Photo credit; Jesse Kasson/Getty Images
To be honest, learning job skills can be a bit tedious. But what if you could do it with your dog? Pathways to Independence, a non-profit organization in Columbus, Ohio, combined these two things in his dog daycare to help adults with developmental disabilities live more fulfilling lives.
Dog daycare does double duty
Stephanie Sanzo, a middle school special education teacher, co-founded the nonprofit with educational assistant Megan Ramage. The idea of connecting dogs with learning was inspired by Karma, the dog Sanzo brought to work during his 2013-2014 school year. The students were obsessed with Labrador and Golden Retriever mixes, so when planning their path to independence, Sanzo and Ramage wanted to incorporate dogs into their service model.
The nonprofit now runs a dog daycare where people with developmental disabilities learn life and work skills. Currently, 16 interns with special needs help his more than 80 puppies that the dog daycare provides daily. Interns, ages 18 to her 65, work alongside kennel staff, grooming and cleaning up dogs, learning social skills and teamwork.
This is their happy place. This is a place where they can come every day and know they are loved, supported and having fun.
While this isn’t exactly a traditional classroom setting, “it’s all about life lessons,” Sanzo told People. “Everything we do is to help them in the future in some way. .”
“Ultimately, we don’t want everyone to stay here,” Sanzo said.
In that sense, some students are already successful. One of her former interns in the program now works at another dog daycare. Another is employed at the veterinarian’s office. Two more interns became official staff.
Thirty-one-year-old Peter Crawford, who has Down syndrome, takes care of his dogs at a daycare two days a week.
“He was pretty excited. He couldn’t wait to get to work. He likes going to work,” his mother, Marie Crawford, told People.
Family member Yellow Love Scully has been attending the dog daycare since the day it opened.
“They love him,” said Crawford. “They are so nice when you go there. They make my day.”
Amy Weirick regularly takes her 3-year-old puppy, Scudder, to dog daycare.
“The first time I brought my dog in, I left with tears in my eyes because I thought it was so amazing and I could feel so much love,” she said.
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