The second edition of Sustainable Development Week takes place from May 13 to 21 in Villepreux. “This year’s strong theme will be inclusion, disability, a major municipal cause voted by the municipal council for the year 2022”, indicates the municipality’s website. With many activities on the program, inspired by the 17 sustainable development goals, such as exhibitions, the local producers’ market or activities with our four-legged friends.
Valuable help for beneficiaries
On Sunday May 15, La Gazette was able to participate in a handi’chiens event in the multipurpose room of the Thomas Pesquet school, to discover the actions of the Handi’chiens association through a course with the (future) delegation de Villepreux (it should open its doors in October, editor’s note). The association has been educating and providing assistance dogs free of charge to people with disabilities since 1989. This was followed by a cani’rando’, a hike organized with our four-legged companions for a friendly moment in order to (re)discover the pedestrian paths of Villepreux.
La Gazette was able to take part in the handi’dog animation and its cani’rando’. “The Handi’chiens association has around fifty delegations throughout France”, specifies Anne-Sophie Sablan-Mory, volunteer of the association. The discovery workshop, attended by a dozen people, welcomed people with disabilities, in particular to familiarize themselves with the animal and see if the feeling passed. There were also people who wanted to become a foster family for dogs, because these dogs can help people with physical disabilities, people with epilepsy, children with Down syndrome, people who are deaf or hard of hearing…
“We don’t hand over dogs if they don’t match the person’s disability. It is very important”, continues a member of the association. “We are all volunteers here, but the association has around fifty employees and around 500 volunteers throughout France, who train around 350 dogs”, continues Anne-Sophie Sablan-Mory. “We offer people access to service dogs for free, which can be very expensive. The education of a handi’dog costs between 15,000 and 17,000 euros between care, equipment to buy, food, etc. »
“The education of assistance dogs lasts 2 years. The dogs spend 16 months in a foster family and then 6 months in a handi’chiens education centre. Finally, in the long term, they are given to the beneficiaries once their file is accepted. Every year, a check is carried out to see if everything is going well with the beneficiary. A veterinarian also examines the animal to see if the dog is in good health. It’s very regulated,” says the volunteer.
“Dogs, mainly big dogs like golden retrievers or labradors, understand about thirty commands such as ‘down’, ‘bring-give’ or even ‘help’. They are able to fetch a phone, pick up keys from the floor and of course bring medicine. The dogs have 16 months to learn them, so it has to be kept simple,” says Anne-Sophie’s husband, who comes to offer his help.
A woman in a wheelchair tries a few steps with the dog. ” It’s amazing ! I live again,” she exclaims. Further on, she tries to faint to see if the dog reacts. Neither one nor two, the dog bustles around the person on the ground and tries to stimulate him. Outstanding. “Our dogs are accepted everywhere. Sometimes there are some problems with security guards, but once we explain it’s good, “anecdotally a member of the association.
Once the chasuble is removed after the walk, the dogs twirl in all directions. They play, tease each other. “It makes them feel good, it’s their way of decompressing, they know it’s time to play,” explains a volunteer.
“We are doing our best, but it takes a very long time to get this precious help. The association currently has 700 files pending. In general, the beneficiaries obtain a dog between 2 and 5 years old,” concludes Anne-Sophie Sablan-Mory.