Did you know that At Your Service Dog Training has a scholarship program? It was established earlier this year by donations from the friends and family of one of our past clients who tragically died in June 2019.
The Natan Maimes & Travel Service Dog Scholarship Fund covers training costs for local low-income disabled people who are training their own service dogs. Natan had trained his poodle, Travel, with At Your Service Dog Training in 2017.
Three service dog teams have received scholarship funding for training in 2020 — Frankie Mazzei and German shepherd dog Maizie, Elizabeth Kilgallon and golden retriever Beasley, and Cindi Gazda and mixed breed Zoe.
In this post, you’ll learn about Cindi and Zoe — and about Travel and Natan, who inspired the fund. We’ll post updates on each of the other teams, too, in the coming weeks. As you learn about how much these teams have benefitted from training support, we hope you’ll consider supporting the fund.
“Like an about-turn!”
Retraining Zoe after a dog attack
I first met Cindi and Zoe in 2017, when they attended a talk I gave at Animal Alliances in Northampton. Channel 22 News did a story on my presentation and the reporter took lots of video of Zoe!
Cindi lives with a traumatic brain injury which affects her balance, mobility, hearing, and other activities of daily life. She had trained Zoe as her mobility service dog but needed additional help with training Zoe to retrieve her keys and a few other items. Zoe’s lessons were very successful as both she and Cindi were fast and motivated learners.
Cindi sent this update after our second lesson:
“I went to a ecotarium today with my brain injury group in Worcester. I showed a couple of my friends what Zoe had learned and I told him I was unsure on whether or not she actually do it in a place with a lot of people around and I threw my keys down with the little cloth on the keychain and I’ll be damned if Zoe didn’t pick it up right and gave it to me as if we are sitting at home. I am shocked how fast she learned. Excited elated and shocked. I am doing what you said giving her treats her food as treats. I’m so excited to figure out what’s the next thing to work on.”
Earlier this year, Cindi got back in touch when she heard about our scholarship program. She explained that Zoe had been attacked by a Rhodesian ridgeback mix the previous year. Since then, Zoe had started barking and lunging at other dogs. Because balance and mobility are already a challenge for Cindi, this was a big problem. Cindi wanted to train on the issue but did not have finances for lessons.
After completing an application that included training goals, current training motivation and practices, and documents showing financial need, Cindi was accepted into the scholarship program. We agreed that 80% of the lesson fees would be covered by the Maimes Service Dog Scholarship Fund, and Cindi would pay the rest.
We met for lessons first at Cindi’s home in Granby, training Zoe around a fake stuffed dog. As Zoe progressed in her training, our lessons moved to different locations in Northampton and Hadley, training around my two dogs and then around strangers’ dogs.
Zoe made quick progress! At our first lesson, Zoe lost control around a stuffed dog. After Zoe’s lessons, she was happily and calmly walking past every dog she saw, looking to Cindi for a treat!
I checked in with Cindi this week to see if Zoe is still relaxed and able to work well around other dogs. Cindi said that she is, even despite the lack of practice for both of them caused by the pandemic.
“She’s much better around other dogs. When she sees another dog, I tell her ‘Zoe leave it.’ She’d look at me and I’d reward her.
“When we visited my sister, who has four dogs, she was just fantastic. Zoe’s totally changed her attitude with greeting other dogs.
“She’s been responding so much better with the command. She’s listening so much better! It’s like an about-turn.”
Cindi also told me that she’s really loved the treat suggestion I made at our last lesson to use a squeeze tube for treats. “I put canned wet food in a mayonnaise bottle, watered down, and put a probiotic in there. So that’s much, much easier. I love it! It’s the cat’s meow!”
Cindi says the lack of socialization and training during the pandemic has been hard on her and on Zoe. “Earlier today, she saw a neighbor getting out of their car. She wanted to go to them because she hasn’t seen anyone for so long. She’s definitely doing much better. I told her “leave it,” and she about-faced and came right back to me. I praised her and praised her. And petted her and petted her!
