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Interview with Rick Hairston, May 4, 2009 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Rick Hairston, May 4, 2009
May 4, 2009
Carolina Canines For Service was established in 1996 in Wilmington, NC by Rick Hairston. He found there were no service dog organizations in southeastern NC, and knowing there was a great need for this service felt he was called to establish the program. CCFS is a non-profit health and human services organization providing almost $3 million in services throughout entire east coast. Rick talks about how dogs are selected, (no breed preference) trained, and given to carefully chosen recipients without cost. This is a story in itself and his estimate is a cost of $38,oo to train a dog. The several catagories include Canines for Therapy, for disabled, and the newest Canines for Veterans using prisoners at Camp Lejeune as trainors giving them a sense of need in providing wounded vets with a trained dog. This is a most interesting interview covering a lot of territory.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Hairston, Rick Interviewer: Jones, Carroll / Edwards, Deborah Date of Interview: 5/4/2009 Series: SENC Notables Length 62 minutes

Edwards: Rick, could you tell us just a little bit so we could get it on film?

Hairston: Bitke came to us a little over a year ago from Airdale Rescue. He is a little over 2 and a half, and he is training to become an ambassador for us more or less. He won't be placed as an actual service dog, but he will be for demonstration purposes. Those type of things when we need a fully trained dog that knows everything but we don't want to take one of ours from actual training that's in the process of doing that.

Jones: And how long has he been in training?

Hairston: He's been in a little over a year, but he's kind of like the cobbler's son, you know, the cobbler's son is usually the ones who have holes in their shoes.

Jones: Is he in your care?

Hairston: Yeah, he is. But he's getting more now that we're going to work on a regular basis. So when I take him up there one of the guys actually works him.

(Audio skips)

Jones: Today is Monday, May 4, 2009, and I am Carroll Jones with Debbie Edwards for the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Project, and we are in the Helen Hagen Room of Special Collections at UNCW. We are very pleased to have as our guest this morning Rick Hairston, President and CEO, Carolina Canines for Service, a nonprofit corporation. Rick cofounded Carolina Canines in 1996. He is a certified dog obedience instructor, an American Kennel Canine Good Citizen evaluator, a member International Association of Canine Professionals, certified R.E.A.D. instructor, Reading Education Assistance Dogs, and Rick has received the Duke University Continuing Studies Nonprofit Management Certificate, and I guess I could go on but let's stop and have Rick do it. Good morning, Rick.

Hairston: Good morning.

Jones: And thanks for visiting with us.

Hairston: Thank you for having us. It's a pleasure to be here.

Jones: Your bio really suggests hours of talk but let's keep it to Carolina Canines. Tell us first a little bit about you, how you got here and then the development of Carolina Canines.

Hairston: My wife at the time in 1996 decided she wanted to move out here to be closer to her family and so I moved out with her after many discussions and various programs in order to make that all happen.

Jones: Where were you from originally?

Hairston: St. Louis. We had worked there for about three years with a nonprofit organization training service dogs and that's where you could say I got bit with the bug, and so when we decided we were moving out here we were just going to volunteer for a new--another organization and by the way moved out two days before Hurricane Fran. That was--

Jones: Weren't you clever?

Hairston: That was my introduction to Southern hospitality.

Jones: And you stayed.

Hairston: Actually, it is because of that that I stayed. We had a number of people who came to our, quote, rescue and helped us with things that they could have made a lot of money on doing some of the things that they did for us for free for doing for other people, and they had promised us that before the storm came that this is what they would do and they lived up to their word, and that was one of the things that actually endeared me to the area. It was seeing people at their worst doing the best. And so we were just going to volunteer for another organization, and when we got out here there were none in Wilmington, there were none in southeastern North Carolina and in fact in 1996 there were no certified--there were no organizations in North Carolina, and being Christians we started praying, "God, why do you give us a passion to do something and nowhere to do it?" And he said, "Start your own service dog organization," and my first instinct was "Are you out of your mind? We don't have the money. We don't have the time. We don't have all we need to know. We don't have--" And he said, "Just do as I said," and so December 1 of 1996 we started Carolina Canines.

Jones: How did you do it?

Hairston: We just put a thousand dollars of our money into a separate bank account and we started looking for different ways of training service dogs and getting dogs, and so on December 1, 1996, we drove up to Maple Hill, North Carolina, and we selected our first black Lab puppy and his name was Moses and so--

Jones: You felt really that you were led to do this.

Hairston: Yes. Not felt. We--I still do, and if it was not for what I call the calling that we couldn't do this. Anybody in the nonprofit sector now will tell you you're not doing it for fame, you're not doing it for fortune; you have to have a passion for what you're doing and you have to believe that in this case that's God's going to provide what you need when you need it. And we've had some serious discussions about what I consider need and want and what he considers need and want and his timing's perfect and mine isn't, and we've had discussions about we need to come to a little closer understanding on timing but it is something that is all done by the heart.

Jones: With your first dog you took it in to your home to train?

Hairston: Mm-hmm.

Jones: How old a dog was it?

Hairston: He was six weeks old.

Jones: That was where you got him early.

Hairston: And we started with him at six weeks old. Most of the puppies we start with are between six and eight weeks old.

Jones: Where do they come from?

Hairston: They come from a variety of sources. We have purebred breeders from Pennsylvania to Florida that donate dogs on a regular basis. We get a lot of dogs from shelters or unwanted circumstances. We've never been an organization that felt we wanted to start our own breeding program. There's plenty of dogs around to utilize and the success of an organization that has their own breeding program is no different than the ones we have getting from shelters so I'm going to then spend 30 to $50,000 a year for a breeding program when I can have the same results of getting dogs from shelters.

Jones: When you go to a shelter do you specifically look for particular breeds?

Hairston: Not a particular breed.

Jones: And they're checked over by vets and all that sort of thing.

Hairston: Yes. There's a long process for doing that. When we look at a dog the very first thing that we do as a puppy is are they sociable? When I temperament test a litter of puppies I will walk in to the pen that they're in, I will stand in the middle, cross my arms, close my eyes, and I'll stand there for about two minutes. And then after I open my eyes the puppies that are still with me are the ones that I will look at first 'cause they're the ones--

Jones: Do you mean they all don't come up to you and say, "Take me home. Take me home. Take me home?"

