Six Service Dogs of VA Canines Graduate from Training School - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Six Service Dogs of VA Canines Graduate from Training School

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Some of the area's finest canines graduated Sunday.  It was the Service Dogs of Virginia graduation from their training school.

Sunday's dog graduation was just like a human one, filled with speeches, applause and even some tears.  Six Labrador retrievers spent the past two years of their lives training for their service dog title, and Sunday they were honored for all of their hard work.

When Kara Buchanan was 7 years old, she woke up one morning to find her live changed forever - she had lost complete hearing in her left ear.  When Buchanan was in college, she began to lose hearing in her right ear too.

"I've actually gone in a course of nine months from normal hearing to severe loss in my right ear, so it's moving pretty fast," she said.

Buchanan says her sudden onset hearing loss led her to Ella, her service dog.  Ella and five other labs trotted across the stage Sunday afternoon at the Holiday Inn in Charlottesville.  The group has spent more than two years working for their doggy diplomas, but for them it's a job they are happy to do.

Peggy Law with the Service Dogs of Virginia said, "We don't want to push the dogs too hard because it's going to be a lifetime of work, and we want them to love it, so it's something that's done very slowly and incrementally."

Each client got a chance to share a few words about their pet companion, and each dog got their chance to shine on stage.  Buchanan says before Ella, she was constantly caught off guard.

She said, "Not hearing somebody walk up on me and getting scared, being at home not knowing when somebody was at my door."

Buchanan says when she met Ella for the first time, Ella picked her.  She says Ella is more than just her set of ears; she's a safeguard.

"A live changer for me in just a sense of stress relief of not having to worry so much about things," said Buchanan.

Aside from Ella, three of the service dogs are going to clients in wheelchairs and the last two of the bunch are paired up with children who have autism.

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