Toys & Training

Service canine makes a distinction in Setauket’s household’s life


By Amanda Olsen

Being matched with a service canine can typically really feel like hitting the jackpot.

That’s actually how Jamie Sileo, of Setauket, feels. Her daughter Drew, 10, and “greatest pal” Dasha, a pure yellow lab, had been paired in October 2021.

“I at all times say we’ve gained the doggy lottery,” Sileo mentioned. “She’s simply wonderful.” 

Drew has world developmental delays, government operate points and ADHD. The pairing was made potential by Canine Companions, whose northeast location is predicated in Medford. The group is the nation’s largest supplier of service canines, without charge to the recipient. 

When Sileo first began searching for a canine, she first contacted the Information Canine Basis of Smithtown.

“I knew that along with her wants, getting a pet could be very onerous,” the mom mentioned. “So I known as the Information Canine Basis and requested them about it. And so they mentioned that we don’t do it, however you may name Canine Companions. It took one month shy of two years to get the decision to affix workforce coaching and get matched with a canine. It took a very long time, however we had been affected person.” 

After they lastly received Dasha, she built-in into their lives instantly.

“I believe it’s higher than we thought it will be,” Sileo mentioned. “I didn’t understand how extremely skilled these canines are, and the way they’re bred to be such wonderful, type animals. They’re very routine based mostly, so the canine simply sort of fell proper in with all the things that we do.”

These canines spend 18 months with a pet raiser after which graduate to formal coaching on the Medford middle. Coaching focuses not solely on instructions but in addition habits. These canines have a job to do, and so they take it very critically.

“She actually is aware of when her vest is on that she’s working,” the mom mentioned. “If we’re going to a restaurant, most individuals will inform us, ‘We didn’t even know there was a canine within the restaurant,’ as a result of she’s quiet. She simply lays underneath the desk. They’re skilled to not contact something off the ground, So that they don’t contact a single piece of meals or something. We take her with us, even when we simply run into the grocery retailer.”

All Canine Companions service canines study the identical instructions, together with retrieving dropped objects as small as a dime, pulling a handbook wheelchair, and turning gentle switches on and off. Sure instructions are extra helpful for Drew and Dasha than others. Dasha helps with Drew’s sensory wants and retains her protected.

“She does cowl, which is principally like laying throughout her lap to use strain and fulfill her sensory wants,” Sileo mentioned. “We additionally use the push command. If we’re upstairs getting dressed, and she or he’s received her drawers open, the canine will assist push issues closed. Drew tends to stand up after which not understand that it’s the nighttime. So, if she does stand up, the canine stays along with her.”

For anybody contemplating elevating a pet for Canine Companions, Debra Dougherty, government director of the Northeast area, emphasizes dedication over expertise.

“We’re searching for somebody that’s dedicated,” Dougherty mentioned. “Somebody that wishes to provide again. It’s an ideal expertise elevating a pet after which watching it go on to assist somebody.” 

There may be an in depth help system for pet raisers to attract from, and former canine expertise is just not required.

“We undergo a course of with them,” she mentioned. “They apply, after which we do a cellphone interview with them. Then we’ve got them come to a few courses on our Medford campus to look at and perhaps speak to among the different raisers. At that time, in the event that they’re nonetheless , then they go on the waitlist. After they get a pet we’ve got a reasonably structured program for them. We attempt to pair individuals up with a mentor if they need, somebody who has extra expertise in order that they’ve somebody to go to. So it’s not needed for somebody to have raised a canine earlier than, as a result of we help them.” 

Dougherty additionally desires individuals to be aware of the longer term recipient, and the load and emotion hooked up to their determination to boost a pet.

“Be open to new issues and have an enormous coronary heart to share with that pet in addition to with the recipient,” she mentioned. “It’s a dedication as a result of these canines are bred for a really particular objective and you recognize the tip objective, you recognize the tip purpose being to be matched with an individual with a incapacity to assist them. So we wish them to be critical about it.”

Because the household of a Canine Companions service canine, Sileo is grateful.

“I’m endlessly grateful for all of the pet raisers on the market,” the mom mentioned. “We are able to’t thank Canine Companions sufficient for this chance. Due to the pet raisers, trainers, and the generosity of the donors and everybody in between, my daughter was capable of obtain this lovely and intensely good canine named Dasha. Dasha has improved Drew’s life in so some ways from every day routines and her speech to social interactions and anxiousness management. Dasha is such a welcome a part of our household, and everybody who meets her simply falls in love.” 



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