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Learn what it takes help train a service dog

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 6, 2016


Learn what’s needed to train service dogs when southeast Michigan Paws With a Cause volunteers stop by the Troy Public Library April 19.

“I’ve been wanting to get some kind of puppy therapy program into the library since I started working here a couple years ago,” Cherie Edmonds, adult services librarian for the Troy Public Library, said via email. “At one of our recent staff meetings, my department head mentioned Paws With a Cause, which occasionally brings their pups into the library for socialization training. I immediately jumped on the opportunity to have a program where people can learn about this great service and get the chance to see a number of cute puppies in action.”

“The patrons who attend the program might need or know someone who might benefit from the aid of an assistance dog,” Edmonds said. “Patrons might want to volunteer their time with the organization or even become trainers for the puppies. Some patrons might want to adopt a ‘Career Change’ dog. There are many ways to take advantage of this service and get involved; we are just putting the information out there for our patrons, to do with (it) what they will.”

Karen French, southeast Michigan foster puppy client service representative for Paws With a Cause, said service dogs are specially bred, but not all make it through the required training.

“Fifty percent make the grade,” she said.

The dogs who don’t make it undergo “career changes” and sometimes become police dogs trained for narcotics, bomb or arson investigation; become Leader Dogs for the Blind; or may be adopted.

“We place 40 to 50 dogs a year and get 200 to 300 applications for the service dogs a year,” French said.

Paws With a Cause does not charge clients for the dogs. The organization is not federally funded and exists on donations. French noted that some clients “pay it forward” after they receive a dog.

Paws With a Cause service dogs serve people with various disorders and disabilities. The puppies spend one year with foster puppy raisers to socialize the dogs. The dogs also are taken to prisons and jails across the state, where inmates train the dogs in basic behaviors such as walking on a leash and staying. The dogs are trained in specific tasks for clients at a Paws With a Cause facility near Grand Rapids.

“A hearing dog will alert the client to a knock on the door, a smoke alarm, alarm clock or child calling them,” French said.

An assistance dog would help someone in a wheelchair retrieve items or open doors. A facilitator would be in charge of a service dog for someone on the autism spectrum, she said.

During the program at the Troy library, attendees may interact with the puppies and will see the dogs perform the tasks they have been trained to do. Two clients and their dogs are scheduled to be at the program.

“It’s nice to see,” French said.

The Paws With a Cause event will be held 6:30-7:30 p.m. April 19 at the Troy Public Library, 510 W. Big Beaver Road.

People can register at or by calling (248) 524-3542.

For information about Paws With a Cause, visit or call (248) 404-7497.