Welcome to a new month

Spring officially arrives this month, and it is time for an annual equipment check for all of our teams.  We remind our certified teams that you may qualify for discounts on equipment purchases from Muttluks or Ruffwear.  This month we offer some practical tips on equipment inspection.  We begin by reminding all teams that backpacks of any type are strictly prohibited for FSDS teams.  Equipment should be carried by the handler, not your dog.  If you are physically unable to carry equipment, some suggestions are a backpack for yourself, a fanny pack for yourself, a walker or wheelchair with a basket or a friend or family member to assist.  Your dog is not a pack mule.

We remind our teams that as the warmer months draw nearer, more people will be ordering items such as booties, and vendors sometimes run out.  Order early to avoid any delays in obtaining necessary working equipment for your SD.

Booties– regardless of where you live, working booties are necessary for your dog.  Though they are marketed as thermal booties, they protect your dogs paws from so much more than heat.  Parking lots may have shards of glass or other sharp objects, here in AZ cactus stickers abound and can cause injury to paws.  If you would not go out into public without shoes, please don’t send your dog out without booties.  Booties can become worn out, and once a year a new pair is warranted.  Remember also to carry a spare with you wherever you go in the event that one becomes lost or damaged.

Balance and Support Harness– if your dog wears a balance and support harness, inspect it for signs of wear.  Is the handle bent?  Is the padding worn out?  Are the buckles intact?  If the answer to any of the above is no, then at the very least a repair, at the most a new harness is in order.

Vest– make certain that the buckles and straps are secure.  If you require a new vest, there is a fee but we are happy to order a new one for you.  Remember to keep your ID badge and emergency contact cards in the pocket of the vest at all times.

Collar and lead– are these in good condition, or are they tattered or worn?  These items do wear out and must be replaced from time to time.

Seat belt harness– it is advisable to purchase a seat belt harness for your dog to wear when riding in a car.  Dogs, like people, can be ejected from a vehicle in an accident.  We remind our handlers that the safest place to be in an accident is inside of the car.  Protect  your dog as you would yourself.

Battery-powered fan and spray bottle– these are recommended if you will be spending a lot of time outdoors in warm months.  Humans can put on shorts and a tank top, but your dog wears a fur coat no matter what the temperature, and can easily overheat.  Consider making these items a part of your “picnic gear” to protect your dog from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Thermal blanket– if you are planning on being at outdoor events on warm days, remember to bring a blanket for your dog so that they do not experience burns from laying on hot pavement.

Water Bottle / Bowl– remember to have a insulated cooler to ensure an ample supply of water for your dog when you are out.  Don’t forget a portable bowl for them to drink from as well.

Classroom News

Estrella Mountain (EM) Campus– our teams are progressing very well, we are very pleased with their work.  This past month the teams have been brushing up their basic obedience commands, and are starting to work on some early service skills.  For example, our dogs are taught from a young age to put their paws up or down and “wait” on curbs and steps.  One day, they will assist individuals with disabilities who may require assistance in navigating steps and they are taught not to run ahead.  Dogs are also being taught to “touch”.  This command is very helpful and is used as a launching point for other skills such as turning on and off lights, pushing a door closed, pushing a handicap button, etc.  Our teams also took part in a leadership opportunity in Youngtown last month, and did a superb job in educating the public on service dog and disability issues, providing hands on canine first aid and CPR demonstrations and demonstrating service dog skills.  Paws up to these hard working teams.  As a treat, the teams were invited to try out the limousine (see Photo Gallery).

Paradise Valley (PV) Campus– While our EM campus works on basic skills, the PV class is nearing completion of their training.  Recipients have joined the class and are at work to customize the final leg of the training.  The recipients are settling into their routine in class, and the students are enjoying getting to know them and mentoring them.  With graduation day not too far away, all are eager to make certain that the new recipient and dog teams are comfortable together.  The dogs are also starting to practice wearing their graduation hats, and photos of their first time wearing them are included in our Photo Gallery.  PV students also participated in the Youngtown leadership experience along with their recipients to practice public access skills.  A special word of thanks to student trainer Val Lugo, for her work in preparing some Power Point presentations for our recipients.  Her positive, “can-do” attitude and kindness to all is valued and appreciated.

Outreach Program

Just a reminder that as of early summer, 2015, all new applicants to become teams and all teams that are re-certifying will be required to complete the Service Dog Course online.  This improvement to the Outreach Program will affect the teams only- the Evaluators will not be required to complete this course.  The projected start date for this improvement is yet to be finalized, but at this time we anticipate that the actual date will be sometime between June 1st and July 1st of this year. We will post more information as it becomes available.  We are excited about the ability to standardize the training and provide our diligent Outreach teams with the same high quality of didactic education as our in-house trained teams.  If you have any questions regarding this requirement, please feel free to contact our General Manager directly.

Many thanks to

Stan and Linda Van Peursem for their generous $500 donation to support our mission to provide service dogs at no out-of-pocket cost to military veterans.

Intern Instructor Lisette Borja for setting up an Instagram Account, where we will be sharing news and photos.  Lisette is also hard at work to tape instructional videos, and has involved student trainers in our program to take the lead in providing the instructions on a variety of topics that they have gained skills in.   These videos will be used for community education purposes.  This is just one more way that we are able to allow our students to step up and take leadership in community education.  Paws up to Lisette for always putting her students first.

Graduation 2015

Mark the date on your calendars…Saturday, May 16th is our annual graduation.  Each year, we seek sponsors to help us provide tickets to our deserving recipients and students.  The vast majority of our recipients are wounded military veterans and first responders, and these individuals have risked their lives for the sake of all of us.  Many of our students are under-served, and despite limited financial means they and their families have provided food and other needed items for these dogs throughout the training process, so that someone else may benefit.  Your tax deductible contribution of $500 will sponsor a table of 10.  Please help us to provide tickets in recognition of those who have risked their lives to serve our country and community, as well as those exceptional students who have devoted the past two years of their lives to help change the lives of others.

Event Planner Needed

The FSDS is still in need of an Event Planner.  If you are skilled in professional event planning please consider donating some time and services to the FSDS.  We are looking to sponsor a few fundraising / educational events in the coming year and your services will be greatly appreciated.

Photo Gallery

Enjoy some photos of the past month.  Our Youth-based Training Program is the only one of its type in the nation, and offers students an opportunity to gain marketable career skills as a service dog trainer, build self-confidence and serve their community.  Students participate in leadership opportunities throughout the 2 year training program, and also build  lifelong friendships with their peers and recipients.  We are so proud of our wonderful students- all of whom are students at Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center (AAEC) High Schools, a college preparatory high school for students interested in careers working with animals.

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