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Art going to the dogs

Carmichael, California (MPG) | Story and photo by Susan Maxwell Skinner

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Jan Lopez, founder of the non-profit organization BEST Service Dogs, and trainee Tucker admire an oil painting of the late Earl Boley. The canvas will be auctioned off among the artworks at a fundraiser on September 25th.

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CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) — It takes more than a year to prepare a dog to care for a veteran with post-traumatic stress or to work with an autistic child.

Carmichael breeder and trainer Jan Lopez, who started the nonprofit Breeding Education Service and Service Dog Training six years ago, estimates that $25,000 is needed for the process. The expenses add up beyond the cost of the puppy itself: special training, food, vet bills, and health clearances all add up.

A September 25 fundraiser will support Lopez’s surgery. Guests at her open house will meet dogs in training and will be given the opportunity to bid on art. Paintings by the famous Carmichael painter Earl Boley are among the auction items. Other artists include Helen Plenert, SR Jones, Susan Leith, Gray Lux, Euan Rannachan and Gabriel Teague. The event will take place at Lopez’s ranch-style Carmichael estate.

Lopez’s Labrador Retrievers (a preferred breed for service training) have been placed with national agencies such as Paws for Purple Hearts, Joyful Paws Service Dogs, and Good Dog Service Canines. “You can’t have service dogs without puppies,” she says. “My puppies go to experienced groups that provide dogs to people who need them badly.

“One of my dogs is in Connecticut; others are in Detroit, San Antonio, Nebraska, and New York. They’re all good Carmichael dogs – but they work where they’re needed.”

Training starts with basic obedience skills and works towards public access. “That includes trips to shops, restaurants, and parks,” she says. “They train wherever their future partners might want to take them.”

When dog lovers see a trainer and student out shopping, they are gently reminded that a functioning team should not be distracted. “It’s understandable that people want to go for it,” says the coach. “But they have to do their job. Service dogs are eventually paired with people who want to lead normal lives.”

Their kennel produces one or two litters a year and the puppies are placed with service agencies at around nine weeks of age. “It’s hard to part with a puppy that you raised with love,” says Lopez. But it’s my philosophy to be happy. They go somewhere where they are loved. You will change someone’s life for the better.”

Learn more about the art exhibit/fundraiser at www.bestservicedogs.org or call (916) 277-5189.

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