Bravo: Mans Best Friends Help the Disabled

By Kim Connolly

Originally appeared in November 2011

Service Dogs of Virginia, Inc. raises, trains and places dogs to assist people with disabilities. Individuals and families who volunteer to be puppy raisers are a critical piece of fulfilling this mission. Cathy Buhle and her family have been raising Whitman, who is now one year old, since he was eight weeks old. Cathy attends classes with Whitman once a week and shares what they have learned with the rest of the family so they can all practice with him. This dog is so much better trained than our own, Cathy observes.

Puppy raisers take great care to socialize their dogs  exposing them to all sorts of environments and crowds. Cathy, who works in special education at Baker Butler Elementary School, has also brought Whitman to the school, where he is a calming influence on her students. She and Whitman are also working in Service Dogs READing with Service Dogs program, where volunteers take service dogs in training into local first-grade classrooms for at-risk readers to read to the dogs. This has brought so much joy to our family, says Cathy. I highly recommend it  it is a big commitment, but a rewarding one.

Kim is the Director of Marketing and Communications at the United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area. To explore volunteer opportunities, visit the United Ways Volunteer Center at

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