Photo credit: Renée Duncan

4 Ways to Celebrate National Dog Day

By Renée Duncan

2015 TWD Banner

1. Register for the 17th Annual Tail Waggin’ DinnerThis fundraiser furthers people’s independence and quality of life through the use of Assistance Dogs. Plus, there will be dogs under the dinner tables!

2. Tell a friend or family member who is a veteran with PTSD or has a physical disability other than hearing or vision loss about Helping Paws. Encourage them to begin the application process for a life-changing dog. A dog who lives to serve. A dog who provides the gift of independence.

3. Help provide the gift of independence yourself by donating today! Want to celebrate dogs every month? Become a sustaining donor by scheduling regular monthly payments here. Every dollar makes a difference, so whether you can contribute $10 or $1000, it all goes towards the supplies, training, and labor that go into molding our extraordinary dogs.Stubbs

4. Submit a foster home trainer application. No experience is necessary! Our graduates come from all walks of life. Some live on country farms while others are city-loving apartment dwellers. Our graduates are moms, dads, kids, single or married, with or without other pets. Therefore, we need foster home trainers who are just as diverse. Raise a puppy and give the gift of independence while being guided through weekly training classes at the Helping Paws training center in Hopkins.

Photo credit: Renée Duncan

Photo credit: Renée Duncan


You Just Want to Squeeze ‘Em!

By Maureen Kleckner

Helping Paws is excited to announce that Lab puppies have arrived! The Max x Myrtle litter debuted July 27…seven cuties in black or yellow. They will be known as the E litter.

This is Myrtle’s second litter of future service dogs. Her first group, the Huey x Myrtle litter, has completed three phases of training and is moving into the final stage, Big Dogs. Here are some photos of these talented dogs:


Fraser has loose leash walking down pat.


Jenga has developed patience at waiting before exiting.

The newest pups have some big packs to fill! Right now, however, they’re practicing sleeping, snuggling, and looking adorable.

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They did “pose” for individual photos. Here are their first official baby pics.

The girls:

And the boys:

These pups are named after streets in a popular Minnesota city. Can you guess which city?

Puppy photos courtesy of Bev, caretaker home for Myrtle.

Much appreciation is extended to John at Royalty British Kennels (RBK) for his donation of stud service for both of Myrtle’s litters. Myrtle herself is also an alum of RBK.

We need foster home trainers in order for these dogs to achieve their destiny as service dogs for individuals with physical disabilities and veterans with PTSD! Contact Maureen Kleckner,, for more info, or to schedule a visit to a training class at Helping Paws!


Do Litter Go Home

The Do Litter Goes Home

By Judy Michurski

The five “Do” litter puppies are now officially Helping Paws service dogs-in-training. The sendoff party was filled with laughter and smiles as the Foster Home Trainers were introduced to their puppies. These foster families are amazing volunteers who will spend the next few years loving, socializing and training these little fluff balls to be amazing service dogs and life changing gifts for a person with a physical disability or a veteran with PTSD. It is a labor of love that these five families have already experienced. All five of them were Foster Home Trainers for Callahan’s first litter and now, as those dogs are graduating, they are starting the process over with Callahan’s last litter of puppies. Thank you to Tim and Dianne, Karen and Erica, Gary, Darlene and Dave, and Mike and Debbie. With your love and training this “Do” litter is going to “Do” some amazing things!

We would also like to welcome a new foster home, Richard, and a 12 week old Golden Retriever named Duncan. Duncan was donated to Helping Paws by Beth Johnson and will join the “Do” litter class.
Duncan and His New FamilyService Dog-in-Training Duncan

And last but not least, we do need to say a big thank you to Callahan who has produced three wonderful litters (25 puppies!) for Helping Paws and to Denise and Rob Babcock of The Captain’s Labradors for providing stud service for all three of her litters. Sailor, Cutty and Chester produced some amazing puppies with Callahan.
Helping Paws Breeding Dog, Callahan 2015-07-31 Do Litter Go Home-4

Photos by Judy Michurski

Thursday Class at Galaxy

International Assistance Dog Week

By Maureen Kleckner

This week we celebrate International Assistance Dog Week!

