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/.