GOFI Dogs visit Intergenerational Program at Pine Hill

As part of the Westwood Council on Aging’s Intergenerational Program, a group of senior citizens and 4th Graders enjoyed a visit from trainers and dogs from Golden Opportunities for Independence (GOFI) on Wednesday April 10th at the Pine Hill School. 

GOFI is a non-profit service dog training organization located in Walpole. Dan Gruber, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, and three other trainers brought four English Cream Golden Retrievers in various stages of training to Pine Hill School to demonstrate their skills. 

GOFI’s English Cream Golden Retrievers are descendants of a long line of English working and show dogs. They are valued for their beauty, brains and loving temperament. They can resist their prey drive and are very focused on pleasing their human companions. GOFI has been selectively breeding them in the US for over 20 years. The puppies are with someone 24/7 for their first two weeks of life, making them very comfortable with people.

Dan’s “demo dog” Hera is the senior dog on the team at nearly three years old. She demonstrated how she presses wall buttons to open doors and control lights, as well as her keen scent sniffing skills. She rocked a few party tricks for the kids, with paw shakes, spins and an impressive “sit pretty”.  Sunny (9 months) was with trainer Allie, Brady (6 months) was with trainer Carol, and puppy Graham (4 months) worked with trainer Sam. 

GOFI dogs are trained for several different jobs: Facility Dogs, Community Resource Dogs, and Service Dogs. GOFI also offers training classes for the public and private lessons. 

Facility Dogs are assigned to one location, such as a school. They help create a calm atmosphere, diffuse tension and create goodwill. For instance, Graham at 4 months just started his training and is presently working at Curry College, creating a positive influence and spreading the love. 

Community Resource Dogs (CRDs) often work with public safety officers to promote positive relationships with the community. You may have noticed a police officer in Dedham, Norwood, or Needham traveling with a golden retriever.  GOFI trained dogs are attached to the three Police Departments. Ruby is in Dedham, Mustang Sally is in Norwood, and Rocket is in Needham. They visit schools, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and attend community events. They can also calm and comfort people experiencing trauma. For instance, several CRDs were recently brought together to comfort a family in Norwood who lost their home to fire. 

Service Dog Training is the original and primary purpose of GOFI. They train dogs to help people with disabilities gain independence and lead better lives. Depending on the disability and need, the dogs are trained for up to two years to serve as helpmates. They can open doors, turn lights on and off, guide vision impaired people, retrieve items for an owner, alert them to danger, alert them to oncoming health issues such as seizures or low blood sugar. Their assistance and companionship help people lead fuller, safer and more confident lives. 

When the pups were done with the demonstrations the audience got to pet them.  A good time was had by all. GOFI also offers volunteer opportunities for puppy raisers, walkers, helpers. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.  Visit www.GOFIdog.org to learn more.

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