The Optimist Club of St. Andrews-Irmo was treated recently to a presentation by Mitzi Renwick, a volunteer trainer of assistance dogs for Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services (PAALS).

Renwick and her organization receive puppies that are about 9 weeks old and begin a 2-year regimen of maturing and training. The dogs that successfully complete the training, which includes mastering more than 70 cues, are then placed with a variety of people.

Those recipients can be but are not limited to, people with mobility issues, PTSD veterans, children with autism, and folks who may have other disabilities. Often, the dogs are trained by inmates who themselves have had extensive instruction. Once the dogs are placed, they may remain with their hosts for as long as needed, which can entail as long as a lifetime relationship.