TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Lisa Reams with Handi-Dogs in Tucson says the goal of the nonprofit is working to help older adults and the disabled train their own dogs to become service, therapy and companion dogs.
The dogs are trained to alert owners on medical situations they may not be aware of.
“Hearing alert diabetes alert, seizure response. They develop a strong relationship with their dog and a lot of confidence and lot of independence,” Reams said.
The group modified its procedures because of the pandemic, including a fur-tual film festival to showcase success stories.
“We figured it out how to do it masked and socially distanced, outside when we can, having just a few people in our large training l distancing and having less people in our indoor training center,” Reams said.
Michelle Feller is one of those success stories, she says her service dog ginger is a seizure alert dog who also helps her family members who have issues with diabetes.
“Diabetic alert dogs can sniff a chemical change sometimes as much as 15 minutes before a saliva test. She can get me someplace safe or let me know that I need to take preventative medicine,” Feller said.
Cathy Schoonover also signed up with her dog cooper after having an accident at home to keep herself safe in various situations.
“My doctor said you need a service dog to help you brace and get up and that's what he does. He braces for me and he picks up things that I can’t get to. My knees and my ankles are both bad and I can’t reach down and get things up off the ground,” Schoonover said.
Right now, about 20 teams are currently enrolled in the program.
Dogs go through a 1 year to 18-month certification and personality process before graduation. Owners, volunteers and potential service dogs are always needed.
A fundraiser is set for Sunday, March 28.
"We’d love more folks that have imagined maybe that’s something that they can do to contact us,” Reams said.
HANDI DOGS: http://www.handi-dogs.org/ [handi-dogs.org]