It may look like a typical dog training class on a Monday night at Naperville Sportsman Club, but these pooches are practicing for a greater purpose: to be a part of VIP Service Dog Foundation, a nonprofit organization that was founded in November of 2011.
“We started small, and we have grown over the years, and we probably foster 15 to 20 service dogs a year. And of those service dogs, we place probably 60 to 75 percent of those dogs with families or individuals who need a service animal,” said VIP Service Dog Foundation Board Member Jennifer Truppa.
Breeds in Training
The group association was founded by President Donna Akers, who was looking for a way to help her disabled son, John. Little did Donna know that her idea would inspire others to come along with her. Today, there is a group of trainers who help train breeds like poodles, poodle mixes, doodles and Labrador retrievers.
“Service dogs have a special purpose, and they serve someone who identifies as having a disability under ADA. So, for those we’re here, we’re able to serve and be available to partner them with a service dog to help with their activities of daily life,” said Truppa.
Each volunteer has their own dog in training which wears a special vest to have access to indoor public facilities like airports, restaurants and stores, and much more. After months of training the volunteers will give the dog away to those in need of special assistance.
“We do like to have the dog in training for six to nine months and then find that family partner that we can bring in and begin to transition the dog into their life. Then at about 12 months old the dog is transferred, and then tested through a certification test process,” said Truppa.
Are they Easy to Adopt?
While all many dog lovers may like the opportunity to have a service dog, the adoption process is not as easy as picking one out at your local shelter.
“We’re not a first come first serve basis group. It doesn’t mean that you put in an application a week ago and you might get the dog before somebody who put in an application six months ago. It’s a best fit dog to the person. So just because I have a dog available, doesn’t mean that dog’s skill sets will work for that person,” said VIP Service Dog Foundation President Donna Akers.
As the foundation looks to find the right foster homes for the dogs, they are also planning to place our furry friends with special owners.
“We’re hoping to really get our veteran program up and really moving. We place a lot of regular service dogs, we do a lot of autism, a lot of psychiatric dogs, we don’t have a lot of mobility dogs, but we want our veterans program to start moving. Our goal is to place one veteran dog a year at no charge for the veteran,” said Akers.
How can you Help?
If you’re interested and are willing to take the time and qualify to take care of the special and helpful dogs, visit the VIP Service Dog Foundation website.
Naperville News 17 Patrick Codo reports.
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