Per the website, :

“International Assistance Dog Week (IADW) was created to recognize all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability related limitations.”

Meet Myrtle, one of Helping Paws’ breeding females, and her week-old litter of seven puppies. These pups’ adventures are just beginning…these Labrador Retrievers are on their way to becoming service dogs. They will spend seven weeks with their volunteer caretakers Bev and Herb, being introduced to different sights, sounds and textures as part of becoming socialized to enter the big brave world.

Myrtle and the E Litter

Photo credit: Bev Swedeen

Helping Paws, Inc. has a 27-year-old history of providing service dogs to individuals with physical disabilities. Recently we have begun providing service dogs to our military veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Over 200 service dogs have been placed since 1988.

At the age of seven weeks, the puppies move in with their foster home trainers. These dedicated volunteers will raise and train a dog for the two to two-and-a-half years it takes to become a service dog. Currently, Helping Paws has approximately 80 dogs, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, in training.

Chester x Callahan Go Home Group

Photo credit: Judy Michurski

The foster home trainers and dogs attend classes weekly at our training center in Hopkins, MN. The puppies start with foundation skills…sit, lay down, walk nicely on a leash, come when called, etc.

Dale and Pippa

Photo credit: Renée Duncan

As they mature, the dogs learn the specialized skills of service dogs…retrieving dropped items, pushing doors and drawers closed, opening doors. The foster home trainers train using assistive devices such as canes, walkers and wheelchairs, since many of our graduates utilize this equipment.

Kira picks up a dropped item

Photo credit: Judy Michurski

Foster Home Trainer Karen with Ella

Photo credit: Judy Michurski

Some of the most exciting experiences that our foster home trainers provide are training in public sessions. Service dogs must be confident in many different places, and able to perform the skills their human partners need in spite of multiple distractions. Public training begins in dog-friendly locations such as pet stores and veterinary clinics, and slowly progresses into stores, restaurants, movie theaters and onto public transportation.

Big Dogs Airport Field Trip

Photo credit: Tim Fitzpatrick

Helping Paws is an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International. The purpose of ADI is to “improve the areas of training, placement, and utilization of assistance dogs, staff and volunteer education, as well as educating the public about assistance dogs, and advocating for the legal rights of people with disabilities partnered with assistance dogs.” Woven throughout our programs is an adherence to the training, placement and follow-up standards of ADI.

Fast forward a couple of years…the puppies have become skilled dogs ready to meet their forever partners. During pre-match, individuals who have successfully applied for service dogs come to the training center, one at a time, to meet and work with a few dogs. Dogs, like people, have unique personalities. A “match” is a distinct combination of skills needed/trained, and that special “connection” between individual and dog.

Maxine and Chai

Photo credit: Judy Michurski

Each newly matched team attends a three-week team training course conducted by Helping Paws staff. The course provides opportunities for the people to learn from each other and support each other on this journey. Team training includes discussions about dog care and behavior and public access rights; practicing skills in the training center, and taking the show on the road with field trips around the community.

Helping Paws Graduate Lucas and Service Dog Hugo

Photo credit: Judy Michurski

Helping Paws celebrates the new teams annually with a graduation ceremony. Family members of the graduates and the foster home trainers attend the event. Each graduate shares a few thoughts on what having a service dog means to him/her. The graduates provide the stories…Helping Paws provides the tissues.

2014 Graduation Ceremony

Photo credit: Judy Michurski

The teams are launched, but the support of Helping Paws continues for the life of the dog. Approximately 85 active service dog teams currently receive continual follow-up care. Our follow-up staff help problem-solve unique issues in graduate’s homes and employment settings, assist with some grooming tasks, and are frequently present for end-of-life transitions.

Helping Paws is grateful for our volunteer base of foster home trainers and other volunteers, as well as our financial supporters. Without all of you, we could not fulfill our mission: Furthering people’s independence and quality of life through the use of Assistance Dogs.

Happy International Assistance Dog Week!