Dog Daycare Doubles as Job Skills Training Facility for Adults with Developmental Disabilities – Yahoo Life
Photo Credit; Jessie Casson / Getty Images
Let’s be honest: learning job skills is kind of a drag. But what if you could do so with dogs around ? A nonprofit called Pathways to Independence in Columbus, Ohio, has combined those two things in a dog daycare in order to help adults with developmental disabilities have more fulfilling lives.
Dog Daycare Does Double Duty
Stephanie Sanzo, a middle school special education teacher, co-founded the nonprofit along with educational assistant Megan Ramage. The idea of marrying canines with learning was inspired by Sanzo’s dog, Karma, whom Sanzo brought to work during the 2013-2014 school year. Students were enamored with the Labrador Retriever/Golden Retriever Mix, so when hatching the plan for Pathways to Independence, Sanzo and Ramage knew they wanted to incorporate canines into their service model.
The nonprofit now operates a dog daycare where people with developmental disabilities learn life plus job skills. Currently, 16 interns with special needs assist upwards of 80 pups that the dog daycare serves daily. The interns, who range in age from 18 to 65, work alongside the kennel’s staff to groom and tidy up after the dogs as well as learn social skills and teamwork.
“This is their happy place; this is where they can come every day and know that they’re going to be loved and supported and have fun, ” Ramage, who has a vet tech professional background, told People . “Every day is something new — every day is something fun. ”
While this isn’t exactly a traditional classroom setting, “everything is a life lesson, ” Sanzo told People. “Everything that we do is, in some way, shape, or form, something to help them in the future. ”
Sanzo added that “ultimately, we don’t want everyone to stay here. We want them to learn the skills and then use them to move further on. That’s the end goal. ”
And in that sense, some students have already succeeded. One former intern of the program now works at a different dog daycare. Another is employed at a vet’s office. Two more interns have become official staff.
Peter Crawford, a 31-year-old with Down Syndrome, tends to dogs at the daycare two days a week.
“He was pretty pumped. He couldn’t wait to start working. He likes going to function, ” his mom, Marie Crawford, told People.
The family’s Yellow Lab Skully has been attending the dog daycare since opening day.
“They love him, ” Crawford said. “They’re so nice when you go in there. They make my day. ”
Amy Weirick brings her 3-year-old pup, Scudder, to the dog daycare regularly.
“The first time I brought my dog inside, I left in tears because I thought it was so amazing and you could just feel so much love, ” she said.
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