Hairston: Well, they all do initially but after a brief period of time then they go back to playing puppy games, and the ones that are still around you are the ones who really want to be with people and that's one of the first things I look at, and then there's a series of temperament tests we give them. Do they come when you call them? Will they follow you? Do they accept dominance? Are they fearful of noises? We will take an umbrella, pop it open directly in front of their face and drop it. Any dog's going to startle. I don't care if it's Rin Tin Tin, but how do they recover? Do they attack the umbrella? That's number one. That won't work. Do they tuck tail and run? That's number five. That won't work. I'm looking for the dog that'll look at it and go "Oh, okay. No big deal." That gives you an indication of how they're going to react as--when they're older and when they're placed with a client, and either one of those is the scenario that we don't want. We don't want the dog to run away. We don't want them to attack the umbrella. That could get ugly. We want the one that's just going to be like "Yeah, a new thing, big deal. Move on." And we'll do the same thing with a can of marbles. We'll drop it a couple inches behind them and the same type of startle reflex. What do they do? And after they startle they're just going to turn around and look at you and go, "Yeah. Okay." And those are the ones that I actually will start to work with. As far as specific breeds, there's no specific breed. I always joke in presentations that I look for four-legged dogs. The two breeds I won't use right now are pit bull and Rottweiler but it has absolutely nothing to do with the dog. It has to do with public perception. If you've seen any of our clients, Diana and Sampson, David and Say [ph?] or David and Joy now, because of the type of dogs kids come running up to them. I could take a dog that had the same skill level and the same temperament that was a pit bull or a Rottweiler and place with David and instead of the kids coming and running up to them everybody stays away from them. So instead of bringing in an animal that can assist with social interactions then I created a problem by I've got a dog that does the opposite. Nobody wants to interact with them because of the type of dog he is so did I really help them?

(phone rings)

Jones: Is that your cell phone?

Hairston: And the answer is--I thought I turned it off. It's actually telling me I'm supposed to be here. (laughs) So I don't use those two breeds for that reason and it's- like I said it's not the dog, it's the public perception.

Jones: I think you're right. There is a perception about both those breeds.

Hairston: And I think it's going to change. Well, in the sixties and seventies there were two mean breed dogs also. Do you remember what they were?

Jones: No.

Hairston: Doberman Pinscher and German shepherd. Now you don't hear those being the mean breed dogs now. Do you think the temperament has changed? Absolutely not. We're just picking on two other dogs.

Jones: German shepherds to me are one of the sweetest, smartest, good with kids. They're definitely one-person or one-family dogs.

Hairston: Well, what happens is--in New Hanover County last year do you know what dog had the most dog bites?

Jones: No.

Hairston: The golden retriever.

Jones: Really.

Hairston: Number two, Labrador, number three, cocker spaniel, number four, poodle. You can go on down the list.

Jones: Poodle? Our little baby?

Hairston: Pit bull and Rottweiler didn't come in until 13th and 14th on the list.

Jones: Is that due to . . .

Hairston: It's simply numbers but when it goes- when a call comes in to a police scanner that a child was bitten by a golden retriever nobody responds, but if the same call goes out over the scanner that dog bitten by a pit bull every news crew in town is over there and it's on the front page so it's an unfair situation but guess what? That's the way it works so what we have to do is learn to live with it, and in this case we're just simply not using that type of dog to put our clients in a problem.

Jones: Do you choose dogs for their degree of alleged intelligence. The breeds that is, or do you find sometimes that, like in people, that the mixed type sometimes breeds a great combination?

Hairston: We use a lot of mixes. One of the best mixes we ever used was golden retriever and Labrador retriever.

Jones: A big dog.

Hairston: We mainly use big dogs because they're taught to open doors with closures on them for our people. They're taught to stand and brace to help somebody recover from a fall.

Jones: I imagine they would be a deterrent for someone who--

Hairston: We never go there. However, when we--Sampson was a marvelous German-Dutch shepherd. He was about 115 pounds. He wore a saddlebag that kept his partner's purse and those type of things in it. Who's going to challenge him? Some of the bigger dogs, if they're wearing the backpacks and that's become their purse or book bag they're no longer the target of being able to steal it off the back of the chair. They then have to take it off the dog. Kind of one of the things that--well, and we never teach them to be aggressive to people. Let's use this room as an example. One of the guys we had had a heart condition and his dog was able to detect the angina attacks before they happened. Okay. Let's say he's sitting in this corner of the room, he's getting ready to have an angina attack and a heart attack that he knows he needs to have an ambulance, so he calls the ambulance, they come through that door. We taught this dog to be protective. How does the help get to him that--and so we actually created a problem. Now if you were a paramedic what would you do?

Jones: I'm not sure.

Hairston: Well, they have to call animal control which then--

Jones: It delays everything.

Hairston: Animal control has to--and in the meantime. So we never teach our dogs to become protective. They do naturally but it's not a taught trait.

Jones: I think any dog that lives with an owner that's loving where they've developed a relationship is going to become protective.

Hairston: Exactly. So that's enough for us. Will that dog bite? I can never guarantee 100% that a dog won't bite 100% of the time. Given the correct situation, a dog is going to bite.

Jones: Are your dogs territorial?

Hairston: No, because they go so many places that--now in the home situation they may be a little bit more territorial than out but when our dogs go just like him right now, where would he define his territory? He can define it, you know.

Jones: That's a good thought.

Hairston: We're going to go to the office, we go to the brig, we go to the various stores, we go, you know, how would he ever determine his territory?

Jones: Is this dog yours or is he in training?

Hairston: He's mine. He's in training but he's mine.

Jones: He's yours so he goes a lot of places with you.

Hairston: He goes a lot of places.

(crew talk)

Jones: You use both genders.

Hairston: Mm-hmm. No difference between the two.

Jones: No difference.

