Pekoe and Juanita were bred to be islands of calm amid chaos.
"They're really amazing with the
kids. These dogs are so calm," said Michelle Rose, who teaches a
self-contained special education BOCES class at Mahopac's Fulmar School,
where the two dogs have visited every other Friday since January. "They
will be in homes where they have to be used to unexplained things, very
loud things. It's a win-win for both of us."
Rose's class is
close to a graduation test for the Heeling Autism canines, who are
trained to help children on the autism spectrum be calm and focused. The
program is part of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, the service dog program
headquartered in Yorktown Heights that since 1954 has provided dogs
trained to help people with vision limitations live independently.
Autism was created in 2008 by Caroline Sandler, who felt there must be
another place for the young dogs bred as Guiding Eyes dogs but found not
suitable for the job, she said. Guiding Eyes dogs need to be quick
reactors, independent thinkers and adaptable, all traits the
organization has bred for over the years.
Many perfectly healthy
but docile and friendly dogs who lacked the initiative to become Guiding
Eyes dogs ended up released for adoption, she said, a waste of the
nearly $45,000 it costs to breed and train a dog for Guiding Eyes.
can have a calming effect on many autism-spectrum children, research
shows; they are able to help children focus, give them love and
companionship, and keep them from wandering off. Heeling Autism spends
nearly two years of intensive training to prepare its dogs for their
jobs. Classrooms such as Rose's are part of that training.
Read the whole story at LoHud.com