TAMA NEWS-HERALD - Therapy and service dog trainer, Nicole Shumate will present a program for the Heart of Iowa Kennel Club on Monday, June 20, at 7 p.m. at the Family Pet Center located at the corner of Iowa Avenue West and Parker Avenue in Marshalltown.
Shumate, who launched Paws & Effect, an affiliate with the national organization Delta Society, with her husband in May, 2006, will present a program on training dogs that eventually will become companions to veterans — and most likely to a veteran experiencing the effects of post traumatic stress disorder.
“Post traumatic stress disorder isn’t a visible wound, but it doesn’t mean that that wound isn’t there,” Shumate said. “So a lot of the focus has been informing the public a little more about what post traumatic stress disorder is and why somebody might have a service dog for it.”
According to Shumate, Paws & Effect started out small, with two branches of focus: a service dog program and a therapy dog program called the Pet Partner Program. Since its inception, Paws & Effect has provided service dogs to six individuals, with the most recent being a former sailor suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. “The challenge with having litters is the timeline is really long, and it’s a lot of work,” she said. “Our goal is to be able to place these dogs without any cost to the recipient, so we’re bringing litters in and hoping to be able to fundraise at the same time, as the costs accrue quickly”. Although Paws & Effect provides other types of service dogs and therapy dogs, this program will emphasize the service dogs for veterans.
“The puppies will learn some very basic service dog skills, like how to back up so they can open doors,” Shumate said. “As a group, they are working together for six to eight weeks”. Shumate also noted the puppies will learn several tasks to specifically help veterans suffering from PTSD. “We teach the dogs to maintain a certain amount of physical space, and so the dog might stand in front of somebody in a way that you can’t approach them too closely, and it’s just a way to maintain a little bit more distance,” Shumate explained. “Or sometimes the dog will stand behind somebody in such a way that it would make it a little more challenging for another person to come up and be very close to them from behind. ”The dogs also will learn to provide visual indicators, such as tail wagging, to alert the owner that a person is approaching from behind. .“It gives the veteran a good indication so that they don’t feel like they always have to be on alert,” Shumate said. This program is free and open to the public. For more questions on this program or the kennel club please call 752-2458.