Hairston: No. I was reading an article this weekend that said there is a little bit difference in the training. I've never found that personally and I think it's kind of one of those that I think it makes a great read in an article but I don't think it's in practicality it-- I'm a big one of those that I find there's a lot of difference between theory and actual practice. You could have a great theory but in practicality it just quite doesn't work out.

Jones: What looks good on paper doesn't necessarily. Rick, since you're beginning in 1996, take us through the evolution, well you don't have to go little step-by-step, you know the big moments. And also I know that there are quite a few people who are volunteers. What do they do?

Hairston: We utilize close to 250 volunteers.

Jones: I know Betty Ann Sanders. Every time I talk to her she's on her way out and to you and that sort of thing.

Hairston: And we use a huge network of volunteers. We have three paid staff and that's it. We're running an organization that logs close to 2,500 volunteer hours every month between our service dogs, our animal assistant therapy dogs, our domestic violence program, and now we've got the program--

Jones: Talk about that. I'm on the board for domestic violence.

Hairston: Our domestic violence program. Simply if the spouse is trying to get out and she or he is afraid to leave because the other one is going to hurt or injure the animal, domestic violence or the sheriff's department, any of these law enforcement agencies, call us. We go. We pick the animal up. We house it for up to 90 days while they're getting their stuff together. If they choose to go back, that's their business, I can't make that call, but at least the animal is out of the way and they're not going to come home from work one day and find it hanging from the front porch, which was--this happened in Wilmington in the past two years more than one time.

Jones: I think that's a wonderful service because of what they do and I understand now they have a place to board horses as well. You are so multifaceted.

Hairston: We try to--

Jones: You must have an awful lot of people who are giving time in these various areas.

Hairston: We have a whole, like I said 250 volunteers that we utilize from time to time and make sure that we try to fit what the public needs or we can't--

Jones: Let's go back. I'm sorry. I got you off track, too many questions. You started with you and your wife, one dog, hung out a sign someplace and begged for help.

Hairston: That's it.

Jones: Did it take off quickly? What happened?

Hairston: It's been a gradual process. We grew fairly quickly to the point where we could no longer do it--do classes out of our home and we started having classes here. Then we started doing classes at Coastal Rehab.

Jones: When you talk about classes what type?

Hairston: Well, as our foster family you would agree to take a dog in to your home, a puppy, and then we teach you and the puppy together. You come to a class that we teach once a week and we teach you the commands to work on during the next time period, and then you come back at that point, we see where you're doing, if you're doing well, how do we need to make any corrections in what you're doing, that type of thing, and then we can be very successful. If I take you and a dog that comes out--a year-and-a-half-year-old dog that comes out of the pound that has chewing behaviors, barking behaviors, biting behaviors which got him in the pound in the first place and try to place him with a person who has no skills training a service dog it's going to be a very short relationship, but if we take a young puppy and you follow the directions that we're giving you, then you come to the classes and then each week we critique what we're doing, and then as time progresses, six months to nine months down the road, then you go to first and third Mondays or second and fourth Mondays depending on the schedule, and the same process. And then you'll keep the dog for a year and a half to two years.

Jones: Then what?

Hairston: And then you have the easy job of giving the dog up and it comes back to me for advanced training.

Jones: How often do you have people who live with a dog for that length of time and train them? How easy is it for them to give it up?

Hairston: It's not easy and I don't want it to be. Does that sound cruel? The reason I don't want it to be is--Did you have kids? When you sent them to the first day of school how hard was it?

Jones: Well, the first one was difficult. The next two it became much easier.

Hairston: Then you sent them off to college?

Jones: That was yeah, goodbye.

Hairston: Yeah, but it was--you had this part that was he did what I wanted him to do and now he's going on. The other part is but I don't want him to go, and it's the same type of tug and we want it to be hard because that bond is what we count on. Call it bond. Call it love or whatever. Once you've learned to love the dog, the opposite is true as well. The dog has learned to love you. Now I can transfer that bond the same as your son went out and went to college. After college then he started dating a girl and he got married. How did he get married? How did he know how to behave in that situation? How did he know what love was? How did he know how? And that's what we count on because you learn to love the dog and they learn to love you.

Jones: So you're saying that the dog and with its intelligence and care although the dog must also be attached to the trainer. They can then transfer that.

Hairston: Uh huh, but that bond can then be transferred to another person and you run in to the same thing. We've found we can transfer that bond four times and be very successful. Anymore than four times, then they start having the same issues that any foster kid was that from bounce to bounce to bounce. It's like well, yeah, I'm here and I'm okay but I'm going to keep my bags packed because. Whereas up to that fourth time this is where I'm going to be forever, and then we can be very successful at that. And we really count on that because we don't want the dogs doing things only for rewards. Yes, we use a lot of food and a lot of positive reinforcement, but after a period of time they then begin to do those things for that partner not because of what they're going to get out of it but because that's what they want to do.

Jones: How do you get the names of people and how do you select the people you place these dogs with? That's part one. Part two is are special dogs trained to do special things or are they all trained to do the same thing? You spoke of a dog opening a cabinet or a door. I imagine that that might be for anybody who's handicapped, blind or paralyzed or whatever, but are there special qualities to fit special needs?

Hairston: Yes. We basically have three categories of dogs. One's a walker dog and that's for a person who is still ambulatory. They may have ataxia; they may have vertigo; they may have balance issues; they may fall a lot. He would have a harness that is built up off of his shoulders and they would simply use him as a walking cane so going up and down stairs one at a time you got the hand rail on one side; you got the dog on the other so you have perfect balance going down the stairs. You're walking through the mall and you start to stumble. You can simply lean on the dog because he's right there beside you and he's been taught to deal with a sudden burst of weight put on.

Jones: Do the dogs wear markings so that they're okay in malls and such?

