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Letting potential off the leash

Organization trains dogs to provide assistance

Summit Assistance Dogs helps those in need of a well-trained service dog. Photo credit: Summit Assistance Dogs

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Fraser is a hero.

As a service dog, he was paired with Alex, a young man confined to a wheelchair. The partnership between the two allowed Alex to enter Seattle University, earn a bachelor's degree and then complete an internship in South Africa.

"Alex says he never would have dreamed of studying abroad without his service dog," said Sue Meinzinger, executive director and founder of Summit Assistance Dogs. "He gained confidence from that partnership, and his horizons broadened so much because of Fraser."

About three decades ago, one of Meinzinger's friends sustained a spinal cord injury and was rendered quadriplegic.

"When I learned about what service dogs could do, I saw a wonderful opportunity to put my animal training skills to work helping people lead lives of greater independence and joy," she continued.

A fully accredited 501(c)(3) organization, Summit Assistance Dogs has become one of the leading providers of assistance dogs in Washington state as the benefits of service dogs becomes more apparent.

"There is no question that these dogs are life-changing," emphasized Meinzinger.

Sustaining and growing Summit Assistance Dogs remains a challenge, however.

"Because our clients receive a dog from us completely free of charge, and because we receive no government funding, we do need to make an investment in raising the money we require to operate and grow our organization."

The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) plays an important role in allowing Summit Assistance Dogs to serve its clientele.

Its CFC donation number is 23576.

"Seventy-five percent of all money raised goes directly into the costs of the two years of training, and then the placing of each service dog," she continued.

She pointed out that Summit Assistance Dogs has partnered a dog with a veteran and is anxious to work with more servicemembers.

Meinzinger also pointed out that because of her organization's success, it has acquired land on Whidbey Island to build a larger training and kenneling facility.

"Anything we raise over and above our annual operating expense is used to help fund our new training center," she concluded. "Every dollar goes to serving those who need mobility assistance dogs."

For more information about Summit Assistance Dogs, call 360.293.5609, email, or visit

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