Group provides service dogs in Fairbanks area

  • By WESTON MORROW
  • Sunday, May 3, 2015 10:33pm
  • News
In this photo taken Sunday, April 26, 2015, Carole Romberg pets Robin, a service dog-in-training with The Other Paw Assistance Dogs, during an event to teach the public about assistance dogs and The Other Paw at Gulliver's Books in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Erin Corneliussen/The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

In this photo taken Sunday, April 26, 2015, Carole Romberg pets Robin, a service dog-in-training with The Other Paw Assistance Dogs, during an event to teach the public about assistance dogs and The Other Paw at Gulliver's Books in Fairbanks, Alaska. (Erin Corneliussen/The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

FAIRBANKS (AP) — Nathan Collin rolled his wheelchair through Rohnert Park, California, accompanied at every turn by a service dog named Ethan. His goals for the day included taking the bus downtown to visit the grocery store, grabbing lunch and going to see a movie.

Collin isn’t usually a wheelchair user. He was using one not out of necessity but as part of his studies at Bergin University of Canine Studies — a school dedicated to providing training for service dogs and aspiring trainers of service dogs.

The purpose of the assignment was to give Collin an appreciation for the challenge everyday chores can bring and the ways service dogs can reduce that difficulty.

Collin graduated from Bergin in 2012 and returned to Fairbanks soon after to start a service dog training program with speech-language pathologist Betsey Jacobs.

Two years later, Collin and Jacobs’ program, TOPAD — The Other Paw Assistance Dogs — is thriving. They’ve placed their first dog and have three more in training. Six months ago, they officially received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service, a process that routinely takes a year or more.

With The Other Paw, Collin and Jacobs train potential service dogs from birth through 2.5 years, when the dogs are placed with a companion. Their goal is to provide service dogs at little to no cost for their future owners.

The cost of obtaining a fully-trained service dog can range from $40,000 to $80,000 without assistance, according to Collin. Because he and Jacobs are able to do much of the work themselves and with partner organizations in town like Pawsitive Dog Training and the Aurora Animal Clinic, they are able to cut down significantly on placement costs.

Collin and Jacobs operate The Other Paw out of a small dry cabin in Goldstream Valley. Much of their training sessions take place at Pawsitive Dog Training, run by Susan Sampson around the back of the building occupied by Cold Spot Feeds.

On Sunday, The Other Paw organized a meet and greet at Gulliver’s Books, during which members of the public were given the chance to meet the service dogs in training and to watch them in action.

Jacobs and Collin set up demonstration booths where the dogs could show off their skills, like grabbing a bottle of water out of the cabinet or turning the light switch on and off.

The Other Paw starts every dog’s training with the goal of achieving the highest level of accreditation, which would qualify the dogs for placement with a person with paraplegia.

So far, The Other Paw has placed one dog, a chocolate lab named Ruger who now works with kids and adults at the Access Alaska office in Fairbanks.

The Other Paw’s dogs in training include Phineas, 1.5 years old, Robin BoJangles, 9 months old, and the nonprofit’s newest addition, Sophie Maye, 8.5 weeks old.

Sophie Maye has already begun her training, though at her age it consists mostly of socialization. Even at 8.5 weeks old, she has already mastered two commands, according to Sampson: snuggle and kiss.

“She’s really great at snuggle,” she said.

More in News

Drummers perform during a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Dena’ina Wellness Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, July 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenaitze tribe celebrates 10 years of ‘far-fetched dream’ at wellness center

Community members recognized the work done at the Dena’ina Wellness Center over the past decade

The Kenai Safeway is seen on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai and Soldotna Safeways may be sold under proposed Kroger-Albertsons merger

The local stores will be sold to CS Wholesale Grocers only if the merger overcomes suit from the FTC

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Draft plan published for disbursement of $11.5 million in 2021 and 2022 ESSN disasters

Public comment will be accepted for the draft spend plan until July 24

The Kasilof River is seen from the Kasilof River Recreation Area, July 30, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
King salmon fishing closed on Kasilof starting Monday

The emergency order is being issued to protect returning king salmon, citing weak returns

Soldotna City Hall is seen on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna’s city council appropriates funds for FY 2025 capital projects

Improvements are described for streets, police facility, Soldotna Creek Park and Soldotna Community Memorial Park

Gina Plank processes sockeye salmon caught on the first day of Kenai River dipnetting with her table set up on the bank of the Kenai River in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River open for dipnetting

As of Tuesday, a total of 226,000 sockeye had been counted in the Kenai River’s late run

Assembly Vice President Tyson Cox speaks during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly won’t pursue further discussion on tabled bed tax resolution

Members say they’re going to work on a new version of the idea this winter

Gov. Mike Dunleavy pictured with members of the House majority after signing the fiscal year 2025 budget bills, Thursday, June 27, 2024, in Anchorage, Alaska. From left to right: Reps. Stanley Wright, Tom McKay, Thomas Baker, Craig Johnson, Kevin McCabe, Julie Coulombe and Laddie Shaw. (Photo provided by Office of the Governor)
Dunleavy signs capital budget with $3.7M in state funding for Kenai Peninsula, vetoes $3.3M

Roughly $90 million in federal funding also allocated to Kenai Peninsula

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Soldotna man arrested Friday after 30-minute police chase

The man had an outstanding warrant for felony probation violation

Most Read