On Saturday, May 16 the FSDS graduated yet another class in a beautiful ceremony held at the Glendale Civic Center. Surrounded by approximately 160 family, friends and community members, our students stepped up to the plate and turned over the dogs that they have loved and raised for the past 2 years to their recipients. All stood in awe as we witnessed these strong young woman, all high school students, come to the podium and hand over their dogs with a smile and some very kind words to those whose lives they have changed. Among the recipients were 4 military veterans and a teacher severely injured on a field trip.
Our graduating dogs this year included 3 Labradoodles who were rescued as puppies from a horrible hoarding situation back in 2013. The FSDS was alerted by Veterinarians about these beautiful pups, who were able to be nurtured back to excellent health thanks to the efforts of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) MASH Unit. This unit was started by Sheriff Joe and offers shelter and care for rescued dogs, and a second chance at happiness. We contacted MCSO and our request was heard by Sheriff Joe, himself a military veteran. In Nov. 2013 he invited the FSDS to the MASH Unit and personally handed over the leashes to the FSDS, expressing his wish that these dogs be trained as service dogs and awarded to Arizonans in need. For the past two years Sheriff Joe has attended our graduation to encourage the teens who were raising these dogs. This year he participated in the ceremony to help award the dogs to their intended recipients.
Student trainer Jaymie Cardin, a graduating senior, gave a very moving speech on behalf of all of our student graduates. Delivering the message on behalf of the recipients was Dustin Clapp, who served as a combat medic in Fallujah Iraq.
Also included in the audience were many members of the community who arrived to show their support for our students and recipients:
Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand, who arrived with a generous $12,500 donation check to support our mission to assist military veterans
- Armed Forces Support Group from Westbrook Village
- AZ House of Representatives members Kate Brophy-McGee, Charlene Fernandez and Richard Andrade
- Bruce Tunnicliff, Chief of Security representing long-time program supporter Casino Arizona
- Nicole Turner, representing C.R. Bard Inc., program supporters who recently made another generous $5,500 donation to support education
- Dr. Kathleen Croteau DVM, who has been instrumental in building a strong collaborative relationship between the FSDS and the AZ Humane Society
- Dr. KC Wright DVM from Apollo Animal Hospital, who has waived all office fee visits and provided top notch care for all FSDS dogs since 2009
We wish to express our sincere appreciation to all of our students, families and to those who have supported them along the way. We would be remiss not to add a very special and heartfelt thank you to the entire administration and staff of AAEC High Schools, particularly the Estrella Mountain and Paradise Valley campuses. Without their vision and support this program would not have been possible.
Estrella Mountain – congratulations to our EM students, who were all promoted to second year students during our recent graduation ceremony. With the Paradise valley class now graduated, these students have assumed the role of senior students and have accepted the responsibility of mentoring the next generation of students and recipients. Students and their dogs were present at graduation to support their graduating peers and to introduce themselves to the 2016 recipients who were present that day. They also did a superb job of providing a service dog skills demonstration for the audience. These students also earned their moral character pins, which are awarded as a part of our leadership training. The FSDS has established four pillars of leadership for our students, and they are:
- Moral Character
- Positive Communication
Paradise Valley– the Class of 2015 has graduated, and we are please to announce that we are starting a new class on the PV campus starting this August. Students interested in joining this class must be enrolled in the AAEC High School PV campus, and for information on how to enroll your son/daughter you can visit their website.
Watch for the pitter-patter of little paws! We are pleased to announce that we have selected a quality breeder from who we will obtain our puppies for this upcoming class. The Golden Angels Kennels program in Douglas, AZ carefully breeds beautiful purebred Golden Retrievers from AKC Champion blood lines. The parents are all fully OFA certified, and this blood line has been carefully screened for generations to ensure no history of genetic disorders. We have been promised pick of the litter and can’t wait to welcome them to the FSDS family!
EAMT Training Class
The FSDS, AAEC High School and the AZ Humane Society have teamed up to provide an exciting new program for our youths. Under the direction of Dr. Kathleen Croteau, DVM our student trainers will become the first high school students ever to be permitted to take the Emergency Animal Medical Technician (EAMT) Class. This class will be held at AAEC High School during the summer. Students are given recognition for the FSDS canine safety training and certification that they have already received, and will now progress to this higher level of training. Congratulations to the students who were accepted into this pilot program:
- Tessa Lynch
- Jaymie Cardin
- Grace Ganahl
- Makenzye Allen
- Abby Corbin
- Ashley Gabrielson
- Laura Sullivan
- Dominique Sollazzo
- Karen Molina
- Megan Gruntmeier
- Ashley Lewis (FSDS staff)
Community collaborations such as this are important for our students and for our community, and without such combined efforts opportunities such as this would not be possible. We are looking forward to great things from these students during June as they participate in this training.
Effective immediately, all teams who apply to become a certified team will be able to benefit from the same didactic education that is provided to our in-house trained teams. Certification is never about just the dog, it is always about the team. While a dog must receive proper instructions in order to function effectively, so must the handler.
There is much concern in our society regarding the ongoing problems with individuals who purchase fake certification online, and masquerade as service dog teams in our community. We believe that it is more important than ever to work diligently towards improving the quality of training so as not to dilute the meaning of true certification. The law states that an individual with a disability has a “right” to have a service dog in public with them. Proper certification, however, is not a right but rather a privilege. Like any other privilege it must be earned. All FSDS certified teams are required to complete an education package and must test in-person in order to achieve certification. This sort of a “hands-on, eyes-on” approach is crucial in order to maintain the integrity of our program. We applaud those teams who work hard to ensure that they are able to work safely in public, and present as good will ambassadors for all teams.
Our Sincere Thanks to
- Ardath Thompson for her $100 donation
- Dr. Jon and Kim Corey for their $100 donation
- Anonymous donor for $100 donation
- Gary and Judy Dumont for their $66 donation
- Armed Forces Support Group for their $12,500 donation
- C.R. Bard for their $5,500 donation
- Joe and Margaret Toth for their $100 donation
- Dandy Dawgs Training Program under the direction of Andrea Lloyd for their $50 donation
- Tony Lamon, 2016 recipient for photographing the event for us
- The entire staff at the Glendale Civic Center for their hard work and hospitality
- Glendale Flower Shop for the beautiful dog-themed centerpieces
Summer officially arrives this month. Make certain that you have properly fitted thermal working booties for your dog. The pavement can get quite hot and result in serious burns to your dogs paws. FSDS certified teams are eligible to purchase deeply discounted booties. Our teams are encouraged to contact us to learn more. Some other reminders for summer are:
- Carry cool water and a travel bowl for your dog whenever you leave the house
- Limit outdoors time to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke
- Walk on designated paths in public areas, snakes can hide in grassy areas
- Think twice before your asking your dog to retrieve a dropped object from hot pavement, this could lead to burns to their nose, lips and tongue