Dogs for the disabled let loose in the snow | SierraSun.com

Dogs for the disabled let loose in the snow

Renee Shadforth, Sierra Sun
Renee Shadforth, Sierra SunPlum takes a breather during a play day at Lorrie and George Moore's house in Truckee. The Moores hosted approximately 30 dogs in their backyard over the weekend.
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A backyard full of snow and an ample number of pooper scoopers – what more could a group of dogs and their owners ask for?

Roughly 30 dogs and their people – most from the Sacramento area – gathered in George and Lorrie Moore’s backyard in Truckee on Saturday. Gold Rush Champions, a group of volunteers who raise dogs for Canine Companions for Independence, meets each year – except last year because of lack of snow – at the Moore’s house for a potluck and day of play in the snow.

The humans seemed to enjoy the interaction as much as the dogs.

“I’m here to hang out with all my fellow dog-crazed friends,” said Sacramento resident Martina Brumley. “It’s also a great social outing for the dogs.”

Canine Companions for Independence is a nonprofit organization with a mission to serve the needs of people with disabilities by providing trained assistance dogs. The dogs are trained to do everything from turn on a light switch for a person in a wheelchair to alerting a person who is hearing impaired about a fire alarm.

The dogs, which are usually golden retrievers or Labradors because of their eager-to-please attitudes, stay with a volunteer from 8 weeks to 17 months old. After that, the dog goes to advanced training, or “CCI college,” for six to nine months. Then, the dog is placed with a disabled person.

Kathy Zastrow, of El Dorado Hills, is training her 10th dog. She and her family have trained CCI dogs that are all over the country, in places like Florida and Alaska.

“I love getting a new puppy every year,” Zastrow said in the Moore’s backyard Saturday. “Yes, it’s hard letting them go, but they (the dogs) are going on to bigger and better things.”

The dogs spent most of the day romping in the Moores’ backyard, and Zastrow said she anticipated a quiet car ride home after all of the day’s activity.

“I think it went very well, and the weather was super,” said the hostess, Lorrie Moore, after the party. “It’s a new experience for all of them.”

For more information on Canine Companions for Independence and the Gold Rush Champions, check out grchamps.home.att.net/index.html.