Sarah Ford | June 17, 2014

Goodwill Assistance Dog Academy graduates second class

By Ashley Hopkins

The second class of fully trained Goodwill Industries assistance dogs graduated from training last week, and they are now the working companions of area residents in need.

Topper, Murphy and Danny, the three dogs that just finished training, took part in the Goodwill Assistance Dog Academy ceremony, which was held Friday evening at Unum. The ceremony was the culmination of two years of training for the dogs, which were carefully matched with recipients earlier this year from a long list of applicants. According to a prepared statement from Goodwill Industries, only 1 percent of requests for service dogs is met because the need is so great. 

Goodwill Chattanooga is the only Goodwill in the United States that has a service dog program. 

The $25,000 cost of raising and training each dog is offset by Goodwill retail store revenue, financial gifts, fundraising events and donations. (Photo: Contributed)

Mason Plott, a Heritage High School student, took home Danny; Bliss Welch of Harrison and the 2013 Ms. Wheelchair Tennessee took home Murphy; and Rich Burns, Cleveland, took home Topper.

All the participants—dogs and recipients—had just finished a two-week training camp that preceded the ceremony. The camp taught hands-on practice with the animals and basic commands to accompany the 90 commands the dogs had already learned in the past couple of years of training. The group took outings to malls, restaurants and movie theaters to practice. 

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