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11 assistance dogs graduate from The Ability Center of Greater Toledo

The total cost of training an assistance dog can be up to $70,000 but handlers say it's worth it.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The Ability Center hosted an Assistance Dog Graduation at The Toledo Museum of Art, Glass Pavilion for 11 Labrador Retrievers. After two years of training and nearly $70,000 spent per dog, handlers get to celebrate their pup's job well-done.

The Ability Center trained seven service dogs and the other four will work with school age children at different facilities. 

Congratulations to Barney and MaryAnn Reid, Lucas and Cynthia Dixon, Champ and Jim Held, Mort and Joe Marchi, Senko and Melissa Metter, Scarlett and Susan Peterson for their 'fur-ever' pals. 

Of the assistance dogs going to schools, Onyx will be working at Lake Local Schools, Dusty will be at Tiffin Elementary Schools, Andy's job will be with the North Ridgeville Early Childhood Learning Center and Otis is going to help those at Liberty Benton Elementary School. 

WTOL 11 got a chance to speak with David Casares, who suffered a spinal cord injury in a swimming accident 12 years ago. Since then, he's needed a wheelchair. 

While he said he adjusted just fine, after watching a friend of his and her service dog a few years ago, he had an idea. So, two years ago, he decided to reach out to the Ability Center and apply for service dog. 

Casares said the endless  hours of love, learning, and treats with his dog, Nimbus, were all worth it to get here.

"I wish I would have done this sooner. But I'm also glad that I waited, because I love Nimbus. I can't imagine having any other dog," Casares said. "I didn't realize how much of a boost both mentally and independently a service dog would be."

Nimbus is cute, but he works hard.

"He likes to pick up for me, open and close doors, pushes the door opener in public spaces if I'm not able to reach them," Casares said. 

Though these skills sound simple, they take specialized training, which isn't easy to teach or learn, and definitely isn't cheap. The Ability Center estimates it costs nearly $70,000 to get each dog up to snuff.

One of the main sponsors for the dogs' graduation is Buckeye Broadband. The company's Research & Promotions specialist Jamie Blazevich said money isn't their focus, even during a pandemic.

"That gives us that feeling that we can't just make an impact on the world as a whole. Regardless of what the world is going through," Blazevich said.

Regardless of what Casares goes through, Nimbus will be right there to help him.

"He's gonna be my go to side kick, ride or die for life now...I love him. I love him a lot," Casares said. 

For more information on what the Ability Center has to offer, click here.

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