Tucson nonprofit helps train service dogs for those with disabilities

Posted at 4:43 PM, Oct 31, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-26 12:18:26-05

Each month, KGUN 9 and our media partners choose one charity to receive free advertising time on TV and radio as part of Give Local Tucson."The exposure is valued at over $1 million in 2018.

This month, we're introducing Handi-Dogs.

Meet Marty Fulton and Luna, her 10-year-old Labrador Retriever. Luna helps Marty pick things up off the ground and brace when she needs to stand up.

"I always had to be careful so I couldn't sit unless I knew I had something to grab onto or a person to help me," Marty said. "And if I'm on the floor, I can't get up at all."

Marty's doctor suggested she get a service dog after she was diagnosed with a progressive spinal problem. As Luna gets ready to retire, she's training another through Handi-Dogs.

"Handi-Dogs is a local nonprofit," said JoAnn Turnbull, the president of Handi-Dogs. "We've been around for 40 years and what we specialize in is teaching people with disabilities how to train their dogs to be their service dogs."

Marty's new dog Whimsy is just a few months in training, a process that can take up to 18 months. It requires a weekly session with a trainer and the owner spends at least 15 to 30 minutes a day on different exercises. 

If someone needs help finding a service dog, Turnbull says they have a special program where they find rescues that can be placed with fostered then placed with families in need. 

"Service dogs can make a huge difference in a person's life," Turnbull said. "So instead of having maybe to rely on another human caregiver, when their dog is trained the dog can actually give people back their independence. They can feel comfortable living alone or going out to a store alone."

Donations are crucial to the non-profit, Turnbull said. They rely on individual and business donations and do not get government funding.

So what will happen when Luna retires? Marty says she gets to focus on being a pet. 

Click here for more information about Handi-Dogs, including their fundraising event this weekend -- "Dogtoberfest."