Puppy raiser Lauri Martin and service-dog-in-training Chief practice good behavior skills during the Puppy Olympics Kennel Run. Chief has some fun with the toy, prompting laughs from Martin and trainer Lindy Langum, who timed the first Olympic event at the volunteer appreciation picnic. (Photo by Maria Matson/Whidbey News-Times)

Puppy raiser Lauri Martin and service-dog-in-training Chief practice good behavior skills during the Puppy Olympics Kennel Run. Chief has some fun with the toy, prompting laughs from Martin and trainer Lindy Langum, who timed the first Olympic event at the volunteer appreciation picnic. (Photo by Maria Matson/Whidbey News-Times)

Service dogs compete in ‘Puppy Olympics’

With tails wagging and ears perked, eager canine “athletes” dashed and demonstrated their skills at the Doggie Olympics during the Summit Assistance Dogs’ annual volunteer appreciation picnic on North Whidbey last Saturday.

The obstacle courses were designed not to show off entertaining tricks, but to put the four-legged students’ prowess as service animals-in-training to the test.

The mix of mostly Labradors and golden retrievers competed for gold, silver and bronze awards and were scored by staff on their performances. A few events were just for fun, such as the paddleboard test, where the dogs balanced on the raft and stayed out of the way of the shifting paddles.

The first game of the day was the timed “Puppy Olympics Kennel Run.” Volunteer puppy raisers tested their dogs’ responses to kennel cues and patience before grabbing a toy. If the dogs successfully and quickly completed their tasks, they stood in the running for top spot. Kathleen Cole of Kitsap and her dog Maggie won top prize with 26.61 seconds of smooth pacing.

Part of the point was to teach the dogs to enjoy going in the kennel, trainer Lindy Langum said of the event. It’s all part of being a well-behaved mobility assistance dog.

The young pups with Summit Assistance Dogs that progress in the their training will eventually be placed with clients with disabilities affecting mobility after the application process is complete.

Brianna Vail, who attended the picnic with her Summit-graduated dog, said one of the most useful tasks Mabel does is pick up dropped items.

Mabel the yellow Labrador Retriever is a graduated mobility assistance dog, trained by Summit Assistance Dogs and paired with Brianna Vail. Mabel can do a wide variety of tasks, including opening doors and retrieving an emergency phone. (Photo by Maria Matson/South Whidbey Record)

Mabel the yellow Labrador Retriever is a graduated mobility assistance dog, trained by Summit Assistance Dogs and paired with Brianna Vail. Mabel can do a wide variety of tasks, including opening doors and retrieving an emergency phone. (Photo by Maria Matson/South Whidbey Record)

“We’re in the business because it’s such a huge need,” Summit spokesperson Alice Collingwood said.

The organization provides dogs mainly throughout Western Washington, she said, but also as far as Eastern Washington and Oregon. Staff members prefer placing dogs within 200 miles, because of the time commitment required by clients.

The nonprofit, founded in 2000, has placed over 85 assistance dogs with people with disabilities. Summit dogs can do a wide range of tasks, including opening and closing doors, turning on and off lights, getting the phone and providing emotional support.

The annual “thank you” picnic was held at the roughly 17-acre Summit-owned property on East Henni Road, bringing together staff and volunteer puppy raisers who typically care for the dogs from 8 weeks to 1 year of age. The full training process takes about two years.

Summit Assistance Dogs has about 35 people on its waiting list to receive an assistance dog, Collingwood said.

It’s been many years in the making, but staff members have high hopes for a permanent facility for the organization, which currently has an Anacortes mailing address and operates out of people’s homes.

At the Henni Road property, bought in 2014 after the $80,000 sale of a donated North Whidbey property, Summit Assistance Dogs is working to construct three buildings — a kennel, training/administrative building, and dormitory for clients to stay short-term while they’re paired with an assistance dogs for the training.

“We looked for a long time,” Collingwood said of the search for a site to build the facilities. “When this place became available, it was like a godsend. … The day we open the door is going to be pretty exciting.”

