Giving is Paw-sible During a Pandemic

Service dog Sarge with his trainer

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Ford family found a creative way to give back while spending their time at home. Chapter 20177 President, Ginger Ford, along with her husband, Jason, and son, Carter, have opened their home to the dogs.

It all began last year in Carter’s American sign language class. A trainer from Therapetics Service Dogs of Oklahoma came to speak to the class about the impact service dogs can provide for individuals living with disabilities. The organization trains Mobility Assistance Service Dogs to assist individuals with physical disabilities, and veterans and First Responders diagnosed with PTSD. “My son texted me from class to ask if he could sign up to be a trainer,” recalls Ginger. “I told him this was a big commitment and would require a more in-depth conversation.”

Ginger and Jason encouraged Carter to do some research and recommended beginning with dog-sitting for therapy dogs. “I was worried we would all get too attached,” said Ginger. “Dog sitting felt like a doable place to start.”

Carter submitted his application and received approval to begin dog-sitting therapy dogs in the Therapetics training program. “We had a lot of different dogs coming into our home for a short time,” recalled Ginger. Carter also began attending meetings with dog trainers and other families in the training program.

After nearly six months of dog-sitting, an opportunity to receive a training dog presented itself when one of the trainers could not complete the program. “We needed a trainer for a six-month-old German Shepard Dog named Sarge,” said Ron Miller, President of Therapetics Service Dogs of Oklahoma. “Sarge needed a confident and positive trainer, and immediately, Carter had Sarge’s full attention.”

Sarge joined the Ford family in April 2020. He is a loving puppy who enjoys walks with Carter and playing with toys. After Sarge graduates his two-year training, he will assist a veteran with turning on lights, clearing crowds, and helping his owner through PTSD episodes.

Since the pandemic began, Carter attends online training meetings and outdoor group training events. “Carter has the ability to be the alpha just by his persona,” said Ron, “when he arrives at a training, all the pups take notice without Carter saying a word.”

The Ford family experienced a full circle moment when the first dog that stayed with them in the dog-sitting program, Angel, came back into their lives. “After seeing our work with Sarge, a friend of ours reached out about getting a service dog to help with her disability,” said Ginger. “She applied for the program with our recommendation and received Angel a few months later.” Angel’s partner is a teacher at Carter’s school. “It has been great to reconnect with Angel,” said Carter, “and see first-hand how this program is impacting people in our community.”

“The love and bond between Carter and Sarge are remarkable,” said Ron. “Carter is a natural leader, very patient and positive young man – and Sarge recognized that from their first meeting.”

Sarge will be placed in his forever home at the end of this year. “As hard as it will be to say goodbye to Sarge, it feels amazing to make a difference in someone else’s life,” shared Ginger.

When it is safe to gather in groups again, Chapter 20177 will continue their work out in the community. “We love Royal Neighbors, and it brings us great joy to spend time together serving our community,” said Ginger. “For now, my family will continue to make a difference – one puppy at a time.”