Kids, dogs, frisbees, and fun sum up the Hope Dog Challenge. And many people work to make it happen.
Why it happens is the story of two women who wanted to give special needs children a unique way to grow and learn. Karen Rice, Program Director, and Wendi Faircloth, Training Director, founded Raising Hope Dogs in 2015, after finding out how much dogs could do in therapy for kids. They say: “We have worked hard to establish a foundation that enables us to blaze new trails in the complex world of working dogs “What started as a free form adventure has become an enduring life work that stretches and challenges us every day. We are so fortunate to impact the lives of others while engaging with the most courageous kids and talented dogs on the planet!”
Game day is the culmination of practice. Before each Hope Dog Challenge, the participants attend four days of training spaced out at two-week intervals. There, they learn the skills involved in each event. Even more, they learn valuable social skills and how to be part of a team.
The kids are divided into five teams, identified by colors, and each team has a specially chosen and trained dog. The dogs wear matching team colors too.
The first event is a frisbee throw, done without dogs, and is a warm-up for the athletes. This is the simplest game of the day. Kids stand at the throw line and throw discs as far as they possibly can.
Second, is the three-cone zone. Three cones placed in a straight line create three throwing zones. Kids stand at the throw line and try to throw the discs to the farthest cone. Points are awarded for near catches (when the dog tips the disc) and full catches at any spot; bonus points of increasing value are awarded when the athletes connect their throws and catches within the zone of the cones.
The third event is the four-square knockout. Four cones make a square; kids and dogs are partnered together as duos and enter the playing field one duo at a time. Each kid stands in the center of the square and throws one disc toward each cone for the dog to catch. A timed event, each kid-dog duo keeps throwing discs until time runs out.
The last event is the jump-tunnel-toss. This partner game requires the greatest control and communication between the kids and dogs. Kids and dogs are partnered together as duos and enter the playing field one duo at a time. The dog sits at the start line and waits until his partner says “Go!” The dog then leaps over a jump and runs through a tunnel. While the dog is exiting the tunnel, the kid must throw the disc out into the field for the dog to catch.
The winners are absolutely all the kids and all the dogs! But, the top scoreswere awarded.
What the athletes have to say:
“I think it’s a great experience for kids with special needs or without special needs,” from Javier,13.
“I just love the dogs! I could squeeze them til they pop,” from Jack, 7.
“If I won a million dollars, I would donate it to Raising Hope Dogs,” from Joshua, 13.
For more information about getting involved with this great organization, see their website at http://www.raisinghopedogs.org. Raising Hope Dogs is a charitable organization and eligible for Arizona Tax Credit of $400 per person or $800 per couple.
Results of the 2018 Hope Dog Challenge
Combined team scores overall:
3rd place Team Teal – Average 118.50 points
Dog: Pencil 6-year-old female Whippet
Kids: Joshua age 13 and Quanah age 6
2nd place: Team Blue – Average 132.33 points
Dog: Secret 7-year-old female Border Collie
Kids: Orlando age 21, Abby age 13, Javier age 13
1st place Team Green- Avg 137.50 points
Dog: Delphi 1-year-old male McNab
Kids: Chase age 16, Geri age 9
Individual High Scores:
Kids: Under 13 years old
1st place: Geri – age 9, Team Green -141 points
2nd place: Victor Jared – age 8, Team Purple – 128 points
3rd place: Jack – age 7, Team Yellow – 113 points
Teens: Over 13 years old
1st place: Abby – age 13, Team Blue – 160 points
2nd place: Chase – age 16, Team Green 134 points
3rd place: Javier – age 13, Team Blue 131 – points