Guest post by Karen Johnson (Blogger, From Paradise to Pungo) Thank you Karen for sharing with us about this wonderful organization.
Yesterday, I made a long overdue trip Upcountry MauiÂ to visit Hawaii Canines for Independence. TheyÂ areÂ a non-profit organization that is dedicated to trainingÂ “special dogs for special people”. For almost a decade, this outstanding organization has been training dogs to help people with a variety of physical disabilities lead more independent lives.Â Up at their cozy and charming Kula facility, theÂ sweet-tempered labradors and golden retrievers learn to carry shopping bags, pull wheel chairs, turn lights on and off, and pick up laundry. In fact, each dog is custom-matchedÂ to its owners needs and learns to do any task and go anywhereÂ that will make their owner’s life easier.
Mo Maurer is the founder and executive director of this inspiring organization, and she is both a dog-lover and a humanitarian. This was Mo’s unrealized childhood dreamÂ until a personal health crisis lead her to finally quit her comfy job as a CPA and launch this work. She began with Sadie, a beautiful golden retriever who was her first service dog, and has since trained dozens of puppies and matched them with disabled people all over the islands. Besides the practical help the dogs provide, they also give their owners companionship, a wagging tail, and the unconditional love dogs are famous for. They also provide a social link for their owners who are able to make friends and lose their sense of isolation and self-consciousnessÂ because of the warmth and charisma of their dogs.
Up at the facility, we got to watch the trainers in action, demonstrating how the dogs learn complex tasks by chaining actions together. For instance, first they learn to turn on a low light-switch, then they learn to step up on chair to turn on a high light switch, then they learn to put their paws up on the wall to reach the light switch. They get their dog biscuit reward for each action performed successfully, but seem to respond even more to the affirmation and approval of their trainers. We also watched a couple of news clips on people whose lives have been changed by these dogs. These included a paraplegic woman who is able to attend UH because of her dog’s help in the classroom, and a young boyÂ with whose immobilityÂ could not impedeÂ the laughter created by his dog’s snuggling and face-licking. Seeing that kind of joy in a wheel-chair-bound child will make your whole day.
This is a total feel good organization. The people who work there have huge hearts, the dogs are as loveable a creation as the good Lord ever made, and they work together to help those among us with the biggest needs. Visit, volunteer, donate…you’ll get your own miracle.
Hawaii Canines for Independence
PO Box 790626
Paia, HI 96779
*Make sure you visit their website at www.hawaiicanines.com for more information and great photos!
Needless to say, this is my Thankful Thursday entry for this week.Â For more thankful hearts, click here.
UPDATE: CHECK-OUT this article on CNN related to this topic. It’s titled: Guide Dogs Trained To Handle Plane Emergencies. Click here to go there.