Kane County Board Meetings Play Critical Role in Training Service Dogs
Kane County Connects Staff 4/11/2023 7:00AM
Since December of 2021 the Kane County Board has been an enthusiastic part of the learning process for several puppies training to become service dogs. The dogs, when trained, are placed with differently abled people in the local community.
The Kane County employee behind the service dog training is Blair Peters, Kane County’s Technical Coordinator. He manages the technology and public access for the County Board meetings. For two years, he has been volunteering with VIP (Very Important Pooches) Service Dog Foundation of Hinckley, a charitable organization whose mission is to provide affordable service dogs to individuals with disabilities. (www.VIPServiceDogFoundation.com)
The dogs accompany Peters to County Board meetings where they remain by his side as he runs the technical side of the meetings. This aspect of training for a service dog teaches them how to behave in public settings. The dogs are required to have practice time in the types of environments that their eventual handler will need the dog to be able to assist them.
“The public meetings in the County Boardroom are a perfect environment with many people and many distractions,” according to Peters. “The dogs learn to ignore the activity around them and focus on their handler.” The training steps up a notch once the dogs start coming to work. “I think the mood of everyone in the room improves when I bring a dog in, said Peters. “I am constantly seeing smiles break out on people’s faces when they notice a dog in an unexpected place.”
The dogs wear a specialized vest to let the public know that the dog is in training. The vest makes it clear that no one should try to pet, make eye contact or talk to the dog.
“One of the hardest things is to tell dog lovers that they can’t say hello or pet the dog,” said Peters.
VIP Founder and President Donna Akers said volunteers are fully trained on how to teach the service dogs basic obedience skills, in addition to more specialized training. "A service dog learns to perform at least two custom tasks to help an individual mitigate their disability.” Akers said.
Since Peters started with the volunteer program he has worked wth four dogs. Gremlin a brown Golden-doodle was placed with a differently abled pre-teen where the dog has helped the pre-teen handle stressful situations. In the past, the stress interfered with their ability to learn or participate in activities.
The second dog was a black Berne doodle, named Frisbee. He is also the first dog the VIP (Very Important Pooches) Service Dog Foundation placed with a veteran at no cost. The two have become inseparable and Frisbee has built confidence in the veteran which has allowed him to not second guess participation in some of his activities.
“We have been able to raise funds to support veterans that have been injured while serving our country. Frisbee was our first placement through the veteran’s program and we already have enough funding secured to place more dogs with differently abled veterans for free” said Peters.
The two most recent puppies are Ducky, an eleven-month-old English Yellow Labrador Retriever and Wolfie, a three-month-old Irish Wolfadoodle. Ducky is ready to be placed with a differently abled person who needs a full-service dog. Ducky has the necessary training to join their handler in public places such as stores, restaurants and doctor offices.
Recently the Kane County Boardroom hosted a dog reunion of ‘Peters’ Pack.’ There were lots of well-behaved wagging tails. The reunion was made possible by a bit of luck and also the generosity of the military veteran who brought Frisbee to see his fellow service dogs.
“To accomplish our foundation mission, we need the cute puppies but the most important ingredient are dedicated volunteer puppy raisers. These volunteers teach a puppy the skills they need to make a lifelong impact for a differently abled person,” said Peters
For more information about VIP Service Dog Foundation or to volunteer as a puppy raiser, visit them on the web at www.VIPServiceDogFoundation.com. Email at VIPServiceDogFoundation@yahoo.com or make a donation at https://www.gofundme.com/f/veteran-receive-a-service-dog-at-no-charge?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cf%20share-flow-1 )