A Man’s Best Friend

Dogs with Wings continues to match assistance dogs with loving families because of a $4,200 grant from ECF.

Miracles do happen, and this particular one comes in the form of a dog during a global pandemic.

After a three-year waiting period, the Seutter family received the call that Dogs with Wings had found them their perfect match.

James Seutter’s world shifted in 2011 when he was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease. He could no longer pursue the active lifestyle that he enjoyed, and began to feel lonely and anxious at home.

“When COVID hit, it was rough on all of us,” said Susan Seutter. “I noticed my husband was really struggling. He hadn’t been able to go out and socialize much to start with, but now it was scarier because if he catches anything, he’s on so many immunosuppressive drugs that COVID would probably kill him.”

Life started looking up again when the Seutters got the call from Dogs with Wings.

Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society is a charity organization that trains service dogs for people with disabilities. Dogs with Wings trains their assistance dogs from birth so that they are ready to be placed with an owner when they reach adulthood.

Throughout the pandemic, Dogs with Wings has had to feed more than 50 dogs in training and cover the costs of veterinary care. On top of that, 26 puppies were born during the pandemic and two emergency c-sections surgeries were completed.

All training sessions have been virtual, except those for 14 dogs in their final stages of advanced training.

“A majority of our clients are immune-compromised, so they’re terrified to go out in public,” said Kim Zahara, Fund Development Coordinator for Dogs with Wings. “Our end goal is always seeing a client match with a dog, and we can’t let the pandemic stop this from happening.”

Dogs with Wings was able to purchase technology and sanitary equipment, allowing them to re-open their facility, thanks to a $4,200 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation.

A laptop was purchased for the trainer, and 10 webcams for the raisers to complete training.

“At the best of times, it is very challenging to get a service dog, yet the dogs make such a difference to the people who need them,” Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s Director of Grants and Community Engagement said. “Delaying training of new service dogs indefinitely just isn’t a reasonable option.”

When Dogs with Wings received the news about he grant, its staff was elated.

“We just simply cannot thank ECF enough for taking the initiative right from the get-go and becoming involved, not just with Dogs with Wings, but with all charities,” Zahara said.

Being able to keep their facilities open has allowed Dogs with Wings to bring joy into people’s lives during these unpredictable and isolating times.

“When Mac came into the house, he turned our home into a bubble of joy,”  Susan Seutter said of her family’s assistance dog. “He brought happiness and comfort into our home, and most importantly, he brought something back into my husband’s life.”

Learn more about ECF’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic here.