Hairston: Uh huh. The walker dog then--all our dogs are taught retrieval. Our dogs can pick up things as small as the backs of pierced earrings, large as a briefcase. With the what we call a paradog and that's somebody- work with somebody in a manual wheelchair. They're taught to physically pull the wheelchair which can- you have to teach them left and you have to teach them right. You have to pull--teach them pull harder, pull easy, and there's one important one, stop, and then we have what we call a quad dog and that's a dog that's designed to work with somebody who's in a power chair so they don't have to learn how to pull the wheelchair. They don't have to learn how to walk up and down steps. They have to learn how to position themselves beside the power chair and their retrieving skills have to be much clearly--much more clearly defined than the paradog or the walker dog because this person can't get out of the wheelchair to do it even everything else fails. He still can't get out of the wheelchair to get the item so we teach a wide variety of tasks. They can pull the wheelchair, load the wheelchair in the van, turn on and off light switches, retrieve a remote control or a portable telephone, either one on command by name, load a washing machine, unload a dryer, go in to a bank to do a transfer at a bank. One--we have started a brand new thing that to our knowledge has never been done before at the brig is we're teaching a laser-guided dog.

Jones: A laser-guided dog?

Hairston: Right.

Jones: With a light?

Hairston: Uh-huh, with a green laser. The red one in a lighted room the dogs can't see very well. The green one they could pick up perfectly even in a lighted room so instead of us naming items, remote control, portable telephone, water bottle, those type of things, whatever the green laser points to is the item the dog will retrieve so the amount of things a dog can retrieve now is innumerable. Go to the--they're in the living room and you need something out of the refrigerator. Well, if it's within pointing distance from the living room it's no longer a positional thing where the water's kept on the door and that's the item he brings. Any item that the green laser hits in the fridge is--and it may be a container of buffalo wings or roast beef or potato chips or whatever, but instead of having every individual item named, which takes up a lot of training time, takes up a lot of brain power for the dog, here's with green item, the wheel on the cart over there. He brings you the cart. And so it's- to our knowledge it's never been done before but it's kind of one of those things that's like "Duh?"

Jones: You just initiate it and you start it.

Hairston: It's like why- what can we do for somebody who has got severe hand limitations but can push a button, okay, may have trouble with speech but they can point a button and point over there. A dog gets the indication that that's the general direction, sees the pillow is what the dot is on, and that's what he'll retrieve and bring over to you.

Jones: If you've got dogs that are put in to the homes of people who are truly disabled or who may need quick medical care, do they wear or do the dogs wear any kind of communications with emergency ambulance?

Hairston: You always hear of the dogs being trained to dial 911. I don't like that. What happens if a dog hit 912 or 811? You're waiting for an ambulance to come to save your life, it never shows up. Let's have a panic device, a red button installed in your home that's an auto dialer.

Jones: That's what I was wondering.

Hairston: I can teach the dog to hit that button every time. Then the computer dials the phone to the police department, whoever it's preprogrammed to, and then it takes it from there. I just--if somebody's depending on my dog for their life, let's give them something that's not so minute that well, their nails weren't trimmed this week so it hit 912 instead of the 911, or 922 or whatever combination, so that way we can do that. Some of our clients wear the Life Alert.

Jones: I've seen that advertised.

Hairston: And I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. As an example, my dad when he had his heart attack from the time he had it to the time he hit the ground he was still alive but there was going to be no communication. He couldn't tell the dog to go dial 911. By the time he knew what hit him he was already on the ground. He still lived through that heart attack but if he was going to be giving a command to the dog he couldn't have. Now we can teach them to do a sequence whereas if they fall like that then they can go hit the automatic dialer, the same way we do with a client who has seizures. When they hit the ground we can teach them to go get the portable telephone and bring to them or we can teach them to go to the refrigerator, bring a cloth out of the refrigerator and put across their neck to help them recover. There's a variety of things we can do. What does that particular individual need? The client we have here in Wilmington when she has her seizures all she needs is that cold compress along her neck and five minutes later she's fine. If she doesn't get that cold compress, then she's on the floor for 45 minutes to an hour. So we can do that type of thing so that--but dialing 911's not- unless she fell and hit her head. Then it's kind of one of those things. How do you want the dog to determine? So let's do the things we know the dog can do and assist and do specifically without getting in to "Well--" Then we start asking a dog to make human decisions. Is this something that paramedics really need to come and look at? Is this something--can't get a human to do it so let's get a dog to do it, not an area I want to go in to. Let's concentrate on things we know the dog can do.

Jones: Do the dogs stay with the trainers until they are put with a human?

Hairston: When they're ready to be placed the client comes in to Wilmington for seven to 14 days.

Jones: Comes in to Wilmington from how far?

Hairston: We do the southeastern United States, east of the--

Jones: Southeastern United States.

Hairston: Yeah, south of--east of the Mississippi from Virginia down to Florida and we've got dogs in all the states with the exception of Mississippi. Right now our client list--I've got 29 clients on our list. It's a two and a half to four-year waiting period right now.

Jones: Who places them on the list?

Hairston: You call me and say, "I want a service dog." We go through a whole series of questions. Is this something that you can do? If it is, then you fill out an application, send it in with a $25 check. That's the only fee that's involved with--

Jones: I was going to ask you about that.

Hairston: And the reason we did that is at one time we had 89 or 90 clients on our list, and some of the people would be sitting there at night and apply to every service dog organization in the country and send off the application, and then all of a sudden we had all these people who really, truly weren't interested in doing that. By sending a $25 fee, if you're truly interested in getting a service dog it's not going to break you but it also eliminates the ones who are sending out applications to 13 different organizations that night. And then when they come in to Wilmington we spend six to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, working with them, teaching them to get everything the service dog does. We have a limited time and we have a huge amount of things to teach them. Our dogs know 70 different task. They have to learn all 70 different task. They have to learn about the ADA. Some of our clients have never owned an animal so we have to teach nutrition, vet care, all the things that us dog owners over the years just take for granted, and it's no longer a thing that we can take for granted. We have to teach them when you go to a restaurant how do the dogs position in a restaurant so they're out of the way. What about movie theaters, church, baseball games, all these type of things that--the ADA's a marvelous law but it makes no space considerations so when he flies on an airplane he has to fit in the same space I do.

Jones: Do you have to pay for him?

Hairston: Nope. Can't. He doesn't have a social security number so I can't buy a seat for him if I wanted to.

Jones: You have to have a social security number?

Hairston: And--you have to have--call the airline. You have to have a social security number or a passport. You can't buy an airline ticket unless you got one of those.

