SANDPOINT — Kids adore puppies, so what better way to motivate them to help the community than to help people with disabilities get a furry friend trained to help them with everyday tasks.
The students at Farmin-Stidwell were motivated to do just that. After bringing in pennies over the course of about six weeks, youngsters from nine classes raised $112 for the Inland Northwest Chapter of Canine Companions for Independence. The “Pennies for Puppies” project was spearheaded by Leana Nitcy’s first-grade class, who presented the check on Tuesday to Lilly Mitsui, a puppy raiser with Canine Companions who started the local chapter.
The kids are no strangers to furry friends as, each year, all of the first graders are given stuffed puppies in the fall. The goal is to motivate them to read throughout the year, because the more they read, the more items they get to outfit their puppies, including collars, charms, leashes and more.
“I thought we could connect this with our reading puppies,” Nitcy said of helping out Canine Companions.
Another Farmin-Stidwell teacher, Mac Hollan, built a dog house — painted by Nitcy — for “Raise the Woof,” a silent auction of custom-designed dog houses, leading up to the organization’s DogFest North Idaho event later this month. The supplies for the dog house were funded by the school’s Parents In Education group. To tie it in with the reading puppies, Nitcy said they added some books with the dog house, because “it is important to read to your dog.”
The idea came to Nitcy, she said, after learning about Canine Companions’ dog house auction and upcoming event from an article in the Daily Bee. She invited Mitsui in to the class to give a presentation, and Mitsui brought her puppy-in-training in to meet the kids as well. The puppy, Evie, has since moved on to the next stage in her training.
“I was pleasantly surprised when Leana emailed me and said they were interested in building the dog house, and maybe doing something more,” Mitsui said. “The kids decided they wanted to do a fundraiser, and that took off.”
Canine Companions is a nationwide nonprofit organization founded in 1975. Since then, more than 6,000 highly skilled assistance dogs have been placed — free of charge — to individuals with disabilities such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, stroke victims, spinal cord injuries, autism, hearing impaired and many more, with the exception of blindness, as Guide Dogs for the Blind provides that service. Canine Companions breeds, raises and trains golden retrievers, labrador retriever or a cross of the two to perform all sorts of tasks for their handlers. When their training is complete, the dogs are valued at $50,000.
Nitcy said she is encouraging all her students to go to DogFest, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 22 at Forrest Bird Charter School, 614 S. Madison Ave, Sandpoint. The event will be full of “crazy” canine games, contests, vendor booths, food, entertainment, dog demos, and more than 30 auction items in addition to the three “Raise the Woof” dog houses. Kris Crocker from KXLY, with her dog Hammy, will emcee the event, which is themed, “Give a Dog a Job.” Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad and Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce President Kate McAlister will be in attendance as well. Registration is free, but fundraising is encouraged.
For information on DogFest and fundraising, or to donate, go to bit.ly/31eLRng.
In the days leading up to the event, community members are also encouraged to stop by the Columbia Bank Building, 414 Church St., to bid on the custom-built dog houses. The winning bids will be announced during DogFest, and all proceeds go to Canine Companions for Independence, DogFest, and the mission of providing skilled Assistance dogs — free of charge — to men, women, children and veterans.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.