For most organizations, volunteers are an integral part of the effort to fulfill their mission. For The Ability Center’s Assistance Dogs Program, we simply wouldn’t exist. Committed fosters, loving puppy sitters, and dedicated donors are how we continue to train and place dogs with youth and adults with disabilities each year. Service dogs are considered assistive devices by standards written in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Foster Cindy Jones shares her story in an open letter to those considering volunteering for Assistance Dogs. Bringing dogs into the home has not only been positive for her son with autism, but also expanded her family’s outlook on what “giving” looks like.
My name is Cindy Jones and I am a current Assistance Dogs foster for Inca, a black lab. I became aware of The Ability Center’s Assistance Dogs Program last spring during one of the “Hug a Pup” events at a local bank. Weeks later, I attended another similar event at a coffee shop and signed up to become a sitter.
I was drawn to The Ability Center’s program because of their mission to assist children and adults with disabilities achieve greater independence.
I have a personal connection to disability. My son Sam is almost 18 and has moderate autism and is non-verbal. It is my hope that Sam will receive his own assistance dog in the future to relieve some obstacles he faces. Fostering dogs allows Sam to become familiar with dogs so we can gauge if an assistance dog will help him.
My favorite experience so far while volunteering with Assistance Dogs has been the graduation ceremony held in July 2019. I watched London graduate and participate in the “passing of the leash.” It was a heartfelt event to watch the fosters hand their foster dog to the new forever person. I was able to meet the young boy who has autism whom London now lives with.
Fostering Inca in our home has impacted my family by helping us be more aware of the disability community. We have been aware and involved in the autism community for several years but Assistance Dogs has introduced us to the entire disability community and has shown us an amazing opportunity to become involved. As a family, we are overjoyed when Inca learns a new skill. It is heartwarming to know that our family plays an important role in helping Inca become the best she can be at her future role of assisting her forever person.