The Biggest Little Service Dog Organization
In 2018 we created a Canines With A Cause program in the Reno/Sierras area after seeing the need for veterans and the abundance of shelter dogs in the area. Our goals for this program are to save three lives, that of the shelter dog, that of the incarcerated veteran and that of the veteran in need of a service dog.
Canines With A Cause-Reno works with the staff of local animal shelters to find what we call, “Diamonds in the Rough” or the dogs that display a very special personality and behavior traits. Once we find these dogs, we carefully observe and assess them to confirm that they will fit the requirements of our program. Once selected, the dogs are ready to meet their new handlers.
After we select dogs from the shelter, they are paired with inmates at the Warm Springs Correctional Center in Carson City, NV. The Reno/Sierras program is unique in that all of the inmates selected to be trainers in the prison program are also veterans. The incarcerated veterans not only learn how to train a dog, they also learn new skills in dog handling, effective communication, peaceful problem-solving skills, conflict resolution and teamwork. These skills positively impact the lives of the inmates, reminds them of their military service, allows them to give back to their military brothers and sisters and save the lives of shelter dogs. It also gives them skills to potentially be successful in the world once they are released from prison. The fact that the dogs don’t judge them for what they may have done in the past allows them to incarcerated veterans stay very focused on their goals and take pride in their work.
The incarcerated veterans are teamed up with one designated as the primary handler (mainly responsible for care and training of the dog) and the other as the secondary handler (assists with training and care).Teams take their dogs through a specific training curriculum in addition to attending weekly lessons with a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Once the dogs have completed their training they are eligible to take their final training exam. After passing the Vet Cadet Test the dogs officially graduate this level of the program and are ready to meet potential adopters.
After graduating from the prison program, dogs are transported to our weekly, hour- long classes where they can meet and work with potential veteran adopters. We affectionately call this, “Speed Dating.” Veterans typically meet with several dogs until they can find their perfect match. The veteran and dog will continue to work with until they feel confident that they’re ready to take the dog home to foster. The veterans will continue to attend classes with their foster dog until we’re certain it’s the right fit and they’re ready to officially adopt.
All our training is positive reinforcement and science-based. Our goal is to create a healing bond through the training process. This program is flexible to fit our client’s needs however, we also have specific commitment expectations from our clients to ensure safety and success. Services are free for our clients; however, they are expected to financially care for their dog. Service dog training can take several years to complete (clients must have 300-400 hours of training) and the curriculum uses smaller milestones to reach our ultimate goal.
Rachel A. F. Dickinson
Reno Programs Manager
After earning her B.A. from The University of Maine, Rachel earned her Certified Professional Dog Trainer Certification, or “CPDT-KA”. Rachel loves dog training and prides herself on her creative problem-solving skills and enthusiasm and believes that dog training is an experience that strengthens the bond, trust and overall relationship between a person and their dog. Besides caring for her own dogs (and cats) since she was very young, Rachel has been volunteering for animal shelters across the country since she was 8 years old and has worked with Humane Societies in Montana, California and Nevada. Through her shelter work she has gained a great deal of experience working with a wide variety of dogs and people in many different situations. Rachel is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the Pet Professionals Guild and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer by the Council for Certification of Professional Dog Trainers and an AKC CGC Evaluator.
Michelle Marroquin became part of the Canines with a Cause-Reno team in June 2019. She is a proud graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno. Michelle earned her degree in Human Development and Family Studies and has also taken several Criminal Justice courses at Truckee Meadows Community College. Michelle sees every challenge as an opportunity and truly values working with people and animals. She is so excited to be a part of the CWAC team and to help it grow and thrive. Michelle cares for her two rescue dogs, Fozzie and Annie.
“My name is George L Feriend Jr. I’m medically retired from the US Air Force Security Police with a service-connected disability. I heard about Canines With A Cause through another nonprofit with veterans programs (High Fives). I was intrigued about getting involved with CWAC. My physical status has become more and more challenging through the years. For example, I need help with right arm spasms that have developed over time.
A small dog named Chi-Chi became my partner. We work together toward our goal, for Chi-Chi to become a Certified Service Dog. I am excited we are going through this training together. It means much more to me to train with her, rather than getting a ready-to-go dog trained by someone else. Chi-Chi and I are creating an unbreakable bond on this path as she becomes a Certified Service Dog.Chi-Chi is a brilliant little dog with so much compassion and unconditional love. Just her companionship is priceless for me.
Chronic Pain is a reality I live with every moment of every day. Training is a welcome distraction from the pain. With Chi-Chi in my life, I’m excited and looking forward to my future. I am so grateful for nonprofit programs like CWAC that give hope to unwanted dogs and challenged veterans. The CWAC program is free of charge for veterans.”
Mailing address (this is not a shelter or public office): 3983 S. McCarran Boulevard #552, Reno, NV 89502
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