• January 24, 2020

Service dogs enrich lives - Odessa American: Local News

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Service dogs enrich lives

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Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2019 2:31 pm

Holmby is a graduate of Canine Companions for Independence where he was trained as an assistance dog to improve quality of life for people with disabilities. He has knowledge of about 40 commands and was paired with Midland resident Chas Howbert in 2010.

Pulling a laundry basket and fetching medications are a few of the everyday jobs a service dog like Holmby can perform to help someone lead a more independent life.

Howbert lives with spina bifida and scoliosis, which affects his mobility.

“Holmby is a great helper,” he said. “I have a hard time picking stuff up, carrying stuff and opening doors. He’s someone I can take everywhere with me.”

Assistance dogs also provide social support.

“They’re just a great companion and they’re a lot of help for people who have disabilities,” Howbert said.

Holmby is the only dog Howbert has ever owned and is “the only dog I have ever seen smile.”

The Permian Basin Amputee Alliance wants to bring more awareness to the benefits of welcoming an assistance dog into a home where they are needed and has coordinated an event this weekend with the national nonprofit to show locals what options are available regardless of their income.

Courtney Craig with Canine Companions said service dogs have a reputation of being expensive and can cost up to $30,000 in some cases.

“A lot of people are afraid to even go down the path of applying,” she said. “Our dogs are actually provided completely free of charge. We want to make sure that people know that so they’re not avoiding coming to us because of financial reasons.”

Canine Companions has matched thousands of assistance dogs with people across the country since their founding in 1975.

PBAA Executive Director Joe Banda said assistance dogs increase mobility in the home and in the workplace for amputees and people with other disabilities.

“Were continuing to reach out to and advocate for people that have survived limb loss in the Permian Basin and these service dogs are specifically mobility service dogs,” Banda said. “They’re remarkable.”

Most of the Canine Companion graduates come from a selective breeding program that uses Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and crosses of these two breeds.

After a thorough application process, a person can expect to wait up to 18 months before a dog is placed in their home.

Craig said the waitlist is more moderate in Texas and could be as short as six months due to the possibility of fewer people having knowledge of the organization’s presence in the state. She said West Texas is one area they hope to build more awareness about their assistance dog programs.

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