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Art for Barks readies for service dog hero award

RANCHO SANTA FE — All dog lovers, especially those who are in awe of service dogs, have until Sept. 20 to cast their vote for the first annual Hero Service Dog Awards presented by Art for Barks.

The winner will be announced at the San Diego Polo Club Sept. 21.  Also on this day, the San Diego Polo Club will be hosting a fundraiser to benefit Art for Barks.

This Rancho Santa Fe online nonprofit rallies authors, animal theme artists, educators and authors to provide assistance to service dog organizations and animal rescue charities.

“Service dogs make a profound contribution to society.

They provide assistance to humans in over 31 ways,” said Lynn Moon, founder of Arts for Barks.  “Imagine these dogs spending their entire life enhancing the life of another with unconditional love.”

The two San Diego County organization finalists include Tender Loving Canines Assistance Dogs (TLCAD) and Paws’itive Teams.

Online contest goers have the opportunity to cast votes for three exceptional dogs.

Karen Shultz, of Tender Loving Canine Assistance Dogs, Inc., serves as the board president, executive director and trainer.

They opened their nonprofit doors in 1998.

“The mission of Tender Loving Canines is to transform lives with Service Dogs, one trainer at a time, since the number of volunteer trainers determines how many dogs we can train,” she said.  “Our two main programs are the Leash-On-Life program for individuals on the autism spectrum; and, our At Ease program is for wounded warriors, who have been affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and/or mobility issues.”

Nominated for a Hero Service Dog award at TLCAD is Solar.

Solar helps his handler, Sadie, who has both autism and cerebral palsy. Solar is a Mobility Service Dog and Autism Service Dog.

Shultz said Solar has given a huge gift to Sadie’s family.  Likewise, Solar is encouraging Sadie to walk beside him and no longer depends solely on the wheelchair or walker for mobility.

“This is something that was not guaranteed to take place in her future, but was her family’s hope,” Shultz said.  “With Sadie’s desire to do more with Solar, and after consulting with her physical therapist, it was decided to put Solar in a custom made balance harness to assist Sadie. The first lesson with Sadie and Solar was a complete success and the more she walks with him, the stronger she becomes – making her future for independence a bright one.”

Shultz is honored to have Art for Barks recognize their organization.  She added there is no greater gift for those who helped train Solar because now this family can go places that so many others naturally take for granted.

The other two Service Dog nominees are both from Paws’itive Teams.

Dory is a Facility Therapy Dog, which provides solace to more than 200 youth in the San Diego Court System.  In court, when children testify against their molester or abuser, Dory is there providing comfort and love.

Autumn is a Service Dog for Alesha, a young woman and recent graduate of UCSD.  Autumn helps bridge the “physical challenges gap” which Alesha has.  Autumn helps guide and navigate Alesha through public spaces and retrieves items which slip through Alesha’s hands, such as her keys and other items.

Executive director of Paws’itive Teams is Art Brauner. Established in 1997, it helps those in need in San Diego County. Since 2000, Brauner said, it has certified 22 service dog teams and six certified facility dogs.

“Facility Dogs receive the same basic training as Service Dogs but are better suited to placement with able-bodied professionals who use the dogs in their place of work to accomplish specific goals,” Brauner said.

It also has nearly 60 certified teams for its Paws’itive Teams PAAT Program also known as Paws’itive Animal Assisted Therapy.

Brauner is honored to have two of its dogs be finalists in the Hero Service Dog Contest.

“Regardless of the work that these dogs are doing, Service, Facility or Therapy, these special dogs can truly be thought of as heroes,” he said.  “On behalf of the members of our Board and our many volunteers, we greatly appreciate the effort that Art for Barks is expending to try to improve public knowledge of the wonderful things that Service, Facility, and Therapy Dogs are doing to help improve the quality of lives of thousands of individuals.”

To learn more about each dog and to cast an online vote for Solar, Autumn or Dory visit