Is your dog just lazing around the house? Would he or she enjoy a job interacting with people instead? Well you are in luck because this summer there are at least three ways for you and/or your dog to start getting involved.
If your dog loves people then Paw Patrol or Paws 4 Healing might be good programs to check out and luckily, both have informational meetings coming up where you can learn more.
Devils Postpile National Monument started Paw Patrol last year as a pilot program with six dogs and their handlers.
“We started this program because we recognized that a lot of our visitors were bringing their dogs to the monument and that Mammoth is a pretty dog-friendly community,” explained Maureen Finnerty, Devils Postpile Supervisory Ranger. “We felt like this program was a positive way to reach out not only to monument visitors, but also to provide an opportunity for locals to engage in a fun and rewarding volunteer opportunity in which they could also work with their dogs.”
Devils Postpile is one of a handful of national park sites that allow dogs, and being surrounded by the Inyo National Forest, which allows dogs everywhere in the Reds Meadow Valley, Finnerty and the Postpile felt like this was a great opportunity to engage dog owners and dog lovers in monument resources in a positive way.
Paw Patrol was originally started in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. In the program handlers and their canine companions volunteer their time to patrol monument trails between the Devils Postpile Ranger Station and Rainbow Falls, providing education and assistance to all park visitors. The canine volunteers also provide examples of positive dog behavior and volunteers are available to assist dog owners with questions about leash laws, provide waste bags, and in rare cases, leashes for visitors who didn’t bring one. The volunteers receive training in all aspects of park operations, natural and cultural resources, regulations, and in handling emergency situations. Their dogs are required to take and pass either the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test, or possess a recognized therapy dog certification. The dogs also must be good in crowded situations and must generally love interacting with people.
“Visitors love petting and photographing the Paw Patrol dogs, so being attention hounds, for lack of a better term, is important too,” Finnerty said.
With Devils Postpile tentatively set to open May 25 (weather dependent), dogs and their handlers would most likely go to work sometime around June 21, Finnerty said. Volunteers are asked to commit to 24 hours/season of volunteer time, which includes training.
If you’d like to learn more about Paw Patrol attend the informational meeting this Tuesday, April 23 from 4-6 p.m. at the Mammoth Lakes Library in the Ellie Randol Reading Room.
Paws 4 Healing
If you’d like to stay a little closer to town then Paws 4 Healing is another great opportunity for you and your pet to work together.
Paws 4 Healings is the local therapy pet organization and an affiliate group of Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society). Barbi McCoy is the Eastern Sierra chapter leader. Paws 4 Healing provides Animal Assisted Activities/Therapy services at Mammoth Hospital, Northern Inyo Hospital, Bishop Care Center, Sterling Heights, Inyo-Mono Association for the Handicapped, Mammoth Elementary School, Bishop Elementary School, and Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra’s Annual Springtacular, among others.
“In order to become a local therapy team with your pet (our organization is currently using only dogs but cats, rabbits, and even rats have been registered as therapy animals), volunteers are required to take an online Pet Partners’ Therapy Animal Handler Course,” said member Anne Parkes. “A health screening is then required by a veterinarian. Then the handler and the pet must complete a skills and aptitude evaluation.”
Paws 4 Healing allows you to volunteer as much or as little as you would like but it is recommended that teams make at least one visit per month.
To learn more about this program, head to the Mammoth Lakes Library on Monday, April 29 at 5:30 p.m. for an informational meeting.
Both Paw Patrol and Paws 4 Healing allow you to work with your own pet. Neither program is looking for the “perfect” dog, but simply a dog that works well with its owner, enjoys the work and being around people.
“Perfect obedience is always a plus but not a requirement,” Parkes said. “Basic knowledge of basic commands is required (sit, down, stay, come, leave it) but does not need to be perfect.”
“As long as the dog has passed the Canine Good Citizen test or has a therapy dog certification, and does well with a couple of park specific evaluation elements, they can be in the program,” added Finnerty in regard to the Paw Patrol program. “The common thread with all the dogs [last year] was that they were mindful of their handler and accepted corrections.”
Guide Dogs Puppy Training
While this option is more of a job for you, the human, it can be shared with your current pets, but you’ll be doing the work.
Eastern Sierra Guide Puppies is the local puppy-raising chapter for Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) and was started by Betsy Thomsen and her husband about three years ago. Thomsen continues to serve as the club’s leader.
“Everything revolves around getting puppies ready to lead a blind person,” Thomsen explained. Those interested usually take about two months to prepare to receive their puppy. The local chapter meets 2-3 times per month and those interested are encouraged to begin attending these meetings.
You may remember Jaymin, who was raised by Mammoth local Leigh Gaasch through the Eastern Sierra Guide Puppies chapter. She went on to become a breeding dog for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Gaasch is currently raising a second puppy, Falana, as is Parkes, who is raising Javier.
Parkes was inspired to get involved when she learned more about the program. GDB provides the dog free of charge to the visually impaired person; volunteers CAN have pet dogs, cats, birds, kids, etc.; you can volunteer as a puppy sitter (puppy-sit for a local puppy raiser), be a puppy starter (raise a puppy for the first three months and then pass him on to be raised by someone else); and co-raise a puppy.
“Basically, there are more volunteer opportunities and options than people may think,” Parkes said.
“You just need a love for dogs and the commitment,” Thomsen added. A fenced yard helps, but can be worked around if unavailable.
Puppy raisers receive their puppies when they are about 8-10 weeks old, and if you decide to keep them for the full timeframe, they stay with you until they are about 14-16 months of age when they are returned to the GDB campus.
“It’s sad when the puppies leave and people do cry,” Thomsen, who began working with GDB 10 years ago while living in Seattle, said. “But we have to remember why we are doing this. It changes peoples’ lives. When you see the freedom and confidence it gives a blind person, you realize it’s worth it.”
Puppy raisers are responsible for buying food and toys for the puppy, but vet bills are covered by GDB.
If you are interested in this program, attend the informational meeting on April 29 at the Mammoth Lakes Library at 6:30 p.m. (immediately following the Paws 4 Healings meeting).
Can’t make these meetings but still interested?
Contact Finnerty for Paw Patrol at 760.709.0427 or Maureen_finnerty@nps.gov.
For Paws 4 Healing or Eastern Sierra Guide Puppies, contact Anne Parkes at 760.934.9900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.