Jones: I haven't bought an airline ticket in a few years.

Hairston: So those are--if you want to buy an airline ticket for your grandson, you got to have that social security number. If you don't know it, you've got to get it before they can buy--before you can buy the ticket. So when they go to a baseball game at let's say Dodgers Stadium or Bush Stadium, whatever baseball stadium you want to name, they have to fit in the same space you do.

Jones: You picked two stadiums that are very, very tall, high up.

Hairston: Sure.

Jones: Among the highest in the country I think. You had a bloody nose at Dodgers' Stadium.

Hairston: Well there's a lot of media there. But if our dogs are designed to make a person independent if that's where they want to go.

Jones: And they continue to do that.

Hairston: And they feel they can do it with the use of a service dog, why not? One of the dogs we placed couple years ago now, was with an army veteran that lost his leg in Iraq. And one of the things--it happened that it was veterans weekend, not by--

Jones: Design.

Hairston: Design, but he was also worth the Wounded Warrior Project. And so one of his training activities, we went to the football game at Ericsson Stadium, that's the stadium of whatever group it was at that time. And so the seats we had were literally three from the top. And every step the dog went up with him then stood and braced and stood and braced and stood and braced at the handrail on one side. The other he had perfect balance. He had a great time.

Jones: You give these dogs to the people.

Hairston: We provide them free of charge.

Jones: All right. How is that possible when I read, it's about $38,000 worth of training and dog.

Hairston: Corporate donations, individuals, grants, anywhere we can.

Jones: How are these people selected?

Hairston: They're selected simply because of the need for the dog. Do they need a dog? And they go on a waiting list, which of the three categories. And then it's you know, if I got--we even get down to the point of, is the dog right-handed or left handed. Did you know dogs are handed?

Jones: No.

Hairston: Okay. Has it ever been important to you?

Jones: I never thought of that.

Hairston: Okay. If I have a--are you right-handed?

Jones: Yes.

Hairston: Do you know anybody in your family that's left handed?

Jones: No.

Hairston: Ask them to cut something with a right handed scissors.

Jones: I have a member of our family who is ambidextrous.

Hairston: Yeah. If you have somebody who is left-handed, try to get them to cut something with a right-handed scissor or "normal" scissors, is almost impossible. It's a major task. So if we have a dog that's going to be um . . . well Joey Bostic was one of our recent clients. He is an army veteran that lost both legs and his right arm.

Jones: Oh God.

Hairston: And he's a Wilmingtonian. His dog has to be on his right side, because his joy stick on his power chair is on his left side. What happens if the leash gets caught up in that joy stick? You're going to go faster and further than you've ever planned on going. (laughs) So we have to teach the dog to work off the right side of the wheelchair. If it's a dog that normally gravitates to the left side of the person, he's going--both of them are going to have a miserable time. Where does the dog want to be? Yeah. Thank you. So we have to look at some of those factors as well. You know, if the patient has had a stroke and they're in a wheelchair and depending if it was a left side stroke or a right side stroke, then we have to--the strong side is the one that's going to have to hold on to the dog for him to pull the wheelchair. So we've got to look into factors like that. So when they go on our list, they go into one of the three categories. Do they need a walker dog? Do they need a para dog or do they need a quad dog? And then we break it down from there. Is this a left-handed dog or a right-handed dog? Is the categories you know, and then they go on that list. We have had people offer $75 and $80,000 to buy one of our dogs. They're not for sale.

Jones: I imagine that you would.

Hairston: You know, we, when we first started, we don't think God would say, well you know, you've got all the money so you can have this. You know, I think he would say, here's this dog, you take it and use it. We'll find money for the organization elsewhere. We've got rough times right now. I mean money is lean and I don't care what nonprofit it is.

Jones: Yes we do. I don't care what nonprofit and I have been concentrating on a lot of nonprofits and my question to everybody and I'll pose it to you is, since you do really need to have contributions, they're drying up. Not only that but when tough times come economically, we see more hardships. And I know it's domestic violence with children and school, with whatever, it seems to get worse.

Hairston: The fortunate thing for us is, disabilities aren't economically related.

Jones: But you do depend upon contributions.

Hairston: Corporate, yes. So I mean the number of our clients coming to us don't increase in bad economic times.

Jones: They don't.

Hairston: No.

Jones: But the cost--

Hairston: If you're disabled, you're disabled. It don't matter if you (Inaudible) or not--

Jones: Well that I understand. But the funds--

Hairston: With the amount of funds we got, we do the best we can with what we've got. And you know, if we have to back up and punt, we back up and punt. Our goal is, we're going to place service dogs with people with disabilities. And if I place one a year, I place one a year. If I can place 15 a year I place 15 a year. And you know, somebody asked if things get really hard, I'll be training one at a time out of my house if things get really hard. This is what we do--

Jones: It's your calling.

Hairston: -And we're going to do the best we can with what we got. And if we can have a large organization and you know, in the future if we can get-- somebody gives us umpteen million dollars, which has happened to some of the service dog organizations, then we will have a large facility where we train hundreds of dogs at a time. If not, we will stay whatever size we need to be able to work with under the parameters. The prison program up at the brig is good, because we're using military prisoners to train the service dogs for--

(crew talk)

Edwards: My first question is, how do you tell if a dog is left-handed or right-handed?

Hairston: What side do they always go to?

Edwards: Okay.

Hairston: If you're walking down the street and typical "obedience" lesson teaches the dog to be on your left side. If you never asked him to be on the left side and that's the side they always gravitate to, guess what? That's the side they like to work off of or if they gravitate to the right side-- you have, it's kind of one of those, it's not a-- well the book says this. It's like what is their tendencies to do? Do they have a tendency to always go over here or is this the side they always want to go over to? He always likes to be on the right side. He's-- so I'm thinking he's more right-sided than anything else. You know, so you know, it's a natural type of thing. If I threw something at you, how would you grab it? You're right-handed typically right?

Jones: Yeah.

