At Highland Canine Service Dogs, we have been privileged to provide highly-skilled service dogs to families across the United States for over fifteen years. We have traveled to all corners of the nation, helping to improve the quality of life for individuals and families through the amazing capabilities a service dog can provide.
Throughout the past fifteen years, our team has accrued knowledge that allows us to constantly refine, develop and improve our processes. We have always recognized the importance of interpersonal relationships, and we place this at the core of everything we do. We believe our people are our strength – our team strives to help you at every stage of the service dog journey – from our simple application process, to a service dog delivery that ensures your family will be fully prepared to work with your new canine partner.
Leading our service dog activities is Sammie Muccio, the Director of our Service Dog Division. Sammie brings an extensive array of education and experience, with a degree in Animal Behavior, and overseas travel on animal research projects which has taken her to Thailand and Tanzania. After graduating with honors from the Master Dog Trainer program at the School for Dog Trainers, Sammie embarked on her new role as Service Dog Director. She works closely with the families who receive our service dogs, in addition to overseeing our team of service dog trainers based across the United States.
In this interview, we wanted to speak with Sammie to learn a little more about her role and day-to-day activities.
Sammie, please give our readers some context on your history with animals, and what you learned during your time at the School for Dog Trainers.
Growing up, my favorite animal was a dog. I asked for one for every birthday and every Christmas, knowing I could never have one because my father and brother were allergic.
Eventually, I took matters into my own hands and began working with dogs in any way I could. After studying wildlife for a while and figuring out how I could combine working with dogs and wildlife, I was set. After coming to the Master Dog Trainer program at Highland Canine’s School for Dog Trainers, I learned how to imprint dogs on different odors, shape indication behaviors, and set up detection problems.
However, once I started the Service Dog section of the course and learned how to train dogs to trail lost children, turn on light switches, alert people to seizures, and disrupt potentially harmful behaviors, I found a new passion. The service dog portion of the course opened my eyes to how dogs can help people overcome many challenges.
What motivated or inspired you to work with service dogs?
Helping people and helping animals is my motivation for everything I do. Seeing how dogs can change an individual’s life and their whole family’s life inspires me to continue training and working in my role.
Can you tell us the tasks/responsibilities your role encompasses? What does a typical day/week look like for you?
My role as Director encompasses a wide variety of responsibilities. One of the things I love about this job is that every week is different.
One aspect of my job is working with the families receiving one of our service dogs. I communicate with new families about finding potential matches, deliver fully trained service dogs and work with the families on how to incorporate the dog’s tasks into their lives, and visit already placed service dog teams to give refresher and maintenance training.
Another aspect of my role is training our potential service dogs. I manage our eight service dog trainers on-site and around the United States. My team and I take the dogs on different outings: to schools, restaurants, or zoos, to name a few, and train the dogs in a variety of tasks for autism assistance, seizure, mobility, or hearing. I also host our puppy raiser class to volunteers in our local community who keep our dogs for the first four months, teaching them basic obedience and house manners.
Here at Highland Canine, we have the School for Dog Trainers, so I also give lectures and assist students with learning how to train service dogs so they can also help individuals in their communities.
Can you explain what you believe separates Highland Canine from other service dog providers?
All the staff here at Highland Canine have a wide range of experience in dog training – not only service dogs, but pet dogs, police dogs, and search and rescue dogs, too. Our staff is always taking part in ongoing education to learn how we can improve our program, not only for the dogs, but for our families as well.
We work with each client individually to find the perfect match for them and train our dogs specifically to meet the needs of their handler. Our connection with our clients is lifelong, and we love to stay in touch and help in any way we can with follow-up training throughout the dog’s life.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging aspect of my job is finding time to do everything. Thankfully I have a solid team to help and a color-coded calendar to keep things straight!
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I love training dogs to do unique tasks that then go on to help give someone independence or hope in their future. Delivering the Service Dog is the most rewarding part because you get to see firsthand a bond start to form and how the dog will be able to help that individual.