Program changing lives one dog at a time
Published 2:51 pm Friday, August 8, 2014
By Morgan Burkett
The Greenville Advocate
K-9s for Kids isn’t in the business of dog training.
It’s in the business of changing lives — for the dogs and their new owners.
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K-9s for Kids, a non-profit organization founded in 2008 by Greenville native Frances McGowin, pairs children with disabilities and special needs with service dogs, many of who were found living in animal shelters.
On Sunday, the organization will hold a graduation ceremony for 10 dogs, which will be awarded to seven children with disabilities and three veterans with disabilities. The veterans will receive their dogs as part of K-9s for Heroes.
Part of what makes the program unique is that those receiving one of the service dogs won’t pay a dime.
The funding for this program comes from corporate sponsor’s foundation, grants and individual donors. That money is used to train the dogs.
The average cost of training is $23,000. Training can last up to two years, depending on how quickly the dog learns.
The K-9s for Kids dogs are trained in by prison inmates. The dogs live with the inmates in their dormitory or cells.
Officials with K-9s for Kids say the inmates benefit from taking responsibility for training a dog, feeding and caring for the a dog, and learning to love, sometimes for the first time in their lives.
“You can’t fool these dogs,” said McGowin. “In order to help train them, the inmates have to correct their inner selves and control their anger, otherwise, the dogs won’t respect them.”
The dogs are trained in a number of areas, such as balance assistance, behavior intervention, seizure alert, and diabetic alert.
Prior to placement, the dog lives with a transitional trainer, who evaluates, trains, socializes and transitions the dog to his new home. The dogs that will graduate on Sunday have already transitioned into their new homes.
“These dogs bring such life to the disabled and special needs children and veterans,” McGowin said. “They are not just an essential but they demonstrate love to the children and help them grow.”
The graduation ceremony will be held at the Montgomery Fine Arts Museum Auditorium at 2 p.m.
A former prisoner at Tutwiler Prison, who served as a trainer, will speak as part of the ceremony.
To learn more about K-9s for Kids visit k-9s4kids.com.