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Dogs give disabled mobility
The value of working dogs can be immeasurable to community members with physical disabilities. In 1989, Darlene Sullivan, a former special education teacher founded Canine Partners for Life. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing well-trained service dogs to people with physical disabilities, particularly those who are wheelchair bound. The canine partners provide these citizens with increased independence and loving companionship. Service dogs are attained through individual donation and rescue from shelters. They are screened for temperament, intelligence, and good health. When puppies are used, they are placed in volunteer foster families who have agreed to love, raise and socialize these pups until they turn one year and go on for formal training at the Canine Partners facility in Cochranville, Pennsylvania. First trained under an ambulatory handler, these dogs then go on to a trainer in a wheelchair. They learn how to retrieve dropped objects and open doors ranging from those on a cabinet to the large, heavy department store variety. They are taught to retrieve a cordless phone in an emergency and are well socialized to a wide range of public facilities. Once dogs are matched with particular recipients, their training is customized to the special needs of that person which may include pulling a wheelchair up a ramp, standing as a support or brace for their partner, and delivering retrieved objects in a particular way so that it is able to be easily grasped. After the initial matching and training procedures are completed, graduating teams of person and dog meet with Canine Partners for Life staff on a weekly basis for the first month, a monthly basis for the remainder of the first year, and then on a semiannual basis. The cost of raising and training a sound companion service dog is between 7 and 10 thousand dollars per dog, however, recipients are only requested to make a $300 contribution. Canine Partners for Life is funded entirely by donations and grants. Here's a great way you can get involved to help and have a fun time in the process. The Third Annual Canine Partners for Life Paws-A- Thon will take place this year, Saturday, April 29, at DelCastle Recreation Center on McKennans Church Road off Route 7 in Delaware. The rain date will be Sunday, April 30. This year's event is being sponsored by Concord Pet Foods & Supplies. The course will be a paved loop of 1 and 3/4 miles and is wheelchair accessible. Paws-A-Thon registration starts at 8:30 a.m. and continues until the walk begins at 10:15. Participants are asked to collect pledges before the day of the walk and will receive registration prizes for pledge amounts from $25 to $250. There will be a luxury Weekend Getaway (for two) to the lavish Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michael's, Maryland for the individual who raises the most money. Having a dog is optional for participation in the Paws-A-Thon, and anyone can join the day of the event for a $10 walk-on fee or at least $25 in pledges. Competitive runners are encouraged to compete in the Second Annual Hound and Handler Classic, a race for dogs and their people, which starts at 9:30 a.m. (registration begins at 8:30 a.m.). Two prizes will be given for the first finisher of each sex, that is of the canine participants. There will also be a prize awarded for the first manual wheelchair finisher with a dog. Dogs are optional for running, but are required to be eligible for race winning prizes. The race course for the Hound and Handler Event (also at DelCastle) is 1 and 1/4 mile and is wheelchair accessible. Participants are also eligible to win prizes for most pledges collected regardless of whether accompanied by a dog in the race. An award ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m., and every participant will receive a prize at registration. Come out and walk or run to help improve the lives of those who cannot. All proceeds will benefit Canine Partners for Life. For a brochure or more information call 610-869-4902.