.) along with the remaining funds that are reserved for Maggie.” After some back and forth, according to the texts provided by the Reeds, Tawater said, “That’s not how this all works” and that Maggie was bought using $2,000, but the rest of the money went toward operating K9 Direction, with him agreeing to train a dog for free for Ava. On July 17, Tawater texted, “If you don’t want me to continue to train Maggie for Ava, I’ll come get her and give her to the next person on the list who might appreciate the help.”

That day, Tawater began posting on his personal Facebook page as well as in a Facebook group used widely by Arlington residents about how “someone in Arlington we provided a free service dog for is upset about their free service dog” and was “trying to get ownership of the dog signed over to them and asking about how much of the money K9 Direction raised is left.”

Tawater said he made that Facebook post after Karon Reed posted on her personal Facebook calling him a “terrible person.”  In the comments on one of the posts, Tawater said he was “not concerned at all about the safety or health of the dog.”

“They take good care of her. But she can quickly be placed with another person who needs a service dog so we’re going to court to get her back if necessary. She’s easily already had $10,000 worth of advanced training.”

He later posted that he had five dogs available for adoption — as pets. Among them he listed a yellow Labrador who he said would likely be held up in court, Maggie.

Maggie isn’t the only dog Tawater has threatened to take away from a family. He repeatedly mentioned on Facebook another family that he was having trouble with and whose dog he might take back. The Reeds said they are in touch with that family, but that the family did not want to speak with The Commercial Appeal. Tawater said he wishes he had never made those Facebook posts.

“It’s definitely something the Reeds and I should have worked together to resolve,” he said. “Social media’s not necessarily the right place for things, but when things have been said about you, you feel the need to defend yourself.”

Through their lawsuit, the Reeds particularly want to clear up the issue of ownership. They love Maggie, they say, and would be devastated if they couldn’t keep her.

But they also say they have questions about Maggie’s breeding and her training that they need answered before they can know that she’ll be able to wear a harness and help Ava walk up stairs or get up from falls.

Another trainer evaluated Maggie as part of preparation for the lawsuit, they said, and looked at records of her parents. A service dog that does mobility work, like Maggie will need to do for Ava, must have good hips and elbows, and the trainer was concerned about the “fair” rating for Maggie’s sire’s hips, the Reeds said. An expert at the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, which did the hip and elbow evaluations for Maggie’s parents, said they both had acceptable ratings to be a breeding pair for a mobility dog. At the same time, he said Maggie would need to be evaluated to see if she herself had the qualities to do the job.  Ava is about to enter the third grade. In February 2019, Tawater told The Commercial Appeal that this is when Maggie would be ready to go to school with Ava.

“She’s nowhere near ready to go,” Jimmy Reed said. In fact, it would be dangerous to leave Maggie alone with Ava, said Monica Timmerman, the family’s attorney. Not because Maggie is aggressive, but because she does get excited and can tug at the leash. She can’t go off with Ava alone, much less accompany her to school, Timmerman said. In an uncontrolled, natural environment, Maggie can do just one command, according to the lawsuit: sit. Tawater says that’s not the case. “Training a service dog is way different from training another kind of dog,” Tawater said. “What she has to do with Ava is be a steady platform for Ava to depend on for her balance, for helping her across obstacles or just helping her walk in general or long distance. The most important thing Maggie will do or ever learn is walk politely beside the handler, not forge ahead, not lay back, not jump up or turn to the side or other side, keep her focused on the handler, not on other stuff. That’s a huge part of her training and she has that nailed 100%.”

Maggie is just now coming out of adolescence, Tawater said, meaning she is still calming down. She still had training to complete, but he thought she might have been ready to accompany Ava to school by the spring.

Remington is another dog trained by Tawater through K9 Direction, this time as a service dog for 19-year-old Grace Richardson, who has balance issues after having stage 4 cancer and more than 50 surgeries.

Kim Richardson, Grace’s mother, agrees with the Reeds that Remington’s training has not brought him to the level of a fully trained — or even partially trained — service dog. She cut off ties with Tawater when his conflict with the Reeds began.

Unlike the Reeds, Richardson purchased Remington directly, so there’s no question of ownership. She plans to find another trainer.

