Making the Impossible Paw-sible: Raising Service Dogs to Help the Disabled Become More Independent
By Taylor Sexton
Making the Impossible Paw-sible: Raising Service Dogs
to Help the Disabled Become More Independent
By Taylor Sexton
Mina Ehrlich Brouillette, ’71, spends her days in what many would consider paradise, surrounded by wagging tales and wet noses. Since 2013, Brouillette and her husband have raised labrador retrievers to become service dogs for the physically disabled.
As an occupational therapist in a pediatric out-patient clinic, Brouillette often worked with children with physical and developmental disabilities. Through her years of experience, she understands the importance of helping those who are disabled live more independent lives.
After retirement, Brouillette and her husband were presented with the opportunity to raise puppies who would later become service animals. They gladly accepted and have since raised and trained five service dogs.
Brouillette is responsible for teaching puppies basic behaviors and, most importantly, socializing them and exposing them to different environments. On top of basic training, Brouillette must attend bi-monthly sessions to learn the appropriate training techniques for the puppies.
“We take them to places such as a restaurant, the shopping mall, on a train or bus, athletic events, the classroom in a school, the grocery store, and the local park,” she said. “We want future disabled clients to be able to enjoy the many activities that most of us take for granted.”
After two years of training and socializing, their puppies are ready for advanced training.
Brouillette said her experience as a puppy raiser has been both educational and fun. The dogs she and her husband have raised have become part of their family. Each puppy has their own personality and behaviors, leading to many endearing moments.
“We are often asked if it is difficult to give the dog up at the end of the training period. Although we become very attached to every dog and will miss each one, we are fully prepared to give them up,” she said. “It’s like raising children. We love them very much. But eventually, it’s time for them to move out of the house and begin their own careers.”