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Patterson Rotary Visits Putnam Service Dogs

Patterson Rotary Club members at the Putnam Service Dogs training center in Brewster, with head trainer Melissa Schiraldi and Gunther.

Putnam Service Dogs’ Training Center in Brewster was the location of the Feb. 27 Patterson Rotary Club meeting, where head trainer Melissa Schiraldi – who selects all the pups the organization adopts to train as service dogs – demonstrated Gunther’s temperament and skills to the audience, and explained how she assesses a pup.

Gunther, after only four days with Putnam Service Dogs, charmed the audience with his friendliness, calmness, focus, and his ability to respond to cues.

Putnam Service Dogs is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 2016. It provides free service dogs to people with physical disabilities other than blindness, and to veterans with post-traumatic stress. The organization has adopted 32 rescue pups since its inception.

CEO and founder Nancy Teague said the training center at 2453 Route 6 was designed to be a small, residential setting, rather than like the large, multi-million-dollar centers that other service dog schools have.

Only four dogs live at the Brewster center. During their formal training (the last part of their training, which is six to nine months), the dogs have 24/7 human care and companionship from their full-time, live-in caretakers. The dogs’ house manners are continued to be honed, so no dog is delivered to recipients with bad house manners, such as counter “surfing,” jumping at doors or people, barking at the doorbell, etc. 

According to Teague, the demand for this type of service dog is growing every year; Putnam Service Dogs receives two to five applications per week for canines. It currently has eight in training, and will be adding three more to accommodate its partner organization, Rutgers University Club.

Rutgers trains each service dog for hundreds of hours over a two-year period. Each dog costs more than $80,000 when placed, with free additional training and support given the recipient.

Teague noted that more than 300,000 dogs are euthanized every year in this country because of dog overpopulation, and organizations like Putnam Service Dogs helps prevent this needless killing.

For more information about Putnam Service Dogs, visit or call 917-449-5359.


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