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April 23, 2008

Wheelchair Service Dogs Meet Their New Kid Partners

The first ever South Florida "wheelchair dog'' class is being held at Coral Gables' Village of Merrick Park. Three special-needs children in South Florida are being educated to receive specially trained service dogs.

   The classes are held daily until Sunday April 27th at Store 3210, 3rd floor, Village of Merrick Park. At the conclusion of the classes, the service dogs will be donated by New Horizons Service Dogs to the children. New Horizons Service Dogs is an Orlando based not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving persons with disabilities in Florida by providing them certified service dogs.

   The three specially-trained service dogs and special-needs children will work as a team. The dogs help the physically disabled children accomplish tasks such as retrieving dropped or hard-to-reach items, turning light switches on and off, pulling wheelchairs, opening and closing doors, and many other tasks.

  Each service dog costs about $20,000 from birth to placement and is given to the recipient at no charge. While New Horizons normally conducts the "wheelchair dog'' classes in Orlando, the organization decided to teach this class in Miami because all the recipients are children from South Florida.

   For 10 intensive days, the dog and the recipient train together. Team training is important to ensure a quality working relationship that will provide increased independence to the disabled partner. In addition to the classes, the child/dog team will go through the mall performing tasks that would be taken for granted by able-bodied people. Upon successful completion of training, the dog is certified and the team graduates.

   New Horizon Service Dogs and their trainers prepare each dog to give a lifetime of unconditional love, mobility, independence and service to a person with disabilities. Additional information about New Horizons Service Dogs is available at http://www.newhorizonsservicedogs.org/.


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Hello...My sister (CarolAnn) has an amazing dog that has so much spunk, and inner drive. She is a true "pernine" (half person/half canine). Her name is Snickers. CarolAnn and I rescued her about 10 yrs ago from an abusive home. I took her to my home first, and she yearned to be with my sister whom lives 5 doors up from me. Smart girl that she is,Snicks used to sit on the edge of my yard, just staring longingly up at her house...I would say, "OK Snicks, go up to see your Auntie Carol..." In time, I became the Auntie and Carol and Snicks were reunited, because it came well established that she had a deep link with my sister and was twin souls with my sisters previous dog Sheba". CarolAnn has had many pets through the years that she has remained devouted to, and was a conscientious pet owner. She cared for her animals to the very end. Now...this brings us back to Snickers...she has a serious hip displacement problem that has injured her numerous times because of not being able to hold herself up. CarolAnn has ramps and rugs throughout the house, but Snicks as an old gentle girl still wants to run and does so when her hips go back into joint, she is so free...Now, I looked into a wheelchair for dogs and it costs a lot of money...like $395. I am asking that if anyone reads this letter and is aware of a charitable venue that could assist in providing one of these for Snickers and CarolAnn. I would be very grateful, and would be sure to pay it forward. Please forward to any or all who could help. I thank you from my heart. Most sincerely, Annette Maddox

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