Oak Ridge organizations come together to raise awareness of the importance of service dogs

The groups hope to educate more people about the many positive ways service dogs can help those in need.

Knoxville, Tenn. — Marian Wildgruber likes to walk fast, but since she has lost some of her vision, it has become more difficult to do so with only her white cane. That’s why she said she was grateful to have a service dog by her side.

“A guide dog makes him very relaxed and able to walk much faster with him,” she said.

She also said it helped her bond with people on the street.

“People are much more likely to come up to you and tell you about your guide dog and their dogs than to approach you when you have a white cane,” she added.

Wildgruber said she wants people to know more about service dogs and how to handle them properly. That’s why community organizations in Oak Ridge are teaming up to raise awareness of the important role service dogs can play in people’s lives.

Patrick Sanford works with Paws and Badges, a Knoxville organization that offers veterans and people with post-traumatic stress disorder the opportunity to spend time with a service dog for free.

“The more people are exposed to this and realize they don’t have to be stuck in a house and there’s more to life, the better,” he said.

Oak Ridge Kennel Club staff hope the awareness will also help raise funds for them. They said the process of training a dog can be very expensive and they also need staff to do it. However, community leaders said investing the time and effort in service dogs was ultimately worth it.

“The change in the person who goes through the training is reflected in families and in everyone, and it’s an amazing thing to see,” Sanford said.

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