JUST ADD HOPE: UNCW students learn to train dogs, change lives

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — We often hear from viewers who want to see more coverage of the positive things going on in our community.

In an effort to do that, we’re showcasing the Assistance Dog Training Program at UNC Wilmington, a unique opportunity for students to learn how to use service dogs to better their own career fields. The world can be changed if you just add hope.

“I had a remote IED blast hit me, and I took shrapnel to the right side of my face, right arm and right hip,” Marine Chadd Jackson explained.

Jackson completed two tours in Iraq. He now suffers from Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder because of his close calls with roadside bombs.

He’s been living with TBI and PTSD since 2005, but six months ago, his life changed.

“She’s a huge companion just to have daily,” Jackson said. “She’s a big buffer between me and society.”

“She” is a four-year-old service dog named Bailey who helps Jackson deal with his severe and crippling anxiety. Jackson received Bailey from paws4vets, a subgroup of paws4people, an assistance dog program founded by Kyria Henry. Henry just started an Assistance Dog Program at UNCW to teach students all about service dogs.

“It’s definitely changed the way I think I look at assistance dogs,” said student Savannah Barwick. “You know, usually people think, service dog, oh, guide dog. Well, it’s not like that. There are so many different kinds. There are so many ways they can help.”

Barwick said the class has broadened her view on how dogs can help humanity.

The two-year program teaches students how to train and use dogs in many different careers. Henry’s students have the opportunity to turn a dog into a man’s best friend.

“The biggest thing is that they have a best friend; that really turns out to be the biggest thing,” Henry said. “But they can really do so many special tasks to mitigate a person’s disability. Each dog is customized for their recipient, so they all do something totally different.”

“She’s a remarkable therapist because we don’t have to talk to bond,” Jackson said of Bailey. “The bond is already there. I always have a buddy with me. I never feel alone. I always feel protected. She understands me. She obviously doesn’t talk back. She always agrees with me.”

UNCW’s Assistance Dog Program adds hope by teaching students how they can use service dogs in their own career fields.

Henry says the program is thanks to the IKEA Life Improvement Program, which she won last year. Henry received $100,000 to expand paws4people and paws4vets and chose to start the program at UNCW to make a lasting impression on the community.

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