Welcome to a New Year!

I am certain that many are breathing a sigh of relief that the challenging year that was 2020 is now behind us.  As we begin a new year, we look forward to growth and improvement in our ability to provide services to Arizonans in need.

Pathway to Success for Teams

As we begin a new year, this is a great time to remind teams of what is required of you in order to maintain your certification as current.  We are committed to ensuring the health and well-being of all dogs graduated from our program, and as such these requirements are all designed to encourage compliance with all FSDS policies in place to provide for the care of our dogs.

In addition to a requirement that all teams re-take the certification test every three years, the FSDS requires annual proof of the following:

  • provision of all preventive treatments for flea/tick and heartworm
  • up to date vaccination records
  • proof of current county licensing

We will accept as proof of the above veterinary records (invoices, notes on letterhead that are signed by the veterinarian) and copies of county license papers.

In order to qualify for in-person recertification testing every three years, all teams must:

  • be a current FSDS team in good standing
  • be composed of the same two members that certified the prior time
  • verify that the dog is less than 10 years old

Please note that the FSDS automatically retires the certification of all dogs on their 10th birthday.

Save Your Receipts – all teams should be routinely saving receipts for all items purchased for your SD, as these expenses may be deducted annually on your tax returns as a medical expense.  Since these receipts will be routinely saved, providing copies of these to the FSDS for maintenance of certification will not pose any undue burden on teams.

If you have any questions regarding our certification / recertification process, please contact Jessica Parker for assistance.

Classroom News

Keeta & Dani- this team has passed their CGC and PAT this past month with flying colors. We are so proud of this team and their consistency of training. Kudos to this team for the hard work and excellent communication between dog and handler.

Henry & Solomon passed their PAT test and are making great improvements with their communication skills.   With this important milestone behind them, in the coming months they turn their attention to mastery of those tasks necessary to mitigate the disabilities of the handler, both at home and in public.

DeAnna & Scooby (and recipient Tesia) have been working on their ability to train Scooby to cue tasks from the recipient, rather than  just the handler.  This is an important part of the process in cases where a dog is trained by one person to assist another.  They go practicing their training in parks as well around the neighborhood.

Brian & Mando– with the successful completion of their initial skills tests behind them, this team is at work on training for medical alert work.   The training goal for this team is for Mando to be able to alert Brian of impending problems PRIOR to Brian experiencing symptoms, to allow for early intervention and improvement in clinical outcomes.   This team has worked hard and continues to do excellent work.

Tina & Socorro are now at work to introduce Socorro to new sounds to alert Tina to. Using the obedience command of “touch” as a starting point, Socorro is learning t alert Tina, and then go “touch” the place the sound is coming from (front door, oven, etc.)

Soyini & Coco– continue to work on generalizing obedience commands from the home to crowded and noisy public places.  They are making good progress and we are proud of their hard work.

Yamill & Bailey have passed their PAT this month, turning in a stellar performance. Bailey is very confident in public and responds well to all her commands. Yamill has demonstrated his ability to be an effective team leader.  This is an extraordinary accomplishment for a young person, training a dog as community service.  The leadership skills he has developed will translate well into his personal life, wherever life takes him after graduation.  Yamill is a role model for teens in our community.

John & Simari are getting ready to take their CGC test in the next month.   This was not possible prior to this point, as Simari has only just turned one year old. They continue to work well at home and in public, and we expect that they will take their PAT very shortly after what we believe will be a successful CGC testing experience.

Celia & Caroline are beginning to work on task specific training.  Celia is a wounded veteran, and Caroline is being trained to mitigate her service connected disabilities.  They continue to work on generalizing commands in different public areas, such as parks.

Applications Now Being Accepted

The FSDS is now accepting application from individuals interested in enrolling in a 2021 training class.  The exact date is yet to be determined, and depends on the ongoing situation with the Covid-19 pandemic. Interested individuals should contact us for further information.

Wellness Tip

The FSDS recently sent out a survey to all of our current teams.  Though results are preliminary, they underscore the importance of providing regular veterinary visits and preventive care to your SD.  Remember that a SD is NOT a pet.  SDs are medically necessary dogs that are highly trained, and able to intervene to provide the assistance required to mitigate disabilities.  Whether or not you have paid out of pocket to obtain your SD, the fact remains that the training process is very expensive and someone has paid for this.  Please remember that your SD is an investment in your health, and likely to be your best friend.

To date, based on the early responses received, it is apparent to us that the only instance reported of premature retirement of a SD for medical reasons was a case where the dog was not provided with routine veterinary care.  We remind all parties that this is a clear violation of our Code of Conduct, and the agreement signed by teams upon graduation.  Certification for this team had already been revoked.

We urge all teams to revisit their graduation paperwork and ensure that they are up to speed on all requirements for teams.

Thank You So Much

Our sincere thanks to the following individuals / organizations who have generously donated to our program during the month of December in order to help us fulfill our mission.

  • Valerie Schluter
  • Tim Smith
  • Jane MacPherson
  • Alan Lawson
  • Tamara Byerly
  • AZ Disabled Veterans Foundation

We are grateful for this support, and look forward to continuing to serve Arizonans in need in the coming year.

Photo Gallery

Enjoy these photos, courtesy of our teams.  Once the teams pass their Public Access Test, they are awarded their yellow training vest.  You will see that those photos that were taken in public show the dogs wearing their newly earned vests.  This is an important milestone and we are delighted with the progress that all of our teams are making.  We note that while at home, the vests and booties are removed, and dogs are free to relax.