Working together to make a more mobile friendly life for people and their service dogs

Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 6:48 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Steven Toyota has created a relationship with Service Dogs of Virginia and its clients to help them mobilize more easily.

Service Dogs of Virginia is a non-profit that runs off of community support and donations. They are based in Charlottesville but have clients across the Valley.

“We haul dogs all around in our training and a tree had fallen on our existing van and totaled it so we needed a new one right away and luckily one had come in here,” Peggy Law, founder and executive director of Service Dogs of Virginia said.

When the organization began looking for a van, it found a friend in Ryan Sodikoff at Steven Toyota, who had helped one of their Harrisonburg clients just a few years ago.

”We helped him with a 2017 Toyota Sienna to become customized for himself being in a wheelchair and for Cole and that created our relationship,” Ryan Sodikoff, president and general manager at Steven Toyota, said.

Sodikoff and Steven Toyota made a donation to Service Dogs of Virginia to help them be able to afford a new van and even helped them in the process of getting one off the lot, but back in 2017, he helped Bruce Dellinger get his own personal van.

“Looking for some relief to have a vehicle that Jackie, his wife, could drive to move him from point A to point B and after understanding all of the ingredients the Dellinger’s needed we went to work,” Sodikoff said.

Dellinger’s van was customized to fit the needs of him, his family, and his service dog, Whit.

“It provides so much more independence for me and my wife so we can go as a couple now and take the dog with us and have everybody as one big happy family,” Dellinger said.

Dellinger said having a service dog is an integral part of his life.

“They’re there for us and we’ve also got to be there for them,” Dellinger said.

He said because of Service Dogs of America and Steven Toyota he and Whit have the ability to do the things they love, like Dellinger’s artwork.

“The dogs give us greater independence ... greater joy, give us outlook, a better outlook on life I think,” Dellinger said.

Dellinger is a well-known artist in the Harrisonburg area. He holds the brush with his mouth and creates art on paper.

Whit helps him pick up any art utensils he may drop, and his van helps him get to art shows to display his work.

To see some of Dellinger’s works of art, you can visit his website.

To learn more about Service Dogs of Virginia or to make a donation so they can continue helping connect people to service dogs, just like Dellinger and Whit, visit their website. They are currently in need of people to puppy train future service dogs.