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GOFI

By Heather Gillis hgillis@wickedlocal.com {cke_protected}{C}%3C!%2D%2D%20metadata%20%2D%2D%3E
Friday
Posted Sep 22, 2017 

WALPOLE – At the end of August, two litters of very special golden retriever puppies arrived at the Golden Opportunities Farm located at 323 High St.
Only a couple of weeks old, each pup is already training to become a service dog with the trainer, co-owner and founder of Golden Opportunities for Independence, Pauline Hoegler.
“The base of our program is to help people in our community with disabilities,” Hoegler said. “We work to empower our clients to live independently, unencumbered by the challenges of daily living associated with medical disabilities. We match each client with a service dog that meets their individual needs.”

The organization was first established in 2013 when Hoegler and her sister-in-law, Kristen Lee, had a conversation.

At 19 years old, a car accident left Lee paralyzed. She explained to Hoegler how difficult it is for people in wheelchairs to interact socially. Together the women brainstormed and came up with a plan to train dogs who could help people suffering with disabilities, and from that talk Golden Opportunities for Independence began.

Hoegler, who also works as a nurse in the cardiac catheterization lab at Norwood Hospital, has bred and worked with dogs for more than 20 years. She holds a certificate in pet dog training. The methods she uses are all about positive reinforcement, she said, and she compares training her dogs to parenting.

“We are intimidation-free,” Hoegler said. “We don’t raise our voice, set up a good schedule and provide and meet the dogs’ basic needs.”

After a litter of puppies is born, training immediately begins. Acclimating the dogs with humans is the first step, and Hoegler encourages people to stop by and visit with the pups.  After four months, Hoegler then pairs up the dogs with adults and children who have applied for a service dog and suffer from conditions such as ALS, PTSD, epilepsy, paralysis, injuries and other debilitating illnesses.

"The pile of applications of those seeking a service dog is heavy", Hoegler said.
“There is a large demand,” she said.

GOFI currently breeds two female golden retrievers, named Georgia and Bridget. The two each typically produce one litter a year. Hoegler favors golden retrievers to perform as service dogs because of their temperament.

“They are easygoing but also very smart,” she said. “A dog like this gives them a partner, someone who loves them back. Goldens are a great breed and all about love more than other breeds.”
The dogs aren’t just used to detect seizures or a diabetic episode, they also help reduce stress, anxieties and help open up communication with others.

Friend John Moon formerly worked with service dogs, and said Hoegler’s organization is a game-changer, that while her dogs have the ability to help detect an oncoming seizure, and soothe someone with PTSD they also provide companionship.

“There is a tremendous need for these dogs,” Moon said. “People start to see what’s possible for their lives despite their disability.  Often those with disabilities are invisible", Moon said, "but with a dog by their side, people take notice. They notice the dog and then want to know who that person is with the dog. They help reduce stress and bridge the social gap,” Moon said.


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