SAN ANTONIO – 4-H members from throughout Bexar County got all lathered up during their participation in a dog-wash fundraiser held recently at Bark of Southtown, a pet grooming facility near downtown San Antonio.
Several members of the county’s 4-H Dog Project Club washed dogs at the event, which included a bake sale, dog adoptions and “howl-o-ween” costume contest, as part of club community service activities. They washed the dogs in exchange for a monetary donation or donation of at least 30 pounds of dry dog food. All proceeds from the event went to the SA K-9’s Service Dog Club.
According to club officials, the SA K-9’s Service Dog Club locates and trains service dogs for use by wounded warriors, autistic children and others.
“This event provided our 4-H’ers with a real hands-on opportunity to provide a community service to help those people who have sacrificed for their country and also for young people who need special attention and care,” said Greg Myles, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for 4-H and youth development in Bexar County.
Myles said community service is a cornerstone of 4-H and that Bexar County 4-H clubs are administered by the local AgriLife Extension office, located in the Conroy Square office complex at 3355 Cherry Ridge Drive in northwest San Antonio.
“We washed a lot of dogs during this event,” said Sevanna Stewart, 16, of Madison High School, who heads the 4-H Dog Project Club. “I’ve been involved in this club for five years and right now we have about 12 members from different 4-H clubs from throughout Bexar County. My mom is a dog groomer, so that’s how I got started working with dogs.”
Stewart said 4-H dog project members meet weekly in McAllister Park to participate in dog training.
“At her age, Sevanna is the best dog trainer I’ve ever seen,” said Allen Hanauer, co-founder of the SA K-9’s Service Club. “She has a gift for working with dogs and showing others how to train them.”
Hanauer said the service dog club has been “one year in the making” and that about 100 people are currently involved in its primary mission of training service dogs. He estimates within the last four months alone, he and other club members have trained from 60 to 80 service dogs.
“We take a full three weeks to evaluate the dogs we select as candidates for being service dogs,” he said. “Only about 15 percent of the dogs we evaluate make it all the way through the program.”
He said the training includes taking the dogs into noisy restaurants and other locations so they can better sense and adapt to their handler’s emotions in different situations.
“We try to make sure the dogs are thoroughly prepared and aren’t just put into unfamiliar surroundings,” Hanauer said. “We also have specific activities set up for the dogs and the people they provide service for, including small social gatherings, a movie night and outings to Six Flags or SeaWorld.”
He said in addition to training the club promotes public awareness of the need for service dogs, plus supports dog rescues and adoptions.
“It’s fun to work with and train these dogs to serve people,” Stewart said. “I’m glad our 4-H club could help out at this event and provide support to the SA K-9’s Service Dog Club.