2017-12-08 / Front Page

PAALS graduates recognized for excellence

Contributed by PAALS


Alicia Reynolds with graduate Lonnie 
Photos by Phillip Jones Alicia Reynolds with graduate Lonnie Photos by Phillip Jones There was laughter, tears, hugs, cheers, but most of all, there was the joy of lives forever enriched and empowered, thanks to three assistance canines who officially earned their graduation diplomas Sunday December 3, 2017, at the annual Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services Team Graduation Ceremonies held at 3:30 p.m. at 300 Senate End, Columbia, SC.

Why was this year’s graduation event special? Every PAALS graduation is special, and this year’s graduates exemplify all the season of giving represents. From a school-based facility dog to one trained for mobility and one for PTSD, these graduates, Ross, Lonnie, and Lily, are the epitome of what service dogs should be. Attendees for this year’s graduation heard stories of trial and triumph as they saw videos of the graduates’ journeys into service.

Ross, in service at Lake Carolina Elementary Lower Campus since April 2017, is a facility dog for autism. He spends his days helping instructor Susan Woodley, reach her students’ greatest potential. Ross assists with reading and math skills as well as large and fine motor skills and speech development. He serves as motivator and comforter and is an important addition to the growth and development of the students who are fortunate to have such an innovative instructional team.


Willie Turner with graduate Lily Willie Turner with graduate Lily Lonnie, part of a mobility assistance team, resides in the Low Country and assists her partner Alicia Reynolds. Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome has made it increasingly difficult for Alicia to remain physically active; but Lonnie is proving to be a huge help by retrieving items, opening doors, and lessening the physical strain on Alicia’s joints. Attendees to this year’s graduation heard Alicia’s story and witnessed Lonnie in action helping her partner through the day.


Susan Woodley with graduate Ross Susan Woodley with graduate Ross Lily, part of a PTSD assistance team, is constantly by her partner Willie Turner’s side. After several active duty deployments and one extremely traumatic experience, Willie found the memories of combat to be overwhelming and incapacitating. Lily’s quiet and humble demeanor mixed with excellent training, enables her to sense when Willie is experiencing stress and anxiety from combat related PTSD and she responds to his cues.

These service dog teams would not be possible without the help of the community, and this graduation was a time of celebration for all who have donated to and supported PAALS mission. About

PAALS is a South Carolina 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to enriching and empowering children and adults with physical disabilities and social needs by training service dogs and providing animal assisted educational and recreational activities.


Chief, last years graduate, returns to see this years graduates of PAALS. 
Photo by Phillip Jones Chief, last years graduate, returns to see this years graduates of PAALS. Photo by Phillip Jones PAALS relies on a network of volunteers and private donations to perform this mission. PAALS does not receive any government funding. PAALS is the only Assistance Dog International ( ADI) accredited program based in South Carolina.

To learn more about how you can become a part of this exciting organization, visit the website at www.paals.org or call us at (803) 788-7063.

The generous friend of PETSinc has extended the deadline for the $100,000 matching gift until the end of the year. PETSinc needs the community’s help to reach the goal. Located at 300 Orchard Drive in West Columbia, PETSinc is celebrating 26 years as a nonprofit, no-kill pet rescue and adoption organization serving the Midlands of South Carolina. With our community’s on-going financial support, PETSinc will continue to rescue, rehab, and rehome our sweet furbabies, provide low-cost veterinary care, educate our community with pet parenting workshops, and raise public awareness about animal abuse issues. Please send donations to www.petsinc.org/match or P.O. Box 6394, West Columbia, SC 29171.



Cathy Mann holds 10 week old Skipper that will train in the PAALS program. 
Photo by Phillip Jones Cathy Mann holds 10 week old Skipper that will train in the PAALS program. Photo by Phillip Jones

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