DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. - Don't think of it as strange if you see a golden retriever walking through your local library anytime soon. Tara Riordan, an executive assistant with East Coast Assistance Dogs, led a review for volunteer handlers on Friday at the Dobbs Ferry Public Library. Riordan takes the handlers and their dogs into all different types of environments to help better train them.
East Coast Assistance Dogs provide aid for disabled veterans, handicapped adults and even children with autism. The program has one of its kennels and a training area on the Children's Village campus in Dobbs Ferry where dogs are prepped for clients.
Riordan said many at risk youths at the Children's Village volunteer with the program which helps keep them out of trouble. On the campus, students can opt to take the dog training classes in place of another elective.
"During school instead of going to gym they'll come into dog training and they have to work one on one with the dog and they learn everything over the course of a year to work with the dog," Riordan said.
Donna Assumma, one of the volunteer dog handlers, said the program is something that has had a huge impact on those in need.
"They really made life differences for these people," Assumma said.
The volunteers make up most of the dog handlers and are an integral part of the program's training system.
"Our volunteers provide an invaluable service to our clients by taking [the dogs] and exposing them to all kinds of everyday life things where our clients would actually be," Riordan said.
Service dogs are not just for disabled veterans or handicapped adults though. The dogs are trained to help people in all different areas of need including children with autism.
"We've come to find that having a third party there, the mother can command the dog and the dog can communicate with the child in a way that the child understands and he doesn't feel threatened," Riordan said.
The service dogs can be in training for up to two years and the Children's Village is the final stop before they are matched with a client.
Do you know of anyone who could use a service dog? Have you seen the ECAD around town? Let us know below in the comments section or on Facebook or Twitter.
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