By Cathy Lirette
Since Gateway K9 began in September 2016, founder Emily Johnson and her husband Rick have successfully trained three dogs to become service dogs for veterans in need. The pair are now focusing on a new pup with hopes of getting two more in the next month or so.
Additionally, the Johnsons have started a therapy dog team and hope to have the dogs start visiting Aug. 1.
“The dogs will visit nursing homes, hospitals, classrooms, courtrooms and any other place that they are needed,” said Emily. “Their purpose is to visit people in crisis and to bring comfort to people who need it.”
At present, Emily has two dogs that have been trained as therapy dogs, however, she wants to grow the team. That is one of the reasons why she and Rick are offering classes to pet owners to teach their pooches how to be therapy dogs.
“We will begin offering the classes in mid-August on Tuesday nights,” Rick said. “It will be open to any breed as long as the dog is 10 months or older, friendly and housebroken.”
“The dogs will also need to pass a basic obedience test and behavior evaluation,” Emily said.
The classes will take place in their facility located in Dittmer off Highway 30. Cost is a small donation to the veterans’ program offered through Gateway K9.
“The canines will be taught how to approach someone with special needs, climb on laps so they don’t scratch or hurt anyone, maneuver around hospital equipment, rise up on surfaces so someone can pet them, and much more,” said Emily. “Training takes several weeks to get started and is ongoing. After about three months (depending on the dog) it can become a part of the therapy dog team.”
In addition to seeking members for the team, Emily and Rick are looking for volunteers to help with Gateway K9 in general. The pair will be hosting a volunteer luncheon Aug. 6 to meet with potential candidates. The location of the luncheon is yet to be determined, however, it will be in Cedar Hill at 2 p.m. A gift basket will be raffled off at that time to raise money for the overall program.
“Gateway K9 is growing, but we still need help,” said Emily. “Please show your support by volunteering, giving a donation or participating in one of the classes.”
More information on Gateway K9 can be found at www.gatewayk9.com.