Hairston: So it's the same type of thing. If I'm asking a dog to do something and they always go to this one side, then chances are, that's a tenden-- and a lot of them are ambidextrous, where they can do either one. But I've also seen it where they will always be on that side, just automatically. So it's not a rocket science type of thing--

Jones: It's a very interesting thing.

Hairston: -But it's a matter of-- well nobody's ever needed it before. So I mean if you don't need it, who would ever have thought of, is the dog left-handed or right-handed? You know and so it's just a matter with our work, because they have to work off certain side of the wheelchair or walk beside a certain person on a certain side, then it then becomes important to us.

Edwards: My second question is, how many dogs do you have in training right now?

Hairston: I've got 19.

Edwards: Nineteen--

Hairston: Between Merrick Program and Myrtle Beach Program here in Wilmington, and the dogs up at the brig.

Edwards: And those will be placed in the next year-- 18 months to 2 years possibly?

Hairston: They will be placed between now and the next three years.

Edwards: Okay.

Hairston: The program at our, civilian program is normally two and a half years from puppyhood to placement. Our program at the prison, because we use older dogs, because they're there with them 24/7 (laughs) you know, it's not a matter if they're going anywhere anytime soon. I can take a dog that has those digging behaviors, barking behaviors and put them in there and we're able to place a dog because we work with them six hours a day and they have homework to do. So the dog is being worked 8 to 10 hours a day. So instead of being two and a half to three years and using older dogs, we're down to seven and nine months on the dogs that are up there. So that will be a much quicker turn around.

Edwards: And my last question is, because of the American Disabilities Act, are there grants or anything as a non profit that you can apply for or that--

Hairston: Not from the idea of the Americans With Disabilities Act. We actually run into some niche problems. We've hit a very narrow niche. As an example, K.P. Reynolds [ph?] says we don't fit into their Health Care Division. We fit into, I can't even remember the other name of their division. But they feel we're more animal welfare. How do you argue with a funding source that they've got us in the wrong category? We are 100 percent health care and the ADA is 100 percent health care. But they feel we don't fit that. We fit in somewhere else. So sometimes we run into some issues of that. It's like you know, they want us to be in certain category. We don't feel we fit in it but how do you, when you have limited budget, how do you deal with them on an ongoing basis to try and convince them? You know, if we had much higher budget, then we would hire a development director and let them spend time dealing with them specifically. But when the present CEO does the training programs, does this, oversees everything else, it's very difficult to try and get that. So we don't really-- right now it's not something that is assisting us. We've not found an organization that specifically donates money to people who work with the ADA. You know, because there are so many disabilities that fall under that visible and invisible. And so it's not something that we've found funding sources for that. Funding sources for us are tight. We receive probably close to 60 percent of the grants that we apply for, which is higher than the average. But we also don't go for a grant that yeah, maybe we do and maybe we don't. We prefer to spend the time that we have on grants that, this is one we specifically fit into. Now, can we get them to give us the money? And that makes it difficult sometimes.

(crew talk)

Jones: This is fine. I think that one question is just, pops into my head. But is there a-- supposing you've got a dog who is now placed with somebody. That person's had a heart attack or whatever, they're deceased. What happens to the dog?

Hairston: It depends on how long the dog's been there. If the dog has only been there a year and a half, two years, three years, I have the legal option of pulling the dog back. We retain ownership of our dogs for five years. We're the only group that does that. If you're not treating my dog right, you're not taking care of it, you're not keeping up on the training, it's not going to the vet on a regular basis, I have suspicion to think that you're not being nice to the dog. I have the legal right to pull that dog, for five years. We've got a huge investment in it. You as a foster family, have a huge financial and emotional investment in it. If that person's not taking care of that animal, I have and will pull that dog.

Jones: Well I think what I'm thinking of too is, when the dog goes to a- to be with a person and they're now that--

Hairston: And it does. I can bring that dog back. I kind of get side-tracked. That dog can come back in for training. We train it. We have a legal option to pass. What we've found, is if that dog is three years old when we place it, it's been with a person for two and a half, to three years--

Jones: (Inaudible)

Hairston: -It's now six years old. If its partner passes away, I bring it back, I'm going to have another year and a half, well another six months to a year of training to get him back to where he was before or to be placed with a new partner. That makes him seven and a half or eight years old to be placed. He's going to serve a partner for a year and a half? Is that fair to the dog or is that fair to the partner? They get used to this magnificent animal doing everything for them and it's got a working life of a year and a half. It's kind of--

Jones: Do you feel that the average work life of a dog is less than ten years?

Hairston: It's going to be between eight and ten.

Jones: Really?

Hairston: By time they're-- by the time they're placed, speaking, they're going to be two to three years old. If they work eight years, that's ten years old. That's getting to be pretty old. That's equivalent to 70 years in humans.

Jones: Well do you have an old person's home for dogs or what?

Hairston: I've never had to establish that. What we have had is, when the time- come times for a dog to retire, it can stay with the partner. He can get another dog. If they don't have room for them, they can't or whatever, they can call me. I've called the foster family, the foster family that has raised them and said, "I will be more than happy."

Jones: Yeah, that's what I'm hoping to hear.

Hairston: -You know, and the first service dog I ever trained in St. Louis, we drove back to Columbia, Missouri to pick her up, because her partner's needs changed. She was seven and a half, almost eight years old. So her partner's needs changed. She called us, said the dog was going to be retiring, did we want it. And it's like when do you want us there? And so we drove back. I picked her up. She came back, lived with us and she became a therapy dog and we did a lot of visits to different people with that. And I mean, how perfect, you know. We had her as a puppy. Raised her to do what she is supposed to do. She went out and did what she was supposed to do. Now she came back and then we get to- then we had the privilege of keeping her for about another four years--

Jones: And just loving it.

Hairston: -And just loving her to death.

Jones: Talk about this program in Camp Lejeune. It sounds very, very interesting and the fact that you're using prisoners to help train the dogs, that is certainly utilizing.

