EDEN Training dogs requires patience, dedication, concentration and a lot of time.
For Sheril Carr, who recently opened Woofin Good Time, the effort is worth it. She enjoys the time she spends working with dogs chosen to become companions to veterans suffering from trauma and other challenges.
“To see the smiles on their faces and see them relax immediately with the dog, just warms my heart,” Carr said. “It makes me cry. These guys can’t go out in society without panicking but, with a dog, their whole world changes.”
Carr said many veterans have difficulty with coping skills when they return home from service. Many think about the trauma they have experienced and some consider suicide as a means of escaping, she said.
“When you put a dog into their hands, the dog doesn’t judge them,” she said. “The dog does nothing but love them.”
The San Rafel, Calif., native offers various forms of training, ranging from general obedience to advanced canine obedience.
In 2000, she moved from Washington State to care for her mother, the late Margaret Wyatt, who was living at Reidsville Lake. After her mother passed away three years later, she decided to stay in the area.
While researching areas to build her dog training facility, Carr said she found the ideal location on East Aiken Road just off N.C. 14, and purchased the property a year ago.
Since it had been vacant for a while, Carr was faced with a lot of work and renovation — not only the house itself, but she had to rent a backhoe to clear the overgrowth and remove a number of large trees. In fact, the growth was so high, many passers-by did not know a house was on the property.
Her son, Kyle, owner-operator of K&K Family Handyman Services, lives with Carr and did most of the work on the house and built the kennels.
She also installed an air-conditioned custom-built kennel with a large fenced play yard and training area. More recently, she added another fenced training center and will build additional kennels. The current kennel houses five dogs. Five others are kenneled inside the home.
Since she was in kindergarten, Carr has had a passion for animals and wanted to be a vet. Her father was a captain for the Marin County Sheriff’s Department. The family always had dogs, including two police dogs when she was a child.
While living in Monterey, Calif., Carr was a vet technician at the Ft. Ord Military Base. When she learned Cocoa, a six-year-old Doberman, was slated to be euthanized because of its aggressiveness, Carr pleaded to take the dog home and train it.
Within 90 days, Cocoa had calmed down and was interacting with other dogs and humans to the point Carr eventually re-homed her to a family with children. Over the next five years, Carr adopted over 50 dogs from the Ft. Ord facility, personally rehabbing and re-homing each.
Carr realized she had found her calling.
“People were waiting for me to open,” Carr said last week of her new facility. “I was prebooked for seven dogs and within days of opening was at capacity.”
All of the dogs are from individuals and the Wythe County, Va., animal shelter. Dur, a pitbull mix, is being trained as a service dog for a veteran from Texas. The VA could not help the man who was looking for a dog, but Carr told him she did not charge veterans. Dur will soon be united with him.
Three other dogs also are being trained as service dogs for veterans. Dog owners from Kentucky sent her two dogs. Bruno is being trained as a service dog and will be returned to the owner, who has multiple sclerosis. Carr has a special connection with this client because Carr was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1991.
That client also donated Sunny, a boxer/pit bull mix slated to go to a Tennessee veteran.
Fonzie, an AKC golden retriever, belongs to a veteran at the VA hospital in Salem, Va. Another golden retriever, Maggie, is being trained as an emotional support dog for her owner in Rigley, Va.
Max, a French bulldog, belongs to a Martinsville woman who works in Washington. “Full of spit and vinegar,” Carr said the five-month-old puppy.
Once the dogs reach a certain level in their training, the owners arrive at the facility for their “personal training,” Carr said. They spend about 20 hours with Carr reviewing all the dogs have mastered.
Service dogs are taught various tasks, such as waking up a veteran having a nightmare by licking his or her face. Or if the veteran falls down and cannot get up, the dogs learn how to brace their bodies to help them up. If a vet is suffering from an anxiety attack, the dogs are trained to get the vet out the door.
Two of the dogs in training, Brunu and Fonzie, are mastering how to go home for help if the owner falls while away from the residence.
Carr donates her work with veterans’ dogs.
“I do this from the heart,” Carr said. “I save a lot of dogs’ lives. I help people who are disabled but cannot afford a service dog.”
Most of the money she receives comes from donations on her PayPal business account. Recently, Carr received a $600 donation from Rescues and Remembers, a non-profit organization that rescues dogs. She has applied for a 501-C 3 for her business, “Mission Im-Paws-Ible For Our Heroes” and hopes to qualify for several grants through the Wise County animal shelter. She also trains dogs at Dancing Creek Farms in Cascade, Va. four mornings a week.
Carr has a busy household. She has nine grandchildren, five of whom live with her and Kyle. They range in age from 3 to 11. Two other sons are retired from the U.S. Army.
Four of her personal dogs stay in the house with the family. Among them is Jordan, 11, Carr’s MS seizure alert dog.
“Obedient dogs equal happy owners,” Carr said, quickly adding, “It’s the owners I train. I educate the owners.”