During the 1980’s, Alan Peters encountered some personal losses that limited him and his ability to live his life. With limited family around him, he turned to the next logical source of connection and support, his dog, Molly. As an entrepreneur, Peters immediately thought about other people in his situation, who maybe had health problems and even less support. He wanted to make sure that he could help provide support to people who need it the most. It was only later he settled on providing trained dogs to help people with specific disabilities. In 1989, the first hearing assistance dog trained by what is now Can Do Canines, graduated and was given to a client; 27 years later, Can Do Canines has given over 500 dogs to people with disabilities, free of charge.
Providing the service dogs free of charge may seem like an odd business move, but Peters says it’s a no-brainer: “Our clients have enough stress and daily trials, we didn’t want to add more with financial stress.”
When most people hear of service dogs, they immediately think of seeing-eye dogs for the blind. Interestingly enough, this is not the type of dogs Can Do Canines is training; their dogs have one of five specializations: hearing assistance for the deaf, mobility assistance for those who use wheel chairs as a tool, support for individuals with autism, seizure support for individuals who have chronic seizures, and the most recent addition of diabetes assistance with dogs that can actually smell when a person’s blood sugar is low. This array of training allows Can Do Canines to reach and help a large number of people with a range of disabilities and conditions. The dogs and their owners form a mutually beneficial relationship and become a team that rely on each other to navigate their lives. Just as non-service trained pets require love and attention, so do these dogs, with the added benefit of life-changing assistance.
In most cases, the partnership between dog and human isn’t just about the physical assistance the dogs can provide but also the ability of a dog to lift people’s spirits. According to Alan Peters, this is a key part of the partnership. “Just knowing they have support allows our clients to pursue a fuller life, when a person’s attitude changes, their ability changes,” says Peters.
While many of the dogs going through training are specifically bred to be service dogs, a lot of the other dogs come from local animal shelters. These dogs are being adopted when they otherwise might not be and then being trained to change and sometimes even save a person’s life.
What’s next for Can Do Canines? This year they will place around 50 dogs with individuals, their highest yearly achievement yet, and they aim to keep increasing this number. People can get involved and support their mission by providing monetary donations, volunteering at events, or by being a “Puppy Raiser” and fostering the puppies before they enter training. You can learn more about Can Do Canines at their Woofaroo Dog Walk and Dog Video Festival on September 17, 2016 or by attending their upcoming Graduation Ceremony for the latest class of service dogs on October 22, 2016.
More information is available at can-do-canines.org.
Photo credit: can-do-canines.org