Talk about a win-win situation!
A group of children arrive at school each day to be greeted by a bundle of fluffy Golden Retriever puppies. Meanwhile, the puppies get invaluable socialization and training in preparation for their future role as service dogs.
The Lionheart School, an educational facility in Georgia for children with autism, has partnered with the paws4people foundation, which provides service dogs for war veterans and disabled individuals. Through the program, called the LionPaws Puppy Development Center, the students work with the puppies—holding them, talking to them, and taking them on field trips—to help them become used to being handled. Five staff members have become certified as dog handlers, allowing for an adult service dog to work at the school year-round, even after the puppies have moved on to the next step of training.
The effect of the dogs on the students has been "nothing short of miraculous,”according to Sarah Rosenbaum, director of the LionPaws Puppy Development Center.
Rosenbaum wrote a blog post on the paws4people website stating:
I recently came across the quote “Inside every Service Dog beats the heart of a puppy raiser”.
Let me tell you how this quote can mean so much more for a Service Dog coming from paws4people.
It beats the heart of a child with autism, who has used the puppy as a bridge of communication to the community.
It beats the heart of a child who has had difficulties relaying emotion, and is now able to help regulate them.
It beats the heart of a child whose anxiety was debilitating, but with this puppy by their side, was manageable.
As for the puppies, after spending four months at the school, they'll move on to the next phase of their training, learning obedience commands from inmates. The final stage will be back at the paws4people headquarters at the the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, where college students will earn credit for helping the ensure the dogs are fully prepared to be placed as service dogs.
See the program in action here:
The puppies enjoying playtime (Facebook)
One puppy signs students' yearbooks. (Facebook)