Chelsea Flora and Cali attended the Joys of Living Assistance Dog Graduation (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

The Joys of Living Assistance Dogs graduated thirty-two service dogs on Saturday, March 19, at the Keizer Civic Center.

The Salem nonprofit has raised and trained service dogs since 2004. The organization trains dogs to provide mobility assistance (e.g., turning on lights and opening doors) and relief from post-traumatic stress disorder. The dogs primarily work with veterans and adults living with physical, behavioral, or emotional disabilities. A well-trained assistance dog can dramatically improve the quality of life for these vulnerable populations. There is no cost to the recipients.

This year the event was live-streamed at Pendleton’s Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute. Adults in custody and those in the Oregon State Hospital train and socialize many of the canines.

One of the keynote presenters, Armando Cervantes, had served time at the prison.  His engagement with the Prison Puppy program changed his life, and he now wants to be a vet tech. He joked that Joy St. Peter, the group’s founder, and director was definitely the “alpha” of the program.

Mayor Cathy Clark showed a passion for the program.  She expressed pride that JLAD had chosen Keizer for their ceremony.

Training dogs for this type of demanding work is no easy task. From the time they are puppies, the dogs receive a minimum of 18 months of training and lifetime remedial training. Donations from supporters provide quality training aids, pet food, veterinary care, help with remedial training. Connect with JLAD on their Facebook page.

Canadian Colin Boerkamp and Yogi attended the Joys of Living Assistance Dog Graduation. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Kristin Prentice dines with Bravo under the table (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Anna Caldwell and Joy St. Peter attended the Joys of Living Assistance Dog Graduation (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Cherie Cline, Joy St. Peter, and Craig Cline attended the Joys of Living Assistance Dog Graduation (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Gail Levario was the emcee at the Joys of Living Assistance Dog Graduation (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Anne Weaver and Colin (Robyn’s dog) attended the Joys of Living Assistance Dog Graduation. (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Armando Cervantes, dog trainer, spoke at the Joys of Living Assistance Dog Graduation (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

Mary Louise VanNatta is a Salem public relations professional writing regularly for Salem Reporter. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on Facebook.

NEWS TIP? Send your story idea, information or suggestion by email to [email protected]

JUST THE FACTS, FOR SALEM - We report on your community with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe to Salem Reporter starting at $5 a month. Click I want to subscribe!