Four new teams are training at Helping Paws, preparing to launch into a full new life together. This class of up-and-coming graduates symbolizes Helping Paws in some ways: The dogs come from four different litter classes (April, Color, Do, and Edge) and the people from different walks of life. Included in the mix is the pairing of AJ and Pam, a clinical psychologist with People Incorporated, where AJ will be a Facility Dog. Helping Paws worked with People Incorporated for more than a year to find the perfect match, and a week’s “internship” for AJ, where she went home with Pam each night, demonstrated the fit had been found.

Together, the teams are learning to smoothly operate with the more than 70 cues for tasks the dogs already know. They have worked together in downtown Hopkins, Ridgedale Mall, and Home Depot, trips that include practice loading and unloading from vehicles. Health care, grooming, the rights and responsibilities of public access, and every other subject Helping Paws instructors have learned to include have been part of the agenda. 

A key day for everyone—graduates, service dogs, Foster Home Trainers and staff—is the second Wednesday of the three-week period. On this day, the dogs go home with their new lifetime partner, moving officially from their foster homes to their permanent residences. It is an emotional day and an exciting one.  We thought you might like to know how it went last week for Brenda and Duncan, Jennifer and Elvis, and Vicky and Chase.  

Brenda and Duncan

In his first night home with Brenda, Duncan navigated through multiple doors and maneuvered on and off a small elevator to reach an apartment door with a “Welcome Home” sign placed at his eye level and featuring his picture. The two shared a calm first night marked by special music, a massage for the new resident, and kibble Brenda had baked beforehand so that the aroma greeted her new partner on entering.  When morning arrived, Duncan proceeded to find and retrieve his working pack from the next room, bringing it to Brenda to begin the day.

“With all that medications and illness have taken away, I now welcome more hair and more teeth to brush,” says Brenda.  “I am learning to speak Duncan-ese.”

Duncan’s Foster Home Trainers are Richard and Fran Greelis. He was donated to Helping Paws by Beth Johnson of Summit Golden Retrievers and trained as a member of the Do Litter.

 Jennifer and Elvis

The service dog Jennifer already terms a “rock star” helped her negotiate steps and demonstrated he quickly recognized which door now means “home” on his very first night there.  Elvis’ support extends to more tangible effects for Jennifer: “I slept solidly for three straight hours, and I cannot remember when I had more than an hour at a time before,” she says. “Just knowing he was there in case something happened makes all the difference already.”  

Elvis’ Foster Home Trainers are Pauli Jackson and Dom Beckmann and Jenny Beem. He is from the Edge Litter (Max x Myrtle): Caretaker Home Bev and Herb Swedeen and stud services donated by Royalty British Kennels. 

 Vicky and Chase

What Vicky calls “this new journey in our life” began with a first night in a hotel room. She and her family live in outstate Minnesota, a fair commute to the Helping Paws training center. Chase was expected by the hotel staff—and complimented on his appearance—but it was his attentiveness even as he was very aware of all that was surrounding him that Vicky noted most. “He responds so quickly even to whispers,” she says, and after a full day of work Chase also made clear that yes, “the ball that squeaks” is indeed his favorite recreation.

Chase’s Foster Home Trainer is Anne Fleagle. He is from the Color Litter (Cutty x Callahan): Caretaker Home Judy and Steve Michurski and stud services donated by The Captain’s Labradors.

We will celebrate fifteen new graduate teams with a formal ceremony this Friday, October 6, at 7:00 pm at Hopkins High School.  All are welcome to join us for the passing of the leash from Foster Home Trainers to each new lifetime partner.

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