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Sandy: A “Service Dog” Story from Dogtopia of Overland Park

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In January of 2021, a five-month-old Golden Retriever puppy named Sandy entered Dogtopia of Overland Park. Sandy was a ball of boundless energy who loved meeting her BFFFs (Best Furry Friends Forever)! For nearly a year and a half, she would show up to daycare ready to play with her friends, learn a thing or two, and keep herself in tiptop shape through hours of playtime. 

Sandy became a dog daycare regular at Dogtopia of Overland Park in Kansas. While attending Dogtopia as a daycare dog, Sandy was also training to become a service dog outside of the playroom. 

On Saturdays, Sandy would attend dog daycare, but during the week, she would partake in rigorous service dog training with a specialized and accredited service dog organization. As Sandy grew from a puppy to an adult dog, her skillset advanced. Trainer and “temporary” pet parent, Denise Lincoln, realized Sandy was excelling and quickly pushing to the top of her class. Denise’s time with Sandy was coming to an end and although bittersweet, she knew someone would need and cherish Sandy in more ways than she ever could. 

Denise kept the team at Dogtopia of Overland Park  informed of Sandy’s lessons. The time Sandy spent at daycare was her special time to play with other likeminded pups and take a break from the lessons, however the daycare team kept her service dog training in mind while in order to reinforce all she was learning. Dogtopia of Overland Park, along with every Dogtopia daycare, understands the importance of nurturing dogs to become the best canine citizens and the team understood Sandy was a special dog. 

Dogtopia daycare centers are not only committed to nurturing their daycare dogs, they are also committed to the Dogtopia Foundation. 

The Dogtopia Foundation is a nonprofit organization that enables dogs to positively change our world by focusing on three main pillars: youth literacy programs, employment initiatives for adults with autism, and service dogs for veterans. A goal for every Dogtopia daycare is to raise money to sponsor training for a service dog for a returned veteran. Dogtopia of Overland Park has raised money to sponsor two service dogs and is right around the corner from sponsoring their third service dog! 

This commitment to the Dogtopia Foundation and mindset allowed each daycare team member to take a special interest in Sandy. The once rambunctious Golden Retriever began to mellow out as her training intensified, but Dogtopia allowed Sandy to focus on her training and development in a different way. 

While at daycare, Sandy was still learning but it was disguised as playtime. She focused on her socialization, education, and exercise in the fun and safe environment. 

In early June, Sandy was ready to begin testing to qualify for the next steps of her service dog journey. Sandy performed well enough to be considered for three different categories! Denise and her husband felt bittersweet: proud because she was ready to move forward toward being a successful service dog, but sad because it was time to let the dog they had loved and trained for almost two years move to her next phase of training – on her own. 

When Sandy’s leash was passed to her new trainer who would take her through the next phase of training, she turned around to watch where Diane and her husband were going without her. Diane said the following about their parting of ways:  

“When my husband and I hugged and kissed her goodbye and they went to take her leash and take her to the area where her sibling Milburn was playing outside, she looked back at us and hesitated, not really wanting to leave us and go with that person. I said, “Hey, Sandy, it’ll be like Dogtopia!” When she heard that, she turned and went right with them. Thankfully, she did have two other dogs there and they played together all afternoon.” 

A few weeks after Sandy left Diane, she received a text while at work. It should be known that service dog training is rigorous, and all participating dogs must have a clean bill of health in order to proceed and be paired with an owner who needs them. Upon a health assessment from a special breeding vet, it was discovered Sandy had a very mild form of hip dysplasia. The text Diane received informed her that Sandy could no longer continue with the program and would be dismissed as a career change dog. Diane grabbed her keys and drove three hours to pick up Sandy and formally adopt her. 

Although Sandy did not become an official service dog, she is continuing to train and learn new skills while attending Dogtopia of Overland Park on a regular basis. Diane left a review for her local Dogtopia which reads, “Simply said, this is the place that you should take your pup to for them to enjoy a safe and fun experience. It also provides a wonderful place to teach them good social skills. The staff is amazing. They’re warm and professional and clearly love our dogs!” 

Sandy continues to regularly attend Dogtopia of Overland Park to have the most exciting days ever alongside her BFFFs!  

To learn more about Dogtopia and to find a location near you, click here.  

To learn more about the Dogtopia Foundation and how to get involved, click here. 

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