Service Dog Column: When dogs match, they do wonders

Our dogs are not perfect for every person, but when they do match, it can do wonders. 

I had a letter from the father of a child recipient of one of our dogs.

“We first met about five years ago when I was seeking knowledge and advice. Back then, my son could not walk without using cumbersome walkers and crutches. 

“I was adamant that I wanted to keep him out of a wheelchair. My son lacked confidence and was facing depression. He was struggling in school. 

“I was confused and overwhelmed. You sat with me and taught me what these large, gentle dogs could do. You told me to visit the farm is often as I could and help out with chores. 

“I did my best, and you kept your word. Two years later, you gifted my son with a strong, beautiful, and well-trained service dog. 

“It was a lot of work for them at first, but soon my son and his dog were working together as a team. Later that year, my son walked into high school his freshman year for the first time ever without needing a walker or crutches. 

“In time, his confidence grew and his grades improved. I am pleased to report he’s currently an honor roll student looking at colleges.  

“You and your staff at Service Dog Project have given my son a gift that no therapist, doctor, or even priest could have done.

“The most amazing part of this story is the fact that you have done this over 200 times for other people. 

“You started this great mission of learning, teaching, and training these amazing animals into service dogs that then go on to improve the lives of so many people who are in need of assistance.

“Thank you for your positive impact to our community and beyond. Let us all remember to follow the example of “never stop learning” and, of course, help others. Thank you for your hard work.” 

A letter like that makes the occasional struggle insignificant. And a struggle it can be — from medical issues to weather complications to general public reactions.    

It takes a not only a full staff but a raft of dedicated volunteers to manage the complications.

Sometimes these complications can require creative solutions that might be inconvenient. My thanks to all those who keep us going — by financial support, by volunteering, or by, at times, just ignoring us.

Carlene White is founder and president of the non-profit Service Dog Project on Boxford Road in Ipswich. She trains and raises Great Danes to donate to the mobility impaired. Read more of her columns here.



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