During a fashion show at the Fetching Ball, one of the models hopped off the stage and another lost his goggles. Their runway careers might be over, but these dogs are training for much more important callings -- as assistance dogs.
The event at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center benefited Can Do Canines, a nonprofit Twin Cities area agency that provides fully trained pooches free of charge to adults and children with disabilities. The patience and skills the dogs are learning actually made it possible for them to wear the elaborate costumes.
"They are more tolerant of the outfits," said Alan Peters, executive director. "Most would be pawing immediately."
Peters started the organization in 1987 as, well, a pet project. Things really took off, and it now trains five kinds of assistance dogs: hearing, seizure, autism, mobility and diabetes.
While Can Do Canines uses a lot of retrievers, it trains dogs of all breeds, ranging from 7 to 95 pounds.
"The dogs have to have the right personality, skills and temperament to fit the bill," Peters said.
The future assistance dogs live with trainers for up to two years before graduating in a ceremony that includes mortarboard hats, of course.
At the fetching ball, many well behaved assistance dogs attended. Melissa Stam of New Hope brought her mobility assist dog, Kramer.
"He helps me retrieve my phone, my keys, anything I drop on the floor," she said. "We make a good team."
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