Archive for the ‘assistance dogs’ Category

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11 May 11

by Nancy E. Hassel,

On Saturday, May 7th, hundreds of people and their four legged friends gathered at Four Towns Firefighters Training Center in Merrick to support the Merrick Lions Club 2nd Annual Purple Hearts Pups  “Just for Fun” Dog Show event.  On the gorgeous spring day, families and dog lovers united for this one great cause all while having a lot of dog gone fun.

Purple Hearts Pup became a reality through the Merrick Lions Club.  As a new club starting out two years ago they were looking for a cause to support and get behind to be an integral part of the community and keep members involved.  Lisa Siano who is the chair of the event, felt that something needed to be done for the Veterans because her twin sister, Toni Pincus, is a puppy raiser with the Guide Foundation in Smithtown. Toni’s first puppy, Raleigh, was giving to Walter Reade Army hospital to work in the Physical Therapy department with the amputee’s coming home from the war.  The merging of the two gave birth to the idea of a fundraising event called “Purple Heart Pups.” The Merrick Lions quickly became a 501(c) (3) organization, and their effort to raise money for disabled veterans continues through various activities in addition to Saturday’s event.  “I got involved with the Club simply because two people who I knew asked me. When I first heard about the PHP, I knew despite anyone’s politics on the war, we have to support those who protect us,” said Audrey Shapiro a Merrick Lions Club member and volunteer for the event.

Purple Heart Pups was created to seek to aid disabled and amputee veterans by providing financial support to America’s VetDogs and the National Amputee Foundation.

Check out all the pictures from the days event below taken by Ben Whalen and Nancy Hassel.

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22 Jan 11

Pet Therapy ...

by Pamela Fitzpatrick, of YourDogWalkers,

Pet Therapy

Have you resolved to do something for someone else in 2011?  Maybe you and your dog can team up – if your dog has the right temperament, he or she may be able to be a therapy dog!  Therapy dogs are specially trained to provide comfort and affection to anyone in need: people in hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, special needs schools and more can all benefit.

Dogs of any size or breed can be a therapy dog.  The single most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A therapy dog must be patient, friendly, calm, confident, gentle, and comfortable in all situations. Therapy dogs are “people” dogs; happiest when they are in contact with people (familiar or unfamiliar), petted and handled, albeit sometimes clumsily.

Therapy dogs are trained to allow unfamiliar people to make physical contact with them, and most recipients enjoy the contact! Children in particular enjoy hugging animals; adults usually enjoy simply petting the dog. The dog might need to be lifted onto, or climb onto, an individual’s lap or bed when invited and should be able to sit or lie comfortably there upon command. Some therapy dogs contribute to the visiting experience by performing small tricks for their audience or by playing carefully structured games.

My friends Chris and Cynthia Buckley live in Colorado and have a gorgeous Goldendoodle named Custer who recently qualified as a therapy dog.  Custer went through a rigorous training program through Pet Partners, which is sponsored by the national Delta Society and now regularly visits residents of a local senior living center.  In addition to basic obedience, Custer learned not to react to loud noises, pulls on his tail or ears, or sudden movement.  Custer’s calm temperament made him an ideal candidate for the program. Chris, Cynthia, and Custer trained for several months, and Custer passed the test last spring, earning his official Pet Partner’s Delta Registration status.  As you can imagine, Cynthia and Chris are very proud of their dog, and happy that he brings joy into the lives of others.

If you think your dog might be a good candidate for a therapy dog or just want to learn more, Long Island Dog Directory ( is a good place to start.  Click on the therapy tab for more info.

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13 Aug 10

Pit Bulls as Therapy and Service Dog ...

By Nancy E. Hassel,

Recently at a hearing and protest against Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in Rockville Centre, two petite female Pit Bulls came in with their owners adorned in their service dog vets and ID’s.  At first the police were refusing to let them in, until the owners spoke to them and showed them their ID, which the police looked up and finally let them in.  When they walked past the crowd of over 400 people in the gymnasium at the hearing, cheers and clapping erupted for them. A tiny bit startled it for a second, but they took it all in stride, smiling and wagging their tails.  Wrinkles and Cinnamon are a mother daughter duo of red-nose American Pit Bull Terriers, and Wrinkles is a service dog for her owner and Cinnamon is a therapy dog training to work in psychological and children’s hospitals.

Wrinkles became a service dog by showing in innate ability to keep her owner calm and alerting him when his blood sugar went low.  Joe Caufield, Wrinkles owner, is a diabetic who also suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.  Joe said he noticed that if his blood sugar was low, Wrinkles would stay right next to him, lick him and sometimes bark at him, and he mentioned she never barks for any other reason.  He also mentioned that Wrinkles really helps keep him calm and very confident.  After being a victim of a robbery some years ago, he was afraid to leave his house, nervous going outside and doing things on his own, until Wrinkles who he has had since a small pup came into his life.  Joe said, “Wrinkles gives me that confidence I needed to feel more relaxed to go outside especially at night time. She knows she is going to work when her jacket goes on, it’s amazing.”  Wrinkles also carries Joe’s much needed sugar pills in her jacket just in case he needs them. Wrinkles, who is 6-years old, is a registered service dog through the US Service Dog Registry that follows the guidelines of the ADA.

