Your Help Is Needed to Train a Service Dog for a Saline Child

 01/30/2018 - 05:51
Dalmatian "Cinder," will become a service dog for Saline girl Danielle Sharp, with our help
Eight-month-old "Cinder" shows every indication of having intelligence and temperment well-suited to formal service dog credentialling. She's already comfortable in the harness with which she hopes to carry the medical packs of her young human charge, Danielle Sharp. © 2018 d2 Saline, All Rights Reserved. USA

Danielle Sharp is a local child just 3½ years old, but she's already had to overcome more obstacles in her life than most people we likely know.

Born with a defect known as gastroschisis, she's been in and out of surgery and now depends upon three medical packs with pumps attached to her body for survival. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Forever.

Today her world is limited to the two-foot reach of hoses that form the lifeline between her and those packs. In the event of a system failure, an alarm sounds, making time of the essence for either addressing the fault or getting a backup in place.

An eight-month-old Dalmatian named "Cinder" is eager to enter Danielle's world and help change it for the better. In order to do this, the dog Cinder our help.

Cinder can be trained to carry Danielle's medical packs. This would mean that Danielle could go to school right here in Saline just like other little boys and girls her age.

Cinder can also learn the unique sound of the alarms on those packs — and know the difference between that and all sorts of other confusing sounds that are part of our everyday lives, from sirens on fire trucks to custom ring tones on the smartphones we can't seem to do without.

Fantastic as all this may seem, it is very doable and is quite commonly done with dogs. Smart and intuitive as Cinder has already shown herself to be, however, she still needs to complete a highly specialized, seven-month "service dog" course that is far beyond the sort of obedience programs with which most people are familiar.

Rightly so: Danielle's life will literally depend upon Cinder.

Danielle's mother, Dr Brooke Sharp (who many of us know through New Era Chiropractic downtown), shared a bit about her daughter's situation during the last Saline Area Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast. She introduced us to Cinder that morning.

Most service dogs come to families having already been trained. But when Dr Sharp started out on the typical agency path she was told that those offerings weren't equipped to support a three-year-old with disabilities such as Danielle's.

By happenstance, Dr Sharp subsequently met a professional specializing in purebred Dalmatians, one of which had just delivered a litter of six. Moreover, "Siren," Cinder's mother, had herself been a therapy dog; Cinder's father "Scorch" was champion agility dog. If you're sensing a pattern with these names, there is one: Being Dalmatians, these canines all get firehouse-related tags.

After adopting Cinder, a highly specialized program offered by K9 Heights in Warren Michigan was identified. Cinder is scheduled to go there in March, spend seven intense months with a dedicated trainer on-site, then report for duty with the Sharp family right here in Saline.

Now it's our turn.

It will cost $14,000 to put Cinder through this program, and donations from you and me are needed to help make that happen.

The good news is that a little over 25% of the money has already been raised, and that means the dog can start with K9 Heights in March of 2018 as planned. It's also good to know that this fee includes lifetime training, meaning that Cinder can return to K9 Heights at any time in the future, at no additional cost, for additional training any time it's needed — for example, to support Danielle with travel by air, if that comes along down the way.

You can donate right now online to support this through a special Go Fund Me page that's been setup at the following link:

Additionally, First United Methodist Church of Saline will be hosting a special fundraiser on Saturday, March 10 from 5:00pm to 8:00pm to support Cinder's training.

Every donation helps and I thank you for considering this cause.

Happy Training!

Janet Deaton's picture
Janet Deaton
I am a longtime City of Saline resident and business owner. My husband (Dell Deaton) and I are investors in the Best Western Premier Saline hotel project. My business (d2 Saline, established in 1983), pays for advertising on The Saline Post. I also write for this site, without compensation, and all opinions expressed are solely my own. As an avocation, I try to be helpful on matters related to dogs, cats, and other animals who need a voice on their behalf. I am a Certified Pet Instructor and Canine Good Citizen Trainer, Evaluator, with experience since 2003 on the "Huron Valley Humane Society Behavioral Help Line." In 2007 I became credentialed with Therapy Dogs International and for many years my dog Timber and I visited facilities here in Saline.

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buzzbuzz's picture

A better headline would be "help funding a service dog".

I was ready to sign up to help train it, like weekend fostering, etc.

Janet Deaton's picture

And thank you for your willingness to help.

willowdillow's picture

I hope no one actually gives money to this person, for a number of reasons. 

1. She bought a purebred dog. She could have adopted a dog and put that money towards a good portion of this training, if she wanted to. Not to mention she chose a Dalmatian, not a breed known for making good service dogs. They are high anxiety and high energy, not something you want in a dog that needs to be in public with a small child.

