ASU Downtown group to join DogFest

ASU students will be joining Canine Companions for Independence at DogFest to raise awareness of the importance of assistant dogs

A downtown ASU group will be joining DogFest Walk n’ Roll for community and a noble cause.

Now in its third year, Dog Fest will be hosted at the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall by Canine Companions for Independence Valley of the Sun Chapter on April 1.

The family and dog friendly fundraising festival currently has 57 registrants and has raised about $11,000, with a goal to reach $60,000.

Canine Companions for Independence is a nonprofit organization that breeds, raises and trains assistant dogs free of charge to those who may need them.

Through the help of volunteer puppy raisers, dogs learn to socialize and get basic training within their first year and a half, before moving on to the advanced training in which they learn commands. After all the training is complete, assistant dogs are given to people with disabilities who have applied to receive one.

Because they are a fully donation-based organization, raising awareness and promotion are important.

Canine Companions for Independence has visited ASU campuses over the last couple of years by participating in events such as the Puppy Party, destressing events and most recently Puppy Love in Downtown.

Nursing junior and Dog Fest EMT volunteer Jessica Lehman said she is currently working to get other students to join the downtown ASU group for the event, which currently has three members.

Lehman said many students display interest, but oftentimes are held back due to problems with location and transportation options.

However, Lehman said she also tries to use her role as a Community Assistant at Taylor Place to try to recruit her coworkers while simultaneously reaching out to residents in an effort to plan something they can all do together as an ASU community.

Although there is no official affiliation between the group and ASU, Lehman said what she is taught about goodwill at school can correlate with the goal of Canine Companions for Independence.

“I think ASU is very focused on doing good for others and doing good in the world. They’re trying to give us the tools here to go out and make a difference,” Lehman said. “I really love what Canine Companions does and how people out of the goodness of their heart raise these animals at their own cost. Later on, that can help someone.”

Sharon Higgins, event chair for the CCI Valley of the Sun Chapter, said DogFest’s goal is to raise $60,000. One assistant dog, its training and lifelong health costs $50,000 after expenses.

DogFest will include activities such as a scavenger hunt, raffles, crafting, best in show contests, vendors, training demonstrations and more before the walk begins.

Higgins said the fun community event helps educate the public about what assistant dogs do and how important they are for people with disabilities.

Visiting college campuses such as ASU not only helps the puppies learn to be social, but also allow students to learn more about the organization and gain interest, Higgins said.

She also said the organization would love to get more students involved whether it is to be future puppy raisers or volunteers at DogFest in correlation with what they learn in school. Student involvement, Higgins said, could bring in fresh ideas, or new and better ways to approach Dog Fest.

“It’s important to let people know about service dogs and what they’re about,” Higgins said. “It also gives us an opportunity with students. They’re not always going to be students … so maybe that’s a future puppy raiser.”

Gary Frandino, a committee member and graduate of CCI, benefits from the opportunities it provides for him to have an assistant dog.

Frandino's assistant dog, Dobby, who is more than 12 years old, knows about 60 commands to provide assistance with his paraplegia.

Along with his services, Dobby also brings companionship.

“My life is just richer and fuller. I’m more motivated, I do more stuff, I get out more,” Frandino said. “It’s kind of like having a friend. The dogs are spectacular, the organization is spectacular, the people involved are spectacular.”


 Reach the reporter at tespana@asu.edu and follow @thaliamespana on Twitter.

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