Maui nonprofit trains service dogs to assist the disabled

Assistance Dogs of Hawaii

They are cute and cuddly, but the dogs at Assistance Dogs of Hawaii are more than just good looking, they are on their way to becoming certified assistance dogs.

“Including facility dogs for hospitals like Tucker who works at Kapiolani Medical Center and courthouse dogs like Pono who works at the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office,” Assistance Dogs of Hawaii co-founder Mo Maurer said.

Kihei residents Bill and Mo Maurer decided to create the Makawao dog training facility in 2000 after Mo had a serious health scare and had been working as an accountant.

“It made me realize that I hadn’t done what I always wanted to do. So I sold my practice and started the nonprofit organization,” Maurer said.

She went back to school and got a Master’s of Science degree in Animal Behavior with an emphasis in Canine Studies.

“We started out with the mission of training dogs for people with spinal cord injuries to train the dogs to assist them to do the activities of daily living,” Maurer said.

For the past 13 years, the nonprofit organization has helped train more than a hundred dogs to help those with disabilities.

“Most of the dogs that we train are either labrador retrievers or golden retrievers. That’s because they really have the best temperament for this type of work,” Maurer said.

Graduates have been placed with partners in wheelchairs, suffering from genetic or injury-related disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s just been amazing to see the difference the dogs make in their partner’s lives and people say that the dogs make their wheelchair disappear,” Maurer said.

On Tuesday, tune in to the KHON2 News at 5 p.m. to find out exactly what it takes to train the dogs from birth to adulthood and what it’s like to be a puppy foster family.

For information on Assistance Dogs of Hawaii, visit this website.

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