“I don’t think he knows how to do that advanced training that our dogs need to make the jump from being a well-behaved dog into the next step of a very well-trained service dog,” Richardson said.

When Richardson split off briefly from Remington and Grace at a store recently, she then had to stop the dog from nearly pulling Grace over in excitement when he spotted her at a distance, she said. Remington can do some neat things: picking up a dropped cellphone, getting a water bottle out of the refrigerator, but he’s not consistent. He can’t help Grace take stairs, he’s too excited to accompany her to church, he can’t go with her on doctor’s visits.

Tawater says that Remington isn’t the dog he would have chosen as a service dog, but that he has done very well.

“We were getting close,” he said. “We were definitely in the last quarter of his training.”

Remington is able to focus on Grace, help her over curbs and accompany someone to a movie theater, Tawater said. But, he agreed that he still needed to learn to walk upstairs and have other training.

As for Maggie, Tawater said he still believes she is on track to be an excellent service dog for Ava and that despite everything that’s happened between him and the Reed family, he wants to resolve things.

He doesn’t put a deadline on training a dog since they, like people, can be unpredictable, he said.

“We would have continued to train the dog for as long as it took,” Tawater said. “I want just as anybody does for Maggie to fulfill the role that she was intended to have.”

The Reeds say they wouldn’t take Tawater up on that offer. Their trust has been broken, they say.

The lawsuit by the Reeds asks that any funds raised on behalf of the Reeds be placed in a trust for the use and benefit of Ava, that the Reeds be awarded $11,000 in compensatory damages, that the court assess punitive damages against the defendants and that the court enter an order restricting Tawater from contacting or harassing the Reeds. The lawsuit also asks for an order restricting Tawater from taking any steps to take possession of Maggie.

It’s the family’s preference that any money be put into a trust for Ava, Timmerman said.

If the Reeds get to keep Maggie, they hope to find out whether she can still do mobility work for Ava and, if so, want to hire another trainer.

And if Maggie isn’t able to be a service dog, a question they don’t yet have an answer to, they want to keep her anyway. Ava has grown attached to her since she nicknamed her Maggie Moo-Who.

The Reeds say it was especially difficult to see Tawater threatening to take Maggie away from Ava and to put her in another home as a pet.

“He sat in the room with us when we sat there with Ava and said, ‘Hey Ava, you’re going to get a service dog,’” Jimmy Reed said. “There were all the promises, all the hope of you’re not going to have to use a walker at school. You’re going to have a dog to help you.”

Guide Dogs In Training

TransLink has opened the Vancouver Transit Center to host guide and service dogs in training.

The new recruits will be familiarized with several buses repeatedly to accelerate their training.

“COVID-19 has been a real challenge for everyone, and I’m pleased to support the training of service and guide dogs in any way we can,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “I hope this training can help get trained guide and service dogs to the people who need them as quickly as possible.”

As part of a guide or service dog’s training’s graduation process, trainers must be able to determine they are well-behaved on buses, and that they are able to board and disembark. The puppies from BC & Alberta Guide Dogs are usually introduced to buses in the field and gradually trained, however this method has been suspended during the pandemic.

“Because of unforeseen difficulties from the COVID-19 pandemic, guide and service dog training is far behind where we’d like it to be,” said BC & Alberta Guide Dogs CEO Bill Thornton. “We are excited to seek out unique partnerships and opportunities to try and speed up training wherever we can, and we thank TransLink for this opportunity to socialize guide and service dogs-in-training to their buses.”

While only one day of training is currently scheduled, BC & Alberta Guide Dogs and TransLink say they are in discussions about how this training could be replicated to assist with training in the future.

PTSD Service Dogs

While recent studies have found the ways pets can help consumers ease stress stress levels — particularly in families with children with autism — a new study is exploring how service dogs can benefit veterans.

Researchers from Purdue University found that service dogs provide countless benefits to veterans struggling with PTSD, though dispelling anxiety is the number one benefit.

“There has been some debate on what kind of training PTSD service dogs need to be effective and how their assistance may be different than what a pet dog can provide,” said researcher Kerri Rodriguez. “This study suggests that veterans are, in fact, using and benefitting from the specific trained tasks, which sets these dogs apart from dogs or emotional support dogs.”

