Class in P.V. pairs disabled with dog helpers - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Class in P.V. pairs disabled with dog helpers

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Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 11:25 am | Updated: 3:05 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

It’s the little things like turning on light switches or pushing an elevator button that are sometimes the biggest challenge for Dawn Thomas.

“Its hard for me to be able to reach things,” the 27-yearold said.

But with help of her new service dog, the everyday struggles she faces from her electronic wheelchair will become a little easier.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “This will help me out so much.”

Thomas of Buckeye was one of four trainees from across the Valley who began a two-week program in Paradise Valley to learn how to work with their new assistance dogs.

“The dog is going to be part of your lifestyle,” said Cindy Abels, a Power Paws dog trainer. “They are going to become accustomed to you.”

The Scottsdale-based Power Paws Assistance Program trains golden and Labrador retrievers in 90 commands such as opening and closing doors, turning lights on and off, pushing elevator buttons and retrieving dropped items to help their owners.

Handler training, which takes place at the Paradise Valley Police Department auditorium, consists of classroom instructions, lectures and practice at shopping malls, restaurants and movie theaters.

The dogs won’t be officially paired with their owners until a few days into the program, so their owners will have a chance to bond with the canines. Once partnered, they will provide security, companionship and assistance in everyday tasks, Abels said.

While the dogs cost about $3,500 after they are trained, the freedom it will provide is worth it to Thomas’ mother, Margie Russell.

“I’m not always there to help her,” she said. “She’s always tried to be really independent. This will help her to do that.”

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