Nonprofit lets service dogs take the lead in matching with humans

A Cedar Rapids nonprofit trains service dogs and, because of what's required of them, places the animals with their preferences in mind.
Published: May. 29, 2022 at 11:01 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The relationship between a person and a service dog is life-changing, for both the person and the dog.

A Cedar Rapids nonprofit trains service dogs and, because of what’s required of them, places them with their preferences in mind.

Deafinitely Dogs trains dogs to help the deaf and hard and hearing, as well as both veterans and nonveterans with PTSD. More social dogs are trained to work in facilities such as funeral homes, medical environments, and more. Sherry Steine Ross is one of the co-founders.

“One thing that Deafinitely Dogs does that is different is we honor the essence of each and every dog,” Steine Ross said. “So, just like humans are individuals, we feel that dogs are as well. And so we allow our dogs to grow up and mature and pick the type of job that they excel at and enjoy doing.”

So, what does letting a dog pick their job look like?

“We introduce a dog on a one-on-one basis, and that’s what makes us different. We literally set our clients up on a date with different dogs and we look for that instant chemistry and bond,” Steine Ross said. “Does the dog look at a person in the eye and want to be with them, even if they don’t have a treat and a ball?”

Just like in the human dating world, some matches do not work out.

“We had a veteran that came in here that was adamant he had to have a Labrador. ’That’s the type of dog I want,’” Steine Ross said. “And we’re like, ‘Ok, we let dogs pick their person, so we will introduce you to Labradors, but we’re also going to introduce you to a few other dogs.’ And we introduced him to, I think, three Labradors, and then he met a golden retriever. And that golden retriever picked him.”

Lorette Vanourny is also a cofounder. She said training dogs was more than a job for her.

“It was literally one of those things that, it was a godwink from above that we were to be of service and were to be helping people with disabilities through service dogs.”

More information about Deafinitely Dogs can be found on their website.

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