Margo Woodworth, centre, has a unique companion – her service dog, JoJo. She is pictured with dog trainer Tracy Church, left, her friend Sonya Faulkner and Chezzetcook Lions David Crawford and Mike Gibbons. - Wendy Elliott, Kingscountynews.ca
By Wendy Elliott
Kentville resident Margo Woodworth has a unique companion – her service dog, a black Lab called JoJo.
Dog trainer Tracy Church visited Woodworth recently to see how JoJo was settling in. The dog, who is almost four, was trained for six months.
“They thrive on structure and consistency,” Church said, reminding Woodworth, “you’re the boss.”
A working dog like JoJo, she said, has to act like a piece of furniture until her owner gives a command.
Church said the training program is growing every year.
“We have 162 dogs right now. There are other schools that train dogs in other provinces. There’s a lot of co-operation.”
Woodworth travelled to the school in Ontario in June to get her dog. Lions in Chezzetcook and Kentville helped her with travel costs.
Once home, her first-storey apartment had to be modified to accommodate a service dog. According to Woodworth, residents of the complex, and especially their children, still get confused about the role of a service dog, despite the building manager sending out an explanatory letter.
Woodworth had a stroke seven years ago and is now confined to a wheelchair. She says she and JoJo have become very close.
“She is very soothing to me and very committed to me. She looks to me for guidance,” said the former bookkeeper. “She’s a beautiful, good dog.”
According to Woodworth, JoJo has given her a sense of new life when her disability makes “every day a struggle. I miss going to work and not having a job.”
Woodworth’s friend, Sonya Faulkner, says the service dog program that provided JoJo is “amazing. It’s incredible to give a second life to someone.”
Did you know?
-In the early 1980s Lions Clubs across Canada sought to develop a national project to reflect their service to Canadians with visual impairments. The result was Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides was established in 1985.
-Since then, the foundation has grown to include additional dog guide programs: hearing ear, special skills, seizure response, autism assistance and diabetic alert dog guides.
- Canadians with a medical or physical disability are provided dog guides at no cost. The foundation operates a national training school and charity that assists individuals with disabilities.
- Now the largest school of its kind in Canada, the foundation has two training facilities in Ontario.