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Love for animals leads Seneca teen to train service dogs

SENECA – Rebecca Doloski of Seneca always wanted to work with animals, so when it came time to choose her FFA project, she decided to train a service dog.

“I’ve always wanted to work with animals and had to decide what to do with FFA,” Doloski said. “I found an organization and applied to see if I could pick up a dog to train.”

She reached out to Canine Companions for Independence and was accepted as a puppy raiser.

“I have the puppy for 17 to 20 months and teach it basic commands,” Doloski said. “I teach it basic commands, take it in the car, and go to stores with it.”

A senior at Seneca High School, Doloski is training her second dog “Beck,” a golden retriever black lab mix who she said has a distinctly different personality than the first dog she had. Beck is a more laid back dog.

Jeff Maierhofer, Seneca FFA sponsor, said Doloski is learning a lot about responsibility through her project. She has to work with the dog every day and be its teacher.

She picked up Beck when she was returning her first dog to Ohio, where it would undergo six to nine months of additional training.

“I had the first one for 17 months and took it back when I picked up Beck,” she said. “You have to not get too attached to the dog because it is not your dog.”

She knows she’s working for a bigger cause, and there is a greater need than many might realize.

Canine Companions for Independence train dogs in four service areas: Service teams, which help adults with disabilities perform daily tasks; hearing teams, which alert individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to important sounds; skilled companion teams, which enhance independence for children and adults with physical, cognitive and developmental disabilities; and facility teams, which work with a professional in a visitation, education or health care setting.

To get the dog acclimated to different settings, Doloski takes it to school with her for at least one day. She’s already taken it to FFA events with many people around. The dog did well, she said.

Doloski is financially responsible for the dog, which must have a special diet and requires veterinary care.

Maierhofer said she has received help from local FFA grants. She reached out to Animal Care Hospital in Morris, which donated some services and gave her a discount on neutering.

Hospital Manager Matt Johnson said he and Dr. Megan Bauer agreed to help, because as former FFA members, they understand the importance of the FFA project and learning experience.

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