Educating children about the role of service dogs

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Screen Shot 2013 01 26 at 11.20.56 AMQuincy, a 4 year old golden retriever, is giving kids an education.  The service dog, along with his owner Benny Wilkerson, visited 270 elementary school students in Ottawa Lake to demonstrate his many skills.  Wilkerson has multiple sclerosis, and he got Quincy 9 months ago to help him with tasks that he can’t always manage on his own.

Quincy can open and close doors, pick up items from the floor that Wilkerson can’t reach from his wheelchair, and even retrieve the phone.  But that’s not all, says Wilkerson, “He’s not just a service dog, but he’s a therapy dog too,” Mr. Wilkerson said. “He helps my blood pressure. He helps my anxiety. And he helps my depression. It’s just amazing what he’s done to change my life.”

Wilkerson and Quincy visited the school children along with Jenny Barlos, client services director at Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence, not to show off Quincy’s many talents but to help them understand the role of assistance dogs better and to show how much they can bring to the lives of their people.  When Pamela Ouelette, 11, a fifth grader who lives in Lambertville asked what Quincy would do if someone tried to attack Wilkerson, he replied that Quincy would bark and alert others to possible trouble. “Dogs are very protective of their people,” Ms. Barlos said. “Criminals would probably tend to avoid someone with a dog.”

The presentation was arranged by Mr. Wilkerson’s daughter, Ms. Calhoun, who also is hosting a fund-raising dinner called “Pasta for Pooches” for the assistance dogs organization.  And the school principal is organizing a donation box so that students can drop off items from the assistance dog group’s wish list. “What a difference Quincy has made in my dad’s life,” Ms. Calhoun said, saying that she is organizing the dinner to show her gratitude for the work that ADAI does to help people like her father.