Four service dogs were paired up with their new owners on Thursday, ready to help out those in need.
"It really is a great companionship because all of my friends are in college and they're sophomores in college. And I’m not in college because I’m not able to yet and eventually I’ll be able to bring my service dog with me,” said Cassidy Schod, of Southbury.
ECAD, or Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities, paired up four people ranging from 13 to 50 with service dogs on Thursday at Camp Wah-Nee in the Winsted section of Winchester.
"I started this like 22 years ago, and I started out of a two car garage in West Granby, primarily because my dad had a stroke and he couldn't go home and be by himself so he was kind of stuck in limbo and I had a dog that I started training to help him,” said ECAD co-founder Lu Picard.
Ever since, Picard has trained over 300 dogs and handlers.
Their disabilities range anywhere from anxiety to post traumatic stress disorder.
"The dog has to help you be able to do tasks that helps you with your disability and the clients help us. They help us raise the money and they help us bring awareness to it. It's about a year from start to finish, maybe a little bit more,” Picard said.
The first day training with the dog is a tough learning curve, but in 13 days handlers must get the basic commands down.
The lessons are a lot more difficult to teach the dog and yourself than you might first think, but they are also very important in real life situations.
Schod, a 19-year-old girl who teaches gymnastics, has chronic lyme disease. She's had it since 13, and was misdiagnosed for several years, and now she deals with a number of issues including seizures.
"My mom's been my whole time caregiver and now Sonoma (service dog) is taking over a lot of those responsibilities with helping to grab my medicine, and getting things for me and helping me balance,” Schod said.
Her dog Sonoma will eventually learn to grab her meds just with her phone alarm going off.
She said she hopes to one day go to Springfield College.
The first day training as a pair can have everyone tuckered out, but the lifelong companionship is well worth the work.
Graduation for the pups is going to be April 7 at 5 p.m. at Camp Wah-Nee.
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