The researchers conducted a survey of over 215 veterans for this study. They were looking to assess how the dogs were aiding the veterans on a daily basis and what kinds of specific roles the dogs were fulfilling.

The study revealed that service dogs are trained to assist their owners in a myriad of ways. Whether in public, at home, or in the middle of the night, these dogs are always ready to help their owners through troubling experiences.

The biggest takeaway from the study was that service dogs were most useful in helping their owners get through anxiety-ridden moments. Though the dogs can’t completely cure their owners of anxiety or make it go away forever, they’re trained to draw their owners’ attention away from the present, stressful moment.

“These service dogs offer valuable companionship, provide joy and happiness, and add structure and routine to veterans’ lives that are likely very important for veterans’ PTSD,” said Rodriguez.

The majority of the veterans interviewed for this study already had service dogs at home; however, the researchers also interviewed a group of over 80 veterans on a waiting list for a service dog. The researchers compared the responses of both groups of veterans and found that those on the waiting list were overly optimistic about the ways a service dog could help them.

While the researchers don’t want to understate the benefits of a service dog, they do want to stress that these companions can’t cure PTSD alone.

“Veterans on the waitlist may have higher expectations for a future PTSD service dog because of feelings of hope and excitement, which may not necessarily be a bad thing,” said Rodriguez. “However, it is important for mental health professionals to encourage realistic expectations to veterans who are considering getting a PTSD service dog of their own.”

Helping Fellow Heroes

Every storybook needs a hero. Sometimes even the hero, needs a hero. Maine’s own Christy Gardner is a hero in every sense of the word. We share part one of our two part series on her mission…

Christy Gardner played high school and college sports, in Maine, before serving in the U.S. Army.

“I was overseas peacekeeping, I was injured in the line of duty,” says USA Paralympian Christy Garnder, “I ended up having to skull fractures, spinal chord injury, some other fractures, I lost two fingers, and then both legs.”

Gardner battled for years in recovery.

“About a year and a half on active duty rehabbing,” says Gardiner, “Then when I came home, another 3 1/2 years with physical therapy, and occupational therapy, and speech therapy through the V.A.” A recovery aided by a dog.

“Moxie is my savior,” Gardner says, “she is my service dog.”

Who reminded Christy that even heroes need a hero sometimes.

“Another Veteran I met kept inviting me to adaptive sports events,” says Gardner

Despite being told she wouldn’t play sports again, Christy found a way to compete.

“I started doing the winter and summer sports clinics that the V.A. puts on,” say Gardner, “The V.A. winter sports clinic it’s skiing and snowboarding all day. Then at night, they introduce a new sport like kayaking in the hotel pool, wheelchair basketball, and then sled hockey.

She’s now been on the USA Women’s Sled Hockey team for 8 years.

“As far as you can go, as a female in the sport,” says Gardner, “It takes so many different muscles, and so much athleticism. It’s so competitive because it’s full checking in high speed. It’s just an amazing sport.”

It helped her find clarity in her mission.

“I went back to the University of Southern Maine and graduated with a degree in recreation therapy,” Gardner says.

A clear mission. Help people, and if there is no way to help, find one.

“I interned at the V.A.,” says Gardner, “I said ‘I wonder if they give us ice time to let the veterans come to public skating.’ We started a sled hockey program for disabled veterans here. We are the New England Warriors. We’ve been in the local hockey league for I think five years and we’ve won the league twice. It’s so much fun to be a part of a team and to excel at some thing at a competitive level.”

Gardner has found another way to be a hero for heroes. She trains service and therapy dogs to make a difference like she felt.

“Teach them all the basics. Sit, stay, lay down, be housebroken, those sort of things,” Gardner says, “And just socialize them and desensitize them to different environments. I started doing that and then I really got into more of the training.”

Which is where we find our protagonist…..

We’ll introduce you to Lucky, who now has a book about him, and see how he is helping Christy with her mission in part two Tuesday night.

Service Puppy Cheers Up Girl

A six-year-old girl paralyzed in a car crash in Wellington last month met a new furry friend at St Mary’s Medical Center Monday.

