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Madison Park Living: "Changing lives one pup at a time" - Assistance Dogs Northwest
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Madison Park Living: “Changing lives one pup at a time”

Madison Park Living: “Changing lives one pup at a time”

Madison Park Living, November 16, 2016

Author: Abbie Richert 

Specially trained dogs serve people in a way that surpasses even the best efforts of humankind. Between their calming nature and propensity for providing essential support to people with a range of physical disabilities, it’s safe to say that while all heroes might not wear capes, these ones sure do— well, blue vests really.

For Mo Maurer, Executive Director of Assistance Dogs Northwest, the special relationship between service dogs and the people who need them most is transformative to say the least. Mo and her husband, Will, originally from Madison Park, moved to Maui after finishing college, and in 2000 co-founded Assistance Dogs of Hawaii. “When I started working in the industry it was over 20 years ago and I started training guide dogs for the blind. It’s been exciting to see how the industry has progressed since then,” Mo said. In Maui, the Maurers “recognized the need for all types of service dogs in Hawaii, but the quarantine restrictions made it hard for people to get dogs.” Because of the restrictions, the Maurers started a puppy- raising program in Seattle and on the Eastside. “The puppies have to be at least 10-months-old to come to our campus on Maui, so we have a wonderful group of volunteers who raise the puppies and socialize them until they are old enough to come to Hawaii.”

As the program grew, so did the interest for service dogs in the Northwest. “We’ve seen the demand for assistance dogs grow, especially in this area,” Mo said. “Being from here and coming back and forth over the years, we decided we wanted to build a campus to support our teams [locally], and where we can do training in the Northwest”—from this, Assistance Dogs Northwest was born.

The impact of Assistance Dogs Northwest spans far and wide. They currently have ten graduate teams in the area, which include service dogs for children with disabilities, hospital facility dogs and courthouse dogs. “We’ve started training hospital facility dogs that work full time in the hospital with one of the medical staff. We love this program because the dogs don’t just benefit one person, they benefit thousands of people,” Mo said. They also recently introduced the Courthouse Dog Program to help children who are victims of crime. “They work at a prosecutor’s office, usually with a victim advocate or a prosecutor. They are present during interviews, medical exams, and even when the children testify in a court; they sit in a witness stand with them and really help children to find their voice and to have the courage to talk about what happened. The jurisdictions where we have placed dogs are finding they have a higher conviction rate there, and for the children, it helps them calm down enough to talk about what happened.”

Over the last 16 years, the program has grown immensely and the Maurers have helped launch pilot programs in other countries like Japan and in South America. Now, their focus is to bring a physical campus to the Seattle area; the new campus and new program will serve people in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. “We are currently doing a capital campaign to raise funds for the Seattle campus,” Mo said. “We are a 501(c)3 non-profit, and we do provide the dogs and lifetime support follow-up free of charge. I think it’s important for people to know that we rely entirely on donations to be able to provide the dogs free of charge to the people who need them most.”

Mo said that being back in Madison Park “feels like coming home. We are living on the same street we lived in 30 years ago, so it’s really fun.” She also noted that Madison Parkers might be interested in an update on Nelson, one of the first puppies they trained here in Seattle. “A lot of people knew him and were excited about him graduating,” she said. “He ended up going to a young boy in West Seattle who has cerebral palsy and autism. It was just nice that he was raised in Seattle and came back to a child in Seattle. We saw him a couple days ago and he and his owner are doing amazing!”

The positive impact of the program propels the Maurers to grow the organization so that more people can benefit. If you would like to donate to Assistance Dogs Northwest, or learn more about what they do, visit assistancedogsnorthwest.org

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