Goodwill Dogs

Goodwill Assistance Dog Academy Good health, a good temperament and a desire to work are traits all of us would like to have. For service dogs, these traits are necessary. Goodwill Assistance Dog Academy is dedicated to training and placing assistance dogs. There’s a special bonds that develops between the dog and his owner.

Mason Plott is typical thirteen year old that loves the outdoors a little more than school work. But Mason’s days are anything but typical.

He was a healthy, active, very mischievious toddler when his life changed.  At 20 months old he was in a car accident with his great grandmother and his older brother. Unfortunately, his grandmother didn’t make it and he was rendered paralyzed from a spinal cord injury to the C5-C6 vertabrae and sustained a C2 fracture located a bit higher.

Paralyzed from the chest down for the past eleven years, Mason finally has a wheelchair with power assist that moves when he touches the wheel. Mason thinks it cool but says, “It took forever to get. It was expensive”.

Going to school and hanging out with friends away from home has always been a challenge.  He dreams of a day he can be more independent, with someone to help him if mom’s not there.
He says a service dog would be able to pick stuff off the floors or open the doors that he can’t.  Mason is hoping to one day receive a Goodwill assistance dog.
Twenty five people applied for the three dogs available this year.

Ramona Nichols is the program director for the Goodwill Assistance Dog Academy. “We start with an 8 wk old puppy. They receive 2 yrs of training. They learn over 90 different commands and when they complete testing and they meet the requirements, they graduate as a service dog then they’re matched with someone on our waiting list” says Ramona.

That training is a costly process at twenty five thousand dollars per dog. Although, it costs nothing for those who are lucky enough to be matched, only three are available this year due to funding.  She says, “It’s not just about finding any dog for a person with a disability. It’s about finding the right dog”.

THAT perfect match was found for Mason this year. On Saturday, he heard his dog’s full name announced. Danny Plott ran over to Mason covering him in kisses.  Surprise turning into emotion for Mason and the bonding started right away.
 
There is still a lot of training for these two this summer. By fall, Mason and Danny Plott will attend 8th grade TOGETHER at Heritage Middle School.

Two others received service dogs this week, as well. Rich Burns and Bliss Welch will also begin their training this summer.

For more information on the Goodwill Assistance Dog Academy, visit:
www.goodwillchatt.org
Ramona Nichols, Program Director

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