By: Rebecca Miller
One of The Ability Center’s programs in Northwest Ohio is getting Assistance Dogs into schools and homes, and for Kevin McDougall it has been his niche.
McDougall is an active member of the Bryan Eagles and has been the liaison for about 20 years for them in connection with funding Assistance Dogs.
This year the Ability Center thanked him in a special way, by asking him to name one of the new dogs. “Because of his commitment, Kevin was able to name a dog in the program.”
A beautiful yellow lab now carries the name of Beamer, given because “it seemed appropriate for The Eagles to have a drink name.”
McDougall explained that even though he does not drink, he thought Jim Beam Whiskey lent itself to the name “Beamer”. Beamer is in the training program in Toledo, presently, and will be graduating in December.
McDougall said he is hoping that Beamer gets placed with a person or a school locally as that would be extra special.
In an interview, McDougal shared that The Eagles used to participate in a Golf Outing each year, sponsoring teams to raise funds. “By the time that ended, we were sending three or four teams,” he said.
After that, they started doing a Reverse Raffle every year for the Eagles but the pandemic stopped that. “We have continued to raise funds in creative ways, through drawings and such, and to donate for the dog program,” he added.
The Bryan Eagles have around 1200 in their membership and they have raised around $10,000 a year for the program.Growing up with dogs as a kid, Kevin remembers the Great Danes and German Shepherds and mutts that he loved.
“Times have changed,” he mused, “they are completely different now and children need all the help we can give them nowadays.” Having a Facility dog at the Bryan Schools means a lot to him as he feels it is a great help to the children.
He is hopeful that many of the area schools will get an assistance dog and is happy to hear that Stryker, who applied about five years ago, has just been informed that they will be getting a dog, most likely in December. McDougall says he hopes it is Beamer.
According to the Ability Center, “School facility dogs belong to an individual school and reside with a school staff member. The dogs offer comfort to students in counseling settings, help improve student motivation and social skills, and even provide an audience to encourage students to read.
They meet therapeutic goals, including improving speech, coordination, and social skills. School Facility Dogs are treated as faculty members and create a sense of family in the school environment.”
Besides the school dogs, The Ability Center also places Assistance dogs with individuals. Kevin’s thoughts on that were, “I feel it is a great program.
It helps not only the schools, but so many individuals with a need. When a dog can sense someone’s blood sugar dropping, that is amazing!”
The Eagles always try to have an Assistance Dog at their fundraising events so that people can see the evidence of what their money is doing.
Over the years he has kept pictures of the dogs at the Golf Outings and other events. Who knows, maybe Beamer can be at their next Fundraising Event.
For people interested in getting involved with this program, according to Stacie Baumbarger, Director of Assistance Dogs with The Ability Center, “Consumers can either call or fill out an online inquiry form to start the process.
They will receive an application packet that they fill out and return. Once that has been completed, our client services coordinators will schedule an interview and a home visit, followed by an in person visit to our facility.
Once approved and on our waiting list it can take up to 2 years for a consumer to be matched with the right dog.” Stacie also shared that they place school Facility Dogs.
Each dog is specifically chosen for the program, some from an International Breeding Collaborative for service dog organizations. Others are chosen from their own private breeding program.
The dogs that are chosen for breeding stock, go through thorough health, genetic, and temperament testing. Almost $70,000 is invested into each dog that is placed with a consumer.
Besides accepting funds/monetary donations from groups such as The Eagles in Bryan, The Ability Center also has an Amazon wish list, full of items that they need all the time.
Other great ways for the public to get involved are to be a puppy sitter, puppy raiser or to open your home to foster. Baumbarger also stated, “The Ability Center could never place the dogs that we are able to place, without the help and support of our community.”
To get involved like Kevin McDougall and The Bryan Eagles, contact Stacie at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 419-885-5733, ext. 106.