Dr. Dolittle’s Rescue RanchAnimal Rescue / Charity N McColl RdMcAllen, TX 78504(956) 279-1044 Hours of OperationBy Appointment Only Please contact for more information About Us Pets Currently Available Dogs Service Filters Adoptions, Rescue & Rehab Reviews
See Also: Casper Wy Animal Shelter
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Away from a jungle of rain-washed pines and junipers spearing the hot blueness from the Florida sky, ran a small, tawny-haired boy. His bare ft, extending from his overalled legs, crackled from the fallen palmettos. He leaped into your air, flinging his arms toward a flock of white doves circling above him.
For one man in McAllen, the idea of owning his own service dog seemed a bit too unrealistic. Through the help of Palm Valley Animal Center, The Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center and the RGV K9 Training Centre in Edinburg, a service dog was provided and trained to help Juan Lopez with his constant physical and emotional struggles due to his disability. Lopez was born with cerebral palsy and is unable to live life independently.
He needs constant observation and care from his medical providers and parents, and often becomes frustrated when feeling ill or when his body starts to cramp up. Waiting for a service dog through a certified, national agency is rarely covered by insurance providers and can take up to three years of waiting. Lopez didn’t want to wait that long, so he made contact with the RGV K9 Training Centre to see if they provided therapy pet certification classes.
“We explained to him what we do here at our center and how we could help him out,” said Marty Vielma with the RGV K9 Training Centre. “He was approved by his insurance to use our training services and we got to work looking for his service dog.” After contacting The Laurie P. Andrews PAWS Center to see if they could help, Vielma went to PAWS to scope out the shelter dogs. This was a win/win for Vielma since he could both help Lopez get his therapy dog and help a dog get adopted in the process.
That day, Vielma met Nathaniel, a 1-year-old shepherd mix. “One of the things that caught my attention from the beginning about Nathaniel was that he was very quiet, but immediately, he loved to shake hands,” Vielma said. “Once we had him for a couple of days and started working with him, we realized he’d be a perfect match for Mr. Lopez.” Lopez and Nathaniel bonded instantly and training sessions began as soon as possible.
Nathaniel was receptive to basic commands such as walking next to Lopez’s wheelchair and being able to watch for signals. Through a three-month training program created by the K9 RGV Training Centre’s certified trainers, Nathaniel will be able to assist Lopez in picking up medication bottles, opening doors and being there for him when he’s feeling depressed or overwhelmed. “I have been wanting a service dog for so long, and with Nathaniel by my side, I will be more confident,” Lopez said.
“I suffer from spasms and anxiety, and it makes me mad and frustrated. Nathaniel will be my support when I feel like I need someone there for me.” Throughout the duration of the training, the Centre takes full responsibility of Nathaniel until all sessions are met and Lopez is able to command Nathaniel on his own. “What we are doing is trying to make it more feasible for people in the Valley to own a service dog that aren’t able to pay that much,” Vielma said.
“If we are able to use these shelter dogs from PAWS and train them to meet all the requirements, we will be able to help more people with disabilities with their own service dogs that match their specifications.” Lopez will be able to take Nathaniel home just in time for Christmas if all goes according to plan. Lopez said if he could, he would take Nathaniel home sooner. “I can’t wait to be able to take Nathaniel home and for the training to be over,” Lopez said.
“People with disabilities like mine often feel nervous going out in public and we have uncontrollable movements that people may not understand. If someone starts to laugh at me in public, I’m just going to ignore them and talk to Nathaniel. I can’t thank the RGV Training Centre enough, and I’m so grateful that I’m finally getting my service dog.” and then the magic can happen.”