Hairston: Well when Elon gave the dog that I told you went to the football game. They-- VFW, Ladies Auxiliary is a North Carolina VFW, whole, big name-- had helped raise money to offset the cost for that dog. Not that we circumvented any of our systems, we didn't. He just fit into a category that was ready. They wanted to know, how can we get more dogs like that for more veterans. And my problem was, I've got a two and a half to four year wait list. If I have a new veteran come in and apply for that dog, how do I circumvent everybody that's been waiting three and a half, four years for a dog and I haven't been able to give them one yet. Well, I'm going to give this dog to a veteran that's just signed up on our list. So we started thinking, how can we, you know, how can we do that? And civilian prison program is a fairly popular program. It's in about 14 different states across the country. It was started by a lady name of Sister Pauline. And so we started thinking, you know, if we can get into the military prisons, that would be great. And everybody said, "Are you kidding? You know, number one, they're top secret installations. Number two, in a military prison, they are considered, they're not even classified as waste, they're lower than waste." And I said, you know, "Take-- let me in. Let me work with what you consider waste and let me see what I can do with them." And--

Jones: So this was your idea to--

Hairston: To go into military prison.

Jones: Okay. Okay.

Hairston: And so we started that a year ago in January and it's been a phenomenal program.

Jones: And that's just been great for the prisoners.

Hairston: It's great for the prisoners. You know, we're in a Marine brig. Military prisons vary greatly from civilian prisons. I could have any young lady wear anything they wanted to. Into that brig there would be not one cat call. There would not be one whistle. Nobody would say anything at all.

Jones: Well they know what would happen.

Hairston: Well I mean, it's a military prison. These guys get three meals a day. That's all the food they get. They don't have a canteen where they can buy potato chips or cupcakes or anything. The liquid they have to drink outside of the three meals, is water from a water fountain. There's no, you know, it's not fancy by any means. And so for these guys to have the opportunity now to work with a dog that loves them and they love the dog and you know, that type of thing is phenomenal for the prisoners.

Jones: And good for the dog. The dog is getting training.

Hairston: Well more than that. All those dogs come from shelters. So I mean--

Jones: So it's a win-win situation.

Hairston: -They were, you know, in a couple cases, they were literally the next day, going to be put down. You know, so we pull them out. We have the vet check them over. We do the hip x-rays. You know, this is after our temperament test. That check, the hip x-rays, we have between 500 and $1,000 tied up in each of the dogs before they step into the prison up there, because then we already know that this dog has the physical capability to making it. With our puppies, once the dogs are six months old, we have them spayed or neutered and we have the hips x-rayed for the first time. If the hips are bad in six months, they're not going to get any better. So we eliminate them from our program. And so we have an elimination of probably 50 percent of our dogs by the time they're six months old, okay. So then the veteran actually gets the service after it's been trained by people who had screwed up. And so it's really the triple win. You know, dogs coming from the shelters. Man, they've got a life that they, you know, hadn't even dreamed of before. The inmates have a marvelous program and we've just signed a contract with Costal Carolina Community College that they will be, they're starting the 27th of April, they started getting CEU credits for doing this. And when we're not up there, they are having other instructors come in and teach them all animal behavior. So they will have the equivalent of a Associate's degree and service dog training in small animal handling veterinarian technology, when they finish two years in the program. So they're coming out big time on that. And then the veterans like I said, they win as well. And so it's a marvelous program. It's still played free of charge. There's no government funding for it.

Jones: Once again, you just rely upon contributions.

Hairston: Contributions, right now--

Jones: Do you do the training up there?

Hairston: I do.

Jones: I imagine, I imagine that's--

Hairston: That's why if you-- excuse me. Down.

Jones: He's bored.

Hairston: Sit.

Jones: Stretch.

Hairston: Down. If you wondered why it's been hard to do, I go up there three or four days a week.

Jones: You told me that.

Hairston: And so you know, there are three hour blocks, the same as any other community college. So I go up, Tuesday and Wednesday, I spend six hours a day up there and on Friday I spend three. I have one of my other trainers go up on Monday and Thursdays for a three hour block.

Jones: Is this the first time you've done this?

Hairston: Yes.

Jones: What kind of changes have you seen in the attitude of the prisoners?

Hairston: It's actually phenomenal. The social worker-- I'm working with nine inmates right now and six dogs. And the social worker, the first month we were up there, this was a year ago February, sent me an email and she said, do you know the number of incidents in the prison have decreased by 30 percent since the dogs came in? These guys weren't even working with the dogs. There's 120 something inmates up at Camp Lejeune right now. I'm working with nine of them. These guys aren't even working with the dogs and they're showing an increase in better behavior. You know, correlation is not hard to come up with. So not only that, but our guys are, they know if they screw up, they're out of the program. Now screwing up in the military prisons, whole lot different than screwing up in a civilian prison. If I have an inmate question me on anything I'm doing, if there is inappropriate tone and the guard thinks there is, he can pull him out of the program right now and that's it.

Jones: (Whispers) Oh gosh.

Hairston: You know, they don't, normally unless there's a major infraction. But that exists in a military prison. And so there is a lot of, you know, they want to be there. So they do everything. They have to pass inspections the same as every other squad bay up there. These guys are in a squad bay, not individual cells. Squad bay will house up to 40 inmates, four showerheads, four toilets, for 40 inmates. I've got nine guys, still has three showerheads, and four toilets for nine guys. So if you look at the "amenities" you know, they've got a bonus by being in there. Now they voluntarily gave up one of their showerheads to make a regular faucet out of it. So they actually bathe and groom the dogs themselves. But they had to give up one of the showerheads in order to have the equipment to do that and they willingly did that. So it's an amazing thing. These guys have done anything and everything that I've asked them to do. I have to be careful and not show them something I don't want them to work on. I made the mistake of showing them how to put- have a dog put legs on bed, where they'll come up-- if you're sitting on the edge of a bed, they'll come up underneath your legs and then they'll rise to the bed and your legs simply swing over. If you can put your torso on bed by using a trapeze, then the dog comes over, put your legs up on the bed and you're in bed for the night, okay. I showed them a video that explained that on a Thursday. I came back in the following Monday and everyone of my dogs was doing that. (laughs)

Jones: How nice.

Hairston: I hadn't wanted to teach that yet, because I teach things in a progressive manner, that I teach the basics. Once they had the basics, then we progress on some of the others.

