Senior trains dogs for the disabled


Senior Katie Michurski and her family train dogs from the time they are puppies so they can go on and help those who need them.

Megan Meskill

For the past nine years, Katie Michurski and her family have been helping out with a non-profit organization known as Helping Paws. Helping paws trains and fosters dogs for people with physical disabilities. The Michurski’s breed and train 3-4 dogs at a time for two to three years before they are assigned to a person with disabilities.

The Michurski’s are responsible for training 3-4 golden retrievers to do what a person with physical disabilities would not be able to do. These human-like tasks include opening doors, turning on light switches, taking off socks, and retrieving objects such as car keys, wallets, etc.

Aside from laborious tasks, her family also trains these puppies to be loving and comforting companions. They teach them to jump on the persons lap, snuggle and even “kiss.” Michurski says that “this program helps give these people a best friend and that is something everyone deserves.”

The puppies go to classes once a week where they learn the basics: how to sit, stand, lay down, go potty, etc. Once they “graduate” from this level they move onto big dog classes where they learn all the human-like tasks. Michurski occasionally goes to classes and helps with the training; however, her mom is the main trainer for these dogs.

Aside from their weekly classes, the dogs are taken into the public to practice their skills. Michurski and her mom bring the dogs to movies, malls, and restaurants. This is part of the training that Michurski regularly participates in.

Charlie, one of the dogs trained by the Michurski’s, became a life-changing companion to a boy in Iowa named Tyler. Tyler was a star football player for his high school and was in a life-altering football accident where he woke up quadriplegic and was never able to walk again.

The first time Tyler met Charlie, they got along very well and the Michurski’s could tell right away that they would be a good fit for each other. “It was hard to say goodbye, butI knew Charlie was going to make a difference in Tyler’s life far more than he could have made in mine,” said Michurski.

Michurski loves helping people like Tyler, whose life changed in the blink of an eye. Her favorite part of her work with Helping Paws is knowing that these puppies that have lived with her for a few years are being assigned to people who will greatly appreciate them and whose lives will be changed. “I just love how people tell me all the time how I am changing theses peoples lives, but the truth is these people are changing mine,” said Michurski.

Michurski says that, because of her work with disabled people, she is more open and understanding of people and has stopped judging based on appearances. She says that she has become more grateful for the things she has now, because “you never know when something could go wrong and your whole life is turned upside down.”

The Michurski family still keeps in touch with Tyler during his rehabilitation process. From watching him go through the process of regaining some of his strength, Michurski has decided to do something like this in her life. Helping people who have gone through accidents and watch them go through the steps to recovery, and making a difference in these people’s lives is the ideal job for Michurski; she plans on studying physical therapy throughout college.