STORY AND PHOTO BY JODI FUSON for the Neighborhood Extra
Volunteers are busy filling eggs with candy for kids and treats for dogs in preparation for Uplifting Paws’ third annual egg hunt fundraiser. The event, scheduled for April 9, 10 and 16, supports the organization’s service dog training program.
Unlike traditional community egg hunts, volunteers hide plastic eggs at individual households upon request. Families pay $10 for eggs with dog treats and $20 for eggs with kid treats. Some choose to do both. Early registration runs until March 15th.
Two dogs, Barney and Freddie, are currently training to help someone with a physical or mental disability. Uplifting Paws day care and boarding school provide additional funding for the two-year course.
Assistance dogs differ from therapy dogs in that they are specifically trained to help a person with a disability with daily tasks, explained Uplifting Paws founder Liz Higley. Therapy dogs are only intended to provide comfort.
Higley’s service dogs learn basic obedience as puppies before being handed over to her and her staff for further training. The dogs learn tasks such as staying calm and composed indoors, balancing someone with balance issues, opening doors, and avoiding crowd distractions.
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Higley holds a bachelor’s degree in animal science from UNL, is an evaluator for the American Kennel Club, is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and is working toward accreditation from Assistance Dog International.
Uplifting Paws also offers obedience classes to the general public and to owners who want to volunteer with their dog to form therapy teams. The classes prepare the teams to interact in public settings such as schools, hospitals and retirement homes, which they will visit at least twice a month.
All Uplifting Paws therapy dogs must pass both the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen test and the Community Canine test as part of their training. “We make sure they receive special training that ensures the dogs meet community standards,” Higley said.
Higley is currently working to expand the organization’s list of approved communities for its therapy dog program. “It would be great to expand our therapy teams,” she said.
For more information about Uplifting Paws’ obedience classes or to sign up for the egg hunt, visit upliftingpaws.org or call 531-510-0737.