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Indianapolis non-profit turns shelter dogs into service dogs

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Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 11:21:55-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Changing the lives of humans and dogs across the country is the goal of a local non-profit turning shelter dogs into service dogs.

On Tuesday, another group of dogs graduated from the Medical Mutts program.

The dogs are trained to work with those with diabetes, seizures and psychiatric conditions.

After months of training, they’re going home with their new owners and they’re ready to get to work.

“We can relax a little bit because we know that Thor has his back,” Whitney Milek said.

Whitney and her son, Wade, traveled to Indianapolis from Wyoming to pick up their dog Thor.

“Wade has epilepsy. He was born with it,” Whitney said.

For the last eight months, Thor has been at the Medical Mutts’ facility learning how to help Wade when he has a seizure.

“He needed a dog especially at night to roll him over when he has seizures so he doesn't suffocate,” Whitney said.

She said having this life-saving tool for her son is a huge relief.

“It's life-changing because there's been some really scary times and we've done a lot of ambulance rides, a lot of hospital stays and I don't think my husband and I have slept through the night since he was six months old because we just don't know,” Whitney said.

“So, the goal is to save dogs, change the dogs' lives and change the people's lives, of course, and give them a way that they can feel or independent safer in their lives,” Jennifer Cattet, executive director of Medical Mutts, said.

Cattet told WRTV she started Medical Mutts in 2013. She said they train the dogs to recognize trouble coming using scent.

“We know because we have been part of different studies that dogs can smell when a person is going to have a hypoglycemic attack or is it or a seizure or even an anxiety attack,” Cattet said.

If the dog senses danger it will poke its human and let them know to get in a safe place or check their glucose levels as soon as possible.

That’s a relief to Shelly Scott-Harmon. Her son Aidan deals with anxiety and depression.

“He's going to be 18 and moving out soon so the dog will be being his ally and acts as my eyes,” Shelly said.

She said having Iro by Aidan’s side gives her peace of mind.

“Aidan is a big animal lover, so this is going to be a good fit I think,” Shelly said.

Now not all dogs can be service dogs.

Cattet said they look for several things. A dog that’s between one and two years old, with a friendly demeanor towards people and animals and most importantly, they look for dogs that can adapt to new situations.

Teaching the dog to work with scent takes a lot of work on the human side of things.

Shelly told WRTV every time she sensed him getting anxious, she would put on gloves, rub a cotton ball on his forehead and the back of his neck then put it in a Ziplock bag and have Aidan breathe into the bag then she shipped it here to Indianapolis for Iro to use as a tool.

In June, Cattet said they will place their 100th rescue dog with its new owner.

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