Cindi hopes to receive additional funding to train Zoe on hearing alerts and turning lights on and off. We are waiting until the pandemic recedes for this training as Cindi learns the best with in-person, in-home coaching.
“She has helped me more than I thought a dog could”
Natan and Travel
Zoe and Cindi are the beneficiaries of the loving family and friends who miss Natan, a social, creative, and adventurous young man from Easthampton.
In 2017, I trained Travel several days a week with Natan and his parents, Donna Maimes and Ellen Lacroix in their home in Easthampton. Spending several hours a week with the family over most of a year, I grew close to them and appreciated what a struggle daily life often was for Natan. A year and a half later, on June 11, 2019, it was a horrible shock to get Donna’s call that Natan had died. He was 40 year’s old.
It makes sense that Natan’s family thought that a fund for service dog teams was a fitting legacy, as that’s how Travel came into Natan’s life and transformed it. The money to purchase his poodle and pay for her training was raised by Natan’s friends and family through a previous GoFundMe in 2016. In March 2018, Natan emailed the friend who had organized the fundraiser to tell her what a difference his service dog made in his life:
“Woke up in pain and headed to emergency room. Had emergency surgery, internal bleeding, blood and platelet transfusions, and was ‘50/50’ for a while according to the surgeon. I spent the next 7 days in the hospital and took months to heal everything.
“The one constant thing that’s has been my constant throughout has been Travel. She has visited me in the hospital every time and been at my feet through recovery. She has helped me more than I thought a dog could.
“Through the last years, I have lost the drive to do anything at times. Travel helped me through that. She has helped through my physical rehab, and been my emotional constant.
“It has been hard for me to talk about this, as I am normally a private person. And I wish I could express how thankful I am for all you have done for me.
“I can honestly say at times I would love to have just closed my eyes and not woke up. Travel helped motivate me…
“So when I look at Travel, I remember where she came from. She came from you….and I do not know if I can ever express to you how much that means to me.”
Local service dog teams benefit from training support
“I just want other people to know that people care”
Since the fund was launched this past year, it has paid for $3,900 worth of service dog training for disabled individuals in Western Mass. These include an Agawam veteran whose German shepherd did a three-week board-and-train, a Granby woman with traumatic brain injury whose service dog had become reactive to other dogs following a dog attack, and a UMass student with psychiatric disabilities who is training her golden retriever to mitigate the impacts of her disability.
Until last month, about $2250 remained in the fund. About $1000 of that has already been earmarked to the current teams to complete training, which has been delayed in a couple of cases by the pandemic. The remainder is ready to be allocated for new service dog teams that can benefit from financial assistance to complete training.
However, Donna and Ellen got in touch with me in November because they wanted to raise another $1600 for the scholarship fund in honor of their son’s birthday, December 28. This would be Natan’s 42nd birthday. Donna told me that she would like to honor the legacy of her son and his service dog. “Natan’s words really capture the importance of the work that you do, and the impact it has on the world,” she said. “I just want other people in that situation to get that support and to know that people care.”
While the bulk of the $6150 fund was raised by the family of Natan Maimes of Easthampton. After Additional donations have been received by donors to the Scholarship’s GoFundMe.
To donate to the Maimes Service Dog Scholarship Fund in honor of Natan’s upcoming birthday, please visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/remembering-and-celebrating-natan039s-42nd-birthday
Scholarship funding is geared to those who can benefit most
I get several inquiries every week from people who would like funding for training their service dog. There are several requirements in order to apply.
- Be local — you must be able to do some in-person lessons
- Already own the dog you want to train
- Be highly likely to succeed — the dog must have the right health and temperament for a service dog, and the owner or handler must be committed and capable of dedicated and successful training (learn more about how to assess your dog in our free video)
- Already be a client of At Your Service — you must be able to do a consultation and several lessons with us before you receive funding
Before you contact us, please read more about the scholarship and its requirements.
Learn more about donating to the Maimes Service Dog Scholarship Fund.