All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for October 2002

Trained dogs serve disabled

October 19, 2002 Saturday
Kathleen Dooley
Staff Writer
The Times Union (Albany, NY)

An individual with disabilities in the Capital Region could become the owner of a service dog trained by Canine Assistants.

Canine Assistants is a nonprofit group that trains animals to enhance and improve the lives of children and adults with physical disabilities and special needs.

Anyone with arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, seizures, Lou Gehrig's disease or other disabilities may apply for a service dog.

The Atlanta-based group is searching for someone in the Capital Region who wants the love and assistance of a service dog. Judy Moore-Padgett, recipient services coordinator for Canine Assistants, says Milk Bone Corp. is offering to sponsor a dog in this area. Sponsorship includes a pedigree Labrador or golden retriever and training that costs approximately $15,500, she said.

The organization was founded 10 years ago by Jennifer Arnold, diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when she was in high school. The waiting list for service dogs was so long, she and her family started their own organization. Since then, more than 250 service dogs have been placed across the country.

Canine Assistants does not charge a fee. The company also provides two weeks of free training for the new owner and pays for food and veterinary care for the lifetime of the dog.

Dogs are bred on a 20-acre farm outside Alpharetta, Ga. There are more than 100 dogs on the farm at one time. Approximately 60 to 70 go to disabled individuals each year.

The service dogs can get medicine, get people to help or get a phone, open and shut doors, turn lights on and off, retrieve items, open refrigerators, go into drawers, go for help, pull a person in a wheelchair and help people with walking problems by serving as a stabilizer.

The dogs are trained to respond to voice commands because some individuals may not be strong enough to use leash corrections.

The individual comes to Georgia for a two-week training. In the first two days they try every dog available.

"We also do follow-up and aftercare. Some trainers may even fly out or e-mail corrective measures for those needing help working with the dog," Moore-Padgett said.

Applications for Canine Assistants are available by calling (800) 771-7221 or visiting

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