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Wendy Reuer, Published June 08 2013

Service Dogs for America kickoff event today

MOORHEAD – Residents in the area will soon have a chance to train future service dogs in their home as part of the Jud, N.D.-based Service Dogs for America program.

Service Dogs for America, an organization that trains dogs to be paired with owners with disabilities, is expanding its “Puppy Partners” program to the Fargo-Moorhead area for the first time since it began in 1989.

Service Dogs of America has partnered with Globe University in Moorhead to host a kick-off event at 10 a.m. today.

Babs Coler, community manager at Globe University, said anyone interested in joining the Puppy Partners program or anyone who may need a service dog can attend today’s kickoff event where demonstrations and the chance to talk with trainers will be held.

“It is our mission to assist physically challenged individuals to gain greater independence and autonomy by use of a trained and certified assistance dog,” according to the Service Dogs of America website.

Service Dogs for America is the sole provider of service dogs in North Dakota, the site stated.

In the Puppy Partner program, dog lovers open their homes to help prime puppies that will one day become service dogs.

Coler said Puppy Partners do more than care for the dog. Those in the program must exercise the dogs, give them a variety of experiences and prepare for the dog’s departure after about a year. At that time, the dogs are paired with someone who has a disability and the two train together. The dogs also learn specific behaviors that can help their owner, based on the type of disability the owner may have.

“It’s a pretty rigorous program,” Coler said.

Service Dogs for America provides service dogs to those who need them at no cost.

“They don’t want money to be a challenge,” Coler said.

She said Globe University got involved through the school’s veterinary technology program. The vet tech program is the one of the school’s largest, Coler said.

Students and staff in the veterinary program at Globe University partner with a number of animal-related nonprofit groups and Service Dogs for America seemed a perfect fit, Coler said.

Service Dogs for America also works with U.S. military veterans who could benefit from a service dog.

If you go

What: Service Dogs for America kickoff

When: 10 a.m. today

Where: Globe University

2777 34th St. S., Moorhead

Info: Free and open to the public. For more information visit www.servicedogsforamerica.org