Friday, February 27, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Dog in training: Neffa ‘graduates’ to next level

By
From page A1 | July 03, 2012 |

Karey Zufelt, left, and Mikaela Zufelt pose with Neffa before sending him off to "college" to compete his Canine Campions for Independence training. The mother-daughter duo have raised Neffa since he was puppy, knowing this day would come. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

* Editor’s note: This is the last in a series about Davis resident Mikaela Zufelt’s experience training an assistance dog. Earlier stories describing Neffa’s training were published in December and April.

On May 18, Neffa went off to college.

Neffa’s experience won’t involve dorms, midterm exams and football games. Instead, the Canine Companions for Independence dog-in-training left his Davis foster home for advanced training, called “college,” at CCI headquarters in preparation for his future as an assistance dog.

The milestone completed a large part of the training journey for Neffa, a black Labrador who is now 18 months old and weighs 76 pounds.

“It’s bittersweet … but mostly sweet,” said his puppy raiser, Mikaela Zufelt, a senior at Davis High School. Mikaela raised and trained Neffa since he was 8 weeks old.

“Because I’ve seen the positive effect Deckle (the first puppy Mikaela raised for CCI) has had, Neffa will be easier, but we’re going to miss him so much,” Mikaela said before sending Neffa off to “college.”

“You do it for the next step,” said Karey Zufelt, Mikaela’s mother. “That’s the hard part, but if you go to graduation, you’d change your opinion.

“A lot of people could be puppy raisers. It takes a large amount of time and commitment, but the rewards are greater than you could ever imagine. Everyone’s lives change.”

Added Mikaela, “It’s going to be tough, but exciting.”

The graduation ceremony took place in Santa Rosa, where CCI headquarters are located.

“All the dogs being turned in (to headquarters) walk across the stage and get medals, which represents moving on to the next phase of training,” Karey said.

Neffa went back to CCI headquarters knowing a vast catalog of commands, including “sit,” “let’s go,” “wait,” “hurry,” “heel,” “under,” “shake” and “stay.”

“He’s been in a lot of different places: barns, horse shows, hospitals, malls, stores, parks, elevators, elderly facilities, the library, doctor’s appointments, the dentist, kindergarten classes, the airport, band concerts, the Farmers Market,” Karey said.

Much of Neffa’s latter training involved solidifying commands he already knew so he could stay focused on his handler and perform well in difficult situations.

“We try to take him to places where there’s lots of people,” Mikaela said. “When there’s noise, energy, distraction, everything gets more complex. We expect them to behave well.”

In comparison to his younger puppy days, “he handles distracting situations a lot better,” she added.

Picnic Day, farm animals, loud football games? No sweat. Neffa’s been there.

“Overall, he’s a really willing dog,” Mikaela said. “He wants to work, which is good for us to see. He’s a pretty mellow dog. He’s always had a good attitude. He makes us proud.”

Neffa also headed to Santa Rosa with a solid grasp on manners, an important asset for a future working dog.

“The house manners is a big thing,” Karey said. “Part of our job is to teach manners.”

Neffa was taught to never jump on furniture or counters, while the Zufelts’ pet Labrador, Bumper, could.

“It’s really good training,” Karey said. “These dogs are born and raised to be working dogs. This is what makes this type of dog happy.”

After being turned in to the headquarters, the dogs go to professional trainers for advanced training and learn additional commands for six to nine months.

At any point, the dogs may be released for a number of reasons. For example, a dog could be too distracted or fearful to be able to do the work required of them. A dog might have too strong a drive for prey or chase, or a low work ethic, or physical problems such as heart problems or skin problems.

Released dogs commonly go on to other forms of service, such as search and rescue or other types of therapy. In a reflection of the tough standards required by CCI, the high rate of release and the further service of these dogs, releasing is called a “change of career,” Karey said.

The dogs go through two semesters of professional training. They learn ambulatory skills, such as retrieving objects that are large, as well as those that are very small, such as coins. The dogs learn to place the object on the wheelchair user’s lap.

