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Get to Know: Assistance Dogs Northwest

By Colleen Williams
January 25, 2018 • 3 min. read
Hope, a guide dog

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Assistance Dogs Northwest logo In November 2017, the Healthy Paws Foundation announced the grant program, The Healthy Paws Rescue Race, funded by the  “every quote gives hope” program. After six selected animal welfare organizations “raced” to the finish line, garnering votes via social media and email, the foundation gave $50,000 total in grants. The top receiver of votes won $20,000, second place won $10,000 and four finalists each took home $5,000. Below, find out more about finalist Assistance Dogs Northwest.

Assistance Dogs NW is a charitable organization that provides professionally trained dogs to those with disabilities; these dogs will provide their partners with increased independence and enhance the quality of their lives.

Service dogs are the primary focus of the organization, and they are partnered with children and adults with physical disabilities that limit their mobility. These dogs can assist with things such as pulling a wheelchair, turning on and off lights, opening doors and retrieving items that are out of reach.

They also train and provide dogs who work at Courthouse Facilities, where they accompany children who are victims or witnesses of crime, Hospital Facilities, where they provide love and companionship to patients, Seizure Dogs who are trained to assist their partners by recognizing the signs of a seizure and going to find help during a seizure, and Social Therapy Dogs who provide kids with special needs with unconditional love. Assistance dogs and the lifetime support and care are provided free of charge through grants, donations and fundraising.

Assistance Dogs NW was founded by Will and Mo Maurer, who began volunteering in the Assistance Dog industry in 1995. Together they founded their own program in 2001 in Hawaii, which has since grown into one the largest providers of service and assistance dogs in that state. The Maurers had grown up in Seattle, and expanded their generous intiative to the Pacific Northwest. Their second training campus, Assistance Dogs Northwest, is located on Bainbridge Island, WA.

A Typical Day for Hope

Hospital Facility Dog Hope spends her days snuggling with patients in their hospital beds and sitting patiently with children receiving chemotherapy. She works full-time with Sandy Westfall, her handler and Child Life Program Manager at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. “Hope brings so much joy and love to our kids. Her daily visits give them something to look forward to and make children smile when nothing else can,” says Sandy. Hope’s presence with children in the hospital can completely change the direction of their mood, calming them down, and allowing them to talk through whatever is bothering or scaring them. “There was one child who was brought in with a very serious head injury. The family requested Hope because they loved dogs. Hope came in and when they laid the boys hand on her head, he began to move his hand a little bit. The family started to cry because it was the first time he had shown any kind of movement since the accident. She has such an influence on how kids respond and how they can heal.”
Dog sleeping with hands on him
Hope, like many of the pups at Assistance Dogs NW, provides moments of her namesake, as well as healing and comfort. With the Healthy Paws Rescue Race funds, another dog at the nonprofit can be trained to support an individual in need. “This Rescue Race grant from Healthy Paws will help us place more Service Dogs to assist people with physical disabilities,

Hospital Facility Dogs to provide love and comfort to children in the hospital, and Courthouse Facility Dogs to help children going through the difficult legal process,” says Stacy Goodfellow, Program Manager.

The organization continues to serve people in Washington, Oregon and Idaho with special needs through Community Outreach Programs. Their goal is to continue training and placing more quality Assistance Dog Teams that will help both the dogs and their partners realize their full potential.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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