Sarah Ford | June 11, 2014

‘Waggin’ train-ing’ a life-changing experience for locals

by Sue Ann Rybak

For the last two and half years, Michael Dzuba and his wife Linda, of Mt. Airy, have been helping to transform people’s lives by participating in Canine Partners for Life’s puppy raising program.

Canine Partners for Life is an organization dedicated to training service dogs, home companion dogs and residential companion dogs to assist individuals who have a wide range of physical and cognitive disabilities including ALS, arthritis, cardiac related problems, cerebral palsy, chronic back and neck pain, chronic fatigue immune dysfunction syndrome, diabetes, epilepsy, autism and many more.

At any given time, Canine Partners for Life has 40-50 puppies being raised and trained by volunteers for its service dog program. Volunteers agree to raise a seven-week-old puppy in their home for 12-18 months. Michael described it as a “life changing experience.”

“These dogs are mascots at Fit Life and Valley Green Bank,” Michael said. “They go everywhere with us. We thought giving up the dog was going to be the hardest part of the whole thing, but some training issues are even harder.”

“We went into it knowing we were giving up the dog,” Linda said, adding that Canine Partners provides support and free training for volunteers every step of the program. “You never feel abandoned.”

“Our first dog Balick would go nuts as soon as we pulled into the parking lot because our teller would give him a treat,” Michael added. “So we asked the trainer what we should do and he said to take her outside and start over again. Sometimes, it would take 15 minutes just to get into the bank.”

Linda said at the end of the dogs’ training, CPL holds a graduation ceremony, and the service dogs are given to the recipients. “We have been to several graduations, and everybody in the audience is always crying, not because their dog is leaving them but because they are so proud of their dog. It’s so moving to see people’s lives transformed by these dogs.”

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