We’ve reached a critical juncture in our organization’s ability to meet the needs of our beneficiaries. Without a training campus, we are greatly limited in the number of dogs we can accommodate in our training program, making it impossible to serve the ever-increasing number of people applying to our organization. The time has come to build a permanent home, a home that will ensure our ability to create life-changing partnerships for generations to come. This is the home that will “unleash” our full potential and that of every person and dog that we serve.
In the summer of 2014, we purchased 17 lovely acres on north Whidbey Island and are now embarking on a capital campaign to raise funds for building a state-of-the-art training campus. It’s a critical component of our strategic growth plan to meet the high demand for service dogs in the Northwest. We’re making progress toward this long-awaited dream after more than 18 years of being mostly home based, with staff and dedicated volunteers housing our puppies and adult dogs. We are grateful for the support of our donors and volunteers over the years and look forward to sharing this dream with you as it becomes a reality.
Initial architects’ concept designs for the proposed Summit Assistance Dogs campus
Why is Summit building a training campus?
It has been our dream since our founding in 2000 to have a quality training campus for our service dogs. For the past several years, we have been unable to increase the number of service dogs we are placing due to our limited capacity for housing and training them. We have relied entirely on volunteer foster homes and our training staff to house our dogs, and we have limited resources available for this purpose. We frequently miss out on opportunities to bring in great dogs because we are unable to find housing for them. A permanent campus will allow us to train more dogs and to use our resources much more efficiently, thereby increasing the supply of service dogs to our clients, who currently wait 2-5 years to receive their partners. A campus also creates a sense of permanence for the organization, something our donors, volunteers, and clients value and are eager to invest in.
How big will your campus be and how much will it cost to build?
We anticipate having approximately 16,000 square feet of structures at full build out. We are committed to siting the buildings where they will be buffered from neighboring properties, and we will incorporate water and energy efficiency and sustainability into our designs. We estimate needing to raise approximately $5 million dollars to complete our project, which will include site design and development and the construction of buildings. The majority of this funding will come from individual, corporate, and foundation gifts.
What buildings are planned?
Our Canine Condo will contain 24 suites that will accommodate up to 48 dogs in training. Each suite will resemble a home living situation and have a shaded patio area and access to a large play yard. Our suites are designed for comfort and low stress, so our dogs will be relaxed and able to focus on learning their new skills. Specialized whelping and puppy rearing kennels are planned for those times when we are expecting litters from our breeding program. Additionally, an observation area is planned for times that we may need to care for a sick dog or have incoming dogs from shelters or other assistance dog programs that need to be held in quarantine. This building will also contain rooms for food preparation, grooming, laundry and storage.
Our Training Center will be the hub for all things educational, for both people and dogs. Our dogs learning advanced skills will be trained here each day in preparation for placement with their partners. The training center will contain training props and some areas that will simulate a home or work environment for dogs to learn such skills as opening and closing doors, turning on and off lights, loading a washing machine, taking off bed covers and retrieving a telephone. The training center will also be used to conduct weekly training classes for our volunteers who are fostering dogs and education classes for clients who are partnered with a service dog. The attached Administrative Center will provide staff and volunteer offices as well as a conference room.
Our Client Lodge will contain 6 fully accessible rooms and bathrooms for clients and their dogs, as well as caregivers, if required. Having accommodations on site will allow our clients to focus on their training and not have to concern themselves with transportation to and from hotels and restaurants. The lodge will also be less stressful for our dogs as they adapt to working and living with a new partner before being exposed to the rigors of public life.
Will you still use volunteers to help raise and train puppies?
Absolutely! Volunteers are the backbone of our organization and we will continue to rely on volunteers to raise happy, healthy, and confident puppies for our training program. Our campus will provide a place for volunteers to bring puppies if they are going on vacation or if the puppy needs extra attention for a short period of time. It will also provide a place for volunteers, staff, and clients to gather for continuing education workshops. Dogs in advanced training will also have a place to stay while working with our staff trainers as they refine the essential skills they will need before they can be placed with their life-time partner. The campus will also be a place for volunteers to come to help with short-term tasks such as grooming and assembling canine care kits for our puppy raisers and clients.
Will the dogs feel comfortable and secure on campus?
Our values remain the same as always, with a "Dogs First" approach to our work. Having a permanent campus will further the comfort and care of our dogs by providing a home base for our dedicated volunteers, staff, and clients. The Canine Condos will be designed for maximum dog comfort. The kennel will be painted in warm colors, furnished with clean bedding, have access to natural light and dedicated outdoor space, and provide plenty of places for socialization and supervised play. Our staff will start each day by bringing a dog to their office and taking them outside regularly to dedicated play yards. We also plan to have a caretaker on site 24/7 and live-feed cameras that will allow for remote activity monitoring across the campus.
How will having a campus benefit Summit's clients?
Nationwide, there is a great shortage of trained mobility assistance dogs. Most people wait several years to receive one or they may not receive one at all. Our clients wait 2-5 years to receive their partners and we have about 30 individuals currently on the waiting list. Without a campus, we are greatly limited in the number of dogs we can accommodate in our training program, making it impossible to serve the ever-increasing number of people applying to our organization. We are working toward a day when every qualified applicant will be able to receive a life-changing assistance dog from us within six months and a permanent campus will help us reach this goal.
The campus will also provide comfortable spaces for new clients to stay during the two-week team training where they will learn to live and work with their new service dog, as well as a place for current clients to come for continuing education and skill building workshops with their assistance dog. A permanent campus will enable us to continue our commitment to provide lifelong support for all of our service dog partnerships.
Do you receive government funding?
No, Summit has received no government funding to date. Our work is funded entirely by generous donors, community organizations, businesses, and foundations. Thanks to our supporters, we are able to provide our dogs free of charge to qualified applicants.