The Ability Center’s four-legged heroes

The Assistance Dogs Program is in need of fosters
The pandemic has increased the need for fosters
Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 9:47 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The Ability Center of Greater Toledo has been helping make life better for people with disabilities for 100 years. One of the many ways the organization does that is through its Assistance Dogs Program. September is National Service Dog Month.

The pandemic has of course changed the program, but the need for the specially-trained animals has not slowed down a bit. The dogs spent about two years in training. The training had to be done virtually for awhile. However, in-person sessions with safety protocols have started up again.

This has been a life-changing program for so many including the fosters who devote countless hours to the dogs. Karin Johnstone has been a foster for a couple years.

“A part of your heart goes with the dog, but the reward is seeing how they make a difference in someone’s life. It has been a wonderful experience. It is a community. I have made great friends. We work with each other, and together. It is fantastic. It has added a dimension to my life I did not know was missing or needed,” says Johnstone.

One of the many four-legged heroes to come out of the program is Ginny. For the last year, she has been a true lifeline for Tom Dussel and his wife Sherry. The three-year-old Lab/Retriever mix can bring Tom his clothes in the morning, pick up things he drops and she sometimes helps him get on his feet by pulling him up.

“She is always so happy to help. I think she gets up in the morning thinking about what she can do for me. Ginny is the best dog we have ever had. She loves everyone and everything. She loves to train, but she also loves to play. The Ability Center has done so many wonderful things through the years for so many people. I think adding the Assistance Dogs Program is one of the best things they ever did,” said Dussel.

Some of the dogs are trained by inmates at the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian. That’s been put on hold because of the pandemic. So there’s a growing need for fosters.

If you’d like to learn more about the Assistance Dogs Program, or any other services of The Ability Center, log on to

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