The Natan Maimes & Travel Service Dog Scholarship Fund provides financial support for service-dog-in-training teams that are likely to succeed with the right financial support.
The scholarship fund is only open to particular teams. If you are considering applying for funding to train your service dog, please read all of the information here before contacting us to inquire.
Click here to contribute to the fund. Thank you!
Why is the fund needed?
A service dog is a dog that is trained to do work or perform tasks for a handler that has a mental and/or physical disability. A service dog must also have a rock-solid temperament, be in great health, and have flawless manners in all environments. A well-trained service dog can significantly improve the quality of life for its handler, increasing freedom, independence, safety, and well-being.
Our clients who have successfully trained service dogs for themselves or a family member have had amazing improvements in quality of life:
- Returned to work or school (sometimes getting advanced degrees)
- Better able to go to the grocery store or other public places on their own
- Help with tasks around the house or with alerts to symptoms increased led to greater sense of empowerment and safety, and reduced pain, fatigue, isolation, anxiety, or depression
Successful owner-training teams must have a special combination of factors in their favor:
- The right dog — highly social, confident, easy to train, healthy, not bothered by unexpected sounds or by other dogs, with a moderate energy level and minimal prey drive
- An extremely dedicated handler with plenty of time to devote to training
- A skilled, supportive, and experienced professional service dog trainer to guide the team
- Significant financial resources — typical costs are between $16,000 and $25,000
After decades of involvement in the service dog community, and after evaluating and training hundreds of dogs, we’ve learned that most teams don’t succeed. Usually, either the dog is not cut out for the career, or the handler, who is already living with disabling conditions, is overwhelmed by the time, effort, and expense of the endeavor. Having professional help with the entire process makes teams much more likely to succeed.
However, in some cases, both the dog and the owner have “all the right stuff” — except for money. Finances shouldn’t keep an otherwise terrific team — a dog that loves to work and is eager to help and a handler with dedication and skill — from reaching their goal of increased independence, well-being, and greater integration into society. The Natan Maimes & Travel Service Dog Scholarship Fund can help these teams to realize their dream of a better life — with your support.
Click here to contribute to the fund. Thank you!
Support service dog owner-trainers. Contribute at our GoFundMe.
Who is eligible to receive funding?
The Maimes Scholarship Fund will provide funding for teams that meet these criteria:
- Applicant is training a service dog for themselves or a family member (partner, child, parent, etc.)
- Applicant’s dog has been assessed by At Your Service Dog Training’s head trainer* as highly likely to succeed as a service dog (based on the dog’s health, temperament, and behavior at the time of the assessment)
- Applicant has completed at least one Service Dog Consultation and one private training session and either a group class or several private sessions with At Your Service Dog Training*
- At their classes or lessons, the applicant has demonstrated an ongoing commitment and ability to follow At Your Service trainers’ instructions and to train consistently and effectively
- Applicant is unable to pay for all the training needed with their own funds and fundraising efforts
*Assessments must be conducted in-person by our head trainer, Sharon Wachsler. We do not accept assessments by other trainers. There is too much variability in skill, experience, and knowledge among trainers (please see our “Buyer Beware” article for more on how to choose a good trainer). Lessons and classes must be conducted by Sharon Wachsler or one of our assistant trainers. We do not accept proof of dogs having taken classes with other trainers.
NOTE: We are in the process of setting up a second scholarship fund for service dog consultations for handlers who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color. If you’re interested in this #BLM funding, please contact us for details.
What’s the story behind the Fund’s name?
Natan Maimes was a vibrant and social person who worked and traveled internationally and was passionate about photography, helping people, and the arts. At the age of 37, he developed a medical condition that caused seizures, systemic infections, and other serious medical problems. After a lifetime of freedom and independence, it was a painful transition that landed him back in his parents’ home, unable to work, ill, and with too much time on his hands.
Natan’s friends and family set up a fundraiser for him to buy and train a dog as his service dog. For ten months in 2017, At Your Service Dog Training’s head trainer, Sharon Wachsler, spent several days a week training Natan Maimes’s moyen poodle, Travel, to be his service dog. Most of these lessons were at the Maimes home, where Sharon not only trained Travel but coached Natan – and sometimes his parents Donna and Ellen – in continuing and maintaining Travel’s training. Sometimes Sharon, Travel, and Natan went on “field trips,” training at Rite-Aid or Thornes Market or other area locations.
Travel was an excellent service dog candidate, and she and Natan had a beautiful and very special connection. They were both full of personality and had similar senses of humor, too! You can see this in these basic manners training videos from spring 2017: “Leave it,” Heeling around distractions, Down-Stay
Natan was very devoted to Travel. Even when he had been gravely ill in the hospital — a not-infrequent occurrence — once Natan was back home, he would have Travel’s coat beautifully groomed and fluffy within a day or two. Training Travel for the Maimes family was one of the great joys of Sharon’s career.
In June 2019, Natan died from a bleed in his brain, a great loss to all who knew him, including Sharon and her colleagues who met Natan and Travel. Natan’s friends and family set up Nitzot, a fundraiser to continue Natan’s passion projects of raising funds for some of the causes he cared most deeply about. As Travel came to Natan through a fundraiser, and as she was a life-saving force in his life, Natan’s parents wanted to dedicate some of the Nitzot funds for service dog training. In December 2019, Nitzot donated $5,000 to At Your Service Dog Training to launch its scholarship fund.
