Every dog will have their day when DogFest Orlando lands in Central Park on Saturday, April 22 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is presented by Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to adults and children with disabilities.
Canine Companions trainers teach dogs to perform services like opening doors, picking up dropped items, and alerting their owners to sounds and potential dangers. They also prepare dogs for service in the healthcare, criminal justice, and education sectors.
Winter Park resident Diesta Gundacker has been a Canine Companions volunteer since 1999, opening her home to raise puppies as they begin their service journey.
“The service dogs we raise are taught to turn off lights, open and close doors, pick things up off the ground, pull wheelchairs, and more,” she told the32789. “We also raise hearing dogs, which assist those that are hard of hearing or deaf by alerting them if there’s an alarm or if somebody is calling their name.”
The approximate cost of raising and training a service dog, and providing the ongoing support necessary for the human-canine team, is $50,000. Canine Companions provides their services free of charge and has placed more than 7,500 service dogs, yet more than 400 applicants are waiting for their canine match. Nationwide DogFest events help provide the necessary funding to foster companionship that changes lives.
DogFest Orlando will feature vendors, dog agility courses and demonstrations from trained companion dogs. Event registration is free, but donations are encouraged. Check the Facebook event page and DogFest website for event information, and donation, sponsorship, and volunteer opportunities.