NORTH SALEM, N.Y.-Before puppy training class begins, Donna Gleason, head trainer at Putnam Service Dogs, and Nancy Teague, CEO/founder, brainstorm on what they need for their clients. Of the 13 applicants waiting for service dogs, 75 percent need a dog to retrieve dropped items and 75 percent are in wheelchairs and need dogs large enough to be easily stroked.
A service dog has to want to help the client, so people-oriented dogs and service dog need to be able to navigate new situations, possibly crowded ones, and confident, friendly dogs are needed.
Here’s an update of the county nonprofit’s recent activities:
Brooklyn: Contrary to the model of using mixed breed rescue puppies, it chose Brooklyn from a litter of seven at a breeder of standard poodles in Albany. The breeder approached Putnam Service Dogs about wanting to donate a puppy to the school and since the school has requests for hypoallergenic service dogs, it jumped at the chance.
Benji and Bhodie: North Shore Animal League of America (NSALA) brought in a batch of puppies from Tennessee that fit the criteria. Gleason and Teague chose two puppies out of the six that the expert assessor at NSALA thought were the most promising.
Bailey: The Mississippi Rescue Group, Homeward Bound, contacted Putnam Service Dogs and sent a video of this seven-week-old puppy retrieving a ball, wagging his tail when bringing it back. Rich Dawkins, a dog-loving truck driver, graciously brought the puppy up with him on his weekly drive to New England. Putnam Service Dogs met the pair at a rest stop in Danbury, Conn.
Training the puppies: Since all four raisers live in Westchester and the head trainer lives in Sherman, Conn., training classes were held at Jesse Lee Memorial Methodist Church in Ridgefield, Conn. The church is very proactive in helping people with physical disabilities, building access ramps outside homes as one of their community outreach projects.