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Tails are wagging and people are smiling at Ontario ARC | Community Service

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Tails are wagging and people are smiling at Ontario ARC
Tails are wagging and people are smiling at Ontario ARC

Ontario ARC is an extremely important resource for those with mental or physical challenges in our community. Through special programs, the organization teaches people life skills, but a brand new program is doing more for the students than they thought possible.

Countless studies have shown that when people with mental or physical disabilities work with animals, many of their challenges go away. So Ontario ARC decided they wanted to start a pet program of their own. It’s a program that’s not only changing the lives of people, but animals as well.

Gavin Collmer goes to Ontario ARC. “He’s a loyal dog and I like dogs.”

Every Tuesday and Friday at Ontario ARC, there’s extra excitement in the air.

Gail Furst, Pet Connections Program Manager, said, “We look forward to Tuesdays and Thursdays and we can’t wait for him to come here.”

Brutus, who is a one and half year old lab mix, is the first dog to be part of the new program at Ontario ARC called Pet Connections. It’s a partnership between ARC and the Humane Society down the street called Happy Tails. Happy Tails provides the dogs and Pet Connections works to make them more adoptable.

Ed  McGuigan, Happy Tails,said, “After watching the program today with the participants in the group handling Brutus, I’ve seen a tremendous change in the dog.”

This is exactly what the program is designed to do. Everyone works together to not only teach Brutus tricks, but also socializes with Brutus.

Pet Connections started in January and in those five months, something else has happened.

Stephanie Storms, Gavin’s aunt, said, “Here he’s very comfortable and he feels very confident.”

Gavin has pervasive development disorder which is on the Autism spectrum. His aunt, Stephanie Storms, says she’s seen incredible changes in him since the program started.

Storms said, “So for him to not shrink to the back of the room in a whole room full of people as well as noisy dogs it was really great to see you know.”

Furst said, “I think you can take a risk with a dog because a dog isn't going to judge you.”

A risk Gavin and all the others may not have ever taken.

Storms said, “And now it seems like they've found kind of a perfect fit for him, and it really is, you can see that it's helping him.”

Right now, there are just fewer than 20 students in the Pet Connections program. Along with training the dogs, they also make things like dog beds and dog biscuits. The program director says the program is going so well and that they hope to expand.

The program is every Tuesday and Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and they work on more than just tricks. They talk about dog safety, what warning signs to look out for and how to keep yourself safe.

Gavin says he hopes he can get a job at a kennel or Humane Society now because of his experience.

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