Each service and assistance dog is tasked with fulfilling the mission of commitment to community service throughout their two years of training prior to placement.
We are the only program of its kind in SW Florida. No other service dog organization in our state commits equal time to community service as to the training and placement of the service dogs in their care.
PAWS teams work with a growing list of Community Partners including the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center, The Shelter for Abused Women and Children, David Lawrence Center’s Crisis Care Unit, Collier County Libraries and Schools and Lorenzo Walker Institute.
CLEPP – Children’s Literacy and Education PAWS Program | SOAR – Special Operations and Recovery – The PAWS Veteran Hiring Initiative | PACT–PAWS Assistance Crisis Team | POWER – PAWS Orients Women Exposed to Risk
This community service program is designed to bring qualified and specially trained PAWS therapy dog teams into the community to promote literacy skills and to provide character and citizenship educational programs.
PAWS teams visit our designated partners in a multitude of settings including shelters for women and children, classrooms, libraries and other learning environments. Our goal is to promote literacy, focusing on reading and writing along with character building and correct social interactions with others.
The endearing love that children have for dogs is used to encourage in many positive ways. Our character education programs include teaching empathy for those with disabilities, how to properly interact with individuals with various challenges and service dog etiquette. Children are also given an overview of the science of dog training and are offered age-appropriate interactions.
Our Reading Corp dogs enhance literacy skills and encourage participating children how to correctly orient a book for reading; turn pages from the beginning to the end of the book, sound out letters, words and sentences, and to read and write to an unbiased non-judgmental participant.
Benefits from canine assisted educational and literacy programs include positive behavioral changes in students; decreased school absences, enhanced love for learning while promoting a desire to read. Self-confidence is improved and self-esteem increased. Children benefit from reduced anxiety, and the dogs support children in social interaction skills. Motor skills are improved, language development is enhanced and children learn to practice a heightened sense of social responsibility with their peers.
The PAWS Special Operations and Recovery program is our newest, innovative program geared exclusively to returning veterans as they assimilate back to civilian life. This project is structured to partner combat wounded veterans with highly skilled professional dog trainers in a mentoring program while conducting workforce reintegration training.
PAWS Recognizes that transition from military service is not complete on the date of discharge and it can take months, sometimes years for complete reintegration into the community. Reverse Culture Shock is a term that is often used to describe these unanticipated adjustment difficulties that many military members experience when returning to civilian life.
The PAWS training academy provides a safe, secure, and inspiring environment offering interactive experiences that assist veterans who face life changing decisions. Veterans are given an opportunity to explore new career paths, build valuable skills and rebuild their lives while committing themselves to helping others through various therapy outlets and training service dogs for other veterans in need. The program is led by highly experienced trainers dedicated to working with veterans at risk and complemented by mentorships from an alliance with other veterans and support from members of the Marine Corp League offering social support throughout the readjustment process.
Veterans are referred to and recruited from multiple resources including Career Works of SW Florida, Marine Corp League and AMVETS. Stipend support from PAWS, in conjunction with existing Veteran support will enable the interns to have a living wage based on national standards. Educational materials, on-line learning options, professional workshops, and professional/personal development opportunities are presented over a 1 year internship program. Our goal is to provide internships to 5 veterans each year and give them the tools for a successful transition.
This community service project is designed to bring fully trained and highly experienced PAWS service dogs to participants at designated venues, such as the David Lawrence Center’s Children’s Crisis Care Unit, Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center and Lorenzo Walker Institute’s New Beginnings School. All serve high level at-risk children and women.
An experienced PAWS handler and a highly trained PAWS dog will provide regularly scheduled visits to women and children of diverse backgrounds and cultures who are selected based on critical need. These individuals are initially identified by staff as having suffered a traumatic event, exhibited behavioral problems, have emotional disturbance, or substance abuse challenges. Clearly defined strategies are executed based on the specific needs of each individual.
Studies of the human-companion animal bond reveal many physiological and psychological benefits. Bonding with a working therapy dog promotes relaxation characterized by decreased blood pressure, the ability for improved morale and the restoration of self-esteem and confidence. A dog in therapy settings brings with them a decrease in anxiety, a reduction in fear and relief from many symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Participants relearn how to interact with others within appropriate social norms and how to demonstrate empathy for others.
The PAWS teams provide an un-biased, non-judgmental opportunity for the participants to learn to work through their challenges and to recognize that through consistency and positive intervention they can heal. PAWS teams are instrumental in providing comfort to assist the identified participants to help them overcome the effects of emotional and or physical abuse and deal with the challenges of substance abuse exposure and or addiction.
PAWS Orients Women Exposed to Risk is structured to provide women with an atmosphere that provides a positive environment to assist them to change their lives to become more productive members of the community.
The goal of the program is to provide the following benefits to the women selected to participate in the POWER program.
Through on-the-job training, the women learn marketable job skills and are able to successfully enter the workforce
The care and training of the PAWS dogs promotes renewed confidence and self esteem
Caring for dogs and providing service to others promotes healthy relationships
Women enjoy increased exposure to opportunities for improved personal growth
Women who are victims of long-term emotional abuse, physical abuse or substance abuse suffer serious psychological effects. The toll of prolonged exposure to emotional or physical abuse places these women at a 16-times greater risk of abusing alcohol and a 9-times greater risk of abusing drugs when compared to other women. Other psychological effects include suicidal behavior, self-mutilation, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Unfortunately the children of these women are also severely affected by the habits of the mother even if they, themselves, have not been victims of violent behavior. It has been found that one-third of children who witness their mother struggling with poor patterns of behavior will demonstrate significant behavioral and emotional problems.
Our PAWS trainers provide comfort and guidance allowing the presence of the dogs to lower stress levels and reduce anxiety. Through the unconditional love of a dog, many of the women we serve find the strength and courage needed to make positive changes in their lives and become contributing members of society.