Canines for Service celebrates 20 years of serving the community. (Source: WECT)
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -
Rick Hairston could not find a service dog organization when he moved to Wilmington in 1996.
Hairston, who trained service dogs with a national organization in St. Louis, Missouri, founded what was known as Carolina Canines for Service on Dec. 1, 1996.
Now 20 years later, a lot more has changed than just the name.
Canines for Service has expanded to 5,000 square feet of space, provided $12.5 million in services to the community, and is still the only service dog provider in North Carolina accredited by Assistance Dogs International.
Hairston called the past two decades a life changing experience.
“We always love to see the individuals and the service dogs, it’s magnificent,” Hairston said. “But the number of people that we help otherwise was something that we didn’t realize until after we had started well into the program.”
Canines for Service allows for the families to gain a sense of normalcy back in their lives.
The 90 commands allow for the dogs to help a wide range of people, including those with disabilities, veterans, and even kids who are having trouble reading.
The dogs in the program are well-versed and ready to serve wherever needed.
They learn more than 90 commands after thousands of hours of training.
Hairston is positive the future is bright for his furry friends.
“We’re developing the standards,” he said. “Every one of the clients that are receiving a service dog need to be able to rely on their dog, so we want to be able to make that a universal type of thing, so all dogs are trained to a minimum-type of standard.”
He hopes his dogs will set the standard for others.