Future Service Dog Attends Archbishop Molloy HS
Most Stanners probably haven’t noticed, but twice a week for a little over year, a dog walks into Molloy and goes down into the basement, where it spends the day in the Track and Field Office.
Math teacher, Mr. Austin Power, and his daughter, junior Mary Grace Power, have been raising Cabral, a 16-month-old Lab-golden retriever mix, for an organization known as Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) to prepare her to become a service dog.
The Powers got Cabral from CCI on Dec. 23, 2013 and will return her in May so she can start her training.
Mary Grace heard about CCI from a neighborhood woman who raised many dogs for CCI and loved it.
“I really loved the idea, and when I heard about this, I thought that it was a great way for me to help people,” Mary Grace said. “Service dogs help people with disabilities live more independent lives.”
Mr. Power did not want to leave the puppy home alone too often so he received permission from Principal Bro. Thomas Schady to make the Track & Field Office Cabral’s home away from home, since it is a nice quiet place for her to stay and he could walk her during his free periods.
So Cabral began coming to school every morning either by car or riding on the back of Mr. Power’s bike.
Cabral adjusted very quickly to Molloy, Mr. Power said, because “Who doesn’t love it at Molloy?”
“At first,” said Mary Grace, “Cabral was a little skittish about all of the people and the different smells. She was especially freaked out by the shiny floors! After coming to school for a while, she got used to everything and now she loves it!”
Cabral has made other friends at Molloy, such as the secretaries and Assistant Principal Mr. Dennis Vellucci in the General Office and Mr. Jeff Gallagher in the Track Office.
Some of Mary Grace’s friends join her outside on the track to throw around a Frisbee with Cabral, who loves all of the attention.
Mary Grace is pretty sure Cabral’s days at Molloy are some of the dog’s favorite experiences.
While Cabral was a puppy being housebroken, she had only one accident at Molloy, when she was sick.
“If you crate-train a dog and are proactive and get ahead of it, you can avoid most accidents with training,” said Mr. Power, who added that Cabral has not barked a lot during her time at Molloy either.
Mr. Power and Mary Grace have had to raise Cabral differently than one would raise a pet dog because she is going to be a service dog. So it has been important to train her according to CCI’s training guide. She also is taken to a training class once a month at a CCI facility.
After school and on weekends, Cabral goes wherever Mary Grace and her family go. As a service dog, she is allowed almost anywhere, including stores, restaurants, and movie theaters.
Mary Grace enjoys being with Cabral because, “tons of people come up to you and ask about Cabral’s training and are really curious about the benefits of service dogs.”
Once Cabral is given back to CCI, she will join her seven other siblings in an advanced, six-month training course. If she passes the course, she will be assigned to a disabled person and they will go through a training period to learn to work together.
Cabral will then take part in a graduation ceremony, where she will be handed over to her new owner permanently.
Mary Grace said if Cabral doesn’t pass the course, “I would take her back in a heartbeat. But even though only 40 percent of the dogs pass, I’m confident that she will make it.”
Mr. Power believes that when it is time to give Cabral up, “there will be much crying in the Power house in the month of May, but it will be for a great cause.”
Mary Grace feels that giving up Cabral will be the hardest thing she has ever had to do.
“Cabral and I are best friends,” she said. “Anywhere I go, she is usually right beside me. Even in the morning when I get ready for school, she is right on my heel following me around. It’s going to be strange not having my little friend right beside me all the time. But I keep telling myself that she will help someone who really needs her.”
Mary Grace may not see Cabral again after giving her up, but she’s hoping that the new owner of Cabral will stay in contact and send pictures.
Mary Grace said that she would love to raise another dog for CCI.
“This was an incredible experience and I would recommend it to anyone.” she said. “If there is anyone who is interested in training a service dog, I recommend that you check out the website, www.cci.org.”