Fifteen years ago, Michelle Ashley struggled with depression. Her counselor suggested she get a dog, which she did. Her West Highland terrier Gertie not only shook her out of her depression, but led her to start Domesti-PUPS, one of Lincoln’s most significant dog organizations.
Domesti-PUPS is a nonprofit organization that provides service and therapy dogs to those needing them as well as trained rescue dogs through an adoption program. The mission of the organization is to “improve the quality of life for persons with special needs through the assistance of animals and promote awareness through education.”
Ashley got the idea for the organization while she and her new dog were watching an Animal Planet program about service dogs. The idea became her passion and she formed the organization which 15 years later has 150 volunteers and offices in Omaha and St. Joseph, Mo.
Domesti-PUPS has three main cores. It provides therapy dogs that go to nursing homes, assisted living centers and schools to help with therapy. It provides service dogs to assist people with various disabilities, including balance disorders, wheelchair and mobility assistance and seizure response.
For its adoptables program, the organization partners with the Nebraska Department of Corrections in a program in which inmates provide 12 weeks of obedience training to dogs, which are then made available for adoption to the general public.
Pups & Pals
This year, the organization opened Pups & Pals at 1541 Center Park Road, Suite A, in southwest Lincoln. Pups & Pals, dubbed “a place for pets and their people,” offers space to the public for playtime, training, classes and all-around bonding with your dog, Ashley said.
The 3,000-square-foot building has an 1,800-square-foot Pups & Pals playground and a variety of toys owners can use to play with their dogs. Ashley says it’s somewhat like a doggie day care center except the owners stay and play with their dogs instead of dropping them off.
Dogs are off leash and get the chance to play and socialize with other dogs. Different play groups are available so that dogs of similar sizes play together.
Domesti-PUPS actually started Pups & Pals two and a half years ago to provide a community place to go with your dog. Its former location in northwest Lincoln was flooded in last spring’s heavy rains, and mold issues forced the organization to look for a new space.
Currently Pups & Pals is available from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. but open primarily by appointment. Ashley hopes to get enough volunteers to have regular hours. Visitors pay $6 a session to bring their dog to the center for about an hour’s worth of playtime or training.
It also makes the space available to animal rescue organizations needing space and to the public for special events, such as dog birthday parties.
The I Love My Dog Expo, held every year at the Lancaster Event Center, is put on by Domesti-PUPs as a fundraiser. The 2016 event is scheduled for Feb. 27-28.
Lori McGinnis Black can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.