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The Merrimac Dog Training Club hosts an annual Canine Kids Camp, where children with disabilities take part in fun dog competitions.

Each child takes one of the member’s dogs, who are all trained performance and/or therapy dogs, through a small agility course, a small AKC Rally® course and a therapy dog training session.

One 10-year-old young lady in a wheelchair that participated in the Canine Kids Camp expressed interest in continuing in dog sports, so club member Ginger Wade volunteered her Standard Poodle therapy dog to work with the girl.

The pair began working together on a weekly basis, and after several sessions, began training for Beginner Novice obedience.

After training once a week for about six months, the young girl entered her first trial. The pair didn’t qualify the first time, but they achieved their first Beginner Novice leg at the next trial.

Ginger said, “Everyone, including judges, was very accommodating. It was a very positive experience. I usually notified the trial secretary in advance and made sure that I spoke to the judges before they showed in the ring. The major accommodation that she needed was assistance with the removal of the leash or assistance if the leash became tangled around the dog's legs, due to the lack of hand strength and limited range of motion. Heeling was not an issue, but the judge allowed for the dog to be about an arm's length out so she would have a comfortable distance from the wheelchair.”

The girl now trains with her own Labrador Retriever puppy, and Ginger hopes that when the dog turns two, the pair will be in the ring working on their own Beginner Novice title.

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