But the puppy raisers needn’t worry — they’ll still be needed, she said. The operation will just be bigger and broader if plans succeed. So far, the group has received permits and site preparation groundwork laid out, though the three-phase project will likely take years to complete, as it will rely on donations and fundraising campaigns. Construction of a canine condo is next on the list.

As of September, the organization has $2,011,000 in donations and pledges toward the first phase goal of $2.5 million, Collingwood said. Organizers estimate a need of about $5 million to complete the full campus.

More in Life

Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Brittany Darby helps raise a wall at Habitat for Humanity of Island County’s two townhomes on Southeast 10th Avenue in Oak Harbor during the Women Build event Saturday.
Women Build: Lending some muscle to Habitat for Humanity

Forty women and some men volunteered for Habitat’s Women Build 2021 event this past weekend.

Members of the public and Whidbey Island Rocks are encouraged to paint and hide stones with Garry oak designs or other local flora and fauna this week in preparation for a hunt Saturday. Photo by Jane Geddes
Island rock hunt celebrates Oak Harbor ‘Year of the Oak’

Whidbey Island Rocks is encouraging people to paint stones with Garry oaks before a hunt Saturday.

Photo provided
The Deception Pass Sail and Power Squadron, also known as America’s Boating Club of Deception Pass, hosts jamborees and other social events, along with boater safety and education classes.
Whidbey boaters promote safety, education

The Deception Pass Sail and Power Squadron hosts education and safety classes, and social events.

Michael Nichols, owner of Whidbey Green Goods, stands in his hoop house, also known as “The Hovel.” Customers visit the Clinton farm to pick up their own produce and plant starts. (Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News Group)
One-man Whidbey Island farm gears up for spring

The pandemic has brought a longtime farmer out of retirement.

Master Gardener Don Krafft gathers some broccoli in his garden plot at South Whidbey Tilth. He grows several things that are available for purchase at the Island County Master Gardener online plant sale. (Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record)
Master Gardeners kick off plant sale, continue clincs

Green thumbs who have had a taste of spring sunshine and want to begin planting can do so with the help of the Island County Master Gardeners.

Photo provided
Stella Rowan, left, Savannah Mounce and Luna Grove, right, get together for swims and photoshoots like this one at Deception Pass State Park. The trio of two mermaids and a self-described “heavy metal selkie” call themselves the Whidbey Island Sirens.
Whidbey Island Sirens making quite a splash

The trio will be at Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor this Saturday.

Frances Schultz, holding a picture of her younger self, recently turned 100 years old. Her daughter, Connie Van Dyke, right, said her mother’s photo looks like one of actress Barbara Stanwyck. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
At 100, Oak Harbor woman reflects on busy life

Frances Schultz turned 100 years old on March 30.

Joel Atienza’s uniform’s USAF/USSF patches prior to transfer. Photo provided
Oak Harbor 2010 grad selected for U.S. Space Force

Joel Atienza’s advice to Space Force hopefuls? “Remember, ‘The sky is not the limit.’”

The Oystercatcher’s owner and chef, Tyler Hansen, prepares a dozen 3 Sisters beef bolognese lasagnas to go on the shelves at 3 Sisters Market. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Chef liaises with other business owners

A Coupeville chef has expanded his partnership with local business owners to… Continue reading

Joe Gunn holding a freshly backed rhubarb pie. (Photo by Harry Anderson)
How a pie on the Rock became a brand and legend

Whidbey Pies is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

Color Guard Capt. Mike Hutchins, at left, and John Kraft present the Sons of the American Revolution Bronze Good Citizenship Medal to Bobbi Lornson, center. (Photo by Teresa Addison)
Oak Harbor woman awarded ‘Good Citizenship’ medal

Bobbi Lornson, past president of the Oak Harbor Lions Club president and volunteer, was recently recognized for her contributions to the community.

Tim Leonard, owner of the Machine Shop in Langley, hangs a purple neon star he made on the wall of his arcade. Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News Group
Neon art show colorizes Machine Shop’s reopening

A cacophony of happy buzzers and bells and a riot of glowing… Continue reading