By LINDSEY BROWN
Jefferson Square was a dog lover’s dream on Saturday, where many breeds of dogs visited the puppy party hosted by CCI (Canine Companions for Independence) and participated in the 5K dog walk. Students and members of the community brought their own dogs, or borrowed dogs from local shelters for the event. CCI’s current dog, Rotary, and Jax the third, a Golden/Labrador Retriever cross who graduated from CCI’s training program were there as well.
CCI put on a 5K and a puppy party to help raise money for the service dogs they train on campus. A total of 45 runners signed up for the 5K. There were a few different routes the runners could take, but each route started and ended on Jefferson Square, where the runners were greeted by the various dogs that were at the puppy party.
The puppy party had a bake sale, a puppy kissing booth, barbeque, a raffle booth and a booth for the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Brendan Helms, a senior history major and Publicity officer of CCI said, “the bake sale booth made over 100 dollars.” There were quite a few dogs in the puppy party up for adoption. The SPCA had three dogs at the event up for adoption that came from the shelter.
The SPCA’s volunteer, Hunter Williams, attended the event representing the shelter. Williams explained that there is a program called Adventure Tails that allows people to rent a dog or cat for a few hours. The person must be 18 years old in order to take the animal to the out, and spend time with the them. This is a good program for college students living on campus, who cannot have dogs or cats in their dorm. Williams said, “It gives the dogs an opportunity to be around people, and gives them an opportunity to be adopted.”
According to the President of CCI, Rachael Wiczalkowsk, CCI is a national service dog organization partnered with the UMW club. The club raises service dogs through student volunteers and raises awareness about service dogs through fundraising and education. When a student wants to raise a service dog, they go through an application process. If the student passes, they receive a service dog for 18 months. They teach the puppy about 60 basic commands, and then the dog advances to advanced training.
The training is located in New York State, where they will be separated into more advanced programs. The dog could be a hearing dog, a skill companion dog for someone in a wheelchair or a facility/therapy dog. CCI only uses Labradors and Golden Retrievers for service dog training. The dogs are usually mixes of the two breeds, and the purebreds are used for breeding. Wiczalkowsk, a senior psychology major, said working with service dogs has “definitely been a thought for a career path for me because of my major.”
Jax and his owner Toni Collins attended the event and were greeted by many dog lovers. Jax was trained on campus by senior psychology major Greg Genuardi, who is also Vice President of CCI. Jax now works for Extra Special Parents in Richmond, VA, a foster care facility. Collins is the Director of Adoption Services. She is able to bring Jax into courthouses, hospitals and therapist’s offices. Jax helps facilitate children who are no longer with their parents in Foster Care. Genuardi mentioned, “My mom is a teacher, and when I was training Jax, I would bring him into my mom’s class. When he left I was hoping he would be with kids, because he was really good with them.”
Collins also pointed out, “As we deal with children who have been through trauma, the service providers have secondary trauma, because they are trying to process what the children have gone through. Jax is helpful for the staff, we’ll do exercises and I’ll always try to incorporate him into them. He is just a morale booster all the way around.”
Jax knows 40 commands and has recently been taught how to bring a tissue to Collins if she sneezes. Collins even demonstrated a command where Jax had to pick a pencil off the ground and bring it to her. Jax can also open doors, close drawers and jump on the counter for a person in a wheelchair. Collins gushed, “He’s just a pretty darn amazing dog.”