Finalist Q&A: PALS with PAWZ

PALS with Pawz trains rescued and donated dogs to assist people with disabilities. From their website: Our goal is to Create a Loving Relationship Between the Rescued or Donated Dog and their Disabled Partner; resulting in the enhancement of their physical and emotional freedoms, sense of security, independence and the enrichment of their quality of life."

Idea Cafe: How did you come up with the idea for your business, and what were your influences and sources of motivation?

Christine G.: In August of 2004, while on my way to work, I was involved in a Hit and Run Car Accident. I ended up with spinal injuries that resulted in my being bed-ridden for months. After seeing many doctors, I was told that I would be at the least utilizing a cane or walker and eventually would need a wheelchair; I had lost the feeling in my left leg from the waist down. I spent the next few months a prisoner in my own home, only going out of the house to go to see yet another doctor, or for small family functions, and only with my husband. By this time, I felt helpless and isolated. Always afraid that if I was in a crowd I would embarrass my self by falling, or someone would accidentally bump into me, not to mention that riding in a car was almost impossible. Thankfully, I had a wonderful husband, daughter and family that stood by me and helped me through this time.

In November of 2005, Jeff and I decided that we needed to try something else. The doctor's only gave me a 30% chance of a surgery helping me, and a 70% chance of paralyzing me. That's when we decided to start looking for a Service Dog for me. After a lot of research, Jeff and I discovered the fast growing need for Assistance Dogs, the waiting lists and the costs. Since Jeff and I had both been involved in the training of all kinds of dogs for the last 10 years, we decided to go to the next level and learn to train a dog for me. So, we did our research and decided to take classes to train our own dog. The first step was to go to several Animal Shelters in Los Angeles, California to find a dog.

D'Artagnan the Dog.

In June of 2006, we went to the Lancaster, California Animal Shelter and after viewing and testing about 15 dogs, we found D'Artagnan. He is a golden retriever/german shepherd mix. He was a mess, fox tails embedded in his fur, matted, definitely needing a bath, his tail had been broken in two places, and he was set for Euthanasia in two days. But he just felt right, and of course he passed our initial tests and we now had my Service Dog in Training, D'Artagnan. Within 3 months, D'Artagnan earned his Canine Good Citizenship through AKC and three month's later passed his ADI Service Dog Public Access testing with flying colors.

That is when PALS with PAWZ was established. We are passionate about training rescued and donated dogs to assist the physically disabled in restoring some of their physical and emotional freedoms; therefore enabling them to lead more independent lives. Our goal is to Create a Loving Relationship between the Assistance Dog and their Disabled partner; resulting in the enhancement of freedom, security, independence and the enrichment of their quality of life. We believe that ANYONE who needs a Service or Therapy Dog should have one regardless of their ability to pay. Therefore, we assist our clients in obtaining grants, fundraisers, etc. PALS with Pawz trains Service dogs to assist with Mobility/Autism/PTSD and other physical/neurological disorders; in addition to our Therapy/Social/Ministry Dog Programs. 95% of the dogs in our programs are selected from local animal shelters, rescue groups, and other rescue sources.

What do you consider to be a unique feature of your business?

In addition to our Service Dog Programs we also offer The Reading Pawz RIF Program; which utilizes our Service and Therapy Dogs who have been trained with their handlers to offer children who have trouble reading an opportunity to improve their reading skills in a setting which has proven not only effective, but FUN. All PALS with Pawz candidates must participate in this program; which gives them experience and exposure to different types of children, situations, and people in general. Participating children make enormous strides in reading and communication skills while, along the way, building self-esteem, confidence, and social skills. And there are bonus benefits—performance in other subjects tends to improve, as does attendance and even personal hygiene.

In addition, each child receives (2) brand new books twice a year at a Book Fair sponsored by READING Pawz, at no cost. Of course, their new books can also be "pawtographed” by their 4-footed Reading Buddy. READING Pawz works with schools, libraries and after-school programs. One of our programs that we work with is E.Y.E.S. which is an at-risk youth after school program; where D'Artagnan and the others go once a week and help the children with their reading homework, or to study for plays. We just recently held their first PAWZ Book Signing and for some of these children, the books they received were the first books that they have ever owned.

There is a negative connotation for children who go to a "special" reading class. READING Pawz is working to change that. Because the children look forward to reading with their READING Buddies, they are now excited to leave the classroom and have some fun, while the other children are learning in a traditional classroom setting. For these children it turns a negative into a positive.

And that is what READING Pawz is about: Making Reading a PAWZATIVE Experience!

What are your thoughts on the future of small businesses in a slowing economy and their importance to the vitality of the local community?

I think the small business community will continue to grow steadily even in a slowing economy; as bigger businesses are downsizing and laying off their workers; therefore you are almost always talking to an automated system before speaking to an actual person. A small business provides consumers with one on one customer service, with an actual person, along with quality products that the public not only expects, but deserves. Because of this, the small business should weather the slower economy and assist their local communities to also survive this economic storm.

Why should the Idea Cafe regulars vote for you?

A vote from Idea Cafe regulars would allow PALS with Pawz to continue:

• Rescuing dogs – PALS with Pawz rescues and trains unwanted and abandoned dogs, helping solve the pet overpopulation problem. We do not have a puppy-raising program. We turn “throw-aways” into superstars!

• Customized training – PALS with Pawz matches dogs to their new disabled partner and trains the dog to do the specific tasks required by each individual.

• Provide hands-on support – PALS with Pawz will visit our clients in their homes, offices, and schools to introduce the service dog and to help maintain a successful team. A PALS team is a team for life; the training continues throughout the life of the dog at no additional cost.

• READING Pawz Utilizes our Service candidates and therapy dogs who have been trained with their owners to volunteer to offer children an opportunity to improve their reading and comprehension skills in a setting which has proven not only effective but fun.

• PALS with Pawz educates the public to increase their awareness of disabilities; informs the public about the rights and etiquette for all assistance dogs, and we take our dogs into the classroom to teach children hands on about animals safety and responsibility. By using rescued dogs, the children can also see the effects that abuse has on a dog; i.e. D'Artagnan's broken tail.


I work with the E.Y.E.S

I work with the E.Y.E.S program Christine mentioned above and the results of her program were evident almost immediately..children who were coming to our program because their parents made them now are the first ones through the door, eager to finish their work so they can read with D'Artagnan and the other dogs. This is most definitely a worthy cause and a program much needed in our small community.

Trained dogs can really be of

Trained dogs can really be of help when the only chance you have is 70% chance of eneding up blind and paralyzed in a wheel chair. It is better to be blind and walking.

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