Andrea Kimmet has waited patiently for an assistance dog for two years.
Having a dog of her own finally became a reality last week when Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence held its fall graduation. At the event, the leash of Tara, a black Labrador retriever, was handed over.
Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence is part of a “fairly new program” for the Ability Center of Greater Toledo, said Rhonda DeKonick, manager of marketing and outreach. The groups merged last year and opened a new training center on Monroe Street.
“We place between 17 [and] 21 service and therapy dogs in the tri-state area a year, and each dog costs approximately $18,000 to raise and train,” she said.
Mary Kimmet said the idea for an assistance dog for her daughter first came to mind when her family started looking for ways for 19-year-old Andrea to become more independent. “I knew about some of these different therapies … you hear about all of this stuff,” Mary Kimmet said, adding that she called the training center, then in Swanton, and the process began.
Andrea Kimmet was interviewed and videotaped interacting with a few dogs. After that, the long wait began.
“[They] ... did tell us that it could be longer for Andrea. She has a short stature; she has dwarfism. It’s part of her disorder,” Mary Kimmet said.
Six weeks ago, the waiting came to an end. The program's client services manager, Jenny Barlos, called and asked the Kimmets to come to the training center. Little did they know Ms. Barlos had Tara in mind for Andrea.
“You wait so long and then when you finally hear, both she [Andrea] and I were just ecstatic,” Mary Kimmet said.
“I was very excited,” Andrea Kimmet said, noting that Tara will help her take her socks off and help with laundry and other miscellaneous tasks.
Andrea Kimmet, who takes general education classes at the University of Toledo, is confident she was matched with the right dog. Because she has a spinal fusion, she cannot bend down all the way to pick things up from the ground. Tara also will help with making purchases.
“She’s been trained to pay a cashier with a coin purse,” Mary Kimmet said. “She’s been trained to open the doors for Andrea.”
Over the next six months, her daughter will have to go through a certification process, proving that she can go out in the community and that Tara can assist her.
“A lot of daily things that we take for granted, those are kind of the things Tara will assist Andrea with,” her mother said.