Koleton and Towney

At left, Towney is the therapy dog for Koleton McCandless, of Bryan, and was one of the nine personal therapy dogs recognized by The Ability Center in a recent graduation ceremony for service, therapy and school therapy dogs.

The Ability Center held its Assistance Dog Graduation ceremony July 15 at the Parkway Place in Maumee.

The ceremony recognized the 2020 and 2021 graduates of service, therapy and school therapy dog training. The list includes a total of 26 canine graduates, including nine service dogs, nine personal therapy dogs and eight school therapy dogs, including Catcher, the Bryan Elementary School therapy dog.

Catcher, a 3-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, joined the Bryan City Schools staff in July 2020.

Catcher spent his first two years in training, through the Dog Assistance Program at The Ability Center in Toledo.

“He helps students when they get upset or if they’re just having a rough day,” Rachael Mann, his handler and the elementary school guidance counselor, told The Bryan Times in April. “He can cheer anybody up.”

Lorie Clark and Suzanne Reinhart fostered Catcher.

Bryan City Schools has had three previous school therapy dogs — Allie, Grace and Ike. The program started at Bryan City Schools in 2004 and since then, “we have seen many positive outcomes, such as an increase in student confidence and a decrease in learner anxiety behaviors, which has improved learning outcomes, and so much more,” Mann said.

“Our therapy dogs have assisted us in many ways such as classroom visits, individual group settings, crisis situations and much more. We also have extended the program to the middle school and high school during some days of the week. The therapy dog program has played an integral part in Bryan City Schools, in the community, and we look forward to continuing the program,” Mann said.

Towney, the therapy dog for Koleton McCandless, of Bryan, was one of the nine personal therapy dogs recognized in the graduation ceremony. Patrice Dankert fostered Towney.

Cairo, the service dog for Kim Feehan, of Stryker, was also among the graduates. Fosters were Gianna Alesia, of Wildcat Service Dogs, and Carla Rygalski.

The so-called “passing of the leash” ceremony marks the end of the two-year training period for assistance dogs. This program helps individuals with disabilities achieve greater independence by training and placing service and therapy dogs to assist with individuals’ daily needs, according to Mallory Crooks of The Ability Center.

Crooks said the agency is currently in need of volunteers to assist with the Assistance Dogs Program. For more information call 419-885-5733, or log onto www.abilitycenter.org.

The Ability Center is a northwest Ohio agency striving to make the community the most disability friendly in the country through advocating, educating, partnering and providing services supporting people with disabilities. The Ability Center has served the seven counties of Williams, Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Wood, Fulton and Defiance and since 1920.

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