In the summer of 2013, two of our families in the CASSIE program decided they wanted an autism service dog for their child.....but they only wanted Terri to train them! Knowing that they would be our first, and that there would be bumps along the way, we began the process of becoming a training agency as well. Terri studied diligently to become a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) and is waiting for her exam in the Spring of 2016. PAWS initially partnered with a local shelter for our puppies, however it became evident that too many of our families were also dealing with severe allergy issues. We established partnerships with several nationally and regionally award winning breeders of Standard poodles and completely fell in love with the breed.
In October of 2015 we had our first graduate (Jason) and currently have 10 more in various stages of training. Paws has also partnered with the Belton, Missouri School District. Through this partnership we are currently working with three schools. Each school has one of our pups in training there everyday to learn proper school behaviors and how to work with several children challenged by autism. The schools benefit by having a service dog in training available to help their students mitigate their sensory challenges and use the pups to re-focus so that they can get back to learning.
In 2016 we expanded our service area beyond the Kansas City Metro to a four hour driving radius of Lees Summit 64082. Our main goal is to establish the EVERYTHING IS PAWSABLE Training and Resource Center so that we can focus on expanding our innovative Train the Trainers program for young adults on the autism spectrum. Through the Train the Trainers Program, teens in transition and young adults that have aged out of most services can apply to become volunteer interns at the Training Center. We teach them how to train, socialize and work all facets of a service dog training program. Once they are ready, they can take the certification exam (CPDT) and be eligible for employment either through PAWS or anywhere in the dog training industry. Those on the spectrum that love animals have a special connection and their training skills fit right in with their own needs (rigid schedule, repetition, sticking to the rules). Once the facility and program are fully established, PAWS will be able to pass along the savings to the families working towards getting an individual service dog for their own child. It's a WIN-WIN-WIN for all!
It’s exciting to be a part of an organization that is destined for great things! I really feel that Paws is on the cusp of something very big; we are going to help so many families that are otherwise losing hope. The services we are (and will be) providing will have a far reaching influence on our community. Right now, we are limited to helping only a few of the many who need us, and I’m confident we’ll soon have the financial support and resources needed to expand our services and impact!
— Michelle Toomey, PAWS Board Member