For nearly 20 years, Power Paws has worked to provide highly skilled assistance dogs to children and adults with disabilities—focusing especially on those with mobility impairments, Type 1 diabetes, and people impacted by posttraumatic stress disorder. They also train and place facility dogs who can assist crime victims and witnesses during the investigation and prosecution of crimes as well as other legal proceedings, according to the organization.
“We place dogs nationwide; an appropriately placed dog can provide a new lease on life for a client who needs their assistance,” explains Elaine Starks, executive director. “Depending on the disability, an assistance dog can help a client navigate their life better.”
Some examples of tasks the assistance dogs are taught to do are to retrieve dropped items, open and close doors, and help remove items of clothing for those with mobility issues. The diabetic alert dogs can be trained to sense and alert their human partners when they sense changes in blood glucose levels. When it comes to facility dogs, they are trained to have a calming presence for victims of abuse during a court proceeding. Power Paws has placed assistance dogs with organizations like Childhelp and Maricopa County.
Power Paws (AZPowerPaws.org) breeds, raises, and trains Golden and Labrador Retrievers for these tasks. For new clients, it can take an average of 16 months to find a suitable match because you not only have to keep the dog’s training in mind, but also their temperament, Starks explains.
“Making a dog and client match is a detailed process; a doctor has to officially diagnose the potential client and note that a service dog is needed,” Starks explains. “We come up with a task list that’s needed for the client and continue connecting with them until there’s a match. We also continue to follow up to make sure both client and their assistant dog are doing well and that it’s a successful match.”
With so much work and resources going into creating dog and client matches, Starks shares that monetary donations and volunteers are always needed.
“We can always use a variety of volunteers with various time commitments involved,” she says. “We can use puppy raisers, fosters who raise the puppies once they’re over 16 months old, puppy sitters so that our volunteers can get a break, and even puppy transportation.”
During training, volunteers often take the dogs to places like libraries, and senior or veterans homes to help socialize them—so transportation to make that happen is always needed.
Volunteers must quality for a level one finger print clearance card, Starks notes.
“We always want quality volunteers first and foremost.”
Power Paws also accepts charitable donations as well and has its own online shop.