We are a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that gives shelter dogs opportunities to become invaluable life partners to individuals and families impacted by disability through one of our three mission pathways: Emotional Support & Companion Dogs, Therapy Dog Candidates, or Service Dog Candidates.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating the far reaching positive benefits of human-animal interactions. Amongst animals, dogs are unique in their ability to bond and to work with us, making them ideal partners in health and wellness. Studies show that dogs have the ability to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation through offering unconditional love and companionship. They can also motivate us to engage in mentally and physically challenging tasks. Even brief interactions with dogs can have positive physiological benefits including reduction in heart rate and blood pressure and increase in oxytocin, the "feel good" hormone. When trained for service work, a dog becomes an instrumental partner to a person with a disability, performing tasks that enable them to live life to the fullest. Whether a loving companion or a highly trained service animal, dogs can improve our lives in countless ways.
Our organization is committed to enhancing lives on both sides of the human-animal equation. Giving abandoned, neglected, and displaced dogs opportunities to play central roles in the lives of those impacted by disability as beloved pets, friends, and life partners is a mandate of DITR.
We use an in-depth process of matching, screening, evaluation, training, placement, and follow-up support that was developed by service dog trainers together with shelter specialists. Our services focus on reducing barriers to adoption and on finding and supporting ideal dog-applicant matches that result in the long-term health and happiness of dogs and people alike.
We begin our process with interviews and home visits in order to learn as much as we can about each of our applicant's lifestyle and unique households - including pets, people, and activity levels, as well as their wants and needs in terms of an "ideal dog".
Given this specific information balanced with dogs' long-term health and wellness needs we create a profile of a dog that we feel will thrive within a specific household and/or pathway. Using this profile we collaborate with local shelters, rescue groups, and animal control organizations to identify dogs in their custody that are potential matches for our applicants.
Initial screening of dogs is performed in shelters by DITR associates in cooperation with on-site shelter staff. Dogs that successfully complete screening are then placed into safe and loving foster homes under the supervision of a professional service dog trainer for up to 30 days. We refer to this period as in-home evaluation (IHE).
Evaluation & Training:
During IHE, "Diamond Dogs" are socialized through regular community outings that introduce them to a wide variety of situations, settings, people, and animals. They are also crate trained and taught basic obedience, as well as house and yard manners, to prepare them for a smooth transition to their adoptive households. Equally important, this transition period gives dogs the time and space they need to decompress and relax so that their true temperament, personality, and specific exercise and socialization needs can emerge, allowing trainers and their fosters to ensure that the dog's unique characteristics and requirements for a well balanced life remain a good match for the applicant.
These steps are designed to support the long-term success of each match and to decrease stress that can accompany adding a dog to a household , thereby reducing barriers to adoption - especially for people already dealing with daily stressors related to disability.
Following the IHE and training phase, dogs that remain an ideal match are placed with the original applicant*. Placement includes an in-home orientation session. During this session, the dog's trainer or foster meets with the applicant to set the dog up for success including: review and demonstration of commands, answering any questions the individual or family may have, and sharing unique traits and special qualities that they've learned from their time spent with the dog. Following orientation, DITR trainers and associates remain available for questions and support to ensure the long-term success of the placement.
*DITR promotes adoption of dogs throughout the evaluation process through use of social media and "adopt me" apparel. We maintain a "wait list" open to the general public allowing us to search outside of our applicant pool for an ideal placement if the need arises.
Emotional Support & Companion Dogs
Emotional support/companion dogs are directly placed with applicants and are DITR's primary focus. These are pet dogs that can help individuals and families impacted by disability, or others such as veterans suffering from PTSD or depression. Through offering love and companionship they can promote wellbeing, encourage social interaction, and much more.
Therapy Dog Candidates
DITR directly places dogs with applicants who commit to registering them as therapy dogs and to taking them to visit with people that may benefit from the positive physiological, psychological, and psychosocial effects of human-animal interactions across a wide variety of environments including schools, libraries, hospitals, long-term care and hospice facilities.
Service Dog Candidates
DITR does not train service dogs. Instead, we place dogs with service dog training facilities that meet or exceed the training standards established by Assistance Dogs International (ADI). If you are interested in obtaining a service dog please visit their web site to learn about qualified programs in your area.
Executive Director, Diamonds in the Ruff
Field Trainer, Saint Francis Service Dogs
Registered Therapy Dog Handler, Pet Partners