Thirteen freshly graduated dogs have officially finished their training and can now help those who need them the most. The graduation ceremony for the 2019 class took place at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts past Sunday.
One of the thirteen participants is the Police Department of Montgomery, with their dog called Chester. He is the very first MPD’s service dog. Sergeant David Hicks said that both the officers and the citizens seem to have developed a liking for Chester. He believes that the dog could also help calm down the victims of crime or anyone who is upset or going through a difficult time.
A two-year-long process had to occur in order to receive Chester. Still, sergeant Hicks said that the wait was worth it. The service dog will be a welcome addition to the team. According to Hicks, Chester will participate in MPD community meetings, spend time at the station, and boost the officers’ morale. The sergeant also said that, as a part of his service, the dog is going to visit schools.
Before they received certificates, graduates had an opportunity to learn about the experiences of previous participants in this program.
One such was Michael Lenio, whose companion is a diabetic alert dog, Brandi. Lenio said that Brandi has been loyal to him for the past three to four years. She is also helping Lenio cope with his anxiety issues. The man shared that, without the dog, his anxiety would be unbearable. Lenio could not talk to a camera due to his condition. However, according to him, Brandi was a safe space he could not function without.
Lenio has also shared his hope that the graduating class of 2019 would have a similar experience with their dogs and find their own safe spaces in them. He added that it was beautiful to see the families in need blessed with such extraordinary animals.
Service Dogs Alabama is the biggest nonprofit organization in the state that specializes in serving disabled children and veterans longer than any other.