The trainers begin to adapt basic commands, learned from puppy raisers, to the needs of the person in the wheelchair.

For example, “dogs can perform tasks such as opening the fridge, getting a Gatorade, closing the fridge, and giving it to their receiver,” Mikaela said. “Precision is key.”

During advanced training, the dogs also are selected for various specializations. Dogs can become service, skilled companion or facility dogs, and training differs for some of these animals.

For example, hearing dogs — who work with the hearing-impaired — work on recognizing alerts, such as cell phone ring tones, email alerts, alarms and watches.

In the six to nine months during which the dogs receive additional training, the puppy raisers get monthly progress reports on the dog they raised. However, they are not allowed to see the dog.

Two weeks before final graduation, the receivers of the dogs go through a two-week training process. There is a day to find matches. They then work with the match, and learn how to care for their new assistance dog and how to live with the dog.

“They estimate $10,000 goes into each dog by the time they graduate,” Karey said.

However, the dogs are free of charge for the receiver, who also will have a lifetime of support from CCI. Anyone who wants a dog can apply, said Karey, who added: “An application is not a commitment.”

Six months after the dog has gone to its receiver, the puppy raisers are able to visit the dog they raised in its working home.

“With Deckle, I didn’t even really recognize him,” said Mikaela, who raised her first puppy when she was 13 years old. “He’d filled out and matured so much.”

Both Mikaela and Karey plan to continue being puppy raisers. Karey may train a puppy after Mikaela leaves for college, and Mikaela plans to train another puppy after she finishes college.

“We would like to encourage people to become puppy raisers,” Karey said. “You get to meet a lot of people you’d never think you’d meet.”

“There is a lot of support and there are a lot of people to help. There are so many ‘what if’s, but they can all be answered with the support system,” Mikaela said.

For more information on Canine Companions for Independence, visit www.cci.org.

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

     
    Woodland infant’s death remains a mystery

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

    New greenhouse will add to ‘Farm to Mouth’ program

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Learn about pollinators, gardens and honey at Yolo Basin fundraiser

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Fire damages South Davis home

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Can you give them a home?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

    Gerber nominations close Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Explorit: Humming right along

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A3

    Flower arrangers feature S.F. designer

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Celebrate Africa on Saturday at I-House

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Spring sing-along is March 4

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Chamber explores how to pay for Davis’ needs

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Wolk and Dodd team up to provide Napa earthquake tax relief

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Robb Davis to speak about homelessness, energy

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Class of 1970 plans 45-year reunion

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Bicycle safety course to be offered in Davis

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Documentary on immigration issues will be screened

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Learn about your brain on March 14

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    A fill-up mishap

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Two free yoga classes offered March 12

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Take a night walk at Cache Creek

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Adopt a household for Bridge to Housing participants

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Workshop will teach sustainable gardening methods

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Forum

    Tired of all of this

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Cavalier attitude about bike safety

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

    Start early to build healthy dental habits

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B6

     
    No extra cost for containers

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

    Oral Health Project launches

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

     
    Here an H, there an H

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

    .

    Sports

    Off day for Aggie men at UCSB

    By Kim Orendor | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Aggie women fall to 4th after lackluster showing

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Lady Devils are on to the SJS semis

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Blue Devil boys expect a spike in production

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Inquiring minds want to know about Aggies

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Encouraging start for DHS boys tennis team

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Late goal lifts Red Wings over Sharks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

     
    Watney struggling at windy Honda Classic

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    International Film Series to present ‘Jaffa’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    Monticello announces March schedule

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    The Artery presents ‘Stepping Into Nature’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10 | Gallery

     
    YoloArts’ Gallery 625 presents ‘The Poetry of Dots’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    ‘Focus': A sharply conceived caper

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    The Woodland Opera House announces 2015-16 season

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Nissan’s Z remains an affordable performer

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3

     
    Car Care: Simple DIY steps to protect your car through all seasons

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Dieter W. Gruenwedel

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Death notice: Celia E. Recchio

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Vernon E. Burton

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, February 27, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B5