Six-year-old Memphis Rose Hamman was paralyzed from the neck down after a fatal car crash in Wellington back in June.

Memphis lost her great-uncle, Kenneth Graden, in the crash near Lake Worth Road when a driver crossed the median and hit Graden’s car head-on.

“It was horrific,” Tanya Meade, Memphis’ grandmother told CBS12 News.

Meade was also in the vehicle when the crash happened.

“With something like this, there’s just no understanding,” Meade said. “You can’t understand it.”

Memphis still has a long road to recovery ahead of her, but to make life a little bit easier, several local foundations teamed up to unite her with her four-legged service puppy, Juliet.

“This is what we’re all about, locals helping locals,” Lori Griffith from the Chasin’ A Dream Foundation told CBS12 News.

Griffith first received a call from Memphis’ family after the crash and was able to connect them with the team at “Furry Friends” who happened to receive a new service dog for training on the exact same day that Memphis was injured in the car crash.

“She’s always just had such a soft spot for dogs,” Gayrene Meade, Memphis’ mother told CBS12 News. “When she found out she could have one – I mean to see that smile on her face, there’s nothing better. ”

The puppy will report to a training “boot camp” for the next year while Memphis undergoes rehab at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Philadelphia.

A donor from Jupiter donated nearly $40,000 to pay for Memphis and Gayrene to fly to Shriners next week, but the family’s medical bills are sky high.

Service Dog Helps Woman

Sydnee Geril, of Ocala, Florida, initially decided not to take her dog with her to her treatments out of an abundance of caution, until late May, when she discovered a one-piece suit for dogs called the “Shed Defender.” which controls shedding.

Now, her German Shepherd has been able to stay clean and by her side.

“I’m so happy to have her back,” Geril told Today. “I honestly did not realize how big of an impact she had until I didn’t have her.”

The Shed Defender, or as Geril calls it, “the super suit,” has been sold for nearly four years, so it was not designed for the coronavirus pandemic.

But Geril’s German Shepherd, Tulsa, wears the suit with booties to cover the majority of her fur.

The suit makes cleanup easier for Geril every time the dog visits the hospital. All she has to do is wipe down Tulsa’s face and wash her suit instead of giving her a full bath.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing clothes from an ill person using the warmest possible setting.

Geril was diagnosed in October 2017 with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that affects children and young adults. After nine months of treatment, Geril went into remission and adopted Tulsa to train her to become a therapy dog.

Therapy dogs cheer people up in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care centers. Geril was inspired to get a therapy dog by those visits from therapy dogs that cheered her up during her hospital stays.

Unfortunately, Geril’s cancer returned after eight months of remission, so the two-year-old puppy is now in training to become her personal service dog. Service dog training takes about two years to complete, and the dogs learn to cater to their owners’ personal needs.

Geril’s chemotherapy treatments and fear of needles cause her to faint frequently, so it is up to Tulsa to alert her before a fainting episode happens.

She said the body undergoes a chemical change before passing out, and dogs can detect this chemical change. If Tulsa detects this change through smell, she paws Geril’s leg to let her know she has between ten to 30 minutes before she will start to feel light-headed.

“It’s huge; it’s given me my freedom back greatly,” she said. “I can go out by myself now.”

Sniffing Out Covid

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Thursday praised an army program working to train service dogs to identify the coronavirus in people’s saliva but said there were still many months of work ahead.

“I want to make clear here that the next steps, like for example being able to differentiate the virus from a normal influenza or to be able to differentiate an active carrier are all questions that still need to be answered and so we will need more months to be able to offer up clear results,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said during a visit to the military canine training school in Ulmen.

Service dogs cannot identify the virus itself but can sniff out bio-chemical changes in body fluids caused by the virus. The dogs, considered comrades by the army, need less than 100 microlitres of salilva to produce results.

A variety of breeds is working with dedicated dog trainers and the Hanover University of Veterinary Medicine on a rewards-based system. The dogs are given treats if they identify saliva affected by the virus and no treats for sniffing out healthy saliva.

Elsewhere a French veterinary team is training dogs to sniff out COVID-19 sufferers from the smell of their sweat.

