Special service

By Dick Mason, The Observer April 25, 2014 11:03 am

Imbler junior Hannah Haefer, left, and Joy St. Peter helped put on a program on service dogs at Imbler High School. The IHS junior coordinated a program for her senior project on service dogs. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)
Imbler junior Hannah Haefer, left, and Joy St. Peter helped put on a program on service dogs at Imbler High School. The IHS junior coordinated a program for her senior project on service dogs. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)

Imbler High School junior helps introduce the world of service canines to students

IMBLER — These dogs awake people from nightmares.

The canines also are a dream come true for many military veterans.

These animals of wonder are service dogs trained to help people with health problems and disabilities. The canines open doors, take off shoes and socks, remove clothes from dryers, pick up keys, turn on lights and even wake people from nightmares. 

Imbler High School students received a firsthand look at several of these canines in action Thursday thanks to the efforts of Hannah Haefer. The IHS junior coordinated a program for her senior project on service dogs. Its keynote speaker was Joy St. Peter, the owner of a nonprofit organization in Keizer dedicated to the training of assistance dogs for people with disabilities. Many of the dogs St. Peter raises and trains are for veterans. 

St. Peter, through her organization, The Joys of Living Assistance Dogs, provides trained service dogs to veterans free of charge.

“Our veterans have done so much for us,” St. Peter said.

One of the most important things St. Peter’s service dogs do for some veterans is flip light switches.

“For some veterans with (post traumatic stress disorder), walking into a dark room is very hard, so they have their dog go in and turn on the lights,” St. Peter said.

The service dogs St. Peter trains also are adept at opening doors for the disabled, reaching up and pressing against automatic door openers.

Service dogs are trained to meet the specific needs of their future owner. For example, if a dog is being trained to serve someone who uses a wheelchair, the dog will be taught to pick up keys that have been dropped, something that can be critical since people in wheelchairs are often not able to retrieve dropped keys.

(For the full story, see Friday's 4/25 edition of The Observer)