Cleveland International Film Festival } March 27 – April 7, 2019 } Tower City Cinemas

Furry Heroes at the Fountain

April 09, 2017   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Festival Events

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Marty, star of "Letting Go of Adele," poses at the Tower City fountain with her new service dog, Hector. Photo by Nathan Migal.

Tower City shoppers and CIFF attendees had a special treat Saturday afternoon, when service dogs and their handlers made a special appearance at the fountain. At least eight dogs were in attendance, several of them still in training and still, technically, puppies.

Trainee service dogs included CoDa, an 8-month-old black lab currently in training at the State Correctional Institution in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, much like the service dogs featured in “Prison Dogs.” Malcolm, a 9-month-old yellow lab, is also a “prison dog,” training at the women’s prison in Albion, Pennsylvania. Meanwhile Alice, an affectionate two-year-old yellow lab, is completing her training with Canine Partners for Life and preparing to enter service as a “demonstration dog,” showing off a variety of the skills that service dogs can be trained to perform including opening and closing doors and pressing elevator buttons. Guiding Eyes for the Blind also brought in one of their trainees, a young yellow lab named Hogan.

Several working service dogs were also in attendance. Linton, a 10-year-old yellow lab, has been Glory’s companion for the last three years and is now preparing for his own retirement, much like Adele in the film, "Letting Go of Adele," although he will continue living with Glory once he goes into retirement. He provides balance and support services to her, helping her remain mobile and active and assisting her if she falls. He was trained at Cambridge Springs, and previously worked with a high school student with similar physical impairments, who turned him back in when she went to college.

Cal, a 10-year-old yellow lab trained through Canine Partners for Life, provides physical assistance to Executive Director Darlene Sullivan when her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia flare up. Another yellow lab named Diesel, meanwhile, serves as a Cardiac Alert Dog for Meg; his harness includes explicit instructions for what people should and should not do–above all, they should not separate Diesel and Meg, nor call for an ambulance unless she is obviously injured–if she collapses. Attendees at Saturday’s event had a special treat, as well, because Marty–the star of “Letting Go of Adele”–was in attendance, along with her new service dog Hector, who has comfortably settled into his role as her full-time companion.

Working service dogs inhabit a difficult space in our world. First, they and their owners must deal with the constant influx of people whose response to seeing any dog is to try to pet it. When a service dog is working–which is pretty much any time that you see one in a harness–they need to avoid distractions and focus on helping their human navigate the world, whether that means acting as their eyes, or helping them maintain their balance, or monitoring them for signs of an impending seizure or panic attack. During these times, it is critically important for the people around them to keep their hands off and let them work… which can be difficult for some passers by to understand. Some service dogs struggle with this themselves; Glory notes that Linton is a highly social and gregarious dog who would rather make friends than work, and whom she expects will revel in his retirement.

Their owners need our understanding as well. As service dogs enter new sectors of service, helping more and more people with “invisible” disabilities, their new owners have faced skepticism and prejudice. There have been several notorious incidents in which service dogs, trained to work with PTSD-afflicted veterans, were barred from accompanying their humans on airplane flights—including Axel, a German Shepherd who was, ironically, about to board a return flight after being honored for his service at the Hero Dog Awards. Just this Wednesday, a service dog-in-training got loose at the Orlando International Airport after TSA agents forced her handler to remove her vest and harness to pass through security; as of this posting, she remains missing, and the TSA says the agents involved are undergoing retraining. With more understanding and help from the public, however, the lives of these service dogs and the humans they assist can remain normal and productive.

For those interested in helping to fund or train a service dog, Canine Partners for Life had a variety of useful pamphlets and information, which can also be found on their website. And for pictures of all of the service dogs who attended, click over to our Flickr feed.

Lara Klaber

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.7 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/01/17 @ 3:10 PM – PRISON DOGS
04/03/17 @ 2:40 PM – PRISON DOGS
04/04/17 @ 6:45 PM – PRISON DOGS
04/06/17 @ 7:00 PM – LETTING GO OF ADELE
04/08/17 @ 1:35 PM – LETTING GO OF ADELE
04/09/17 @ 9:15 AM – LETTING GO OF ADELE

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