Peoria High students training puppies for service-dog roles

Students at Peoria High School may see several cuddly new additions when they come back to school next year.

Through a new 18-month Puppy Raising Program, 12 students will have a puppy to raise and train every day to become affordable service dogs for military, police, fire and emergency servicemen and women who were injured while on duty.

Students will be assigned a puppy to live with. They will bring the puppy to classes, home and to work as part of their training and care.

The four-credit pilot program is a school partnership with the Foundation for Service Dog Support, a non-profit organization that supports disabled and impaired individuals who have or need a service dog.

Gail Meserve, the lead instructor, will teach students how to train dogs to perform such tasks as opening doors and picking up objects and handing it to their owner. The class will also teach dog safety and care.

Meserve said that through grants and donations, the fully trained service dogs coming out of the program will cost $5,000 instead of $20,000 through a service-dog agency.

C.J. Betancourt, director of the Foundation for Service Dog Support, said the partnership was a wonderful idea and should continue after the first year.

“I am really excited about the program, because I’ve felt it’s been a long time coming,” Betancourt said. “This has never been done before, and I hope to bring it to other high schools in the state.”

Jan Delgado, internship coordinator for Peoria High, said the program is the first of its kind in the district and that participating students will learn not only how to train service dogs but about the community they are serving.

“The students are providing a great service to the community,” she said. “They will have something that will help someone else get their life back.”

Delgado said the first recipient of a student-trained service dog will be Bill Weigt, a Peoria police officer who was shot in the chest in 2005. Weigt is disabled from the chest down.

The class is open only to juniors, and students who sign up must also go through an interview with a four-person panel.

Andrea Ramirez, 16, signed up for the program. She said she knows it will be hard to raise and train a puppy every day but that it is worth it because of the greater purpose it serves.

“Knowing that someone will benefit from all the work I do and the experience that I will get is a good reason to sign up,” Ramirez said. “It works out for everyone.”

The Dog Tags Program

About The Dog Tags Program

Soldiers are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with disabling injuries that make it difficult to cope with the challenges of daily life. In order to provide much needed assistance, Puppies Behind Bars has started the Dog Tags program.

Dog Tags works to match disabled veterans with specially trained Labradors or Golden Retrievers who assist these wounded veterans and help them live fuller lives.

Puppies Behind Bars honors these soldiers by providing them with life companion dogs, who have been raised in prison, as a way of repaying these wounded men and women for their selfless service to our country.


Veterans must be out of hospital for eight months and be able to provide the basic necessities of vet visits, food and exercise. They also need to demonstrate a desire to become more independent and a willingness to work with a highly trained dog.

Veterans need to complete a short Puppies Behind Bars application and they will then be matched with a service dog school associated with Puppies Behind Bars.

If accepted by the school, the soldier travels to New York or Colorado for a two week period where they are matched with the right dog and taught how to care for them.


Along with providing unconditional love, service dogs can provide a veteran with assistance for many daily tasks such as…

  • Turn on and off the lights
  • Open and close doors
  • Pick up dropped objects
  • Handle money and credit cards for cashiers
  • Assist in taking off shoes and pants
  • Remind the soldier to take his/her medicine
  • And much, much more


Currently, the Veterans Administration cannot offer fully-trained service dogs to all veterans who are in need of them.

Puppies Behind Bars pays for all of the costs associated with raising the dog, matching the dog and soldier and training them to work together. Puppies Behind Bars also covers the cost of one family member’s travel to the specialized school in New York or Colorado.

Puppies Behind Bars has the experience of training these sophisticated animals and is equipped to provide a disabled veteran with the specialized help that he or she so desperately needs.

For more information or to find a Dog Tags application, please visit or contact Puppies Behind Bars at

Adopt A Therapy Dog and Save A Life

Adopt A Therapy Dog and Save A Life

Canine Hope Therapy Dogs has a diverse membership of dogs.  There are small dogs like Yorkies, Poms, and Maltese and large dogs like Great Danes and St Bernards.  Young dogs and young at heart dogs.   They are all special and unique, but there is one group that we are the most proud of and that is the group of dogs that were once rescues and now are Therapy Dogs changing lives just as their life was changed.

Rescue dogs sometimes actually make the very best Therapy Dogs.  They’ve often overcome hardships, just like many of the people you will visit.  They often have special needs, just like the people you will visit.  They have stories, just like the people you will visit.  They had hope, just like those you will meet have hope.  They have love to give , just like the people you will visit.

A great example of a rescue that is now a Therapy Dog is “Promise”.  Promise was saved by animal control from a dog fighting raid near Memphis.  He was going to be used as a “bait” dog and was only 6 months old.  He had been mutilated by his captors.  They cut his ears completely off at the base of his head so the fighting dogs would not grab his ears, but rather his throat.  I actually took in Promise when the shelter called me.  I didn’t even ask to see a picture, I just said “Yes, I’ll take him” and didn’t know what condition he would be in.  I drove over 4 hours to meet someone that was bringing him to me.  As soon as I saw him, I dropped to my knees beside him, wrapped my arms around him and said “I promise no one will ever hurt you again, baby.”  I wanted to make sure that would always be true and so I named him “Promise”.  Promise goes into children’s classrooms and teaches things that other dogs could never do as well.  Promise, the dog with no ears, teaches children that being different makes you beautiful, that because you are different it often leads you to special paths.  He teaches empathy, he makes children laugh with his tricks, he warms your heart just by petting him, he fills you with love and compassion when you hear his story.  He fills his owner’s heart, the one that gave him a forever home, with experiences and blessings he could never have imagined.


