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Meet Leland, a 2-year-old golden retriever/Labrador mix who has already made many friends during his short time here at The Center.  He is an ADI-certified facility dog who recently joined our team with the help of occupational therapist Sarah Merrick.  Sarah was matched with Leland through Canine Companions for Independence, a training organization pairing skilled assistance dogs to therapists and other organizations across the country to assist in the lives of people with disabilities.

Leland was born in California at the home of one of Canine Companions for Independence’s breeders and was cared for there until he was 8 weeks old. He was then raised by a volunteer puppy raiser for 18 months in Virginia on a horse farm, where he eventually received basic obedience training. After basic obedience, he attended advanced training for 9 months in Medford, Long Island at the Miller Family Campus, and Leland’s stint in New York was how he met our OT Sarah! Sarah traveled to Long Island at the end of October to attend a 2-week training session where she was matched with her calm & mellow canine companion.  The pair was an obvious fit, as Leland’s experience being raised on a horse farm was perfect for The Center for Discovery and our farm-based setting!

In long Island, Sarah learned how to utilize Leland’s more than 40 commands.  He has proven to be an incredible dog, able to do such things as open doors, retrieve items, and push switches. He currently joins in on therapy sessions within Sarah’s caseload, but Sarah hopes to be able to expand the program so he is able to reach many more of our students & residents. Leland will also join our students and residents up on mat tables and visit them in wheelchairs to interact with those who have more significant physical impairments.

After a long week of traveling to work with Sarah at The Center, Leland kicks back and relaxes at Sarah’s personal place of residence, which he now calls home. He has already made an incredible impact on the students who’ve had a chance to work with him, and some of his favorite activities include going on walks, motivating upper extremity movement & reaching for petting, and adapted games of fetch with catapults.  Leland absolutely loves to play fetch!

Leland was provided to us by Canine Companions for Independence at no cost to The Center for Discovery, and was funded by a grant received by Canine Companions through a charity organization in Virginia.

We are so happy to have you on board, Leland, and look forward to hearing more stories about the tremendous work you do!