Assistance dogs go to school, lend their helper paw

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“Caring for a pet can help children grow up more safely and actively,” says a COPE Service Dogs manager

Making a positive difference in someone’s life is a win-win situation.

And when you can do it with the help of a four-legged friend, it’s even more special.

COPE Service Dogs has been providing a specialized connection between children and dogs for over 20 years with its innovative Canines in the Classroom program. It focuses on student mental health in a very “passive” way, says Deb James, fund development officer and events coordinator for COPE.

“This program pairs students who are struggling at school with service dogs/puppies and teaches students how to train them to become service or therapy dogs,” she said. BarrieToday. “Students see their mental health improve as they learn leadership and employability skills while earning high school credits. »

COPE – which stands for Canine Opportunity, People Empowerment – was founded in 2000 by Jane Boake. She raises, breeds and provides service dogs, all of which are Labradors.

Some of the student/dog team activities include visiting elementary schools as reading companions for children, visiting seniors’ residences and hospitals, and performing on stage.

“These are all things that most students would admit they never had the confidence to do before attending COPE,” says James. “These life-changing experiences are extended to people with disabilities who become lifelong partners with a fully trained COPE service dog and to people in facilities who reap the therapeutic benefits of these specially trained dogs.”

The benefit of hanging with a dog has been documented over the years, she adds.

“Scientific research has begun to validate the importance of service dogs for people with disabilities,” says James. “Pets, especially dogs, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and play, and even improve your cardiovascular health. Pet care can help children grow up safer and more active. Pets are also valuable companionship for older adults.”

But many of these benefits, and more, would never materialize without the help of a legion of volunteers, she adds.

“We receive no government funding to operate. COPE is 100% dependent on donations, event fundraisers and generous individuals to help us raise much needed funds for organization, training and programming,” says James.

“On average, we have about 50 volunteers working on the COPE team. We have volunteers who take in our puppies in training,” she adds. “We have puppy sitters. We have volunteer drivers who take our dogs to their training sessions and Canines in the Classroom programs at local schools. We have teachers, principals, parents who all volunteer their time to ensure the success of the CIC program.

“And we have many groups and companies that organize fundraisers to help us raise much needed funds for our service dog training. We simply could not function without the generosity of our many volunteers.

One of these fundraisers takes place on September 12. Buddy Up for COPE lets you walk, run, paddle, bike, hike, dance, climb or swim. The money raised will go to the Canines in the Classroom program.

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