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'My independence is back': Canines for Change trains service dogs to help veterans and people with disabilities

Canines for Change
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-05 06:00:28-04

GRAND LEDGE, Mich. — Canines for Change trains service dogs for veterans and people with disabilities. The organization is Fox 47's Three Degree Guarantee recipient for July.

Canines for Change is the Three Degree Guarantee recipient for July.
Canines for Change is the Three Degree Guarantee recipient for July.

The Three Degree Guarantee awards $50 for every forecast that comes within three degrees of our projected forecast from the day prior. If it's more than three degrees on either side, we donate $100. Our meteorologist does this every night in our 10 p.m. newscast.

Canines for Change is a nonprofit that started in 2005. Executive director Nikki Brown said they started out working with therapy dogs and then switched to service dogs. Now they provide service dogs for veterans and people with autism and epilepsy, as well as providing dogs for schools.

Executive director Nikki Brown

"We're not a huge organization. We're volunteer-based and funded by donations. We don't have grant funding or anything like that at this point,"Brown said. "So, we've been able to stay small and keep the dogs in the homes of our trainers. Which makes them, I think, better suited to go to their families."

Training class at Mount Hope Park
Training class at Mount Hope Park

Over 16 years, they have trained about 60 dogs.

Jennifer Higgins started as a volunteer but has been a trainer since December. She works with the dogs on specialty behaviors like learning to retrieve a med bag or water and learning new words.

Jennifer Higgins started as a volunteer but has been a trainer since December. She works with the dogs on specialty behaviors like learning to retrieve a med bag or water and learning new words.

"You really bond with them, and you get to see what they're capable of," she said. "And everyone you talk to says, 'Oh won't it be so hard to give them up,' and it is. You get close with the dogs, but the best part is knowing that these dogs are going to make a huge difference in someone's life."

Training service dogs
Canines for Change

Martin Diller is a trainer and a past client who got his service dog in 2015. He was in the military for nine years and said, when he came back, he had some combat stress left over.

"When I came here, they set me up with a dog, a white poodle named Abby. And she absolutely changed my life. So, I just started volunteering and started training because I want to pay that forward," Diller said.

Martin and Abby .jpeg
Martin and Abby

Nala, a two-year-old Rottweiler, is Tammy Nickerson's service dog. Nickerson said her doctor suggested she get a service dog because she was having trouble walking, falling a lot and couldn't bend over to pick things up.

"My independence is back. If I drop anything, she will pick it up, including coins," Nickerson said. "She rings an emergency bell for when I fall, and it calls for help. She just does everything. There's not much she can't do for me."

Tammy Nickerson and her service dog Nala.
Tammy Nickerson and her service dog Nala.

Here are the links if you're interested in donating or looking to get involved with Canines for Change.

If you're looking to apply for a service dog click here.

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