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Not just a pet

Resident seeks place to train service animals

Tequah rests quietly at Amy McBride’s feet most of the time.

But the 1-year-old wolf / German Shepard mix is more than just a pet.

Tequah (pronounced Tee Kwa) was raised to be trained as a service animal.

Service animals are dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. McBride got Tequah when he was 3 months old.

Tequah has no formal training yet as a service dog, but already is showing his potential as a guardian for his owner.

McBride, originally from Florida, is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. She went through boot camp at Bainbridge, the dead of winter.

“I went into the Navy in 1971,” McBride said. “I worked at the Bureau of Naval Personnel at the Pentagon. I did all kinds of things and I worked on the discharge review board under Melvin Laird.”

McBride would take documents back and forth between the annex.

“Whenever you left the annex, I was was always under guard, especially with a briefcase chained to your wrist,” she said.

McBridge thoroughly enjoyed her military service immensely.

She had been out almost a year, when she started developing health problems. As the years have gone by, she had suffered through seizures, heart attacks, and currently problems with her knees.

“I blew both knees last year,” McBride said. “That’s why I got him.”

Tequah can tell if she is going to have seizures, said McBride, and that’s without any type of training.

“He supposed to be trained to help me up when I fall,” she said. He going to be trained for the wheel chair in case I have to have knee surgery.

“Tequah does real good in the stores and restaurants,” McBride said. “But he tries to pull, and that hurts my knees, because he’s a strong dude. It’s almost just amazing whenever one of us is sick, he can detect it. He is just so smart. He is very attentive.”

However, McBride is needing some assistance when it comes to the formal training of the animal.

She said there are about seven to 10 disabled persons in the area that have service dogs, but they need them trained.

“I need help finding a place where us old farts can train our dogs and it’s warm, cause of lot of us can’t get out in the cold,” she said. “I need to get him trained.”

McBride, who is spearheading the effort, has been diligently searching for a place that would be big enough to train the animals, and the owners. However, she has been unable to get a place to accomodate the trainer and service dogs.

“Even if there is somewhere like a big barn, that we can put a big heater up if needed, would help out,” she said. “We would have to some kind of heat because a bunch of us are older.

“I know there are plenty of veterans out there that need the help and can’t get it,” she said. “That’s part of the reason why I’m doing it.”

McBride believes the ADA requires animals labeled “service dogs” have to be trained by someone with a degree in animal behavior.

According to the Americans With Disabilities Act and Guidance documents from the U.S. Department of Justice, there are two training requirements for a Service Animal.

The first is a service animal must be individually trained to perform tasks or work for the benefit of a disabled individual. The second is a service animal must be trained to behave properly in places of public accommodation. Inappropriate behavior that disrupts the normal course of business or threatens the health or safety of others is automatic grounds for exclusion.

“If we can find a place, a certified animal trainer would come in to work with the animals in addition to working with us,” she said. “It’s a dual program. Lots of people need the animals but don’t know how to go about doing it. And I want to see if I can help.”

The animals needing to be trained come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

“But we have to learn to trust the animal and he has to learn to trust you, so we count on them very heavily,” McBride said.

She call Tequah really ‘good company.’

“He is just so smart. He is very attentive and he is my lifesaver,” she said. “When he notices something, he’ll let me know before I do. He’ll come and nudge me and that’s without any training. When he’s completely trained, he will be a magnificent animal. But we need a place to train them. But the owners will take care of situations if they mess on the floor by accident. We take care of our critters.”

Those interested in getting involved in the program, or even more information on getting a service animal, or possibly offering help for a training location, can contact McBride at 918-954-2847.

Editor’s Note: Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

Okmulgee Times

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