Canine Assistants’ June 2013 graduation recognized 12 dogs and their 13 new owners for completing a two-week intensive recipient camp at the Milton-based nonprofit, which provides service dogs to improve the lives of children and adults all over the country with physical disabilities, seizure conditions and other special needs.
“We are one of the only organizations in the country that places the dogs at no cost to their recipients, which is a $20,500 sponsorship,” said Frances Rosemeyer, programs coordinator.
She said the dogs begin training at about two or three days old and are trained for about 18 months.
“They learn things like turning the lights on and off, tugging open and pawing closed doors, picking up things you drop [and] going for help in an emergency,” said founder and executive director Jennifer Arnold.
“The diabetic alert dogs learn to recognize high and low blood sugar [levels],” she added. “The seizure response dogs … are taught to respond in the way that most benefits the individual recipient.”
Arnold said Canine Assistants holds about five or six graduations a year. Though Thursday’s event was a happy occasion, she found herself on the verge of tears a few times.
“It’s a privilege to send them home with the dogs and to know that they’ll always be part of our family, but we’re going to miss them — people and dogs,” she said.
Past graduates of the program keep Canine Assistants staff updated with news about the dogs and their lives with their assistants. Arnold said she bonds with the recipients and their families during the two-week camps where recipients learn how to work with their dogs.
“We have a waiting list [for the program] that’s so long that by the time people make it to the top of the waiting list, they’re pretty extraordinary,” she said.