Wildcat Service Dogs ending year strong

By Colleen Kochensparger | @KyKernel

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As the school year draws to a close, Wildcat Service Dogs is still going strong, and even starting a new project.

Katie Skarvan, the founder and coordinator of Wildcat Service Dogs, recently applied for a State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant, and Wildcat Service Dogs was one of the 200 nationwide contenders chosen out of 3,000 applicants to compete for the grand prize.

The top 40 groups to win by public vote will each receive a $25,000 grant from State Farm Insurance. Skarvan says the funds would partially be spent reimbursing trainers for fees such as food and veterinary bills, which the trainers pay out of their own pocket. Any other ideas for the funds will be discussed by the 11 officers of Wildcat Service Dogs and voted on, but there are quite a few places where the grant would be exceedingly helpful, Skarvan said.

Along with working on acquiring the grant, according to Skarvan, Wildcat Service Dogs has been moving steadily forward. Though one of the three initial dogs of this school year dropped out of the program, three new puppies have joined the first two, and three more will be joining their ranks in the fall.

Rory, one of the initial three dogs of this school year’s class of service dogs, will be graduating from the program on April 26, and moving on to the next part of her training, four to six months of which will be spent at Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence, near Toledo, Ohio.

“It’ll be the end of the road for both of us together, which is kind of sad,” said Jennifer Lyons, Rory’s trainer.

Rory, who just turned 1, has been learning more advanced skills than the basic down-stay and heel commands for quite some time, and Lyons, an animal science sophomore, has been posting videos on Facebook to show off Rory’s capabilities.

“We just recently posted a video of her taking off one of my friend’s socks, and she’s learning how to open and close fridge doors, and doors if they have a rope on them … she’s learning to take off shoes as well, but it’s a work in progress,” Lyons said.

With an upcoming class of seven dogs, one of whom spends every other week at the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women, Wildcat Service Dogs is in for a busy year next year.

Wildcat Service Dogs has a link to the voting site on its Facebook page. Each person can vote up to 10 times per day. Voting ends Monday. https://www.facebook.com/wildcatservicedogs