Melissa Johnson, Marie Krzus and Annie Krzus have their hands full of rambunctious labra-doodles, looking for a home for a year. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Service dogs in search of homes

Non-profit group looking for homes to raise pups to help autistic children.

Whenever Joanne Hall talks about Cora, she cries tears of relief.

Cora is a service dog and has been her son Kai Johannes’ constant companion since becoming part of his world four years ago.

“From the day she’s come in, she’s changed our world,” Hall said.

Kai, 10, has autism and Cora provides a calming influence that makes life just a bit easier for the whole family. When Cora first arrived, she stayed with Kai through the night.

And when he got sick last year and had to go to the hospital, she was by his side the whole time.

“He is the first responder,” said Hall.

Cora helps settle things down enough that Hall can even have time to have a shower.

“The parents have a freedom that they have never had before.”

Cora is one of many service dogs to graduate from the Assistance Service Dogs B.C. Association in Maple Ridge.

The association is currently looking for five homes to help raise five more Coras, to help kids get by in a tough world.

The association, based in Stave Falls, trains dogs for children with disabilities, mainly autism, and is looking for five homes that will take a nine-week-old labradoodle puppy for a year and provide the first part of their training to become a service dog.

While the pups are all about just playing around right now, their training will start as soon as they get placed into a foster home.

Their trainers will put on a “service-dog-in-training” bib and take the pup to as many different environments as possible so the dogs get used to being out in public.

Exercise is part of the program, too, because the dogs need up to 40 minutes of exercise every day, although that can’t be in a dog park.

The puppies are not allowed to visit public dog parks, nor run around off leash, unless they’re in a contained area. Daily training and attending free obedience classes for the duration of the puppy-raising period, are also part of the requirements.

Darlene McKeown, in Maple Ridge, is the first foster mom to step forward. She’ll be taking care of Bruno, a galloping, goofy puppy who’s already got one up on his litter mates by wearing a red collar.

She’d like to take him to work and on to SkyTrain as two early exercises. That requires contacting employers or groups where the dogs will show up so everyone is aware of the process.

McKeown isn’t worried about having to give up Bruno after a year. She wants to pass him on so that he’s able to do what he’ll be trained to do – help others.

“We’re in love with him. He’s so sweet, but we want to give him back.”

Marie Krzus, with Assistance Service Dogs, said homes for the other puppies, who’ve all had their shots, are still needed.

So far, since 2014, the association has placed seven service dogs for special needs children, with three of those in Maple Ridge.

Krzus adds that many families are looking for a temporary dog. For some, it works out to have a dog for just a year because it fits in with family plans.

Handing over the pooch after the one year of training is tough, but rewarding, and easier because families are prepared for the moment when they give up their friend.

They’re also able to keep in touch with their dog as he or she completes training and gets placed permanently.

“A lot of the families, this is what they’re looking for,” Krzus said.

Dogs with calm, confident personalities, usually Labradors or golden retrievers, make good assistance dogs.

“So far, they’re all showing signs of that.”

For instance, dogs that are used to a lot of contact can calm down kids who are experiencing sensory overload. She mentions one non-verbal autistic child who got paired up with an assistance dog, and within six months that child was starting to speak, despite years of previous speech therapy.

“It’s such a beautiful program and so rewarding for the applicant families and these foster families.”

After the five have been fostered out, there are more coming. The association has two breeding females and the other is expecting in weeks.

“Mid-June, there will be a whole other litter to go.”

 

Darlene McKeown is taking care of, and training Labrador-poodle cross Bruno, for a year. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Kai’s dog Cora has helped a lot. (Contributed)

Just Posted

UFV student art celebrated at Interpret festival

Event on April 26 features creative and performing arts

Sister of teen gunned down in 2014 aims to keep kids out of gangs

Jessica Sherman volunteers for KidsPlay Foundation in Abbotsford

VIDEO: ‘Alarm bells’ raised by footage allegedly from Abbotsford pig farm, SPCA says

PETA released video Wednesday showing dead and injured piglets next to nursing piglets

VIDEO: Horseshoe competition coming to Abbotsford

B.C. International Highwayman Open bringing close to 100 athletes to town in May

Judge questions joint submission for Chilliwack man who sexually assaulted girl

Crown, defence ordered to find case law to back up one-year sentencing for Andrew Mullaly

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

B.C., Ottawa talk 50/50 split on abandoned bus-route service

B.C. has paid $2 million on a bus service for the northern part of the province

VIDEO: Vanouver Giants come back to earn 4-3 overtime victory

Playing in Spokane for the second consecutive night, the G-Men triumph put them 3-1 in the playoffs

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

Most Read