Tuesday, March 16, 2010  
   Volume 80 - Issue 11 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“It’ll make more use of the busses. It’ll be more efficient. There’ll be more kids on the busses.”
- Dick Peterson  
- on new school bus changes   
in the Pass   

 

Crowsnest Pass Lions Club help local youth receive special skills dog
 
While he doesn’t wear a cape or a superhero costume, this is more than just an ordinary dog.
Pesto, a two-year-old black lab, is a highly trained special skills dog who has been specifically matched to 17-year-old Alex Rangen, a Crowsnest Pass youth affected by cerebral palsy. Pesto, who was secured through the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides program with the help of the Crowsnest Pass Lions Club, is making a difference in Alex’s life every day.
“He goes basically everywhere with me,” says Alex. “Anywhere I go, he goes with me.”
The Lions Foundation of Canada operates their dog guide program in Oakville, Ontario, where they raise 180 dogs each year in a number of special training programs. Six years ago, the Crowsnest Pass Lions Club approached the Rangen family about applying to get a dog for Alex.
The program matches dogs specifically to applicants, and it took most of six years to find the right dog in the program, one who would match Alex’s speed and personality.
“I think the matching turned out a hundred percent,” says Alex. He says that Pesto is very good, quiet, and patient.
“He does everything,” says Alex, “from picking up everything I drop to opening and closing doors.”
Pesto will bring Alex things from the fridge, from inside cupboards, and even from inside drawers. He can help Alex get into and out of clothing by tugging on command. He will bark for help if commanded, or go to find someone to help if Alex is in trouble or gets stuck.
Alex and Pesto have been together since late October.
 
Alex travelled to Ontario for three weeks to meet his new companion, and has been going through the initial six month bonding period. The bonding will only get stronger as time goes by.
Pesto is specially trained to only accept commands from Alex. When he wears his Special Skills Dog harness, says Alex, Pesto goes into work mode. The dog doesn’t eat, drink, or relieve himself while wearing the harness. He must be told by Alex when it is okay to eat, and will only accept treats from Alex’s hand.
Alex, who is in Grade 12 this year, says that Pesto has fit in well at school. Others are not allowed to interact with Pesto when he is working, and the students in Alex’s classes are very respectful of that rule. “I find that the kids at school are better than the adults are,” he says. “That’s true most places.”
The Lions’ dog guide program is offered free all across Canada. Each dog costs $20,000 to train from a puppy, and the costs are covered by donations from Lions Clubs across the country. Individuals and organizations can also help sponsor specific dogs –– for example, the Lethbridge Kennel Club kicked in $10,000 to be Pesto’s sponsor.
The Crowsnest Pass Lions helped the Rangen family throughout the application process, and provided transportation when they travelled to Ontario to meet Pesto.
Alex says that Pesto has helped him be more independent, which will be important in the years to come when he is on his own to pursue future goals. His mother, Chris, adds that Pesto has fit in very well, and is now a member of their family.
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