SIUC students to build dog park for people with disabilities

Published: Jan. 28, 2015 at 7:47 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 29, 2015 at 3:02 AM CST
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The dog park will be at the Ava, Illinois dog training facility. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
The dog park will be at the Ava, Illinois dog training facility. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)

AVA, IL (KFVS) - Students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale have partnered with an area service dog training center to build a dog park that is disability friendly.

Architecture students with the group “Freedom by Design” will build a 150 by 100 square foot dog park for Ava, Illinois based SIT Service Dogs.

The park will be equipped with handicap accessible ramps and padded walkways.

SIU students have designed the park, have waived labor costs, and plan to build most of the park out of recycled materials.

SIT trains dogs to provide people with disabilities a sense of independence.

SIUC student Nicole Dethrow suffers from muscular dystrophy, a disease the weakens muscles over time.

Dethrow will soon be getting a service dog from SIT.

Dethrow can walk but not for very long distances, she has an extremely limited movement with her arms.

Dethrow said she's excited for the park to be built.

“It's really set up both for the people and for the dogs which I think is really great," Dethrow said.

Program Coordinator and owner of SIT, Lex Dietz, said she's excited about the partnership with SIU.

“Going out to a park with somebody isn't something you can do at a normal dog park,” Dietz said.

SIT dogs provide mobility assistance such as opening and closing doors, turn lights on and off, and can run for help if a person calls for it.

SIT dogs can also be trained for medical alerts such as carrying medical devices, assist people in moving positions, and wake a person during medical emergencies.

Director of Freedom by Design, Katelyn Walker, says she's excited to be working with SIT.

“I liked the service that they provider," Walker said. "They help people fundraiser for their dogs, they help people have a comfortable lifestyle, they give people freedom.”

“There's a lot of pressure on them when they come and visit,” Dietz said. “And we want it to be a comfortable, relaxing, environment.”

Deitz said the park will be great addition to SIT's Ava facility and will provide a rare area for people with disabilities to go to without worry of danger.

“Things that you just don't think about. And a park where you can enjoy yourself outside is not something that you see a lot of,” Deitz said.

Dietz said construction will begin as soon as the cold weather breaks.

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