2. There are a number of charities that will provide free service dogs to those who are financially unable to afford professional training. I don't buy that she contracted several and they all turned her down, it sounds like what the child needs would be fairly standard services for an SD to provide. 

3. She's a chiropractor. She can likely afford to pay for SD training on her own. If she could afford a purebred Dalmatian from a breeder, she could afford to adopt a dog and have it trained.

4. Service dogs do not need training that costs thousands of dollars. Certainly not for simple tasks like the ones she's describing. It's a common misconception that service dogs must be professionally trained or certified in order to "qualify" as service dogs, but no such rule or law exists. How could it, when many of the disabled people who need SDs cannot work and are living on disability? They certainly could not afford such outrageously-priced training. Training the dog yourself requires research, time, and effort, but it's virtually free, not as hard as people think, and an excellent option for people who cannot afford or do not want to pay exorbitant amounts of money for training that is often a scam intended to prey on the disabled and parents of disabled children.

5. The author states that they are a Canine Good Citizen Trainer. The canine good citizen test is a testing procedure that often misleadingly markets itself as being necessary for a service dog to be "certified" to go out in public. It is not necessary. There is no federal certification of service dogs, just companies preying on disabled people. 

6. As a disabled person, who is friends with many other disabled people, some of whom have SDs, I find it extremely offensive that people would give money to a fake cause like this when there is a very real and immediate need for financial assistance in the disabled community. We don't need you to pay for some chiropractor's daughter's unnecessarily expensive service dog training. We need to you to fund shelters to house the numerous homeless disabled people. We need you to donate to charities that assist poor and unemployed parents pay for their disabled children's medical treatment. We need you to fund disease research. We need wealthy able-bodied people to step up and help people who will never be able to hold a job or care for themselves, people who don't have wealthy moms to take care of them; disabled kids stuck in the foster system, mentally disabled adults who "scare" the public so are shuffle away to prisons or underfunded mental health facilities, disabled veterans shunned by society... there is so much need out there, and this woman is way, way, waaaay down on the list of people who need your help. To give money to her is to spit in the face of all the people who don't have the means to get their sob story published in an online paper.

She can train the dog herself. She doesn't even need this money. 

Janet Deaton's picture

My heart goes out to you for your disability. I often think that such pain and struggle can help those afflicted uniquely empathize with others in need.

It is from that perspective that I was moved to write the article above and will briefly now address a few of the statements you've made about dog training.

Expert canine instruction is important not just out of concern for public safety, but, as I wrote above, because lives quite literally depend upon getting it right.

The cost referenced in this article is very much in line with what I recall from my own work in the past with LeaderDogs here in Southeast Michigan. The highly specific outcomes necessary to support disabled individuals are well-beyond the capabilities of most tenured canine trainers and behaviorists, let alone something that should be responsibly recommended to a do-it-yourselfer.

I would not recommend amateur efforts at service dog instruction for any child with a fraction of the disability described in this story.

Perhaps your comments above suggest the need for a future article in The Saline Post that would detail the skills acquired by dogs that pass Canine Good Citizen and service dog criteria.

Grandma of Special Needs Child's picture

To Willowdillow:  You have obviously never had to care for a severely disabled child.  Even with the best of insurance, there are many costs absorbed by the parents.  In addition, it takes a lot of time to train a dog for tasks such as this dog needs to perform.  Parents of medically needy children simply do not have the time for it.  It is true that funding for nurses is often provided to help care for 24/7 needs, but it is equally true that actually finding a nurse to DO the care is not a sure thing.  Parents often must forego sleep to care for their child. 


I do not know Danielle’s family at all, but I DO know my grandchild and her family.  She is a bright, cheerful child of three with multiple medical issues, including breathing through a tracheotomy with a ventilator, eating using a feeding tube and being unable to move much.  They struggle every day just to care for her, give their 6 year old son the attention he needs, keep the household running, work to pay their bills, AND get enough sleep to function.  The nurses they are supposed to get 12 hours every day are not available every day.  They run themselves ragged. 


Your assumption that a chiropractor (or anyone for that matter) should be able to do this alone is way out of line.  You have no way of knowing what another person can afford. 


It is very unkind of you to arbitrarily label this a fake charity just because you don’t believe it is a good one, and try to sway others away from helping Danielle.  People who want to help other people who are disabled are not going to be stopped from donating to the other charities you list, just because they are helping her.  You say you are disabled.  You apparently have had assistance in your life.  How would YOU like it if someone discouraged people from helping you?