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Puppy Love

July 7, 2020

First responders in Murrieta got recent doggie lovin’ courtesy of some very “artistic” pooches.

Active service dogs Grover and Stella, along with their service-dogs-in-training buddies — Benjamin, Pickles, Carter, Eclipse, and Raven — visited Loma Linda University Medical Center in Murrieta and delivered “paw-made”greeting cards for emergency care workers.

The pooches had some human help from Canine Support Teams, an organization that provides specially trained dogs to persons with disabilities. The artful greeting-cards idea began after CST temporarily closed its Menifee training facility to comply with the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order. During the shutdown, the nonprofit kept busy by providing virtual training sessions to volunteers raising puppies at home, and it also took in dogs that had recently completed advanced training in the Prison Pups program but could not yet be delivered to their new handlers.

Looking for creative ways to keep the dogs engaged while humans were staying home, a group of CST staff and volunteers had the idea to put their pooches to work — with arts and crafts.

With the help of volunteer puppy raisers and inmate trainers at California Institute for Men in Chino, future service dogs stamped their paw prints onto homemade cards for first responders.

“We wanted to send a heartfelt thank you to all of the essential frontline workers helping our community stay safe during COVID-19,” said Carol Roquemore, founder and CEO of Canine Support Teams. “Our volunteers, staff, and pups came together to create these unique cards to hopefully put a smile on the faces of those working so hard to fight this pandemic.”

CST reopened its Menifee facility in late June with strict social distancing and cleaning protocols in place. With the reopening came outdoor greeting card deliveries from the pooches and handlers to workers at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Murrieta.

Although COVID-19 has presented challenges for CST — including increased financial need — the organization is back up and running, providing service dogs to those in need, including veterans and other clients who are navigating disabilities.

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