Veterans Need Service Dogs

“Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.”

When we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the ADA’s passage, it is important to acknowledge that, although the shameful wall of exclusion has been dismantled over time, it has yet to come tumbling down.

To this end, despite the great progress we have made in improving the lives of those particularly with visible physical disabilities, we still have a long way to go toward ensuring equality, particularly for those who suffer from invisible disabilities such as PTSD or TBI.

The progress that needs to be made about psychiatric or invisible disabilities has a disparate impact on certain aspects of the population, most notably veterans. As late as 2007, there was limited evidence about the scope of the problem or the most effective treatments.

Since that time, however, several studies, including one released this past week from Purdue University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, have shown that service dogs can greatly benefit veterans with PTSD. Specifically, the most recent study found that that service dogs could interrupt episodes of anxiety, proving to be the most useful, and most often used task the dogs performed.

However, despite this research, the use of service dogs for veterans with invisible wounds remains a controversial topic.

First, when it comes to the public perception of disabilities, our society as a whole remains overly focused on appearance. Although the ADA defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,” many veterans with PTSD report instances in which they are told that they “do not look disabled,” and after that discriminated against.

For example, Wanda Garneaux, a Navy veteran who has PTSD, was denied entry into an Atlanta restaurant after the manager told her that she didn’t appear blind and therefore did not need her service dog. Although Garneaux later accepted an apology from the restaurant manager who claimed to have misunderstood the law, she stated that what she wanted was for “people to educate themselves on the [ADA], and how to support people who are struggling.”

Second, problems with fake service dogs and emotional support animals being passed off as service dogs has complicated the lives of many veterans who truly need a psychiatric service dog, particularly when it comes to traveling.

Importantly, while psychiatric service dogs are protected under the ADA, the Act does not set a behavioral standard for service dogs, nor specify any standardized training process.

According to Rory Diamond, CEO of K9s for Warriors, a nonprofit organization that provides psychiatric service dogs to veterans, “Most of our graduates would rather not fly . . . We realize that their life is getting smaller because of fake and poorly trained service dogs, and we want their life to be big. We want them to have every opportunity.”

Similarly, Gina Esoldi of Next Step Service Dogs states, “When a veteran walks into a public store or restaurant and gets a stink eye because the person before him was there with a fraudulent dog, it puts a lot of stress on them.”

Over the past decade, Congress has grappled with how to handle the issue of psychiatric service dogs for veterans, but there is pending legislation that offers hope to many veterans with PTSD.

Currently, VA will only pay for service dogs for veterans with certain physical conditions, such as visual, hearing, or mobility impairments, and has stopped short of providing significant resources for veterans in need of psychiatric service dogs. This artificial distinction appears to contradict the ADA definition of disabilities for which service dogs may be used.

In 2010, Congress mandated that VA pay for a study on the matter. After years of botched methodology and rumors that VA set the research up to fail, results are finally expected later this summer.

In the interim, Congress can, and should, take matters into its own hands by changing the law and requiring VA to stop discriminating against veterans with invisible wounds by treating them differently from those with physical disabilities when it comes to the use of service dogs.

There are currently two bills pending, both known as the PAWS Act, one version of which unanimously passed the House in February. Both pieces of legislation, which enjoy bipartisan support, await action in the Senate.

At a time when veterans suicide and mental health concerns remain a top priority for veterans, stakeholders, and the VA, and are expected to increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is paramount that lawmakers look beyond the status quo such as standard treatments with prescription medications to assist veterans who are struggling with invisible injuries.

“Mental wellness does not have a one-size-fits-all solution, which is why VA must provide innovative and out-of-the-box treatments to help veterans combat these invisible illnesses and thrive in their civilian lives,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) the ranking member of the House VA committee. “There is no question that the companionship and unconditional love offered by man’s best friend can have powerful healing effects on men and women from all walks of life, including our men and women in uniform.”

Accordingly, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the ADA, the Senate should act swiftly in passing legislation that aids veterans with psychiatric service dogs, allowing “the shameful wall of exclusion [to] finally come tumbling down” for veterans suffering from invisible disabilities.

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