We are honored to have a way to continue to bring Natan’s spirit of tikkun olam (repair of the world) and Travel’s legacy as an excellent service dog to other service dog teams that can likewise succeed if they are given the right supports.
What types of service dog training costs does the Maimes Scholarship Fund cover?
The Fund will help cover training expenses based on what the recipient’s dog needs at the time of the gift. This will vary with each team.
Funds may be used for…
Public Access Training
Training a dog to be calm, confident, and well-behaved in any situation and locale is the longest and most challenging part of training a service animal. While the needs and abilities of the owner and the trainability of the dog vary, usually the most efficient options are day school (where the trainer works with the dog three or four days a week in the owner’s home or in the community) or board-and-train where the dog lives with the trainer for extended periods of time. Sometimes private lessons and/or group classes may also be helpful.
- Natan Maimes’s dog, Travel, received training three times a week for about 9 months, at a cost of about $9,000. This covered her basic manners/puppy training, most of her public access training, and the beginnings of task training.
- A client who was naturally skilled as a trainer and a dog that was unusually quick and easy to train (a college student and a Labrador retriever, respectively), achieved similar results in five months for about $6,000.
- A client who used a power wheelchair sent her dog for six weeks of board-and-train to train him to better work around her powerchair, to train a reliable “settle” and “leave it” around major distractions, and to get him started on a retrieve. He made excellent progress, but still had a long way to go for his task work. That was a cost of about $6,000. (Sharon owns power- and manual-wheelchairs to train dogs to work well for a handler who uses a wheelchair.)
Public access training generally takes four to eight months for an adolescent or adult dog that is an appropriate candidate and is receiving skilled training. For most people who train their own dogs using group classes or private lessons, it will take much longer and/or training will be incomplete. Public access training, when done properly and intensively, will typically cost between $6,000 to $10,000.
“Tasks” are the jobs dogs do to assist their disabled handler. Tasks vary a great deal depending on the handler’s disabilities and needs.
Here are some examples of tasks:
- Mobility service dog tasks may include retrieving dropped items, opening and shutting doors, carrying a message to another person, helping remove a jacket or socks, turning on or off lights, etc.
- Common psychiatric service dog tasks may include turning on a light or doing a “search” of the house when the handler arrives home, providing deep pressure (lying across the handler’s legs or pressing into their chest), guiding a handler to an exit, reminding the handler to take medication, and more.
- Medical alert or hearing dog tasks may include alerting to the sound of a timer or alarm clock, alerting to an infusion or insulin pump alarm, calling a special phone when a handler falls or has a seizure, etc.
For a handler who just needs one relatively simple task, task training may take a month or two and cost under $1,000. However, many handlers need multiple tasks, sometimes including complex tasks like removing clothing, retrieving (for a non-retrieving breed, this can be a long, slow process), running distances to find a person for help, etc. For multiple, complex tasks, task training may take six to twelve months and cost between $6,000 to $15,000.
Behavior Modification or Retraining for Established Teams
Sometimes trained service dogs need additional training. Typical examples include situations like these:
- A service dog (trained through a program or by the owner) develops reactivity to other dogs due after being attacked while working in public
- A service dog’s task work becomes unreliable over the years due to inadequate maintenance training or because more significant behavior issues overshadow it. The dog may need behavior modification or to be retrained as an in-home only service dog. The handler may need instruction in how to train or maintain task training that was originally done by a program
- A handler’s disability changes or progresses, requiring her service dog to learn to perform new assistance tasks OR the dog needs to be trained to perform tasks in a new way that accommodates the handler’s new limitations
Depending on the extent of training needed, retraining might cost $500 for a few owner lessons or it might require $5,000 or more for several months of intensive behavior modification or training.
Would you like to help service dog teams succeed?
The service dog scholarship fund relies on your donations. Any gift –whether $5, $50, $500, or $5,000 — can help a disabled handler to reach their dream of a fully trained service dog.
- $10,000 will cover most of the cost of training a service dog in under a year — manners, public access, and possibly task work
- $6,000 will train a dog in public access manners (the hardest hurdle) and lay the foundation for task training
- $3,000 will cover private lessons to complete public access and task training for a highly motivated and able owner-trainer
- $2,500 will cover task training for a psychiatric service dog that already has public access training
- $1,000 will get a team started with manners and basic skills for a handler who isn’t able to attend group classes due to their disabilities
- $500 covers an initial behavior modification package for a trained service dog that requires retraining
- $250 covers tuition for an advanced public access group class, offering camaraderie and group support as well as training skills
- $100 is a private lesson with our head trainer for a client who has successfully been training on their own but now is stuck and just needs some troubleshooting to continue training their service dog on their own
To make a donation by check, please make the check out to “At Your Service Dog Training.” In the memo line, be sure to write “Maimes Scholarship Fund.” If you would like your donation to go to a particular team, make sure to enclose a note with the name of the team. Email Sharon for the mailing address to send the check.
To donate online by credit card, please use our secure GoFundMe site or the purple button below.
Thank you for supporting these hardworking service dog teams in their goal for a better, more independent, more empowered life!
To apply for funding or for questions about making a donation, please use the form below. Thank you for your support of The Natan Maimes and Travel Service Dog Scholarship Fund!