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Ability Center trains pups for assistance, therapy services

Aug. 4, 2021: Holly Koester interacts with a service dog at The Ability Center of Greater Toledo. (Sophia Perricone/WNWO)
Aug. 4, 2021: Holly Koester interacts with a service dog at The Ability Center of Greater Toledo. (Sophia Perricone/WNWO)
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For many people like Holly Koester, dogs are more than just man's best friend.

They're a shot at living a fully independent life.

"There's a lot of things that I can do that Glory helps me with. She just makes life easier," Koester said. "Eventually I can reach down and pick something up, but it's hard sometimes to get down there."

Koester's assistance dog Glory would do everything from turning the lights on in the morning to opening doors throughout the day.

But after 13 years of service, Glory passed away in May.

"She was like a Velcro dog so she was like right by my side all the time."

But now Koester's on the hunt for a new good boy or girl.

And with help from the assistance dogs program at The Ability Center of Greater Toledo, she should be getting a new furry friend very soon.

"Our goal every time we place a service dog is to get that person back out into their community," said Jenny Barlos, client services manager for The Ability Center.

Barlos says they try to place up to 24 assistance dogs a year.

They breed their own pups so they can start training right away to hit important developmental milestones as puppies grow.

"All of our dogs are going through that two years of training and it is a pretty elaborate process for us. It's all guided by our staff trainers."

If a particular pup doesn't seem to be hitting benchmarks throughout training, they either become a therapy dog or get released for adoption.

But if they do make it through the full two years, they're paired up with people who need them like Koester based on individual needs.

"We make sure that they are working together well together as a team. We can address any concerns that they have, talk to them about any additional tasks throughout their dog's life that they may want that dog to be trained to do."

Koester says she's thankful for the thorough program through the Ability Center. Not only do they help her find a friend for life, but one that can help her get through her daily routine.

"They bring so much happiness to us. I'm very grateful for my service dog," she said.

The Ability Center's Assistance Dog Program is in need of volunteers. They do pay for dog vet visits and food when the dog is in a volunteer's care.

Anyone interested in volunteering can sign up at

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