Task Dogs: Service dog event going virtual

Several dozen service dogs and their handlers attended the first-ever Task Dogs event in June 2019 at the Purina Event Center in Gray Summit, Missouri. Pictured here are a few service and working dogs that posed for a group photo.
(Submitted photo)

Everyone this year has felt some influence from COVID-19, and "Task Dogs: A Service Dog Expo" is no different. Even though we're forgoing an in-person event, we're planning to have a virtual event September 26 as an internet Zoom meeting.

The second-annual event to promote giving service dogs to veterans primarily but to all disabled people in general was scheduled for June 6 at the Purina Event Center in Gray Summit, Missouri, but was canceled. We rescheduled for a Saturday in August, but continuing community health concerns prompted another cancelation. We had the date set for September, but Purina Farms made a decision to cancel all large events for the remainder of the year. It's tough on a person to have to schedule 25 to 35 vendors three different times with a new date and a later cancelation, but we understand the reasons for the cancelation.

In an effort to still have an event that day, Navy veteran Joaquin Juatai and I have teamed up with The Academy of Pet Careers in St. Charles, Missouri, and with Internet-based DVRadio to host an online event September 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central Time. Joaquin, a service dog handler, has the media knowledge to bring this event together virtually and to help host the show on behalf of his Facebook page PTSDog and his radio broadcast "The Service Dog Show."

The tentative plan is for me to be in-person at The Academy of Pet Careers and begin the event with Jennifer Schifano, the school's admissions director, here in Missouri, and Joaquin in North Carolina will be on with us. After a 20-minute introduction, we'll start inviting service dog organizations on the show as guests. These guests will hopefully include the following: Joaquin Juatai, PTSDog; Christina Kimerle of Dogs for our Brave from St. Louis; Emily Schooling of Service Dog Consultations, from Sacramento, California; Duo Dogs, Inc., from St. Louis; Got Your Six PTSD Support Dogs, from Collinsville, Illinois; veteran Corey James of Freedom Paws Service Dogs from Chillicothe, Illinois; Dogs that Help, from Missouri and Illinois; Ella Ben-Nun of Dogs that Do Good, Tel-Aviv, Israel; CHAMP Assistance Dogs, from St. Louis; Service Dogs of Distinction, from Mount Vernon, Arkansas; Tiffany Meyer of The Truth About Service Dogs (Facebook page); veteran Lon Hodge of Operation Fetch (Lon had the late service dog, "Gander," who had his own Facebook page); Iowa Service Dogs; and two remaining open times (waiting for responses). After this, we'll have a closing time and end at 4 p.m.

There's still another event planned for next year at Purina Farms. That date will be Saturday, July 10, 2021. Hopefully, we'll be back to some sense of normal and will be able to have a stellar in-person event, but until then, we'll do our best with the virtual event and help educate the public about service dogs.

I'd like to thank the different sponsors who've helped with this event in some way: The Academy of Pet Careers in St. Charles, Missouri; Kenny Foeste Masonry; Nip Kelley Construction; Heise Heating and Cooling; Skyview Animal Clinic; Imo's Pizza in St. Louis; Advantage Veterinary Center in High Ridge, Missouri; and Tommy Loveless, now of Ridgeside K9.

If you're interested in viewing any part of the six-hour event, there will be a link posted on the Task Dogs Facebook page just prior to the event. You can find Task Dogs on Facebook simply by typing "Task Dogs: A Service Dog Expo" in the search blank, and it should pop right up. Hope you all can tune in!