Cinnamon who is Wrinkles daughter is owned by Joe’s daughter Jennifer Collaro-Visalli.  Cinnamon still a pup at 7-months is already following in her mom’s paw prints and is in training to be a Therapy dog.  Jennifer plans on having her work as a therapy dog in a children’s hospital, in psychological wards and more.  She wants Cinnamon help bring joy to kids while in the hospital, and help brighten their day.

Wrinkles and Cinnamon were so well behaved and greeting everyone at the BSL protest with licks, wags and kisses, (and even the police officers!), and true ambassadors of this wonderful breed of dog.   While many people often think of service, assistance or therapy as other breeds American Pit Bull Terriers are proving here on Long Island and across the country that they are capable of working just as well as other breeds of assistance dogs, and thrive while doing so.

Have a Pit Bull or dog that you would love to do therapy work with?  A good suggestion is that you can take a four week CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and TD (Therapy Dog) preparation class at Doggie U K9 Academy. ( In order for your dog to do therapy work, he will need to pass and TDI test.  This course will prepare you and your dog for each and give you an idea of what to expect on testing day, and what it takes for your dog to be a therapy dog.   And as a Pit Bull owner, having your dog certified as a Canine Good Citizen by passing that test is excellent to have. Being a therapy dog owner/handler is a very rewarding experience, a fantastic way to give back and great way to bond with your dog.

For more information on Wrinkles and Cinnamon go to:

Cinnamon (left), Wrinkles (right)

Wrinkles at work!

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09 Aug 10

National Assistance Dog Week ...

By Nancy E. Hassel,

This week from Sunday, August 8 through Saturday, August 14, National Assistance Dog Week (NADW),, is celebrated across the United States.  In recognition for all the amazing things assistance dogs do for their companions, to help them live their lives to the fullest – NADW was born.  Whether the person is blind, visually impaired, a diabetic, an amputee, has a traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder or owns and works with a therapy dog, we honor all the canines, their handlers and trainers this week.

Here on Long Island we are fortunate to have a two dedicated organizations that train dogs to be assistance dogs. The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc., in Smithtown was started 1946 and has been providing guide dogs free of charge to blind people who seek enhanced mobility and independence. Located in Patchogue, the Northeast Region of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), provides highly trained assistance dogs, that are also free of charge to children and adults with disabilities in 13 states across the Northeast and opened 1989.  Both of these much needed amazing organizations are non-for-profit and relay on donations to continue their efforts.

While the Guide Dog Foundation continues to provide dogs to assist the blind and visually impaired and they also have a sister organization called America’s VetDogs.  America’s VetDogs was created to consolidate and increase their outreach to veterans. VetDogs provides guide dogs for veterans who are blind or visually impaired; service dogs for those with disabilities other than blindness (amputations, traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorder, etc.); specialized facilities dogs that provide physical and occupation therapy at VA and military hospitals. Also, unique combat stress control dogs that are deployed with combat stress control teams to work with soldiers in the field dealing with combat stress, issues on the home front, or sleep disorders.

Photo’s courtesy America’s VetDogs and The
Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind/William Krol

The Guide Dog Foundation has developed a special balance harness for work with amputees and provide refresher training for guide dog users. Guide dogs are also taught “intelligent disobedience,” which means that they will not proceed if they and their handler are in danger.  For disabled veterans with traumatic brain injuries who may also suffer from some cognitive impairment, a service dog trained with intelligent disobedience stops them from crossing a street if a car is coming.

“With the expansion of both our guide and service dog programs, there many career paths for our dogs. It’s rewarding to us that so many more people can be helped by a dog that’s matched with someone who needs it the most – no matter what its job,” stated William A. Krol, Communications Manager at the Guide Dog Foundation. “Each day is a new adventure as we serve people with disabilities, but we could not accomplish what we do without our donors, volunteers, and staff. We are supported entirely thanks to the generosity of individuals, corporations, foundations, and service groups. We do not receive regular government funding.”

At Canine Companions for Independence which started in 1975 in Santa Rosa, CA, and has regions across the US including our own in Patchogue, the life changing result begins with their CCI breeding program.  They use advanced technology, so with their breeding program they meticulously select and pair dogs for breeding.  Volunteer breeder caretakers provide homes for the breeder dogs and whelp the puppies, returning the puppies to CCI national headquarters in Santa Rosa, California at age eight weeks.

Then the puppies are placed in volunteer puppy raiser homes across the US for socialization and obedience training.  At the ages between fifteen and eighteen months the puppies return to one of five CCI Regional Training Centers across the country for six months of in depth training.

CCI dogs are train four types of assistance dogs and master over 40 specialized commands.  The dogs are trained in one of the following categories: Service Dogs, Skilled Companions, Hearing Dogs and Facility Dogs. Once the dog has completed the training, the dogs are teamed with a graduate during an intensive two week training period, called Team Training.

While these dogs are friendly, they are working dogs.  The general public needs to respect this and always ask their handler if they can say hello prior to petting the dog.  As this goes with any dog, it is especially important for assistance dogs.  We applaud all the hard work the dogs, organizations and volunteers do to continue to make assistance dogs a possibile and vital part of their owner’s lives.

For more information on how you can become involved with either the Guide Dog Foundation or Canine Companions for Independence as a puppy raiser, volunteer or make donations go to their respective websites: or