There are other dogs like Promise, dogs that have much to give and are ready to start their lives as Therapy Dogs.  Canine Hope, Inc. also services Canine Hope All Breed Rescue as well as Canine Hope Therapy Dogs.  We recognized the ones that were exceptional, special, loving, and that had a desire to give love and understanding to humans.  We have taken those dogs and trained them.  They have their CGC and are ready to enter Therapy Training with their new forever family.  Their adoption fee comes with a scholarship for their new family to attend a “Therapy Training Weekend” at which time the team will become a certified Therapy Team in both AAA and AAT.  These dogs are spayed or neutered, up to date on shots, heartworm free on preventive, microchipped, housetrained, cratetrained, obedience trained, socialized, and ready for their new family.

In the days ahead we will be featuring some of these special dogs.  If you are interested in adopting one of these dogs, please send us an email at caninehope@comcast.netand we will happily send you an application for adoption.  If you would like more information on our “Therapy Training Weekend” for rescues, please contact us for more information and as always if we can help you with information about our Therapy Program or Pet Theapy in general, contact us and we will be happy to give you any information.

Our first featured dog is “Smooch”.  Follow this link to find out more about her:

Adopt A Therapy Dog: Smooch


We look forward to hearing from you and hope that you will consider adopting a rescue, or a shelter dog for your Therapy Dog.  They make wonderful pets, and very special Therapy Dogs.

Dog Laws-The Landlords and Dogs

Elderly or Disabled Tenants

The special place pets occupy in the lives of older people or people living with disabilities is well recognized. Finally, at least in some places, the law is taking that special bond into account.

Subsidized Housing

Older or disabled people, living in government-subsidized housing, being forced to give up pets that are their cherished companions – it doesn’t make for good press for the bureaucrats responsible. Pressure on those government officials has yielded results.

Tenants in “federally assisted” housing for the elderly or handicapped are allowed by law to own pets.4 This rule applies even if the federal government does not own the rental housing – it’s enough that a federal agency (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, for example) subsidizes it. Owners and managers may place reasonable regulations on pets, after consulting with tenants.5 Contact a local HUD office or your county Housing Authority to find out if a particular rental is covered.

Several states have also taken action. In California, residents of public housing developments (those owned and operated by a state, county, city or district agency) who are over the age of 60 or disabled may keep up to two small pets per apartment.6 Arizona, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Hampshire have similar rules, allowing tenants in state-owned housing developments for the elderly or disabled to have pets.7 (In Connecticut, a tenant may have a pet if the housing project allowed pets when the person applied for admission.)

The laws allow the public agencies to make reasonable regulations about pets. In Massachusetts, for example, policy guidelines issued by the state limit tenants to one pet; a dog must not weigh more than 40 pounds,and it must be spayed or neutered. The Arizona statute forbids requiring a tenant to pay a deposit of more than one month’s rent.

But regardless of standard lease terms, landlords who receive federal money must also make “reasonable accommodations” for disabled tenants, as long as the accommodations don’t impose undue hardship on the operation of the property.8 For example, a New Jersey court ruled that a man with paraplegia might be allowed to have a dog that was bigger than the 20-pound limit imposed by the standard lease. The man had trained the dog to retrieve objects for him, and two doctors stated that keeping the dog was important to his emotional well-being. The landlord could not automatically exclude the dog, the court said, without an inquiry into whether allowing the dog to stay was a reasonable accommodation for the disabled tenant.9

Similarly, a Massachusetts woman with a psychiatric disability was allowed to keep her cat, despite a no pets rule in her subsidized apartment complex. At her eviction trial, experts testified that she was emotionally attached to her pet and had “perhaps even psychological dependence” on it. A state appeals court ruled that accommodating the tenant was required under the law; the animal had caused no problems or complaints, and allowing her to keep it would not pose a hardship for the management of the apartments.10

If the management makes reasonable accommodations and the pet still creates problems, the tenant may be evicted. For example, a Connecticut housing complex for the elderly and disabled had trouble with a tenant whose dog frightened and bothered other residents. The dog’s owner, a chronic schizophrenic, did not walk his dog in the designated areas or clean up after it, and left it in his apartment for long periods of time. Despite the efforts of a social worker and the dog trainer whom she enlisted to help, problems persisted. A court reluctantly concluded that the management had made the reasonable accommodations required by law, and could proceed with an eviction.11

Private Housing

In most states, only government-subsidized housing is subject to special rules allowing pets. But in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, and New Jersey, elderly or disabled tenants have rights to keep pets in either public or private housing. New Jersey, for example, guarantees the right of senior citizens in any “senior citizen housing project” to have pets. Any building with three or more units, intended for and solely occupied by persons 62 or older, is covered by the law. (Owner-occupied buildings with less than three units are exempted.)

Residents can have a dog, cat or any other animal that doesn’t constitute a health or safety hazard. A landlord who unreasonably refuses to renew a tenant’s lease because of a pet that is properly cared for and not a nuisance can be fined up to $500.12


Many elderly people wouldn’t move to better housing if it meant giving up their pets, according to a new study. Researchers talked to 2,300 older people in Evanston, Illinois, nearly one-third of whom owned pets. Of the pet owners, 86% said pet ownership dictated where they lived.13

Federal law allows tenants in public housing to keep companion animals, subject to reasonable regulations established by the public housing agency.14 The agency can charge pet deposits or fees, and can, for example, restrict the size, weight, or number of pets. It can make other restrictions based on the particular property – for example, a high-rise building could reasonably have rules quite different from a smaller building with backyards.