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Students learn talents of a service dog...

When Connie Reiten started her presentation Monday in Kenmare, the former teacher said training dogs is similar to teaching children.

11/06/18 (Tue)

When Connie Reiten started her presentation Monday in Kenmare, the former teacher said training dogs is similar to teaching children.

Reiten is a trainer with Service Dogs for America based in Jud, a small community in LaMoure County about halfway between Jamestown and Edgeley. She has been training Oreo, the dog she brought with her, for about two years with another year to go before he goes into service.

Reiten, her daughter Katelyn and Oreo, a black Labrador, entertained students in Kenmare Monday morning, a lyceum that was sponsored by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 195 in Donnybrook.

At the conclusion of the presentation, representatives from each elementary class presented Reiten with a donation jar to go toward Oreo’s continued training.

According to Reiten, Service Dogs for America opened in 1989 and the first service dog went to work in 1990. All recruited service dogs are puppies born in Jud, they are rescued or are donated.

“We train and certify these dogs for people with disabilities,” Reiten said. “There are three kinds of disabilities; mobility, post traumatic stress disorder or seizures.”

She added that service dogs shouldn’t be confused with guide dogs, those that are trained to assist the blind. A guide dog goes through much more training before going to work for someone than a service dog.

Dogs are perhaps the best animals to be trained because they have excellent hearing, a strong sense of smell, they enjoy being around people and they are always alert.

“If your mom was making a pot of chili when you came home after school and brought Oreo with you, he would be able to smell the individual items in that chili,” Reiten said. “He could smell the kidney beans, hamburger, pepper, tomato sauce and the onion by themselves.”

Reiten added dogs are the only breed of animal to make eye contact with humans. They can sense our moods and respond to pleasant voices. She said they are masters of body language.

SDA has 36 dogs currently in training in Jud and at prisons in Jamestown and Bismarck. She said service dogs may be any breed, but she leans toward dogs that are generally more happy and relaxed being with someone.

A service dog trained in Jud, is valued at $20,000 when it is provided to someone with disabilities. Some scholarships are available to those making application.

And when an applicant is chosen, that person must stay at the LaMoure County compound approximately three weeks to be trained on how to live with a service dog.

She admits $20,000 is a lot of money, but adds a service dog is worth every bit of that given the chores it can carry out.

Some examples include opening and closing doors and refrigerator doors. Alerting others when the owner has an immediate health issue, turning lights on and off and among other things, helping the person back on their feet, it has their back in a public place and comforts the person in distress.

A rope has to be installed on the refrigerator door, but if the owner asked a service dog to get him or her a bottle of milk, the dog would go to the refrigerator, open the door, select the proper beverage, take it out of the refrigerator using its mouth, close the door and deliver it to the owner.

One of the questions during a question and answer period was how on earth can a dog distinguish the difference between a milk bottle, juice bottle or water bottle?

“It’s easy to him because he can smell the individual product,” she said. “He can tell the difference.”

At the conclusion of the program, the kindergarten children lined up for a chance to pet Oreo.

“I love service dogs,” one young girl said. “I love Oreo.”

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