Warrior Canine Connection (WCC) is proud to support International Assistance Dog Week, an upcoming observance created to celebrate assistance dog trainers, volunteers, puppy raisers and handlers all over the world during the week of August 7-13.
“Everyone loves an assistance dog, and quite rightly the dogs tend to take center stage,” says Chris Diefenthaler, Executive Director of Assistance Dogs International (ADI). “International Assistance Dog Week is a chance for us to recognize and celebrate the people at the other end of the leash — those who devote their time and expertise to ensuring ADI certified assistance dogs are trained and work to the highest standards.”
ADI is the world’s leading standards-setter and accreditation body for training assistance dogs. In 2021, ADI’s 144 member programs had more than 11,000 puppies in training and over 27,000 active teams, including guide dogs, hearing dogs, medical alert dogs, mobility service dogs, autism dogs, dementia dogs and PTSD dogs. Nearly 9,000 potential clients are on a waiting list for an ADI certified assistance dog.
“Assistance Dogs International (ADI) members play a key role promoting disability rights and access to health and social care, employment, education, transport, hospitality and public spaces. Many are at the cutting edge of research and innovation in specialist fields such as behavioral science or genetics. None of that would be possible without the people at the other end of the leash,” says Diefenthaler.
WCC is proud to be an accredited member of ADI. The nonprofit’s Mission Based Trauma Recovery (MBTR) training program enlists Service Members and Veterans who are in recovery to help train the dogs for their fellow Warriors. Anchored in performing a military support mission, the participants in WCC’s MBTR program concurrently benefit from the program while serving others. Program participants receive therapeutic benefits from skills development in communication, confidence building, accountability, emotional regulation, and patience to promote an act of service.
To date, WCC has placed 114 assistance dogs with Service Members and Veterans, and Warriors have completed more than 6,000 MBTR hours. Besides pairing highly trained dogs with Veterans, it has helped create relationships that have positively impacted the lives of many Veterans, like Dian Smith, and many others.
An Air Force Veteran, Smith was paired with WCC service dog Chuck after post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) prevented her from living the life she wanted. She shared, “Because I have Chuck, using the tools I’ve learned from my doctors, coupled together is much more effective. When I’m stressed, he recognizes that and alerts me by nudging my hand with his nose. If I don’t react to that, he’ll jump up and let me know. We’re just so in-tune with each other.”
Air Force Veteran Ryan Garrison who has assistance dog Luke, says having an assistance dog significantly changed his life for the better.
“I really can’t say enough about what Warrior Canine Connection and my service dog Luke have done for me,” said U.S. Staff Sergeant E5 Ryan Garrison. “Thanks to Luke, my anxiety is under control, I’ve significantly decreased the medication I take, and he’s really helped me with my mobility. It’s not just that though — since being matched with Luke, I have a whole different outlook on life — a positive one.”
Garrison and Luke were bestowed the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) prestigious Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) for Luke’s support and their special relationship in 2020.
Class of WCC 2019 graduates, Air Force Veteran Ryan Boyles and Tommy II, also benefit from a very special animal-canine bond. Boyles speaks openly about the many benefits his assistance dog, Tommy, has provided him.
“Tommy has given me my freedom back to go and do stuff outside of my home and with my family,” said Ryan. “I really struggle with crowds and feeling trapped, and Tommy really helps me out with that. Thanks to him, I’ve been able to travel with my wife and boys and I feel more comfortable in many different situations. I used to not be a pleasant person to be around. He helps to calm me and bring balance to my life. My wife has told me she noticed an immediate difference in my temperament once I got Tommy.”
We hope you will share your support for assistance dogs and those who help make these special relationships possible for those in need the world over. Be on the lookout for hashtag #IADW2022 from August 7-13 on social channels to support this important observance!