Humane Society’s ‘Walk for the Animals’ celebrates love of pets

October 2, 2018

A golden retriever named Huxley accepted his service dog training vest rather solemnly Sunday before planting sloppy, wet kisses on anyone who bent near him.

Huxley, who is a little more than 4 months old, is being trained by Shirley and Bob Corn of Valley for the Kansas Specialty Dog Service (KSDS). The Washington, Kansas, organization provides guide dogs for the visually impaired, service dogs to assist people with physical disabilities and facility dogs for places such as schools and nursing homes.

“He is very sweet and very intelligent,” Shirley Corn said. “It will be hard to give him up, but Huxley will be matched with someone who can then become a lot more independent. These dogs change lives more than you can ever imagine.”

Huxley helped draw people to the KSDS booth at the Nebraska Humane Society’s annual fundraiser “Walk for the Animals.” Organizers hoped to raise $310,000 at the event, which included a 1-mile walk and 5K, near the Humane Society, at 90th and Fort Streets.

Lynn Schense and her husband, Don, staffed the KSDS booth with their black Labrador, Key, who was prevented from being a service dog by a medical condition.

Since 1991, the Kansas Specialty Dog Service has placed over 530 service dogs at no charge to the recipients.

“We got our first puppy in 2001, and we’ve trained six of them to be service dogs since then,” Lynn Schense said of their work with KSDS. “The dogs learn basic obedience and social skills, such as greeting people out in public.”

At about 20 months, the dogs are called back to KSDS to be evaluated physically and psychologically. If they pass both tests, they receive advanced training in the specialty that best fits them before being paired with their owners.

Working with the Schenses is Marie Brousek, 12, of Omaha. The sixth-grader from St. Columbkille Catholic School in Papillion met the couple through her grandmother two years ago and started helping train dogs.

“She’s a junior trainer,” Lynn Schense said. “I thought she might walk the dogs a couple of times and go on to something else, but Marie has devoted hours and hours to the training. She is very grown up and mature.”

Marie has also developed a bond with Key, who stayed with the Schense family after leaving the service dog training program. The Lab spent much of the time resting her head against the girl’s leg.

“I love animals and the part that we can play helping people,” Marie said. “By training these dogs, we’re making a difference, and it makes me feel good.”

The event is mainly a tail-wagging good time for dogs, but a variety of animals — even parrots and guinea pigs — were in attendance. Danielle Roll of Gretna turned both human and canine heads as she walked her miniature horse, Winston, through the grounds.

Winston, who is 10 years old, munched grass contentedly as admirers gathered around him. Winston adapts to any situation, Roll said, even climbing into her car for the ride into Omaha.

“My 5-year-old daughter does everything with him,” Roll said. “They go swimming, and they play with our Great Dane. He’s been absolutely perfect, so I was thinking maybe he might be a therapy animal.”

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