Aggie dog graduates to assist disabled
Published: Monday, April 4, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 22:07
With the help of Aggie raisers, one guide and service dog graduated from his first part of training thanks to the campus organization, Aggie Guide-Dogs and Service-Dogs. Due to the constant work of this organization, Tucker is one step closer to assisting his future disabled owner.
Members of Aggie Guide-Dogs and Service-Dogs, AGS, train young puppies to become assistance dogs to people suffering with visual impairment, autism, muscle disorders, post traumatic stress disorders and those needing assistance with mobility.
"Training an assistance dog is a great way for students to grow at a personal development level," said Alice Blue-McLendon, adviser to AGS. "Those students then have to sacrifice and give the dog up after they have trained and spent so much time with knowing it will make someone else's life easier."
In order to be a trainer to an assistance dog, an individual must first go through a long process of schooling. Students must attend four training classes and also complete service hours at the Brazos Animal Shelter, where students will learn how to train using the dogs in the shelter. Once they have completed this process, the directors of the organization then decide the best fit among the raisers to each puppy.
"[Raisers] experience selfless service and the honor of changing another's life," said Kelsey Loflin, junior animal science major. "Above all, this experience is a humbling one, and one that will change your life for the better."
AGS is one of the few campus organizations in the nation that trains assistance dogs. Some universities have even contacted the directors asking for tips on how to start up and run their own organizations.
"Patience is the single most important quality of any of our trainers," said Kara Polansky, senior psychology and English double major.
Patience is a quality that puppy raiser Hailey Jumper has learned as she has trained Tucker for the first year and five months of his life. During this time of training, known as phase one, the dog learns basic commands and learns that it is strictly work time when they have their blue vest on.
"Tucker is pretty laid back and just loves to be loved on," said Jumper, sophomore history major. "I just hope his future owner will love on him as much as I do."
Tucker, a goldendoodle, is a popular breed of dog because he is hypoallergenic and does not shed. He and his puppy raiser are waiting to hear the final confirmation of where he will go for his second phase of training. It takes two years time to finish training a service dog before he can go on to help his future owner live an easier life.
"When we send the dogs to their final place of training, we make sure the organization is non-profit because the last thing a person with disabilities wants is to have to pay a lot for an assistance dog," Jumper said. "They already have a lot going on, and this is our way of giving back."
After the dogs have completed specialization training at a facility focused on the disability to which the dog is best suited to assist, the puppy raisers are asked on occasion to watch their furry friend graduate its final training and meet the family it will be assisting.
"You feel kind of empty when you don't have the dog anymore, but it is really rewarding to see the dog meet its new family," Polansky said.