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Through a Dog’s Eyes

As the founder of one of the country’s largest service dog organizations, Jennifer Arnold has spent the last 20 years breeding, training and matching service dogs for people with disabilities or special needs.

Now she has documented that mission, which began when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 16, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I remember not wanting to leave the house,” she said. “I felt very awkward, scared. It surprised me how frightened I was to be left alone. You feel so vulnerable.”

throughdogseyesArnold’s book, “Through a Dog’s Eyes,” comes out in September. A PBS documentary based on the book and narrated by Neil Patrick Harris debuts April 21.

Arnold and her family decided to set up their own service dog training school when, as a teenager, she was diagnosed and found herself in a wheelchair. She applied, but was so far down the list that the family began making plans for their own service dog academy.

Three weeks later, though, her father, a surgeon,was hit and killed by a drunken motorcycle driver. Arnold and her mother spent the next 10 years raising funds, and incorporated on Dec. 31, 1991. They started training their first dog the next year. Canine Assistants is now among the largest service dog providers in the country.

“Through a Dog’s Eyes” looks at Arnold’s treat-based teaching methods, five of the people to which the organization has provided dogs and how the dogs have helped them regain independence.

One of them is Bryson Casey, 30, of Kansas City, Mo., who served in Iraq as a captain with the National Guard. He came home and was in a car crash that left him a quadriplegic. He and his dog Wagner bonded instantly.

Arnold is now 46, her disease is in remission and she is married to the academy’s staff veterinarian.

In the last 20 years, Canine Assistants has given away 1,000 dogs; there is a waiting list of nearly 2,000. The organization does not charge for the dogs, and will pay for food and vet bills for the life of the dogs, if needed. The recipients are asked to do community service in return.

Canine Assistants breeds its own dogs, and trains rescue and shelter dogs. There are 150 dogs in training year-round. About 5 percent fail to make the program and are placed as pets.

It costs about $22,000 to train a service dog, Arnold said.

The book can be pre-ordered from Random House.

SPCA previews “Hotel for Dogs” Saturday

The Maryland SPCA is holding a special screening of Hotel for Dogs Saturday morning at Regal Cinemas Hunt Valley.

Admission is free, but a $5 donation is requested. Donations will help provide food, vaccinations, spay/neuter, shelter, care and enrichment for homeless and lost animals at The Maryland SPCA.

The film stars Emma Roberts and Jake T. Austin as two kids who secretly take in nine stray dogs, using an abandoned building as a dog hotel.

Several adoptable dogs from The Maryland SPCA will be at the theater. Doors open at 10:00 a.m. The movie starts at 10:30 a.m. The theater is at 118 Shawan Road in Cockeysvile.

All moviegoers will be automatically entered into a drawing for one of ten free special edition stuffed dogs. Additional stuffed dogs will be available for a $15 donation.

Because space is limited the SPCA recommends registering by Thursday if you plan to attend. To do so, contact Tami Gosheff at tgosheff@mdspca.org with the names and email addresses of those attending. Names must be on the list for admission.