In 1979, Marty Jansen asked friend Michael Sapp, a dog trainer, to teach the family terrier to alert Marty and his wife, Dianne, to sounds around their Grandville, Mich., house.
Sapp did, and soon other deaf and hearing impaired people began to show up, asking if they could have their dogs trained to help them, too. Thus began Ears for the Deaf, which later became Paws With A Cause as the organization expanded to include dogs to help people with lupus, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gherig's disease, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and other disabilities.
After World War II, many programs were organized to train dogs to assist people who were blind. But up to the 1970s, few organizations trained dogs for people with other disabilities. The few often required clients to travel to a training center at a personal cost of $2,500 to $5,000.
Outside of programs that train dogs to help the blind, Paws is one of the nation's biggest providers of assistance dogs. Grants from organizations such as the United Way and individual donations allow Paws to provide dogs at no cost to clients.
Other Paws tidbits:
The organization trains service dogs that perform tasks such as opening doors, turning light switches on/off and picking up objects; hearing dogs that alert people to basic sounds like a smoke alarm, doorbell or crying baby; and combination dogs trained for dual purposes, such as one trained as a hearing and service dog, for example.
Paws, which has 120 field trainers around the country, introduced the concept of instructors training clients in their own homes and communities.
It gets 95 percent of its hearing dogs and 35 percent of service dogs from animal shelters and humane societies. Paws also accepts dog/puppy donations from the general public, rescue organizations and breeders. A limited number of puppies are bred for the program.
Hearing dogs are ready for placement after two months of full-time training; service dogs need six months of training.
The cost to breed/rescue, raise, train and place an assistance dog is more than $12,000.
For more information about Paws With a Cause, call (800) 253-PAWS. Or
visit its web site at www.pawscause.org/pawshome.htm
on the Internet.