Future service dog trains at UNF

Kaitlyn Bowers

Kaitlyn Bowers, Video Director

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Dogs have always been seen as man’s best friend, as they are lovable, loyal and goofy. However, some dogs are meant to serve a higher purpose.

Zina is one of these dogs. At just 6 months old, Zina is training to become a service dog for someone in need. She spent the first 3 months of her training at Duke University. There, she participated in a study to see the effects of the socialization of dogs on their ability to become a service dog. After this, Zina made her journey to Jacksonville, Florida.

This is where Patrice Kapcio stepped in. Kapcio is the director of UNF Online, but when she isn’t focused on that, she spends her time as a volunteer puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization based in California.

Kapcio will spend a year and a half training Zina 30 different commands that will help her become a service dog. There are four types of assistance dogs that Canine Companions for Independence specialize in: a service dog for adult, a skilled companion dog for a child, a hearing alert dog, or a facility dog, which is a dog that stays in one place and helps those in need at the facility. Zina has not yet been assigned one of these roles, as she is too young.

Zina is the sixth dog that Kapcio has helped train. Because of her past experience, Kapcio directly sees the benefits of a canine companion.

“I know many people who have been placed with a dog, and I can see how much it changes their life. It provides independence for them so that they are more comfortable going out in public,” said Kapcio.

“One of my dogs were placed with a young girl in a wheelchair, and she told me that having a service dog kind of makes her wheelchair disappear. People may be afraid to come up to her when she’s in a wheelchair, but when she has her dog, people don’t see her wheelchair, they just see the dog and they want to come up to her to talk about them.”

Kapcio is often asked how she is able to give up the dogs she raises. To this, Kapcio gives a simple answer.

“I don’t see it as me giving them up,” said Kapcio. “This is Zina’s journey. She was born to serve a purpose, to provide independence for an individual who really needs it.”

Zina will complete her training at UNF in February 2021. From here, she will go on to Orlando, Florida to complete her advanced training.

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