Jones: That's funny.

Hairston: -And every one of the dogs was doing that. We're working on a command called hip, now. Any group that I've ever worked with, if somebody is in a manual chair, they had to hook something on the door. The dog grabs it or pulls it open and then they go in the door. Well the problem is, once they get in, the rope's on the other side of the door. So we're teaching hip where the client can open the door from the outside six inches. The dog will go in and then facing the hinge and then backs up and actually opens the door using their hip. No outside materials needed. So as the wheelchair goes through they just simply walk through the door. So we have to teach that left and right, inside and outside. So we have to teach that four different ways. And that's what we're working on now for all the veterans' dogs. And it's working out like a champ. And the neat thing is, once we teach it to the veterans and it's there, guess what we're going to do with our civilian program?

Jones: What?

Hairston: We're going to ask them to come down and teach new techniques to our civilian programs.

Jones: Well I guess so. I guess so. It sounds great. I want to ask you about Paw Jam. Is that something you're involved in?

Hairston: It is. It was a-- we had that last Saturday and it was a great time.

Jones: And what is it? What do you do?

Hairston: It is-- there's a group called Paws for North Carolina and their whole function is to raise money for non profit animal agencies. Most of them are rescue groups. We're the only group in it that's not a rescue group. And after they pay all the expenses, they split up the money between the ten participating, nine or ten participating organizations and we receive the money. They have at the Battleship Park, there are bands that play from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and we had a-- couldn't have asked for better weather. It was gorgeous. We had nice bands. We had good people, good food and we make money off of it. Better situation is, they don't come any better than a situation like that.

Jones: Okay, Walk For Those Who Can't.

Hairston: One of our major fundraisers. We're developing two other major fundraisers. Walk For Those Who Can't has been held at Wrightsville Beach and it's people simply sign up to come out and donate money and walk--

Jones: And walk around the circle.

Hairston: And they can actually bring-- it's one of the few organ-- few community organizations where you can actually bring your dog out and participate in the walk. And the three years have highly successful.

Jones: That's wonderful.

Hairston: And it's a way of making money that benefits us and we have to be in these days and age, we have to be very creative.

Jones: Of course. One last question that I have and if you've got something to add of importance that I don't know about, please do. Do you ever place dogs with children? I don't mean little tiny children, but 10, 11, 12.

Hairston: We-- the way it works is, I go off of the child's maturity level. I don't have an age limit. What I found is, nine, is normally our youngest. The way we interpret the ADA, it doesn't really call for what's called the third party handler. There are some organizations that will place a dog with a kid that's four and five years old and they have somebody else who actually handles the dog for the child.

Jones: I see.

Hairston: Our interpretation of that is, when you go to school, that handler can't go. The dog goes. Whose responsibility is it then? The child doesn't have the maturity to handle the dog. So then is it the teacher's job? Is it the teacher's assistant? Is it the principal's and my answer is it's none of theirs. It belongs to that child. So if he's not mature enough to handle the dog on his own, I'm not going to place the dog with him.

Jones: I can understand that.

Hairston: And so we've done three or four different kids and they, it's worked magnificently. But I can't-- I go and do the home interview and that child has to be able to focus for the 45 minutes that I'm there on me and what we're talking about. Not "Dad, can I go out and play now?" You know, if that's the case, you know, nothing against the kid. He's acting like a nine year old kid. But I can't give him the added responsibility of taking care of a service dog, so.

Jones: Rick, this has been most interesting. Have you got any last question Debbie?

Edwards: Actually I do.

Jones: Good.

Edwards: My last question is, you said that you have the right to pull the dogs back for up to five years.

Hairston: Correct.

Edwards: But your, the space that you cover, the southeast, is so large. How do you monitor how well those dogs are doing in that environment?

Hairston: We have neighbors. We have veterinarians that you know, every time they take a dog to the veterinarian, we're supposed to get a copy of the vet records. What was the dog there for? Was it hit by a car? If it is, guess what, you're not taking care of the dog. You know, doesn't mean I'm necessarily going to pull the dog. But then that's kind of one of those little things that you know, there's little flags going up over here, going yeaah, maybe we need to kind of, kind of watch this type of thing. And it's something that it is by no means I want to do. I've had to do it once and I will do it again. But it's just something that you know, you can call and talk to neighbors. Internet is a great thing. You know, I can type in such and such an address and it will give me everybody on that street. You know, "Hi, this is so and so with Carolina Canine and your next door neighbor has one of our dogs." "Yeah, he treats him really great." "You know, he's really not very nice to that dog." "Okay, describe not very nice." Because sometimes the working dog people misconstrue, as getting him to do the commands as being not so very nice. And then we have to make the judgment call. I've never had it where I've had a dog placed over nine months where I've ever had to pull it. You know, by that time, that bond is formed. They understand what the dog is going to do for them now and forever and then something that okay, you know, I'm going to be nasty about this. Why? So--

Jones: Rick this has been most interesting and I know that's going to be watched and eventually it's going to be on our internet service.

Hairston: Okay.

Jones: -With a translation, transcription rather.

Hairston: That would be great.

Jones: And it will be just terrific. And I thank you for taking time out of obviously--

Hairston: No problem.

Jones: -A very, very busy schedule.

Hairston: Well what I found is that other education is probably what I do about a third of my time. You know, between two presentations and VFW and--

Jones: You're a busy man.

Hairston: You know, all of those and it's a matter of well, in the business, I'm in an industry that's only-- I started in '72, what, 37 years old. So where was the university business when it was--

Jones: I know.

Hairston: -Less than four years old or any of the industries. So there's a lot of things that have not been developed yet that need to.

Jones: We look forward to it.

Hairston: And there's a lot of things that, you know, everybody wants to equate this to some other businesses and some of them are fine and some of the other things you know, "No I'm not a dog trainer. I will not train your dog for you." Because, you know, I've got enough things to do on my own and that's not where my passion is. There's a lot of people who will help you do what it is. And I've made some people extremely upset.

Jones: Okay. Is that about it?

Edwards: Yep, it is.

Jones: That's it. I think what you're doing is--

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