Spotlight Charity: Summit Assistance Dogs
Photo courtesy of Summit Assistance Dogs
Opening a door. Turning on a light. Picking up a dropped dish towel. Most of us complete these daily activities without a second thought. But for those living with disabilities, these tasks can be difficult and sometimes even impossible without additional assistance.
There are currently over 55 million people in the United States living with disabilities, some requiring help from a caregiver. However, there is an empowering alternative for those who live with disabilities that often eliminates the need for a caregiver: to be partnered with an assistance dog.
Assistance dogs transform the lives of those with disabilities by increasing their level of autonomy, boosting their confidence, and providing unconditional love. Unfortunately, the waiting time to receive an assistance dog is currently between two and five years—a very long time for someone in need.
In 2000, in response to this high demand for assistance dogs, Sue Meinzinger founded Summit Assistance Dogs, a non-profit charity based in Anacortes that trains highly skilled assistance dogs for people with disabilities. Over the course of little more than a decade, Summit Assistance Dogs has partnered 54 dogs with children and adults living with various disabilities.
Summit’s dogs do not come in one-size-fits-all packages. Some dogs are trained as service dogs, some as hearing dogs, some as skilled companion dogs, and still others trained as facility dogs. Training for most assistance dogs starts shortly after birth and continues for approximately two years, after which they are ready to begin their job. Once an individual has been partnered with a dog, training continues in order to meet the needs of each recipient and to teach the new pair to work as a team.
To learn more about each type of highly skilled assistance dog trained by Summit Assistance Dogs, visit www.summitdogs.org/dogs.html.
For those of us who are dog owners, we know that our dogs are more than just property—they are integral members of our families. Simply the presence of a dog in one’s household brings joy, teaches responsibility and selflessness, and helps us to step back from our often hectic lives and reflect. Assistance dogs change the lives of people with disabilities by enabling them to accomplish necessary physical tasks, but perhaps more importantly, these dogs provide unparalleled emotional support, loyalty, and unconditional love.
Summit Assistance Dogs has big goals for the future—namely increasing the number of people they can help by reducing the waiting period for a client to receive a dog. Summit hopes to soon build a larger facility with a greater capacity to house and train dogs. Without support from volunteers and donors, however, their goals would not be attainable. Read on for more information about how to become involved!
Your donation will help to acquire, train, feed, and care for assistance dogs—dogs in advanced training go through around 7500 lbs of dog food per year! Donations also help to fund Summit’s prisoner volunteer program at Monroe Correctional Complex, where inmates volunteer to help train assistance dogs. Summit Assistance Dogs receives no funding from the Department of Corrections for the program, so they rely on you to help keep this incredible project moving forward! To learn more about ways to donate, go to www.summitdogs.org/donate.html.
If you are a public employee and wish to contribute directly, sign up for payroll deduction at www.cfd.wa.gov and look up Summit Assistance Dogs by their CFD #: 0315210
Committed volunteers are a vital part of Summit Assistance Dogs and there are many areas in which you can help, from outreach to fundraising and more. To find out about current volunteer opportunities contact Summit’s volunteer coordinator, Rita Cooper, at [email protected] or (360) 293-5609.
Foster a Dog:
Summit is always looking for families who are willing to foster a puppy or dog in training. Fostering a dog is a highly rewarding and educational experience for the foster family and a great way for an aspiring assistance dog to learn the basic tricks of his trade in a loving, home environment. If you are interesting in fostering a dog, visit www.summitdogs.org/volunteer.html or contact Rita Cooper at [email protected] or (360) 293-5609.