Majoring in Socialization and Basic Obedience
By Meg Mills
You might see a few extra feet — or paws — walk across the stage at the University of Kentucky’s May Commencement.
Anu, a year-old golden retriever service dog in training, is one of several dogs that will be crossing the graduation stage with their student handlers.
A member of the sky day litter, Anu is currently majoring in socialization and basic obedience.
He is one of the dogs working with 4 Paws for Ability, a nonprofit organization based in Xenia, Ohio, that breeds, trains and places service dogs with children and veterans with disabilities.
The students at the University of Kentucky involved in the program volunteer to train the dogs until they are ready to move on to advanced training. They receive the puppies as young as 10 weeks old and typically keep them until they are a year old.
The dogs go everywhere with their student handlers whether it is a lecture, a trip to the mall or a sporting event.
Anu’s handler, Abby Sheeler, has been involved with the 4 Paws for Ability since she started at UK in 2014. Anu is the sixth dog she has fostered with the program.
“I was an out-of-state student and did not know anyone at UK, let alone Kentucky. I wanted to find something at UK that would keep me busy and provide me with a place where I could meet different people,” Sheeler said. “The program combines my two favorite passions: working with dogs and working with individuals with disabilities.”
Sheeler and the other handlers at UK have one end goal — to make their pups successful. They introduce the dogs to various environments to make sure their dogs will be fully confident in any surrounding once they are assigned their positions.
Along with socializing the dogs, the handlers also volunteer at nursing homes and schools throughout Lexington with their dogs.
Sheeler, who is president of the 4 Paws for Ability student organization at UK, will graduate this week with three bachelor’s degrees in psychology, special education moderate/severe disabilities, and special education learning and behavioral disabilities.
“Being a part of this program has brought me so much joy. I don’t know what I would do without it.”
After Commencement, Sheeler and her four-legged pal will be together for a little bit longer. Anu has an evaluation in May to see if he is ready for advanced training, or if he needs to be socialized more.
During this evaluation they will also decide what “specialty task” he is naturally good at to determine what type of service dog he will become. He could assist with mobility, seizure alert, diabetic alert, autism assistance, post-traumatic stress disorder assistance, hearing alert and much more.
By this fall, Sheeler will move on to a position as a special education teacher at Creekside Elementary in Scott County, Kentucky, and Anu will move on to the next phase of his career as a service dog.
Southern Barker in Hamburg hosts a special Derby Hat Contest on May 4 starting at noon. Compete in categories of Best Overall, Most Creative, and Best Hat Duo.
Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, KY, celebrates the 15th annual Homecoming Event on Sunday, May 5 from 1 to 5 pm. Guests will enjoy silent and live auctions of horse racing memorabilia, collectible halters, equine art, jewelry, book signings, catered BBQ, music and tours.
There is a Low-Cost Rabies Vaccination Clinic at Douglass Park on Thursday, May 9 starting at 6 pm.
The Lexington Humane Society has a Mega Adopt-A-Thon at their offsite location, PetSmart Hamburg, starting on Friday, May 17 and lasting until May 19 all day.
The Central Kentucky Veterinary Center (Georgetown) hosts Festival of the Pet with door prizes, food, face painting, bouncy house, petting zoo, and more on Saturday, May 18 at 1 pm.
The Summit at Fritz Farm has partnered with the Lexington Humane Society to host their 2nd Annual Fido Fest on Saturday, May 18 at noon. Bring your pup and enjoy pet selfie station, kid activities, food & booze, vendors, and music.
Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation hosts their 2019 Run for the Paws on Sunday, May 19 at 5 pm.
The Woodford Humane Society hosts their annual Woodford Wag Dog Walk on Saturday, May 25 at 9 am.
Adoption event at the Pet Valu in Chevy Chase on Saturday, May 25 at 11 am.
The Lexington Humane Society Mutt Strutt benefiting the animals at the shelter is on Saturday, June 8 starting at 8 am. The Fun Walk and 5K is at Keeneland.
This article also appears on page 16 of the May 2019 print edition of Ace Weekly.
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