Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A charity worth your dough

It is high time I put the arm on my friends and relatives for a donation to Dogs for the Deaf, the splendid Oregon charitable organization that trained Trooper to be not only my buddy but also my ears.

Listen. It takes four to six months of training and testing before a pooch is ready to go out and work as a full-fledged service dog for the deaf. After that, a trainer travels with the dog to the client for a week of placement.

These things are not cheap. Nor is the continuing attention Dogs for the Deaf gives to maintaining the health and training of the dogs it has placed. Over the life of an assistance dog, the organization’s expenses can run as high as $25,000. These are valuable animals.

To the client there is no charge except a $50 application fee and a $500 good-faith deposit that is returned after one year. (I’ll bet most of us just turn the money back to Dogs for the Deaf as a donation.)

If you go to the organization’s website, you will see that deaf folks aren’t the only people it trains dogs for. There are also “program assistance dogs” for organizations that work with teachers, doctors and health personnel who treat special needs children and others with disabilities. These dogs are a great calming influence.

Dogs for the Deaf is restarting its autism assistance dog program, put on hiatus because the group had a hard time finding suitable dogs among the shelter rescues it takes pride in acquiring. Shelter dogs are often abused and may not be temperamentally suitable for autism work. They need to be utterly laid-back and unflappable. Dogs for the Deaf most likely will acquire its autism dogs either from breeders or breed its own.

Only about 30 per cent of the shelter dogs recruited make it through the program, and that number is winnowed down even more in the rigorous testing required for certification. Those who don’t make the grade are not returned to the shelters but are put up for local adoption as “career change dogs.” They’re perfectly happy and healthy, and often surprisingly well trained, but just not suited to be working dogs.

Even a small donation to Dogs for the Deaf will make these good folks happy. Me, too.

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