Sign In

Zoo Program Trains Service Dogs

July 22, 2020

 The Memphis Zoo is full of wild animals, but a domesticated one is calling the zoo home for a few months. A Memphis Zoo curator is helping train a dog who will eventually go on to be a service animal.

But like the saying goes, it takes a village. Several people in the Mid-South have been instrumental in raising future service animals.

A group of service dogs visited the Memphis Zoo Friday. It’s not quite the crowd you’re expecting on a summer day at the Memphis Zoo.

Just like the Zoo’s regular visitors, the service dogs in training are interested in the animals, and the animals are very interested in them.

“It benefits both parties because not only is [the dog] getting exposed to a lot, the zoo animals are getting to see an incredibly well-trained service dog,” said Memphis Zoo Curator Courtney Janney.

Janney is training a Golden Retriever named North until November when he’ll go off to service dog school and eventually serve a person with a disability.

For the first year of North’s life, he learned the basics from an unlikely group — inmates from the Hardeman County Correctional Facility.

“We get them in at eight weeks and train them to do their 30 basic commands,” said Hardeman County Correctional Officer Cassie Graham.

Graham heads up the Canine Companion for Independence program in Hardeman County. Inmates there have helped train 23 service dogs since 2017.

After they train the dogs, they go to what are called finishers, like Janney, who introduce the dogs to a home environment.

Clearly North is seeing more than Janney’s home. He also comes to work at the Memphis Zoo with her.

“At work, I have an incredible support system here to go on this adventure with me,” said Janney.

Only a few dogs from Hardeman County go to finishers in West Tennessee. Most are shipped out of state, and Graham hopes more people in the Mid-South are willing to open up their home for a short time to make the dogs the best service animals they can be.

“Whenever we get them out people are very interested,” said Graham. “It’s just getting them out more to let people know about the program we have.”

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Former Victoria man’s diabetic alert dog helps him get back to life

    When Luke Hengen’s diabetes worsened in his early twenties, it stripped him of the outdoor activities where the country kid felt at home. Countless wilderness adventures and years of hard-fought football games took a toll on his body, to the point where he could no longer sense when his blood sugar was too high or […]

    Read more

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more