By Lauren Schiavone
Hometown Weekly staff
Golden Opportunities for Independence (GOFI) arrived at the Walpole Public Library to share some sunshine last Thursday morning. GOFI is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization dedicated to empowering people with disabilities to live a more fulfilling life with the love and assistance of a dog and a mentor. Based in Walpole, GOFI's trainers and volunteers paid a visit with three of their friendliest pups.
Children’s Programmer Nicole Cataloni worked with librarians to educate everyone on the amazing work provided by service animals in the community. A full display of children’s books centered around service dogs and proper animal etiquette was available in the Children’s Community Room. Children were also provided coloring pages of dogs and were encouraged to be creative while leisurely petting the dogs.
Maverick, a sweet three-year-old golden retriever, alongside Sunshine and Lady, were on their best behavior at the library. Volunteer staff explained the use of therapy and service dogs: “A service dog is given to one handler for specialized care. A therapy dog, like Maverick and the GOFI dogs, visit facilities like schools, hospitals or nursing homes to provide comfort to many people.”
GOFI trains and cares for multiple therapy dogs, with over fifty in rotation for assignments at the facility. Lady is a six-month-old puppy still working on basic training and socialization. With an abundance of energy and love to give, Lady was a favorite amongst the children. Kids took turns working with volunteers to feed treats to therapy dogs and learned more about them.
Sunshine, a fluffy ten-year-old golden retriever, is a mother to many of the GOFI dogs and started having litters at age ten. A GOFI volunteer shared, “she’s used to this. The noise level, the new smells, she’s been doing this basically her whole life. Lady will get there, eventually, too.”
Some young dogs are chosen to be therapy or service dogs within the first few years of training. “Maverick is going to a Navy veteran with PTSD. He’s very good at aiding a handler. He opened the handicapped entrance when we walked in [to the library].”
The GOFI dogs and volunteers certainly brightened the community’s day.
GOFI will be in the area for a multitude of summer events, including Walpole and Canton’s upcoming farmer’s markets. More information on GOFI is available at https://www.gofidog.org/