Retiree Helps Autistic Children By Training Dogs

In Dec. 2003 he has his own in-home dog training business named Lucky 13 Dog Training.

“I went to my clients’ homes and taught them how to train their own dog in its natural environment,” said Pugliese. “I was doing okay at the time then I saw a PSA during which Montel Williams mentioned Paws With A Cause in Michigan. PAWS is the second largest service dog agency in the country and has been around for 25 years.”

Pugliese said the first thing he knew he was working for them as their national organizational development director.

“I learned the ins and outs of the industry as I increased productivity by over 40 percent,” he said. “This was measured in successful placements from the prior year.”

Pugliese left PAWS and in June of 2005 his wife and he came back to Texas to start a similar agency.

“The thing is that I needed to continue with the family pet dog training and behavior modification sessions in order to pay the bills,” he explained. “Then my second client mentioned speaking with the mother of an autistic child who was in the process of purchasing a German Shepherd for her daughter.”

The mom suggested that Pugliese contact her to see if he may be of assistance.

“Well, we discovered very quickly that something fishy was going on when I contacted the agency that was supposedly going to help her and her daughter, Emma,” he said. “They contacted her immediately and stated that they were’re-organizing.’ Hence, I had my first client.”

Cyndee Hopkins is the mother of ten-year-old Emma and she wanted a German Shepherd trained as an assistance dog for Emma, according to Pugliese.

“In early November we went to Live Oak Kennels in Blum, Texas and purchased a beautiful male German Shepherd,” he said. “It was up to Emma to name him and she came up with Shadow. I had already established a board of directors, and at the first meeting we came up with the name of the agency – Shadows for Life, a perfect fit for our mission statement.”

Hopkins volunteered to foster Shadow until he is about 14 months old at which time Pugliese will test him and take him in for formal tasking specific training, said Pugliese.

“Each dog’s training is unique in this sense and they are not interchangeable,” he said.

Hopkins has three other children and lives in Mansfield.

“Among other things Shadow will be taught to bark at Emma if she tries to cross the street or forgets to close the door in a public restroom,” she said. “The agency is also currently involved in rescuing and placing numerous dogs from several areas.”

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