Working dogs program
ADW Working Dogs Programs are a result of community partnerships between Assistance Dogs of the West in Santa Fe, and disabilities programs in New Mexico beginning with Adelante Development Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Whether it be teaching people valuable vocational skills in animal related fields or placing the resulting trained assistance dogs with people who need skilled canine assistants, all organizations cater to people with disabilities and share the vision of giving participants the tools they need to become more independent in leisure, home and work environments.
In 2001, ADW moved into the healthcare realm and placed “Jesse” with occupational therapist, Melissa Winkle, in a private practice in Albuquerque. Through this placement, ADW realized the value in this broader application of assistance dog skills and an opportunity to improve the dog training process was identified: enlisting the help of people with disabilities. Working with these students, dogs would learn skills in an environment where the outcomes of disability were natural and consistent. By doing so, the dogs would become better equipped to serve their future client matches. In turn, the student trainers would gain valuable life skills in an area that was meaningful to them. Together, ADW and Winkle became pioneers in this emerging practice area and began developing collaborative programs that produced a new breed of student trainers, improved the educational experiences of the dogs and benefited the recipients in a true community assembly…bringing the program to Adelante Development Center.
In March 2005 “Working Dogs at Adelante” came to fruition, receiving local and national attention for its unique ability to have persons with developmental and physical disabilities participate in the training of assistance dogs in a therapeutic environment while learning vocational skills. The Working Dogs program has grown to include Easter Seals Santa Maria El Mirador in Santa Fe and Alcalde, NM, People Centered Services and Capital High School Special Educaton students in Santa Fe along with student trainers at Kid Power Therapy and Dogwood Therapy Services in Albuquerque. P rofessional ADW assistance dog trainers work in concert with occupational therapists, interns, and numerous community volunteers to implement the programs. See the ADW on the TODAY Show Video about this program.