It was a quiet day at the office for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Advantage Realty Valley Isle on Friday, Jan. 31.

That’s because 17 of its agents spent the day at Assistance Dogs of Hawaii’s main campus in Makawao. There, they rolled up their sleeves and completed several beautification projects, including planting flowers at the entryway, sprucing up a gazebo area, and clearing an oft-used walking path. But the best part of the day? Giving the dogs a bath. “The highlight was getting to meet the dogs in training—and washing, drying, brushing, and petting them,” said Realtor-Salesperson Lauren Hogan.

The agents of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Advantage Realty Valley Isle have volunteered for a number of community service projects over the years, including beach clean-ups, and pitching in at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Maui. And when it came time to choose a project for January, Assistance Dogs of Hawaii was the unanimous choice.

“It was a feel-good day filled with smiles and tail wags,” said Realtor-Salesperson Andi Drinkward. “The entire staff is so welcoming and grateful… it was a treat to spend time there.” Realtor-Salesperson Tiffany Hyde agrees wholeheartedly. “It was so special to get involved with such a wonderful nonprofit and to be able to have a hand in the caretaking of the dogs and property,” she said.

Assistance Dogs of Hawaii (formerly Hawaii Canines for Independence) is a fully accredited Maui-based nonprofit organization that provides professionally trained assistance dogs to people with physical disabilities and other special needs throughout Hawaii—free of charge. Executive director Mo Maurer and her husband, Will, founded the organization two decades ago, and since then, dozens of dogs have graduated from the program. Prior to being matched with their human counterparts, every dog must complete a rigorous training program and pass health and temperament screenings. Once a match is made, there are a number of team training sessions, and once the team graduates, Assistance Dogs of Hawaii will provide follow-up training for the life of the team.

In addition to service dogs for children and adults with limited mobility, Assistance Dogs of Hawaii has trained full-time hospital facility dogs who now dole out love and snuggles to hundreds of patients in Hawaii every day, including Kula at The Queen’s Medical Center-West Oahu, Samson at the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, and Angel at Straub Medical Center. And the nonprofit’s full-time courthouse dogs—like Cassie at Maui’s Child Welfare Services office and Faith at Hawaii County’s Prosecuting Attorney Office—give comfort and courage to victims and witnesses of crime.

“[Assistance Dogs of Hawaii] brings so much joy to people, both young and old, while providing different levels of need,” said Realtor-Salesperson Mindy Armour. “It really does make a difference for many who have been fortunate to have the kind assistance from the dogs, whether sick in hospital, in a court of law or wheelchair-bound.”

The nonprofit also sponsors several community outreach programs, including a therapy dog team program for nursing homes, hospitals and rehabilitation facilities; a workplace readiness program that helps high school students with special needs gain work experience before they graduate; a wounded veteran program; and an Ohana Program for groups like Easter Seals and special education classes from local schools.

Hogan encourages others to consider volunteering for Assistance Dogs of Hawaii. “Don’t hesitate,” she said. “You will not find a more welcoming, positive and friendly group to work with.”

And if you do sign up to volunteer, Hyde said, “While you’re there, take a moment to appreciate the big picture of this organization… reflect on what their mission is and the life-changing impact these dogs will have on someone.”

To learn more about Assistance Dogs of Hawaii or to inquire about volunteer or donor opportunities, visit www.assistancedogshawaii.org, email info@assistancedogshawaii.org or call 298-0167.

Photo credit: Tiffany Hyde

The Maui News – March 9, 2020

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