FOUR LEGGED HEROES
By Janesha Moses '16 | Vol. 3 Issue 2
Since 1997, Texas A&M University has sponsored Aggie Guide-Dogs and Service-Dogs (AGS), an organization that allows students to train dogs that will go on to be guide dogs and service dogs for the disabled.
According to Shannon Barbeau ’16, junior trainer supervisor of AGS, “[AGS] is a student-run organization that fundraises for and educates about the training of service dogs. We also raise and train service dogs in Phase 1 training. The puppies are donated to our program at about eight weeks of age if they are a good candidate for service work.”
Barbeau said that the puppies remain in training with one trainer in AGS for a full year, during which they’ll learn simple tasks like how to behave in public to more difficult feats like turning lights on and off. After the full year, the dogs are then sent to Phase II of their training where they’ll learn all they need to know for assisting their partner.
“We have graduated dogs that have gone on to be guide dogs, mobility assistance dogs, autism assistance dogs, diabetic alert dogs, PTSD assistance, seizure alert and response, and facility dogs,” said Barbeau.
These volunteers put hours upon hours of hard work into training their assistance dogs. According to these two dog trainers in the organization, Paige Hastie ’18 and Chandler Gilbert ’17, the reward is definitely worth the effort.
“Our pups get to go change the world for a person with a disability and we get to be a part of it. No matter how small that may be, not many people get to say that,” said Hastie.
According to Gilbert, the best part of training these dogs is impacting the lives of others. “For me it was less about wanting to train dogs and more about wanting to be part of something bigger. I have the opportunity to train a dog that is going to eventually become a lifeline for someone. We may train them, but they go on to change lives. That is why I wanted to do this,” said Gilbert.
Barbeau says, “Seeing the dog you poured your heart into for over a year now helping an individual gain greater independence is an inexplicable feeling!”
Spending so much time with these furry little friends is just one perk of this unique organization. AGS has enhanced people’s lives all across the country and is yet another shining example of Aggies who are committed to selfless service.