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The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation has awarded ADW a $5000 Quality- of-Life grant in partial support of our Client Placement process. Sharing news with our community of this significant award in the Reeve Foundation’s 2014 grant cycle, Bridging Barriers category, gives me a special opportunity to say more about how our Client Placement process works as a cornerstone of our 1 Dog: 1 Person program.

Our Client Placement Process is core to where we started as a service dog training organization 20 years ago in pairing service dogs with people who have disabilities in order to improve their quality of lives and independence. At ADW, we deliver extremely high quality services to people who come to us as prospective clients for ADW dogs.

We are dedicated to ensuring the successful matching and public access certification of client/dog teams from the beginning of a relationship to long after, when we celebrate their achievements at our annual graduation ceremony. Placement of a dog with a client is not the end of their relationship with ADW by a long shot! We continue to support the client/dog teams with ongoing interactions and assistance for their entire lifetime together.

Before that process even begins, though, a new client arrives at ADW with individual challenges and may have only minimal (if any) dog-handling knowledge. Keeping in mind that our ultimate goal is to promote self-reliance — and to broaden social awareness and acceptance of people who have disabilities — the basis of our Client Placement Process is relationship building and mastery of service dog handling skills.

It can take from 6 to 24 months of client interviews with potential service dog matches for a match to be successfully made. We engage in a functional needs assessment of the client, and an environment/lifestyle evaluation of the setting in which the dog will be placed. Once a match has been made, the dog — which has already been trained by ADW professional trainers and student trainers — receives “finish training” for the specialized needs of that individual client. The team then spends two weeks in intensive Client Placement Training under the guidance of our instructors.

Twelve client/dog teams completed the Client Placement Process in 2013; some of those 1 Dog: 1 Person dogs were matched with clients who have paralysis, Type 1 diabetes, PTSD or autism.

Especially notable to the interests that the Reeve Foundation has in providing assistance for people who have paralysis is the client/dog pair of Peaches, a yellow Labrador Retriever, and Tess, a client from Kansas who was paralyzed by a lightning strike in 2009. Tess spent two years in rehab, re-learning how to walk, talk and eat after this catastrophe. She applied to ADW for an assistance dog in 2011. In 2013, Tess and Peaches completed the Client Placement Process.

Tess and Peaches doing yoga together

Tess and Peaches doing yoga together

Peaches helps Tess with mobility tasks such as retrieving dropped items and opening and closing doors. They do yoga together! Tess reports that Peaches has helped her to start a part-time job and that she is looking forward to being able to attend graduate school and live independently.

Working with Tess and Peaches was ADW’s first experience with a client who had been paralyzed by lightning. Tess helped us gain insight into the issues that arise from this form of traumatic brain injury. She relates that Peaches makes her laugh and keeps her spirits up.

When the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation wrote us with news of the grant, they explained they had made the award to us based “on the enthusiastic recommendation of the External Review Panel and the Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Committee. The competition for funds was extremely fierce.”

If you want to see fierce, see Tess and Peaches in action.
Please help support our 1 Dog: 1 Person program initiatives by donating or becoming a Canine Champion with a monthly gift here! Click on this link for more about how to donate to ADW.