Fonzie the Assistance Dog
July 11, 2017
Meet Fonzie (We’ll get to Bill later). He’s part of puppy raising program with Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust. One day, Fonzie will help someone coping with a disability (autism, down syndrome, brain injury, cerebral palsy, physical disability).
But before he gets to that stage, he must be brought through an extremely thorough development program.
That’s where Bill comes in. Bill is the sales manager at RPS HOMES. When he’s not getting houses built, he volunteers his time as a Puppy Raiser. That involves getting Fonzie to a stage where he’s ready for formal training.
A crucial part of an Assistance Dog’s development involves exposure to a variety of environments whilst they are very young. By doing this, puppies become de-sensitized and environmentally aware in readiness for their formal role in providing assistance for their eventual client.
That’s why Bill takes Fonzie everywhere: to work each day, and to supermarkets and cafes. Anywhere that Fonzie can put into practice social skills and discipline that Bill has been teaching him.
Somewhere around 18 months old Bill will give Fonzie back to ADNZT where he will be assessed on what disability he would be best suited for and will begin formal training. After 6-8 months of intensive training, Fonzie will then be ready to make someone’s life a little easier.