Service Dogs at the Hearts of Gold Program Make a Difference

Coming into this assignment, I had never actually heard of the Hearts of Gold program. After observing two sessions of the class, I wish I’d taken it. 

What really stood out was how enthusiastic the students were when class began. No one cut corners, and everyone was very involved with the class. One of the students said it was the only class she had never seen anyone skip.

They ran the dogs through a checklist of commands and marked how efficient the dog performed.  When the next student worked with the dog, he or she knew what areas to focus on. The instructors were mostly hands off, intervening only to show the students how to act and position themselves when relaying a command.

I talked to someone who had received a dog trained by the program, which put the program into perspective. Jeffery and Barbara Daugherty were so thankful and appreciative of their service dog Clark, that it seemed a wonder how they got along before him.

After his stroke, Jeffrey suffered from bad moods, his wife said. He hated leaving the house because he was embarrassed that a man his age (54 years young) was slowed down and needed a cane just to get along.

When they received their golden retriever Clark from Hearts of Gold, after waiting years in other service dog programs, Barbara said her husband rediscovered his drive for life. He wasn’t hesitant to leave the house, and his overall demeanor just improved.

It’s easy to forget that classes and programs like this can have such a positive effect outside the university. While the success rate for the dogs is low and most dogs don’t graduate the program, students learn by teaching the dogs and the dogs benefit from the training . When the dogs are adopted from the program the adoptive family benefits by getting a well trained companion.

I really enjoyed covering this story and felt that by reporting it we made this program this is so beneficial more well known. Hopefully people see this and get more involved. There are different ways to help and being a student isn’t necessary to give the program a hand.

To view the article, click here: Hearts of Gold Print Story.

— Jon Lemieux


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