Passing of the Leash: The miracle of assistance dogs

TOLEDO It's called the Passing of the Leash. A beautiful ceremony where foster families of service dogs pass the leash on to the person or organization receiving the assistance dog. It's the end of the first part of these amazing dogs journey's and the beginning of a life journey they have been assigned to help the person or organization that they will help.

The Assistance Dog organization at the Ability Center of Greater Toledo on Monroe Street in Toledo runs the service and therapy dog training programs. They enlist the help of foster families for the dogs when they're puppies and these volunteers house and provide basic training for the dog during the first two years. The end of the training culminates in the dog spending 4 out of 7 days at the Assistance Dog facility where they are custom trained to the person or organization they are going to be living with and working for.

Suzette Biela is a foster "Mom" to Ginny, an adorable half lab/half golden retriever. They're bred specifically that way because according to ADAI trainer Kim Holmes, "They have the drive of a Lab and the sweetness of a golden." "It always amazes me what these dogs can do for somebody whose disabled," says Biela. Ginny is now in the final stages of her training and will be graduating and passing the leash to her new owner in the Fall.

This Summer, ADAI held it's Passing of the Leash ceremony for over 10 dogs and the pay off was palpable for the foster families. Robin Agen-Blausey fostered a black lab mix named Rolling for two year and passed the leash to his new owner Sheila Oster. Oster has Multiple Sclerosis and uses a motorized scooter to get around. "You just see what they do, what they mean to the person, how much they need that dog," says Agen-Blausey. Shelia Oster has had a service dog who had to be retired, so Rolling is her second dog. "Just his presence with me, I'm not shy to go where I want to go. He's a gem, he is so good!."