Assistance dog training center in Winsted organizing an open day

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WINSTED – Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities is organizing an open house on October 3 to give the public a glimpse of the association’s work.

The organization, which trains service dogs for people with disabilities, was founded in 1995 by Lu and Dale Picard. Their daughter, Carrie Picard, is the association’s fund development and communications director and was 14 when her parents founded the organization.

It started, she said, when her grandfather – Lu’s father – had a stroke. His mother, who had previously trained dogs for other purposes, decided that the family dog ​​could be a good companion for his father.


“When my grandfather had a stroke, he came to live with us,” said Carrie Picard. “He didn’t want help from AIDS, from his daughter or his son-in-law.

It was clear that his grandfather’s morale was declining, however. She said he didn’t want to be anyone’s burden, but needed help.

“The sparkle in his eye was slowly fading,” Picard said. “He had great affection for one of the dogs in our family. Noticing that he was getting more and more depressed … my mom asked him if she had trained the dog to help him, would he get up off the couch? “

The training employed was for the little things that became difficult for Picard’s grandfather, such as reaching for objects or simply getting up from a sitting position.

“She trained the dog to help her get up from the couch,” Picard said. “He felt more independent and he just felt more empowered. She then taught the dog to get the remote for him.

Lu Picard quit her full-time job soon after and started the association which she still runs with her family today.

“My mom has always been the one to see a problem and take action. There has to be a solution, ”Picard said. “She felt like this was what she should do. There are other people with disabilities who do not live their lives to the fullest or on their terms. They don’t have to feel dependent on another person. It is the independence that everyone has the right to feel.

The organization has placed well over 350 assistance dogs nationwide. And they help in different ways that a guide dog or therapy dog ​​could help others.

“It’s a different skill set. It is always said that guide dogs become the eyes of the person. Hearing attentive dogs become the ears of the person. These dogs become the person’s arms and legs, ”Picard said. “They perform tasks that would otherwise be impossible … like opening a door, preparing for stability, helping people up and down stairs. It’s offering a different skill set.

When training a dog, trainers try to put themselves in the position where the person receiving the dog’s help might be.

“We put ourselves in the shoes of a person as much as possible. If they don’t have the use of their hands, as coaches they will tie their arms so they can’t use their hands, ”Picard said. “So now your pen just fell, or you can’t open that door.” You want to go to bed but the light is on. It gives a clear picture of the things we take for granted. “

The association mainly trains Labradors and Golden Retrievers, or a mixture of the two. For this reason, they said it was important to have their own breeding program, which they established 20 years ago.

“People ask why we don’t use rescue dogs. The reality is it takes a certain dog, ”Picard said. “Not all dogs can become service dogs. A disabled person must ensure that his dog will perform well. We start training our puppies when they are a few days old. We spend time grooming them from birth to placement. There is a lot of pressure to happen when they are in public. We want to make sure that we don’t put our customers at risk.

The association opened a new building three years ago, but has not held many public events since then, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They wanted to host this upcoming event to show the public the work they do and how they could get involved. Picard said they offer a number of volunteer opportunities for people of all ages, and even have a program where people can bring one of their dogs home for the weekend if they want to see anything. what owning a dog looks like.

“We have a lot to offer the community and we want to make sure the community knows we’re here,” Picard said.

The open house will run from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on October 3 and will include tours of the facility as well as a number of activities for families. The association is located at 149 Newfield Road in Winsted.


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